Carnegie Mellon University

Biology has become a data science, and at Carnegie Mellon University we’re training a new generation of computer scientists to tackle its big unsolved problems. Our undergraduate program — unique to CMU — guides you to explore student frontier problems in modern biology and medicine while providing the unparalleled computational education and quantitative rigor of the world-leading School of Computer Science.

A pathway to computational biology for everyone

As a Carnegie Mellon student, you can study computational biology in several ways.

If you want to study computational biology as your main undergraduate focus, we suggest our bachelor of science degree, which is open to all students who are accepted to the School of Computer Science.

If you are planning on a different area of primary study, then you can study computational biology in three different ways. We offer an additional major program that is open to all CMU students and allows you to complete all of the coursework while studying something else full time.

To take several courses in computational biology without the overhead of completing an entire major, you should consider our minor and concentration in computational biology. The minor is open to students outside the School of Computer Science, and the concentration is open to students who are in the School of Computer Science whose primary major is not computational biology.

Start learning computational biology in your first year

At other universities, computational biology coursework is only made available to students once they have completed extensive background coursework. At Carnegie Mellon, we start teaching you about computational biology in your first year.

How do we read genomes from millions of tiny fragments of DNA? How do we compare genes from across species as they have evolved and build a "tree of life"? How can we track the spread of a deadly virus around the planet? How do we measure how your genes differ across different cells in your body, and how are these measurements implicated in disease? Why has your body evolved to have modular components? And how do we look to nature for inspiration about how to solve practical computational problems?

What all of these questions share is that they can only be answered by studying the beautiful computational approaches that have made the study of modern biology into a computational discipline. In Great Ideas in Computational Biology, you will learn about these big questions, and the computational approaches that we use to address them.

We also teach a laboratory course (Quantitative Cell and Molecular Laboratory) in which you will learn fundamental laboratory techniques that generate large biological datasets and then write code to analyze these datasets and draw big-picture conclusions. We also let you program robotic instruments in our brand new automated biology lab!

What else makes our program great?

  • We offer extensive elective coursework that examines the computational methods that are revolutionizing our understanding of life sciences, medicine, and neuroscience.
  • We guarantee a research experience to all of our primary majors in which students can work one-on-one with one of our world-class faculty.
  • We host fun social events for our students, from cookouts and ice cream socials to snow tubing and visiting Pittsburgh’s Kennywood amusement park.
  • We bring industry experts to campus to speak about the exciting (and high-paid) scientific work they do.

Join us!

We hope you will apply to join us at Carnegie Mellon. We are looking for students who are strong in math and love biology. You don't need previous exposure to computer science, but if you're interested in getting this exposure, please check out our PreCollege program or some of Prof. Compeau's open online education materials.

At Carnegie Mellon, you apply to your "college" of interest. Computational biology is in the School of Computer Science (SCS), and so if you are interested in joining us as a computational biology major, then you should apply to SCS as your first-choice college. In your essay make sure to let the admissions team know why you are excited to study computational biology with us.


Watch our informational video!

Professor Compeau recently recorded an informational video about studying computational biology at Carnegie Mellon. After answering the question "So what is computational biology?" he discusses program requirements and a little about what makes our program great.