A course in computational biology that introduces undergraduate biology students to mathematical modelling and computer simulations is described. Spreadsheets offer the perfect environment to introduce our biology students to computational thinking and the increasing role that computer simulations are playing in biology research. Here, we detail the spreadsheet modelling of some of the simulations covered in the course; the Lotka-Volterra predator-prey model, a cellular automaton model of tumor growth, and a model of an infectious disease outbreak. The experience of implementing computational biology simulations in a spreadsheet environment encourages and enables our biology students to use computer simulations and spreadsheets more in their future research, and makes our students more comfortable when interpreting scientific literature that pertains to computational biology research. These are important skills that our biology students will need in their future careers as researchers and scientists.

zombie.xlsx (1124 kB)
Model of an infection outbreak

predator prey.xlsx (43 kB)
Lotka-Volterra predator-prey model

2d cancer.xlsx (64 kB)
Cellular automaton model of tumor growth