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Advanced Courses in Life Sciences

3rd Edition

Introduction to Network Analysis in Life Sciences

October 24th-28th, 2016, Barcelona (Spain)

Introduction to Network Analysis in Life SciencesMany features and processes of biological systems can be well represented by networks of interacting elements. In the last decades, network analysis has provided new insights into the organization and functioning of complex biological systems such as brain wiring, genetic regulation, or ecological dynamics. A basic knowledge on network modelling and network analysis will provide biologists a better understanding of cutting-edge research in their fields.

This course will introduce participants into the analysis of complex biological systems using network models. Students will learn the basics of network analysis: gathering information, building network models, and interpret the outcomes of their analysis. This course combines theoretical introduction and computing practices using the free software environment R. Previous knowledge in R is not required. Participants are encouraged to bring their own data for practicing. Emphasis is placed on offering participants a wide overview of network modelling in biology and the many available software tools to do it.


Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont

C/ de l’Escola Industrial, nº 23
08201 Sabadell, Barcelona.

How to get there




34 hours on-site.

This course is equivalent to 3,5 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) at the Life Science Zurich Graduate School.

The recognition of ECTS by other institutions depends on each university or school.


Places are limited to 18 participants and will be occupied by strict registration order.

Participants who have completed the course will receive a certificate at the end of it.


Diego Rasskin-Gutman instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Diego Rasskin-Gutman
Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology

Borja Esteve-Altava Instructor for Transmitting Science

Dr. Borja Esteve-Altava
The Royal Veterinary College
United Kingdom


Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno instructor at Transmitting Science

Dr. Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno
Transmitting Science

Judit Marigó coordinator at Transmitting Science

Dr. Judit Marigó
Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle / Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont
France / Spain

Ana Rosa Gómez-Cano coordinator at Transmitting Science

Dr. Ana Rosa Gómez-Cano
Transmitting Science


Graduate or postgraduate degree in Biomedical, Life or Earth Sciences, basic knowledge of statistics and personal computers.

All participants must bring their own personal laptop.


Monday, October 24th, 2016: Dr. Diego Rasskin-Gutman and Dr. Borja Esteve-Altava.

  • Course Presentation.
  • Complex Biological Systems: Modelling Relations.
    • Historical and conceptual introduction.
    • Basic concepts and representations.
  • Hands on Computers: Introduction to R.
    • Presentation of the R environment and language.
    • Basic operations in R (useful for network modelling).
    • Packages installation.
  • Hands on Computers: Introduction to igraph and Network Modelling.
    • Presentation of the package igraph.
    • Modelling deterministic networks.
    • Manipulating network attributes.
    • Modelling networks from loaded data.

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016: Dr. Diego Rasskin-Gutman and Dr. Borja Esteve-Altava.

  • Complex Biological Systems: Applied Network Theory.
    • Nodes, links and types of networks.
    • Basic network parameters.
    • Network architecture and null network models.
  • Work Example: Analysing parameters and architecture in tetrapod skull networks.
  • Hands on Computers: Analysing Networks.
    • Quantifying basic network parameters.
    • Identifying network architecture.
  • Work Example: Null network models of skull development to study evolution.
  • Hands on Computers: Modelling Network Null Models.
    • Regular and random models.
    • Small-world and scale-free models.
    • Geometric models.

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016: Dr. Borja Esteve-Altava.

  • Complex Biological Systems: Network Properties.
    • Robustness and the concept of secondary extinction.
    • Modularity
  • Work Example: Modularity in skull networks.
  • Hands on Computers: Identifying Modules.
    • Optimization methods.
    • Heuristic methods.
    • Quantifying the strength of modularity.

Thursday, October 27th, 2016: Dr. Borja Esteve-Altava.

  • Student Project Preparation (in groups of 2-3 persons). Bringing your own data is not required for this part, but you are welcome to do so if you have it.

Friday, October 28th, 2016: Dr. Borja Esteve-Altava.

  • Finishing Projects and Presentations. Each team will present its work to the group for discussion and round table (15-20 min + 10 min).
  • Course feedback.


  • Esteve-Altava B, Rasskin-Gutman D (2014) Beyond the functional matrix hypothesis: a network null model of human skull growth for the formation of bone articulations. Journal of Anatomy, 225 (3): 306-316.
  • Esteve-Altava B, Boughner JC, Diogo R, Villmoare BA, Rasskin-Gutman D (2015) Anatomical network analysis shows decoupling of modular lability and complexity in the evolution of the primate skull. PLoS ONE, 10(5): e0127653. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0127653.
  • Esteve-Altava B, Diogo R, Smith C, Boughner JC, Rasskin-Gutman D (2015) Anatomical networks reveal the musculoskeletal modularity of the human head. Scientific Reports, 5: 8298. DOI: 10.1038/srep08298.
  • Esteve-Altava B, Rasskin-Gutman D (2015) EvoDevo insights from pathological networks: Exploring craniosynostosis as a developmental mechanism for modularity and complexity in the human skull. Journal of Anthropological Sciences, 93: 1-15. DOI: 10.4436/JASS.93001.



You will find below some testimonials from former participants to previous editions of this course:

Josie Pegg

“Thanks to everyone involved in the Transmitting Science ‘Network Tools in Biosciences’ course. The location and ambience were lovely, and the instructors very engaging. The course was really well structured with a good mix of theory and practical sessions, and the content and level was perfect, as although I started with little knowledge of both the subject and R it was possible to learn very quickly. I particularly liked the fact that the opportunity existed to work on your own material under supervision which I think will definitely helped me in my PhD.” (1st Edition)

Josie PeggBournemouth University, United Kingdom


  • Course Fee
  • Early bird (until April 30th, 2016)
  • 465
  • Regular (after April 30th, 2016)
  • 620
  • This includes course material, coffee breaks and lunches.

We offer the possibility of paying in two instalments (contact the course coordinators).


The course will take place in the city of Sabadell, Barcelona (Spain).

You may stay in Barcelona city or Sabadell. You will find information about Hotels and Hostel in Sabadell here. It takes about 45 minutes by public transport to arrive to Sabadell from the centre of Barcelona city. The place of the course is about 15 minutes walking from the train stop.


Former participants will have a 5 % discount on the Course Fee.

Scholarship: Thanks to the donations of former participants, this year there is a place for free at the course for PhD students. If you want to apply please send an e-mail to grants@transmittingscience.org including: 1- Full name and country, 2- Short project (maximum 300 words), 3- Letter of your advisor stating if you have any grant to develop your PhD. Deadline: March 31st. Please include the name of the course in the subject line.

Furthermore, a 20 % discount on the Course Fee is offered for members of some organizations (Organizations with discount).  If you want to apply to this discount please indicate it in the Registration form (proof will be asked later).

Spanish unemployed scientists, as well as Spanish PhD students without any grant or scholarship to develop their PhD, could benefit from a 40 % discount on the Course Fee. If you want to ask for this discount, please contact the course coordinators. That would apply for a maximum of 2 places and they will be covered by strict inscription order.

Discounts are not cumulative.


Course Schedule
Monday, October 24th through Thursday, October 27th, 2016
9:30 to 13:30 Lessons.
13:30 to 15:00 Lunch.
15:00 to 18:30 Lessons.

There will be two coffee breaks each day, halfway through each lesson session.

Friday, October 28th, 20169:30 to 13:30 Lessons.

There will be a coffee break during the morning lesson session.

The schedule is approximate; it is possible that the content of one day may run into the next and a working day may be longer than advertised.


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