Department of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

George Mason University

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The Ph.D. in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology


Recent advances in molecular biology have produced an avalanche of data, including DNA sequences and genetic maps that cover thousands of genes whose functions are poorly understood or completely unknown. These advances are having profound effect on the biological sciences, and have resulted in the development of the new discipline of bioinformatics. Bioinformatics utilizes computational approaches to analyze patterns in biological data and to create complex models of biological activity, including attempts to elucidate the functions of genes and their interactions in genetic pathways. Widespread social benefits are expected from the exploitation of the wealth of new knowledge concerning the genetic mechanisms of life and related processes. The coming years will see major developments in medicine, functional genomics, and environmental sciences, as well as profound advances in our understanding of the fundamental processes of biology. These benefits are increasingly dependent on the application of advanced information technology to the analysis of biological information.

The main objective of the Ph.D. program in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology is to train the next generation of computational biologists for careers in academia, industry, and government. The program provides students with an interdisciplinary academic environment, including fundamental biosciences courses as well as core and advanced courses in bioinformatics. In general, course requirements may be completed within the first two years of the program. The program is structured to be accessible by both full-time and part-time students.

Degree Requirements

The curriculum is divided into four areas: 12 credit hours of fundamental biosciences courses; 13 credit hours of core bioinformatics courses; 23 credit hours of electives or independent research; and 24 credit hours of dissertation research. The course work is organized as follows:

If the undergraduate record does not include basic biochemistry, the student will be required to take a basic biochemistry course prior to the BINF 701 Biochemical Systematics (Biochemistry). If the undergraduate record is otherwise insufficient, the student may be required to take prerequisite courses, some of which may not be applicable to the 48-hour course total for the bioinformatics Ph.D.

The program requires 72 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree, with a minimum of 48 credits in course work, and 24 credits of dissertation research. For those holding master's degrees, the 72 required credits may be reduced by up to 30 credits, depending on graduate courses completed. By the end of the semester when course work is completed, the student must form a doctoral committee, which will supervise the student's candidacy examination. The examination includes written and oral components. Upon passing the candidacy examination and submitting an acceptable dissertation proposal, the student is advanced to doctoral candidacy.

For courses descriptions, click here.