The field of computational biology focuses on how biology and biological data can be used and modeled in various systems in order to better grasp biological phenomena. Students who are interested in this field can pursue a Ph.D. in Computational Biology. These advanced programs are discussed in greater detail below by focusing on courses that are common parts of the curriculum and the admission requirements.
Information About Ph.D. Programs in Computational Biology
Students who enroll in Ph.D. programs in computational biology can generally expect to spend five years completing their degree. The first couple of years of these programs will generally be spent taking courses and possibly working as teaching assistants before students begin conducting their own research towards a doctoral dissertation. Below are five courses that are commonly found in computational biology Ph.D. programs.
Introduction to Computational Biology
It is common for Ph.D. programs in computational biology to require students to take an introductory course during the first year of the program. In such a course, students will gain a foundational understanding of the field of computational biology. Topics that could be covered in this course include molecular dynamics, homology modeling, supramolecular assembly, reaction paths, and various computational and statistical methods. In addition, the course may involve a theoretical component.
Students enrolled in Ph.D. courses in computational biology may be required to take a course in machine learning, which focuses on topics like data mining, statistical algorithms, and probability. Students in this course will learn about different types of machine learning systems and the process by which researchers can design machine learning systems and use data mining techniques. Additional topics covered in this course include regression, clustering, and dimensionality reduction.
Genetics and Genomics
Programs in computational biology generally require that students take multiple courses that cover genetics and genomics. Some of these courses may be introductory in nature, while others may explore specific aspects of the fields of genetics and genomics like population genetics, phylogenetics, phylogenomics, and evolutionary genetics. In these courses, students will gain both a broad and an in-depth understanding of genetics and genomics. Topics that could be covered include genetic mapping, genetic diseases, and various types of models that are frequently used in this field.
Molecular and Cell Biology
Ph.D. programs in this field will also require that students take one or more courses that covers molecular and cell biology. In a course like this, students will learn about the fundamentals of molecular and cell biology, various bioinformatics tools, and protein sequence analysis methods. More advanced courses in these topics may cover more specific topics, like the cellular processes behind various diseases that affect humans, gene regulation, and cellular organization.
Methods and Modeling in Computational Biology
Another course that is commonly found in these programs is a course that covers different methods and models that are used in the field of computational biology. Topics that will be covered in this course include experimental design, bio imaging, proteomics, and different computational methods for modeling data. In addition, students may learn about various statistical methods that can be used in computational biology experimental design.
Admission Standards for Ph.D. Programs in Computational Biology
When applying for a doctoral program in computational biology, there are some prerequisites that students must fulfill in order to be considered for admission. While there is no specific undergraduate degree required, it is typically expected that students will have taken a number of preparatory courses during their undergraduate careers in the areas of biology, chemistry, computer science, the physical sciences, physics, mathematics, and statistics. The admissions committee of each program will assess a student's application on an individual basis to assess if they are prepared for the program. When submitting an application, students will need to compile letters of recommendation, a personal statement, GRE scores, transcripts of their past academic career, and a completed application.
To summarize, students interested in computational biology can enroll in Ph.D. programs in this field if they wish to study it at the most advanced level. These programs combine coursework with independent research that culminates in a doctoral thesis.