Dept. of Systems Biology and Bioinformatics is a part of the University of Rostock, Germany Universität Rostock

Prof. Olaf Wolkenhauer

Image: Prof. Olaf Wolkenhauer

Research Interest

Making Sense out of Data; Giving Meaning to Models
Many natural phenomena present themselves to us as nonlinear, dynamical spatio-temporal systems, producing an amazing variety of behavior and beautiful pattern. We are part of an effort to understand how the interactions of molecules and cells can bring about this astonishing structural and functional organization we observe in nature.

Our team is focusing on the analysis of  data from complex biological and biomedical systems. We use statistical techniques, mathematical modelling, computer simulations and develop tools for use in the areas of bioinformatics, systems biology and systems medicine.

My research group is composed of a wide range of experts from the natural, physical and engineering sciences, working on theoretical and practical tools for an equally wide range of applications in biotechnology and biomedicine. The different backgrounds of our team members help us to address complex problems with an inter- and multidisciplinary approach. A comprehensive overview of our teaching activities, research projects and publications can be found on our main website at The page you are reading now is about my personal views and interests.

My systems-theoretic approach is motivated by the conviction that relations between objects, whether these are material (say molecules or cells), or whether the objects are formal (mathematical), are most important to understanding a system: Life is a relation among biological entities and not a property of any object.

Miscellaneous Documents and Links

As part of my training as an Eletronaut I prepared some How to guides, Cheat sheets and notes that may be of help to other Elektron musicians: 

I don't play chess but I am interested in the question of how complexity emerges from simplicity. Here are some notes I prepared while reading chess books and which may be useful for a novice:

Academic Background

Biografie auf Deutsch

My first degrees (Dipl.Ing. and BEng.) in control engineering are from the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg, Germany and the University of Portsmouth, U.K. in 1994. My PhD (1997) was on the application of possibility theory to data analysis, research I conducted at UMIST, Manchester. Following a research lectureship at the Control Systems Centre at UMIST, an invited visiting position at the Technical University Delft, Netherlands in 1999-2000, I held a joint senior lectureship with the Department of Biomolecular Sciences and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics, at UMIST. After ten years at the Control Systems Centre, I accepted in 2003 the C4 Chair in Systems Biology and Bioinformatics, part of the Institute of Computer Science at the University of Rostock, Germany. I was a visiting Professor in the School of Mathematics at The University of Manchester between 2003 and 2006. Since October 2004 I have an adjunct position in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Case Western Reserve University, where I collaborate with Mihajlo Mesarovic. I am the founding editor of the journal Systems Biology and since 2005, I am a fellow of the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS), where I collaborate with Jan-Hendrik Hofmeyr. I am a founding member of the Centre for Logic, Philosophy and History of Science at the University of Rostock and was awarded in 2009 a SPIE Pioneer Award for contributions to the field of systems biology and data engineering. In 2015 I was elected onto the Review Panel of the Foundations of Medicine and Biology section in the German Research Council (DFG).

I have had the opportunity to contribute to the development of systems biology approaches and their application in molecular and cell biology since 1999. I was one of the first engineers in the UK with a joint appointment in the bio-molecular sciences and my current appointment was the first professorship for systems biology in Europe. I have more than ten years experience in interdisciplinary training programmes at Masters levels, in summer schools and PhD training programmes. Through my role in establishing systems biology in Europe, I have been a regular advisor to funding bodies and more recently have helped to define and establish the field of systems medicine through my involvement in the EC FP7 coordination action CaSyM.


For a list of publications refer to the page "Publications".

Contact Details

Systems Biology and Bioinformatics
Ulmenstrasse 69 (building 3, 3rd floor)
18057 Rostock, Germany
Room 406

phone: +49 381 498-7570
fax: +49 381 498-7572
mail: olaf.wolkenhauer(at)