Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jim Burns’ Ph.D Thesis

Originally Posted on  by hsauro

Why on earth should anyone want to download a Ph.D thesis that is now almost 40 years old and presumably way out of date and completely irrelevant in today’s terabyte data world? Well for one, Jim’s thesis is an important historical document relating to the origin of Metabolic Control Theory (MCT).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. In a sense, it continues where enzyme kinetics becomes unmanageable though it uses a completely different approach. 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 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 reasons but also as a source of inspiration for future work.

Here is the thesis

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.

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