Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology

Academic Unit

Program Information

The Program in Quantitative and Computational Biology is offered by the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics and its affiliated departments. It is designed for students with a strong interest in multidisciplinary and systems-level approaches to understanding molecular, cellular, and organismal behavior. The curriculum introduces students to experimental and analytic techniques for acquisition of large-scale quantitative observations, and the interpretation of such data in the context of appropriate models. Strong emphasis is placed on using global genome-wide measurements (e.g., microarray gene expression, sequence, phenotype) to understand physiological and evolutionary processes.

Examples of ongoing research include organizational principles of metabolic networks, quantitative modeling of cell-biological processes, mapping the genetic basis of complex bacterial behavior, comparative genomics analysis of regulatory networks, the genetic basis of quantitative phenotypic variation, and genomic plasticity and mechanisms of phenotypic adaptation.

At the core of the curriculum is independent research initiated in the fall of junior year, in which students participate in the design, execution, and analysis of experiments in a host laboratory of their choice. The required courses provide a strong background in modern methodologies in data analysis, interpretation, and modeling. A certificate in quantitative and computational biology is awarded to students who successfully complete the program requirements.

Admission to the Program

Students are admitted to the program after they have chosen a concentration and consulted with the program committee, or the Director of the program, in May of their sophomore year. Although students are encouraged to find a lab on their own, the program committee will, if necessary, assist students in selecting a laboratory for their junior independent and thesis work. Students must have identified a lab and research project by the first day of their junior year fall semester. Admission requires the completion of prerequisites listed below. Electives are chosen in consultation with the adviser.

There are two possible tracks for entry into the QCB certificate program:

1. Integrated Science ISC 231-234
                -OR-
2. All of the following courses:   
    •  COS126 or higher
  •  MOL215 or the equivalent by permission of the Director
  •  PHY103-104 or the equivalent by permission of the Director
  •  CHM 201-202 or the equivalent by permission of the Director
  •  One 200-level math course (or higher) - OR - one semester of statistics: SML201, ORF245, MOL/EEB 355 or higher (but not PSY251)


Please note that students can use their AP credits for the PHY and CHM requirements as per the university's Reference Table for AP Credit.

     •   AP 5 on Parts I and II of Physics C gives equivalency for PHY103-104
     •   AP 4 on Chemistry gives equivalency for CHM201 (but not CHM202)
     •   AP 5 on Chemistry  gives equivalency for CHM201-202


Applications for program admission, including the Research Lab form, must be submitted by May 31 of sophomore year and should include the following information: prerequisite courses, plans for courses in the junior and senior years, and independent work plans. Admission decisions are made by June 30.

Program of Study

1. QCB 302: Research Topics in QCB (taken in the fall of junior year)

2. Three electives from the course list below (Additional courses may be taken as electives with approval from the Director):

  • CBE433 Mechanics/Dynamics of Soft Living Matter
  • CBE440 The Physical Basis of Human Disease
  • CBE448/MAT481 Introduction to Nonlinear Dynamics
  • CHM440 Drug Discovery in the Genomics Era
  • COS/MOL557 Analysis & Visualization of Large-Scale Genomic Data Sets
  • ISC326 Human Genomics: Past, Present, Future
  • ISC335 Organic Chemistry of Metabolism
  • MAT/APC321 Numerical Methods
  • NEU408 Cellular and Systems Neuroscience
  • PHY209 Computational Physics Seminar
  • PHY412 Biological Physics
  • PSY338 Animal Learning and Decision Making: Psychological, Computational and Neural Perspectives
  • QCB455 Introduction to Genomics and Computational Molecular Biology
  • QCB505 Topics in Biophysics and Quantitative Biology: Statistical Mechanics for Real Biological Networks
  • QCB511 Modeling Tools for Cell and Developmental Biology
  • QCB515 Method and Logic in Quantitative Biology

3. Junior and senior independent work must have significant overlap with areas in quantitative and computational biology.

A minimum of a B average in program courses and junior and senior independent work is required for successful completion of the program. Program courses cannot be taken pass/D/fail.

Certificate of Proficiency

Students who fulfill the requirements of the program receive a certificate of proficiency in quantitative and computational biology upon graduation. Students who pursue a certificate in quantitative and computational biology may not also receive a certificate in biophysics.