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In Silico

other word formation type adjective
done on a computer/ by a simulation
 
TThis term is used commonly in the scientific academic community. It is especially common in the fields of bioinformatics and computational biology, but it is becoming more prominent in biology, biochemistry, and physical chemistry. It is formal enough to be used in published papers. It is a pretty narrow phrase, and is unlikely to be used except for when talking about how experiments were performed in a scientific setting. It would not be fitting to say that I did my homework in silico, even if I did it on the computer. I could say, though, that I modeled protein interactions in silico.
Etymology : This phrase was created in parallel to the common terms in vivo, and in vitro, which are true Latin. As the computer began to revolutionize biology, this term came into existence. It was first used in 1989 as a way to describe experiments done through computer simulations rather than in vitro (in a lab) or in vivo (in the natural setting). Silico is pseudo-latin for silicon (which actually comes from the Latin word silex, meaning pebble). Since computer chips use silicon, this parallels the other terms, since the experiments are happening “in the silicon” similarly to how the experiments are happening “in the living” or “in the glass.” Making up Latin words for scientific terms is a long-standing trend, and this is one modern case where it has caught on, perhaps because the similar phrases allow it to feel natural and not pretentious.
Source : said in my Physical Chemistry class, September 2019: “by modeling the protein folding in silico, we can have a good idea of the tertiary structure”
Last modified: 10 December 2019


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