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Jim Burns' Thesis

PDF version now available: Download 8MB

I (HMS) should say a few words as to why on earth anyone would want to download a Ph.D thesis that is now almost 40 years old and presumably way out of date and completely irrelevant in today's terabyte genome sequences? Well for one, Jim's thesis is an important historical document relating to the origin of Metabolic Control Theory (MCT). For those who don't know, MCT (or BST as developed by M. Savageau) is the first, clear, practical and theoretically useful treatment of complex cellular enzyme networks yet devised. In a sense it carries on where enzyme kinetics becomes unmanageable though it uses a completely different approach. At the moment MCT is the only approach that is useful to understanding complex biochemical networks, and I mean understand, not just simulating* or just blind cataloging as so much of modern biology is. There could and most likely will be other approaches but none has yet emerged to better MCT. One of the nice aspects of MCT is that it is actually quite simple and is amenable to anyone with a basic understanding of differential calculus. Anyone who calls themselves a scientist with have this knowledge, those who don't can't. Those who dismiss MCT or pass over it without much thought have pretty much missed the point. What is the point? Well…..

  • It's a formal language to describe complex cellular networks.
  • To those who are willing to spend time studying MCT, it forces clarity of thought.
  • It connects genome and environment with phenotype.
  • It helps to uncover the cause and effects in a complex system; who does what, how and why.
  • It helps to give direction in the search for novel drug targets and the rational manipulation of metabolism.

What I find most remarkable about Jim's text is it's modern feel which suggests to me that the content was decades ahead of his time. One finds in the thesis work that was anticipated by later workers, even results which were later presented, unknowingly of course, as novel by subsequent researchers. So I hope the thesis will be of interest, not only for historical reason but also as a source of inspiration for future work.

I am grateful to Jim Burns for allowing me to upload the text of his thesis. Also thanks to Jannie Hofmeyr who assisted in the conversion process.

sysbio/labmembers/follow_this_link_to_download_jim_burns_thesis.txt · Last modified: 2007/08/12 13:45 by hsauro

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