MEBI 531: Life and Death Computing

Instructor: Ira J. Kalet, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, Radiation Oncology
Professor Emeritus, Medical Education and Biomedical Informatics


Course description

A Syllabus includes most of the information here (except for the web resources below) in a single PDF document.

MEBI 531 addresses the complex software design issues that come up in biomedical and health informatics, programming for safety critical applications in medicine and health care, as well as in the application of computing to unlock the secrets of life. Examples from biology, medicine and health motivate software engineering topics such as: use of abstraction layers, design of tightly coupled but modular and extensible software, formal models and safety in real time control of medical equipment, design of network application protocols, integration of diverse biomedical data sources.

Many of the examples will use the Common Lisp programming language, but prior knowledge of Lisp is not assumed. The course introduces programming in Common Lisp as well as concepts and methods useable in most programming languages and environments. If time allows the Prolog programming language will also be introduced and used.

Grading and other policies

Answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Current quarter information

The Current quarter information page provides links to homework assignments and other useful information for the current quarter.


The course assumes previous programming experience at the level of UW CSE 142 Computer Programming I. However, it is not important which programming language you know, as long as you are experienced with at least one. In addition, the course requires certain basic computing skills and mathematical background. These are listed on the Prerequisites page.

Course learning objectives

A list of course learning objectives illustrates what students are expected to be able to know and do by the end of the course.

Web resources on biomedical informatics projects

Web resources on Lisp

Some links for more information on Common Lisp and related topics are on the Common Lisp information page

Information from previous quarters

Initially the course focused almost entirely on learning to program in Common Lisp, without assuming any previous programming experience. Starting in Fall 2003, programming experience is prerequisite and the course content was adjusted accordingly.

Information from previous years is at the following links (the course was not offered in years not shown):