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 senior 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.

Prerequisites (which are to be completed by the end of the second year)
There are two possible tracks for entry into the QCB certificate program:

1. Integrated Science ISC 231-234
2. All of the following courses:   
    •  COS 126 or higher
  •  MOL 214
  •  PHY 103-104 or PHY 103-108 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: SML 201, ORF 245, MOL/EEB 355 or higher (but not PSY 251)

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 PHY 103-104
     •   AP 4 on Chemistry gives equivalency for CHM 201 (but not CHM 202)
     •   AP 5 on Chemistry  gives equivalency for CHM 201-202

Program of Study

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

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

  • CBE 433 Mechanics/Dynamics of Soft Living Matter
  • CBE 440 The Physical Basis of Human Disease
  • CBE 447/GHP 447 Metabolic Engineering
  • CHM 440 Drug Discovery in the Genomics Era
  • CHM 541/QCB 541 Chemical Biology II
  • COS 343 Algorithms for Computational Biology
  • EEB 324 Theoretical Ecology
  • EEB 325 Mathematical Modeling in Biology and Medicine
  • ENV 302/EEB 302 Practical Models for Environmental Systems
  • GEO 523 / CEE 572 Geomicrobiology
  • ISC 326 Human Genomics: Past, Present, Future
  • MAE 344/MAE 566 Biomechanics and Biomaterials: From Cells to Organisms
  • MAT/APC 321 Numerical Methods
  • MAT 586/APC 511/MOL 511/QCB 513 Computational Methods in Cryo-Electron Microscopy
  • NEU 314 Mathematical Tools for Neuroscience
  • NEU 437 / MOL 437 / PSY 437 Computational Neuroscience
  • PHY 209 Computational Physics Seminar
  • PHY 412 Biological Physics
  • QCB 408/508 Foundations of Applied Statistics and Data Science (with Applications in Biology)
  • QCB 455/COS 551 Introduction to Genomics and Computational Molecular Biology
  • QCB 490 Molecular Mechanisms of Longevity: The Genetics, Genomics, and Cell Biology of Aging
  • QCB 505 Topics in Biophysics and Quantitative Biology: Statistical Mechanics for Real Biological Networks
  • QCB 511 Modeling Tools for Cell and Developmental Biology
  • QCB 515 Method and Logic in Quantitative Biology

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

Administrative Details

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.

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.

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.