Best Systems Biology Graduate Programs

There are a number of top universities around the country that offer some of the best systems biology graduate programs. This article explores a few of them in greater detail to help prospective students better understand what options are available to them.

Prospective graduate students who are interested in the field of systems biology may wish to enroll in one of the best available systems biology graduate programs. This article will highlight three different universities in detail that offer strong systems biology programs by focusing on their structure, curriculum, and research opportunities. In addition, the article will cover a few other programs in systems biology that students may be interested in.

Stanford University

One of the most prestigious universities in the nation, Stanford University offers a Ph.D. program in Chemical and Systems Biology. This program requires that students complete coursework during the first two years, which is a mixture of required core curriculum and elective courses in areas chosen by the students. They also complete three lab rotations during the first year of the program in order to familiarize themselves with the various subfields of chemical and systems biology, enabling them to select which lab they would like to conduct their Ph.D. research during the second half of the five-year program. The Center for Systems Biology at Stanford is home to 12 different labs, all of which have various research focuses. Some possible areas of research that students may be interested in include protein engineering, cell cycle control, and new technologies in biomedical research.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers students a Ph.D. program in Computational and Systems Biology. In this program, students will take a combination of required core courses and advanced elective courses, so that students gain both a broad understanding of the field, as well as in-depth knowledge in the areas that most interest them. Students are required to take a foundational course in computational and systems biology, a course in computational biology, and a course in modern biology. After completing three required research group rotations, students are able to select the lab that is best aligned with their research interests and goals. Some research areas include cancer systems biology, microbiology and systems ecology, and stem cell and developmental systems biology.

California Institute of Technology

Another top program in systems biology is the Ph.D. program in Biology at the California Institute of Technology which allows students to pursue the specialization area of systems biology. In this program, students are required to complete coursework during their first two years according to the specialization area they choose. Some systems biology coursework includes systems genetics, physical biology of the cell, and gene regulation systems. Additionally, students are required to serve as teaching assistants during the first three years of the program and complete at least two lab research rotations during their first year before selecting which lab they would like to conduct research in. The major research areas at the California Institute of Technology include circuit biology, network biology, genomics, and computational biology, and systems developmental biology.

Other Systems Biology Graduate Program Options

  • Northwestern University - Students who would like to pursue a master's degree in the field of systems biology may be interested in the Master of Science in Quantitative and Systems Biology at Northwestern University. This program is centered around research, can be completed in one year, and prepares students for further study at the Ph.D. level or for entry into the workforce.
  • Columbia University - Another option is the Ph.D. program in Cellular, Molecular, and Biomedical Studies at Columbia, which offers a Systems Biology specialization. Students in this program complete two or three laboratory rotations and required coursework during their first year, after which they can formally request to join the systems biology track.
  • Harvard University - Harvard University also offers a Ph.D. program in Systems Biology, which is offered within the Harvard Integrated Life Sciences program, a collaborative program that is intended to encourage cross-disciplinary research. This program requires that students take a number of courses during their first two years, which are selected in consultation with their advisor, and complete between two and four laboratory rotations before deciding on the direction of their dissertation.

In review, there are a wide number of systems biology graduate programs from which students can choose from. Attending one of the best programs may increase a student's chances of finding employment quickly upon graduation and expose them to the most cutting edge thinking and research in the field.


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