The Undergraduate Program in Computational Biology
The future of biology is computational
Join us for a webinar!
Interested in learning more about studying computational biology at CMU? Join program director Prof. Phillip Compeau for a webinar! Our next webinar will be held on Monday, November 6 @ 8 PM (ET).
Biology and medicine are undergoing a data revolution, and at Carnegie Mellon University we’re training the next generation of computer scientists to tackle their big unsolved problems. Our undergraduate program in computational biology — unique to CMU — guides you to explore frontier problems in modern biomedical data science while providing the unparalleled computational education of the world-leading School of Computer Science.
A pathway to computational biology for everyone
You can study computational biology at CMU in several ways.
If computational biology is your primary undergraduate interest, we recommend our Bachelor of Science degree. It's available to all students admitted to the School of Computer Science.
If you are planning on a different area of primary study, then you can study computational biology in other 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, consider our minor or concentration in computational biology. The minor is open to students whose primary major is outside the School of Computer Science, and the concentration is open to students whose primary major is in the School of Computer Science.
A research pledge for all our students
We are the only major in the world that guarantees a research experience to all its students. As a result of our undergraduate research pledge, our students have traveled to present their work at international conferences, won school thesis awards, won Goldwater fellowships, and even published a paper in Science!
Start learning computational biology in your first year
At other universities, computational biology coursework is only available after completing years of 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? And how do we look to nature for inspiration about how to solve practical computational problems?
What all 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, a course for which Prof. Compeau received the school’s highest teaching award, you will explore these big questions and the computational methods that we use to answer them.
We also teach a laboratory course aimed at first and second year undergraduates (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. Plus, CMU is a world leader in laboratory automation, and you will get a chance to program robots to run biological experiments without putting on a lab coat!
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.
We hope that you will apply to join us at Carnegie Mellon. We are looking for students who love math and science. You don't need previous exposure to computer science to apply, but if you're interested in getting this exposure, please check out our PreCollege program or Professor Compeau’s Programming for Lovers online course.
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 CMU SCS as your first-choice college. In your essay, make sure to make it clear to the admissions team 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.