Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Faculty with Research Interests

Matthew Ward, Professor of Computer Science and BCB Program Director, Ph.D., Connecticut, 1981. Data and information visualization, visual analytics of biological data.

Carolina Ruiz, Associate Professor of Computer Science, Ph.D., Maryland, 1996. Data mining, knowledge discovery in databases, machine learning.

Elizabeth Ryder, Associate Professor of Biology and Biotechnology, Ph.D., Harvard University, 1993. Nervous system development in C. elegans, bioinformatics approaches to understanding gene expression, computer simulations of development.

Zheyang Wu, Assistant Professor of Mathematical Sciences, Ph.D., Yale, 2009. Biostatistics, high-dimensional model selection, linear and generalized linear modeling, statistical genetics, bioinformatics.

Program of Study

The Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BCB) program offers graduate studies toward the MS and BS/MS degrees. With the advent of large amounts of biological data stemming from research efforts such as the Human Genome Project, there is a great need for professionals working at the interface of biology, computer science, and mathematics. A truly interdisciplinary program, the BCB degree requires advanced course work in all three of these areas. Our faculty and strong relationships with the University of Massachusetts Medical School provide students with the resources to perform innovative scientific research at the highest level. The diverse learning environment that characterizes our program promotes easy exchange of ideas, access to all the necessary resources, and encourages creative solutions to pressing scientific questions.

Admissions Requirements

Students applying to the M.S. Degree program in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BCB) are expected to have a bachelor’s degree in either biology, computer science, mathematics, or a related field, and to have taken introductory courses in each of the three disciplines: biology, computer science, and mathematics. For example, a student with a bachelor’s degree in biology is expected to have also completed courses in programming, data structures, calculus, and statistics prior to submitting an application. A strong applicant who is missing background in one of the three areas may be provisionally admitted, with the expectation that he or she will take and pass one or more undergraduate courses in this area of deficiency either during the summer prior to admission or within the first semester after admission. The determination of what course or courses will satisfy this provision will be made by the Program Review Committee.

Certificate Requirements

A certificate program in BCB is not offered at present.

Degree Requirements

Masters: Students pursuing the M.S. degree in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology must complete a minimum of 33 credits of relevant work at the graduate level. These 33 credits must satisfy the 6-9 credit M.S. thesis / internship requirement, and the 24-27 credit coursework requirement described in detail at the URL below. These M.S. degree requirements have been designed to provide a comprehensive yet flexible program to students who are pursuing an M.S. degree exclusively, students who are pursuing a combined B.S./M.S. degree, and students who are pursuing a combined M.S./PhD degree. Courses and research projects taken at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) may be applied to this degree. Upon acceptance to the M.S. program, students will be assigned an academic advisor. In consultation with the academic advisor, the student must prepare a Plan of Study outlining the selections that the student will make to satisfy the M.S. degree requirements among the options offered. This Plan of Study must then be approved by the Program’s Review Committee, which consists of faculty members from each of the three participating WPI departments.

BS/MS: Students enrolled in the B.S./ M.S. program must satisfy all the program requirements of the B.S. degree and all the program requirements of the M.S. Degree as described at the URL below. They may count 4000-level courses whose credit hours total no more than 40% of the 33 credit hours required for the M.S. degree, and that meet all other requirements for each degree, towards both their undergraduate and graduate degrees. The conversion rate between graduate credits and undergraduate units is stated in both the undergraduate and graduate catalogs. Students must register for B.S./M.S. credit prior to taking the courses, as faculty may assign extra work for those taking the course as part of both degrees. In consultation with the academic advisor, the student must prepare a Plan of Study outlining the selections that the student will make to satisfy the B.S./M.S. degree requirements, including the courses that the student will double count. This Plan of Study must then be approved by the Program’s Review Committee. Students must consult their advisors and the graduate catalog as individual departments may have restrictions on which undergraduate courses might be taken for graduate credit, and on which pairs of undergraduate and graduate courses cannot both be taken for credit. 

Facilities/Research Labs/Research Centers

The BCB Program is supported by a wide assortment of resources within the participating departments, the campus computation center, and the research laboratories at Gateway Park and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Grid and cloud computing, along with high-speed networking, provides substantial computational infrastructure. Access to most major biological databases is available to students and researchers, and a wide range of bioinformatics software packages are installed and maintained. Wet labs at Gateway Park and UMASS Medical School are available by permission of BCB faculty members.

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