Life and Death Computing: Frequently asked questions

What is it?

Life and Death Computing is about the design of biomedical software and systems, with particular attention to the requirements of life critical applications, and the complexity of biomedical problems.

Who should take it?

This course was developed for Honors students but is open to anyone who is interested and willing to work hard on challenging topics.

It is suitable for undergraduates interested in a career in biomedical informatics, students in public health, other health fields, bioengineering, library science, or anyone who may be interested in working on research and development projects involving computing in medicine or health sciences more broadly.

Why Lisp instead of C++ or java?

Lisp provides an easy way to teach and implement abstract ideas. It also provides an interactive environment in which it is easy to experiment with your ideas and code. The course is not a programming course, but focuses on the solution of biomedical computing problems, using a programming language to provide a precise expression of the problem and its solution.

Lisp is easy to learn. It has been around a long time and is used in introductory courses in programming at other places, e.g., MIT, Carnegie-Mellon University, University of California, Berkeley, and a number of small college computer science programs.

Will I learn how to use bioinformatics software and web tools?

No. This is covered in MEBI 536, Bioinformatics and Gene Sequence Analysis.

Why is this an Honors course?

It was originally developed for the Biomedical and Health Informatics graduate program. Undergraduates have expressed in interest in learning about biomedical informatics, and taken the original graduate course successfully, so an undergraduate version was created through the Honors program and opened to all interested students.

Examples and homework assignments are chosen from biomedical applications as much as possible. These include medical image processing, biomedical data, anatomy, and bioinformatics, to name a few.