One option that is available to students seeking an advanced degree in biology is to enroll in an interdisciplinary program. This type of program includes course topics from several science disciplines.
Overview of Interdisciplinary Biology Graduate Programs
Interdisciplinary biology programs often feature courses from several departments within a university. Graduate programs might award PhDs in Biological Sciences or allow students to choose from among doctorates in such areas as computational biology or genetics and molecular biology. Here is a list of common courses in these programs.
This course covers several topics, including nucleic acid structure and membrane transport. The forces that affect the shape of molecules might also be taught. The imaging technologies that are used in research, such as x-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance, could be presented to the class as well.
In this class, students use mathematical models to study different types of biology problems. The goal is to gain a better understanding of systems-based mechanisms, such as the ones that control biochemistry and behavior. Students learn about the quantitative methods, and computational tools that are used for investigative purposes.
Advanced Cell Biology
The latest research in cell biology is covered in this course. Students examine scientific literature and learn to judge primary data. Topics of discussion could include research related to signal transduction and cell motility, membrane fusion mechanisms, and protein translocation mechanisms.
Genetics and Epigenetics
Several genetics topics can be covered in these courses, including phenotype control and genetic analysis of higher-level eukaryotes. Students can also study genetic experiments published in scientific journals and design their own genetic experiments. The goal is to gain a better understanding of genetic data.
Using statistical analysis, students in these courses learn to identify connections and relationships between molecular structure and cellular behavior. Depending on the course, students might take a broad approach or focus on molecular structure as it relates to evolutionary genetics, population genetics, and comparative genomics.
Analysis of Large Molecules with Biophysics
Students in this course examine the physical and chemical properties of large molecules, such as nucleic acids and proteins. They also use several techniques to study the structure of molecules and their thermodynamics. These techniques include fluorescence spectroscopy, ultracentrifugation, and mass spectrometry. Single molecule manipulation tools are introduced as well, such as optical tweezers and AFM.
Computational Structural Biology
This course covers the computer-generated representation of molecular structures and the databases that store them. Students learn to digitize several aspects of macromolecules, including molecular dynamics, protein folding, and protein structure. Computer-aided drug design could be taught as well.
Genomic Tools and Technologies
In this course, students are introduced to several genomic mapping tools. These tools are used for protein sequencing and genetic sequencing. Gene expression mapping is also taught.
Program Admission Requirements
To be accepted into an interdisciplinary biology graduate program, students should earn an undergraduate degree in biology or a related field first. As part of the application process, universities typically require a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and resume or CV. Applicants with strong letters of recommendation and research experience are generally favored. International students must certify their English language proficiency by taking the TOEFL test. International applicants with an undergraduate or graduate degree from an institution that instructs in English could be exempt from this requirement.
In conclusion, interdisciplinary biology graduate programs cover several topics, including biophysics, molecular biology, and molecular imaging technologies. Applicants to these programs could benefit from research experience and an undergraduate background in biology or a related field.