Carnegie Mellon University

About the Bachelor of Science in Computational Biology

All undergraduates accepted to the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University are able to choose between four majors: computational biology, computer science, artificial intelligence, and human-computer interaction. For more information on the different majors, please visit the School of Computer Science Undergraduate Programs Overview.

Success in computational biology requires significant technical knowledge of fundamental computer science as well as a broad biological intuition and general understanding of experimental biology. However, most importantly, it requires students who can integrate their knowledge by making connections between the two fields.

As much as any other field, making the interdisciplinary connections required to truly integrate biological and computational knowledge often requires a student to conduct research. We don't just encourage undergraduate research to our majors; we promise it to all students who are interested.

There is significant industry demand for excellent computational biology students, in biotech firms, biomedical research, as well as in pharmaceutical research.  Both established companies and the hundreds of recent startups in this field struggle to find computationally sophisticated employees who have a strong foundation in the life sciences. By receiving their training in the world-famous School of Computer Science, our students will receive a degree that is unparalleled at any other institution.

Students completing the major will also be ideally prepared for Ph.D. programs across a range of biomedical areas. Students who choose to complete pre-med requirements will be very well-prepared to attend medical school; the next generation of physicians will need to better understand the computational approaches needed for automated medical testing, automated medical imaging, and the revolution in personalized medicine.

Degree Requirements

Students completing the Bachelor of Science in Computational Biology follow certain policies that apply to all SCS students; please consult the SCS policies page for a complete listing of these expectations.

Students must complete a minimum of 360 units for the degree in computational biology.

The following degree requirements apply to undergraduates matriculating in fall 2020. For students in previous years of entry, please consult past CMU course catalogs.

Math/Stats Core

21-122 Integration, Differential Equations, and Approximation 10 units
15-151 Mathematical Foundations for Computer Science (or 21-127 if not offered) 10 units
36-218 Probability Theory for Computer Scientists 9 units
  or 36-226 Introduction to Statistical Inference
  or 36-326 Mathematical Statistics (Honors)
  or 15-260 Statistics and Computing (requires students to have taken 15-259)
21-241 Matrices and Linear Transformations 9-10 units
  or 21-242 Matrix Theory
Total Units 

38-39

General Science Core

09-105 Introduction to Modern Chemistry I 10 units
  or 09-107

Honors Chemistry: Fundamentals, Concepts and  Applications

33-121

Physics I for Science Students

12 units
  or 33-141

Physics I for Engineering Students

Total Units 22

Biological Core

03-121 Modern Biology 9 units
  or 03-151 Honors Modern Biology (if seats available)
03-221 Genomes, Evolution, and Disease: Introduction to Quantitative Genetic Analysis 9 units
03-232

Honors Biochemistry

9 units
  or 03-321

Biochemistry I (Students taking 03-231, including pre-med students, will take organic chemistry as a prerequisite, which will satisfy a biology elective requirement)

03-320

Cell Biology

9 units
Total Units 36

Computer Science Core

07-128

First-year Immigration Course 

(This course may be replaced by 03-201 or 03-202 if, and only if, 15-128 is not offered)
1 unit
15-122

Principles of Imperative Computation

10 units
15-251

Great Ideas in Theoretical Computer Science

12 units
15-351

Algorithms and Advanced Data Structures

12 units
  or 15-451

Algorithm Design and Analysis
(Students taking 15-150 and 15-210 as prerequisites for 15-451 may apply these courses as CS electives)

10-315

Introduction to Machine Learning (SCS Majors)

12 units
Total Units 47

Computational Biology Core

02-251

Great Ideas in Computational Biology 

12 units
02-261

Quantitative Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory

(Computational Biology majors must take 12 unit version of this course)
12 units
02-402

Computational Biology Seminar

3 units
02-510

Computational Genomics

12 units
02-512

Computational Methods for Biological Modeling and Simulation

12 units
Total Units 51

Major Electives

02-3xx CB Electives at 300 level or above 18-24 units
03-3xx Biology electives at 300 level or above (09-217 or 42-202 also count as biology electives) 9-12 units
SCS-3xx School of Computer Science electives at 300 level or above (15-150, 15-210, and 15-213 also count) 18-24 units
Total Units 45-60

