Carnegie Mellon University

About the Bachelor of Science in Computational Biology

All undergraduates accepted to the  School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon are able to choose between the computational biology major and three other existing majors - computer science, artificial intelligence, and human-computer interaction. For more information on the different majors, plese 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 encourage undergraduate research, with our faculty very willing to supervise undergraduate research for credit.

Students completing the proposed major will be ideally prepared for Ph.D. programs in any of a range of biomedical areas, including Computational Biology, Systems Biology, or Quantitative Biology. 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.

There is also a significant industry demand for excellent computational biology students, in biotech firms, biomedical research, as well as in pharmaceutical research.  Both established companies and startups struggle to find employees with the correct skillset, and our students will be able to take advantage of the fact that an undergraduate computational biology major has the rigorous training required to handle the challenges of modern research that is not provided by any of our peer institutions.

Degree Requirements

Students entering Fall 2020

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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.

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

38-39

General Science Core

 

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

Honors Chemistry: Fundamentals, Concepts and  Applications

33-121

Physics I for Science Students

12
  33-141

Physics I for Engineering Students

Total Units 22
Biological Core
03-121 Modern Biology 9
  or 03-151 Honors Modern Biology (if seats available)
03-221 Genomes, Evolution, and Disease: Introduction to Quantitative Genetic Analysis 9
  or 03-220 Genetics (if 03-221 not offered)
03-232

Biochemistry I

(Students taking 03-231, including pre-med students, will take organic chemistry as a prerequisite, which will satisfy a biology elective requirement)
9
  or 03-321

Biochemistry I

03-320

Cell Biology

9
Total Units 36
Computer Science Core
07-128

Freshman Immigration Course 

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

Principles of Imperative Computation

10
15-251

Great Ideas in Theoretical Computer Science

12
15-351

Algorithms and Advanced Data Structures

(Students taking 15-150 and 15-120 as prerequisites for 15-451 may apply these courses as CS electives)
12
  or 15-451

Algorithm Design and Analysis

10-315

Introduction to Machine Learning (SCS Majors)

12
Total Units 47
Computational Biology Core
02-251

Great Ideas in Computational Biology 

(or 02-250 if not offered)
12
02-261

Quantitative Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory

(Computational Biology majors must take 12 unit version of this course)
12
  or 03-343

Experimental Techniques in Molecular Biology

02-402

Computational Biology Seminar

3
02-510

Computational Genomics

12
02-512

Computational Methods for Biological Modeling and Simulation

12
Total Units 51
Major Electives
02-3xx CB Electives at 300 level or above (includes 03-445/03/545 if research is computational) 18-24
03-3xx Biology electives at 300 level or above (09-217 or 42-202 also count as biology electives) 9-12
xx-3xx School of Computer Science electives at 300 level or above 18-24
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
  or 76-102 Advanced First Year Writing: Special Topics

  or two of: 

76-106, 76-107, 76-108

Writing Minis

Elective Cognition, Choice, and Behavior

9

Elective Economics, Political, and Social Institutions

9

Elective Cultural Analysis

9

Non-technical Electives (x3)

27

Total Units

63

 

Free Electives
A free elective is any Carnegie Mellon course.  However, a maximum of 9 units of Physical Education and/or Military Science (ROTC) and/or Student-Led (StuCo) courses may be used toward fulfilling graduation requirements.
Free Electives 29-54
Total Units 29-54
Computing
99-101 Computing @ Carnegie Mellon 3
Total Units 3

Last Updated: August 2020

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 addition to 03-121 (Modern Biology) during the spring of their first year.

First Year

Fall

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

Spring

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

Second Year

Fall

Units (48 Total)
02-261 Quantitative Cell and Molecular Biology Laboratory 9
03-221 Genomes, Evolution, and Disease: Introduction to Quantitative Genetic Analysis 9
33-121 Physics I for Science Students 12
36-218 Probability Theory for Computer Sciences 9
xx-xxx Humanities and Arts Elective 9

Spring

Units (43 Total)
02-xxx Computational Biology Elective 12
03-232 Biochemistry I  9
15-251 Great Ideas in Theoretical Computer Science 12
21-241 Matrices and Linear Transformations 10

Third Year

Fall

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

Spring

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

Fourth Year

Fall

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

Spring

Units (36 Total)
xx-xxx Humanities and Arts Elective 9
xx-xxx Free Elective 9
xx-xxx Free Elective 9
xx-xxx Free Elective 9

The Undergraduate Research Pledge

Many of our current and prospective undergraduate students are enthusiastic about research experiences, and these opportunities tend to be sparse at many other universities.

To help our students fulfill their research dreams, the faculty of the Computational Biology Department have announced the Undergraduate Research Pledge.  Every undergraduate students majoring in computational biology will be guaranteed at least one semester of undergraduate research for credit, which can count toward the degree as an elective course in computational biology.

Students meeting the educational requirements may also wish to complete an honors thesis in computational biology.  Successful completion of an honors thesis allows for a student to graduate with honors from the School of Computer Science.

To explore the types of research projects that our faculty lead, check out our faculty research page, which contains short profiles of our faculty’s work.  More details about research logistics, as well as examples highlighting existing student research, will be posted here as they become available.

Computational biology students study with professor at table