"Mathematics is biology's next microscope, only better; biology is mathematics' next physics, only better." -- Joel Cohen , Rockefeller and Columbia Universities , New York .

Systems biology has become a fashionable term in recent years. Described by experts as more of an attitude and mindset than a scientific field in its strictest sense, it merges the best that qualitative and quantitative science can offer.

In this week's feature, appearing in print and online, Science's Next Wave looks at career opportunities for the upcoming generation of systems biologists. The funding scene is healthy, the science and the scientific ambitions are inspiring, and the community is optimistic. Yet systems biology faces some tough challenges, including cultural barriers, inadequate training and, to some extent, inadequate recognition by the scientific community of the degree of collaboration that's common within and essential for systems biology.

Not every scientist has what it takes, but those who do, say the leaders in the field, can write their own ticket.

Working the Systems
Established 6 years ago, the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle was the first major institution to focus exclusively on systems biology. Next Wave contributing writer Jim Kling visits ISB to find out how the institute, and the field in general, is progressing.

A Meeting of Minds, Expertise, and Imagination
European systems biology may have lagged a bit at first, but a rise in human networks--collaborations--and funding levels means European systems biology is catching up fast. European editor Anne Forde investigates and discovers a growing job market for researchers willing to take on the challenges posed by such an interdisciplinary field.

Ottawa's Institute of Systems Biology
Established last year, Ottawa's Institute of Systems Biology applies systems biology tools to the study of human diseases. Several of its researchers tell Canadian correspondent Andrew Fazekas about the challenges, not all of them scientific, these researchers face.

From Molecular to Systems Biology
New integrative tools and genomics data have allowed Spanish researcher Ildefonso Cases to follow his research and career ambitions of studying complex interactions in biological systems. Contributing editor Elisabeth Pain talks to Cases and those who influenced him about how his career evolved.

Systems Biology Initiatives
Finally, Science's Next Wave offers a listing of some major systems biology projects, plus upcoming conferences.