General Education (Humanities and Arts)

Expectations for Humanities & Arts courses are shared between the Computer Science and Computational Biology undergraduate programs. For specific courses that may be used to satisfy each elective, please see the SCS General Education Requirements page.
76-101 Interpretation and Argument 9 units
  or 76-102 Advanced First Year Writing: Special Topics

  or two of: 76-106, 76-107, 76-108

Writing Minis

Cognition, Choice, and Behavior Elective

9 units

Economics, Political, and Social Institutions Elective

9 units

Cultural Analysis Elective

9 units

Non-technical Electives (x3)

27 units

Total Units

63

Free Electives

A free elective is any Carnegie Mellon course. However, a maximum of 9 units of Physical Education, Military Science (ROTC) and/or Student-Led (StuCo) courses may be used toward fulfilling graduation requirements.

Free Electives 29-54 units
Total Units 29-54

Computing

99-101 Computing @ Carnegie Mellon 3 units
Total Units 3

Last Updated: May 2021

Sample Course Sequence for Computational Biology Majors

The following is an example four-year course sequence for computational biology majors matriculating in fall 2019 or later.  Note that our suggested courses during the first year fall are aligned with the sample course sequence for Computer Science majors.  All students interested in computational biology should take 02-251 (Great Ideas in Computational Biology) in their first spring. We also suggest that students take 03-121 (Modern Biology) at some point during their first year.

There are some suggestions listed below that are quite flexible (for example, physics and chemistry can be taken at any point in the student's first three semesters. Other courses, such as cell biology, biochemistry, computational genomics, and biological modeling and simulation, are only offered in either the fall or the spring.  We discuss a tailored plan with our students to ensure that courses such as these are taken at the appropriate times while affording flexibility.

Year 1

Fall 

07-128 First-year Immigration Course 1 unit
15-122 Principles of Imperative Computation 10 units
15-131 Great Practical Ideas for Computer Scientists (optional) 2 units
15-151 Mathematical Foundations for Computer Science 10 units
21-122 Integration and Approximation 10 units
99-101 Computing @ Carnegie Mellon 3 units
76-101 Interpretation and Argument 9 units
Total units 45

 Spring

02-251 Great Ideas in Computational Biology 12 units
03-121 Modern Biology 9 units
09-105 Introduction to Modern Chemistry I 10 units
xx-xxx Humanities and Arts Elective 9 units
15-351 Algorithms and Advanced Data Structures 12 units
Total units 52

Year 2

Fall

02-261 Quantitative Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory 9 units
21-241 Matrices and Linear Transformations 10 units
33-121 Physics I for Science Students 12 units
36-218 Probability Theory for Computer Sciences 9 units
xx-xxx Humanities and Arts Elective 9 units
Total units 49

Spring

02-xxx Computational Biology Elective 12 units
03-232 Biochemistry I  9 units
15-251 Great Ideas in Theoretical Computer Science 12 units
21-241 Matrices and Linear Transformations 10 units
03-221 Genomes, Evolution, and Disease: Introduction to Quantitative Genetic Analysis 9 units
Total units 42

Year 3

Fall

02-512 Computational Methods for Biological Modeling and Simulation 9 units
03-320 Cell Biology 9 units
10-315 Introduction to Machine Learning (SCS Majors) 12 units
xx-xxx School of Computer Science Elective 9 units
xx-xxx Humanities and Arts Elective 9 units
Total units 48

Spring

02-402 Computational Biology Seminar 3 units
02-510 Computational Genomics 12 units
03-xxx Biology Elective 9 units
xx-xxx School of Computer Science Elective 9 units
xx-xxx Humanities and Arts Elective 9 units
Total units 42

Year 4

Fall

02-xxx Computational Biology Elective 12 units
xx-xxx Humanities and Arts Electives 9 units
xx-xxx Free Elective 9 units
xx-xxx Free Elective 9 units
Total units 39

Spring

xx-xxx Humanities and Arts Elective 9 units
xx-xxx Free Elective 9 units
xx-xxx Free Elective 9 units
xx-xxx Free Elective 9 units
Total units 36