SciTech

Undergraduate major relocated

Prospective students applying to the School of Computer Science for the Fall 2017 semester will now be able to select computational biology as a major. Previously under the jurisdiction of the Mellon College of Science, the computational biology major complements the computational biology department’s master’s and Ph.D. programs. According to the university news report that announced the introduction of this major, the redesigned curriculum aims to provide students with strong foundations in the natural sciences and highlight certain features of computer science that are relevant to biological studies.

Given the growth in the biotechnological and pharmaceutical industries, along with the increasing demand for professionals that can better apply computational approaches to problems in the natural sciences, this new curriculum aims to prepare students for those lucrative, in-demand positions. The curriculum entails four subject cores: math/statistics, biology, computer science, and computational biology. It has a significant overlap with a typical pre-med curriculum, which allows students to venture into healthcare professions as well as biomedical research. Furthermore, this major allows students to choose to obtain a Ph.D. in computational biology to deal with higher-order questions faster than they would with only a computer science degree or only a degree in biology. The students will be exposed to techniques in problem solving such as machine learning, data analysis, and computational modeling, as well as to the biological foundations.

The aim of this program, according to Robert F. Murphy, head of the computational biology department, is to “provide a curriculum designed to train students to tackle the biomedical problems of the next century through rigorous training in both computer science and biology.” He said, “The program provides a path for students interested in biology to pursue it within one of the leading computer science institutions in the world. An important goal in designing the curriculum was to retain the outstanding grounding in computer science associated with the [computer science] major while making room for additional coursework.”

Phillip Compeau, an assistant teaching professor in the computational biology department will be the Program Director for the incoming computational biology majors next fall.

Quoted in a news report by the computational biology department, Andrew Moore, the Dean of the School of Computer Science, said “Computer science increasingly is driving the research agendas in any number of disciplines, including biomedical research. That’s why it’s especially important for a degree program in computational biology to be within our school, providing the computational perspective for which we are famous.” It is expected to reinvent the current major. This new undergraduate major derives from the computer science major, which is currently the only undergraduate major offered by the School of Computer Science, and was established in 1989, and from the computational biology graduate major in the Mellon College of Science, which was established in 1987.