nl en

Natural Computing


Admission requirements

Not applicable.


Natural computing is a quickly developing field dealing with models and computational paradigms inspired by nature and attempts to understand the world around us in terms of information processing. Natural computing today includes paradigms such as modelling information processing through artificial neural networks, modelling emergent behaviour resulting from the interaction of a large collection of agents in particle swarms (representing e.g., birds, insects) or spatial arrangements of cells (cellular automata), or modelling efficient search and optimization procedures such as ant colonies (finding shortest paths in a network of possibilities), simulated annealing processes (finding the optimal energy state of a crystal), and evolutionary processes (adapting a population to find the best mix of genetic material under changing environmental conditions). The course introduces the foundations of a variety of such computational paradigms, and discusses algorithmic implementations on computers as well as the analogies between these implementations and the natural model. In addition, we also present some practical application examples of such computational paradigms, such as pattern recognition, engineering optimization, simulations of fire breakouts, to name a few.

Course objectives

The course gives a comprehensive overview of the field through a series of lectures and exercises. In addition, a practical application exercise of natural computing algorithms is given to the students, who are expected to run experiments and write a short report about the experiment and the results obtained. By attending the course, students

  • learn about the main classes of natural computing algorithms,

  • acquire practical skills in implementing and applying instances of natural computing algorithms, and

  • learn how to write a short report in the format of a scientific paper.


The most recent timetable can be found on the Student website:

You will find the timetables for all courses and degree programmes of Leiden University in the tool MyTimetable (login). Any teaching activities that you have sucessfully registered for in MyStudymap will automatically be displayed in MyTimetable. Any timetables that you add manually, will be saved and automatically displayed the next time you sign in.

MyTimetable allows you to integrate your timetable with your calendar apps such as Outlook, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and other calendar apps on your smartphone. Any timetable changes will be automatically synced with your calendar. If you wish, you can also receive an email notification of the change. You can turn notifications on in ‘Settings’ (after login).

For more information, watch the video or go the the 'help-page' in MyTimetable. Pleas note: Joint Degree students Leiden/Delft have to merge their two different timetables into one. This video explains how to do this.

Mode of instruction

  • Weekly lectures

  • Assignment

  • Several practicum sessions

Assessment method

  1. the written exam (70%)
  2. the report about the practical assignment including peer review (30%)
    In order to pass the course, grades for both of these items should be at least 5.5.

Total hours of study 6 EC course: 168h
Lectures/Workgroups: 34:00 hrs.
Assignment: 70:00 hrs.
Self-study: 64:00 hrs.

Reading list

Slides contain all necessary material covered by this course. The following book is recommended but not mandatory for the course: Leandro Nunes de Castro, Fundamentals of Natural Computing, Chapman & Hall/CRC.


From the academic year 2022-2023 on every student has to register for courses with the new enrollment tool MyStudymap. There are two registration periods per year: registration for the fall semester opens in July and registration for the spring semester opens in December. Please see this page for more information.

Please note that it is compulsory to both preregister and confirm your participation for every exam and retake. Not being registered for a course means that you are not allowed to participate in the final exam of the course. Confirming your exam participation is possible until ten days before the exam.
Extensive FAQ on MyStudymap can be found here.


Education coordinator LIACS bachelors

Dr Anna V. Kononova
Diederick Vermetten


Not applicable.