Best Poster Winners
At this year's retreat Alexander Hsieh, Rotem Rubinstein, Jinzhou Yuan, and Jiguang Wang (clockwise from top left) were named winners in the Best Poster Competition.

On September 15, 2016, members of the Columbia University Department of Systems Biology gathered in Tarrytown, New York for the Department’s annual retreat. Although the tranquil setting overlooking the Hudson River was familiar, the event’s timing was new, taking place for the first time at the beginning of the academic year to enable first-year graduate students to become acquainted with the Department as they begin their studies. With a full day of scientific talks, a poster session, and ample time for informal conversation, the retreat provided an up-to-date survey of the diverse research taking place in the Department's laboratories.

In introductory remarks, Department Chair Andrea Califano celebrated the retreat as an important annual meeting that provides “a chance to bring our heads together and think about what we are as a community.” He then gave a brief update on recent developments in the Department — including the interdisciplinary and collaborative nature of its research, its growing emphasis on technology development, the high publishing productivity among its investigators, and its successful pipeline of funded grants.

Among these is a new U54 grant that has enabled the creation of the Center for Cancer Systems Therapeutics (CaST). Shannon Hughes, a program officer in the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Biology, followed Dr. Califano at the podium to introduce the new Cancer Systems Biology Consortium, of which CaST is one of four founding centers.

Following her remarks, Peter Sims, who recently became director of the Department of Systems Biology’s Graduate Program, discussed recent changes in the systems biology PhD track’s curriculum and requirements and the launch of a new faculty research seminar.

Staphylococcus epidermis
Interactions between human cells and the bacteria that inhabit our bodies can affect health. Here, Staphylococcus epidermis binds to nasal epithelial cells. (Image courtesy of Sheetal Trivedi and Sean Sullivan.)

Launched in 2014 by investigators in the Mailman School of Public Health, the CUMC Microbiome Working Group brings together basic, clinical, and population scientists interested in understanding how the human microbiome—the ecosystems of bacteria that inhabit and interact with our tissues and organs—affects our health. Computational biologists in the Department of Systems Biology have become increasingly involved in this interdepartmental community, contributing expertise in analytical approaches that make it possible to make sense of the large data sets that microbiome studies generate.


The Department of Systems Biology is pleased to announce the speakers in its 2015-2016 Seminar Series. The seminar series features leading investigators working in a diverse set of fields, including stem cell differentiation, regulatory genomics, virus-host interactions, evolutionary genomics, cancer genomics, RNA biology, and retrotransposon biology. Please save the dates!

All events will be held in the Department of Systems Biology Common Room (ICRC 816), unless indicated otherwise. Additional details about these events will be provided at the links below as they become available.

For a continually updated calendar of all Department of Systems Biology events, and to see an archive of past seminars, visit

Nathan Johns and Antonio Gomes

Nathan Johns and Antonio Gomes in the Wang Lab received this year's Distinguished Poster Award.

On June 5, 2015, approximately 150 faculty members, postdocs, and graduate students from the Columbia University Department of Systems Biology gathered at the Tappan Hill Mansion in Tarrytown, New York, for a day filled with illuminating presentations and conversations. The meeting has become a high point of the year for the Department, providing a relaxed environment to socialize and learn about some of the newest methods and discoveries emerging from other laboratories.

Sayantan Bose Receives Best Poster Award

Associate Professor Harmen Bussemaker (left) presents the best poster award to postdoc Sayantan Bose for his efforts to develop a high-throughput platform for performing single-cell RNA-Seq.

On May 30, 2014, the Columbia University Department of Systems Biology and its Center for Multiscale Analysis of Genomic and Cellular Networks (MAGNet) held its annual retreat at Tappan Hill Mansion in Tarrytown, NY. The event provided an overview of some recent work undertaken by Department investigators, and provided a comfortable setting for department members to socialize and exchange ideas about their current research interests.

Department of Systems Biology Symposium

On Thursday, October 17 more than 200 attendees filled the Hammer Health Sciences Center auditorium to celebrate the recent creation of the new Columbia University Department of Systems Biology. The event featured a keynote address by pioneering systems and synthetic biologist James Collins, as well as talks from more than a dozen Department faculty members and other collaborating investigators that spotlighted the wide range of research in computational and systems biology being pursued at Columbia. 

High-throughput screening’s ability to perform thousands of experiments efficiently and under carefully controlled conditions has made it an important tool for basic and translational biological research. At Columbia University, the JP Sulzberger Columbia Genome Center and the Chemical Probe Synthesis Facility provide a flexible platform for researchers interested in applying high-throughput experimentation in their work. On December 17, 2012, the Genome Center hosted a symposium to spotlight its capabilities in high-throughput screening, to explain the important role that synthetic chemistry plays in high-throughput screening, and to describe some recent research projects at Columbia that have utilized these tools.

As High-Throughput Screening Core Scientific Director Charles Karan explained, the Genome Center operates a suite of advanced technologies for automated liquid handling, robotic assay implementation, and high-throughput, high-content microscopy. The Genome Center also offers Columbia University researchers access to several large collections for conducting high-throughput screens. These include the Columbia Cell Line Encyclopedia, which includes 850 cancer cell lines collected from around the world, as well as a chemical diversity library curated by researchers in the Chemical Probe Synthesis Facility. This “tool chest” gives Columbia investigators access to a pre-selected set of compounds that have been predicted to result in the highest quality potential hits. Karan also reported that the Genome Center recently negotiated an arrangement with Sigma Aldrich to give access to the company’s shRNA clones to researchers at Columbia at greatly discounted rates.