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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Introduction to Systems Biology by Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

508 ratings
105 reviews

About the Course

This course will introduce the student to contemporary Systems Biology focused on mammalian cells, their constituents and their functions. Biology is moving from molecular to modular. As our knowledge of our genome and gene expression deepens and we develop lists of molecules (proteins, lipids, ions) involved in cellular processes, we need to understand how these molecules interact with each other to form modules that act as discrete functional systems. These systems underlie core subcellular processes such as signal transduction, transcription, motility and electrical excitability. In turn these processes come together to exhibit cellular behaviors such as secretion, proliferation and action potentials. What are the properties of such subcellular and cellular systems? What are the mechanisms by which emergent behaviors of systems arise? What types of experiments inform systems-level thinking? Why do we need computation and simulations to understand these systems? The course will develop multiple lines of reasoning to answer the questions listed above. Two major reasoning threads are: the design, execution and interpretation of multivariable experiments that produce large data sets; quantitative reasoning, models and simulations. Examples will be discussed to demonstrate “how” cell- level functions arise and “why” mechanistic knowledge allows us to predict cellular behaviors leading to disease states and drug responses....

Top reviews

Feb 6, 2016

Very useful course in order to learn the basics in systems biology. You only need some training in biology to understand the concepts but the course is easy to follow and very complete.

Aug 7, 2019

Great foundational material and insights from Prof. Iyengar that supports the 'disruptive' trends underway at the intersection of Computational Biology and Medicine.

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76 - 100 of 103 Reviews for Introduction to Systems Biology

By Mahbub H

Feb 27, 2016

Very very informative course for the beginners like me!

By Jiho C

Mar 9, 2017

Good lecture, but not systematic curriculum

By Dr M H

Nov 26, 2019

Instructor is very hard to engage with.

By Boudalia M E A

Jan 1, 2016

a bit to hard for an introduction cours

By Kang c

Jun 14, 2016

A very useful course!

By Chalasani S S N

Apr 10, 2019


By Bruno P

Jan 20, 2016

With a biology background I had some difficulty following this course. That is understandable, as a lot of it relies in mathematical modelling and statistics. I still felt like some exam questions relied on material not yet lectured, which would sometimes leave me at a loss as to how I should have gotten to the right question in the first place. The lectures could have been structured differently, so as to facilitate engagement - I found myself easily losing focus and having to repeat the videos. Despite its shortcomings, the course is still a powerful introduction to Systems Biology.

By Hector F C M

Jul 2, 2019

I have to thank for this virtual course, however although this course is '' introduction '' it supposes that the participants have advanced concepts that are not explained, in many moments the literature is inconclusive, there is no literature that allows a basic revision on the topics that we are learning; The evlauacion is not according to what has been learned and in many cases it is based more on the memory than on the analysis.

By Atanas P

Mar 19, 2021

The lectures are somewhat incoherent. Many facts about the articles are not made clear or missed altogether, and I had to do a lot of extra reading in order to understand them.

By Karl D

Jul 26, 2017

Good overview of systems biology, but the graded tests are somewhat difficult to understand for someone without a biology background such as myself.

By Violeta G

Dec 6, 2021

Quizzes do not contain feedback for wrong answers, and the amount of detail is sometimes overwhelming. Wouldn't recommend for complete beginners!

By Connie N

Oct 1, 2020

Really interesting content, but could use a rework on formatting, style, and clarity.

By Alan R d F K M

Jan 20, 2020

Could give more basic information about systems theory

By Milena J

Feb 12, 2016

The lectures were somehow chaotic.

By Mainak B

Feb 23, 2020

Tough and brain storming

By Pasquale D S

Feb 25, 2021

Let me start by saying that I appreciate that Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Prof. Ravi Iyengar & colleagues and Coursera’s tried to provide a course on such a potentially interesting topics. However, this course is a disaster. There are problems with the target audience of the course, the pedagogy, the technical aspects of the realisation, the quizzes… everything. To quote Prof. Iyengar, it is ‘a sort of kind of’ inconclusive and confusing. Let me try to be more specific.

First of all, it says it’s an introductory level course: Well, before this course I have refreshed genetics, physiology, biology, neurology, anatomy, network theory, etc. None of that prepared me for this course. I did not manage to consolidate a single new concept besides those I already knew. This, despite passing the quizzes. I really fail to see which audience the course is supposed to target. Perhaps, if you have previous undergraduate (or graduate?) education in molecular biology, and a deep understanding of how cell biological systems work, the course may be adapted to you, but I am not sure. It’s all jargon, acronyms, mechanisms that you are supposed to be familiar with, mentioned in a quick way, without a clear path.

Second (and main problem): The pedagogical approach. It’s not a course. It literally explains nothing from the ground up. It is more like a series of informal seminars given to peers, who needs refreshing a specific topic. You get the impression of superficially reading the abstracts of a series of articles on a specialised journal. The coherence between chapters is very loose. If it aimed at being a bird's eye view of systems biology, it failed since it lacks clarity, coherence, and purpose. An alternative and very effective pedagogical approach would have been to limit the scope to covering one or a few aspects in some depth, e.g. discuss a paradigmatic system from a general biology approach, a traditional physiological approach, and compare that with a systems biology study approach, explaining step by step the modelling via a set of ordinary differential equations or a simple network. That would have given a concrete example of what’s the ‘added value’ of the discipline. An experienced researcher would not benefit from it either: She would learn nothing concrete that can be used in her research. None of the mathematical techniques mentioned are explained in a constructive approach. Hours are dedicated to list websites where to retrieve data, for instance, or to name techniques and concepts never explained (microarrays, phosphorylation, endless kinases…). Knowledge is not transmitted by simply naming things, that's pedagogy 101...

The more you follow, if you manage to keep going, the more it turns into a “review of handpicked literature" whose rationale to understand basic concepts of system biology(but do they exist, one is left wondering?) is not manifest.

The technical aspects: Shooting in what appears to be a basement, giving the impression that somebody has kidnapped the Professor, with the noise of a truck passing by once every other lecture covering the monotonous and slow tone. Looks like a B-movie.

Miscellanea: At least two thirds of the quizzes are concerning details of papers sometimes barely mentioned in the lectures, rather than big concepts. Slides are hard to read (diagrams too small, for instance, most of the acronyms left for the student to figure out…). No mentor intervention in the forums. Ever. It’s a first course in a specialization whose capstone is not accessible anymore, bordering a hoax…

I thought that Systems Biology was at the intersection of Physiology with Biophysics, with an approach based on mathematical modelling and focused on capturing quantitatively the dynamics of the object of study, via numerical techniques and exploiting big data. Now, not so sure anymore. Perhaps it is, but I fail to see how researchers in this field could form their competences based on such types of courses. I definitely did not find the course helpful and would not really recommend it to anyone. It’s in the lowest 10% of the courses I have followed on Coursera (close to ~100).

Two stars, only to have made most articles (as well as the slides) available.

By Tim D

May 7, 2021

While the course did present a few topics that may be of concern to a systems biologist, I'm very disappointed with the effort that went into presenting the material in a digestible, coherent way. After completing the course, rather than feeling like I just took an engaging course online, I feel a bit like someone had the radio tuned to a Systems Biology station in the other room while I did chores. The big issues are (1) The course is years old and hasn't been updated for this fast-moving field, (2) The lectures style is scattered, (3) The review material doesn't connect strongly to the lecture material, and (4) The video production is pretty low-effort.

By Soheyl M

Nov 27, 2020

The explanations in the course are extremely superficial and do not add anything to the PowerPoint presented in each course. In addition, most of the articles presented in the lectures are hardly discussed which makes it difficult to understand for a beginner in this field.

By Circe M

Aug 11, 2017

Course material was not presented in a matter that flowed naturally. Completing the course didn't lend greatly to my overall understanding in the area though I understand certain aspects very well.

By Carolina A

Apr 19, 2020

I found that the lectures didn't guide me enough. I download the articles and read extra material. I will look for another course to learn more of this part of the specialization.

By Alexandro G A S

Aug 9, 2016

It is a good introductory course, but it relies too much on networks and could be confusing and demoralizing if you intend to pursue a career in systems biology.

By D C

Nov 6, 2019

The course is too specific and advanced. It´s not an introduction.

By Alexander

Oct 5, 2016

The material is very randomized, and the instructor presents it in an overly complex way.

By Richelle E

Oct 18, 2020

the course/ lecture session doesnt highlight half the stuff that pops up in the exams

By Ahmed N S

May 6, 2020

i want to cancel mt subscription in this course