Bioinformatics is the study of how information is stored, transformed, and utilized by living things. It is a very broad and diverse discipline. Classically, bioinformatics has encompassed all activities having to do with the analysis of biological sequence data, including sequence assembly, and identification of genes, analysis of gene structure, prediction of expressed proteins, identification of functionally important sequences in both nucleotides and proteins. Now it has broadened to include prediction of three-dimensional structures of proteins and nucleotides, pharmacogenomics (the study of how hereditary factors influence our response to drugs), proteomics (the study of the array of proteins that are actually expressed in each cell), microarray data analysis, and the modeling of metabolic pathways. In every discipline of the life sciences, bioinformatics assumes a role of increasing importance. It is not an understatement to say that bioinformatics is what biology is evolving to become in the 21st century.
Students in the bioinformatics graduate program will:
- Attain an understanding of the fundamentals of molecular biology, genetics, and biotechnology necessary to comprehend and critically evaluate the contemporary scientific literature for Bioinformatics and closely related disciplines.
- Attain a solid understanding of the theoretical and computational concepts that underlie current Bioinformatics practice, especially as they concern sequence analysis, computational genomics, and data mining methods.
- Attain proficiency in software development in a variety of computer languages important to bioinformatics and be competent in web-centered application development.
- Be able to communicate effectively to their colleagues, both in writing and oral presentation.
The master of science in bioinformatics degree necessitates a total of 30 credit hours to complete the program‘s academic requirements, although most students will complete 31–33 credits depending on their background. There are two different tracks students can specialize in, a biotechnology track or a computational track.
The requirements for the MS are designed with a balanced emphasis on both basic science (biology and biochemistry) and on computing, with special focus on the special programming skills most needed in today’s pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. Most students acquire a basic foundation in bioinformatics by completing the two-semester senior “capstone” sequence, BI 450/BI 451, which together provide an introduction to genomics and to the development of bioinformatics software applications. (Six credits of senior-level coursework may be applied to the graduate degree.) This is followed by more advanced preparation in both biotechnology and software engineering for bioinformatics. A wide range of electives is available to round out the program, including CH 748 - Computer-Aided Drug Design and CH 863 - Special Topics in Analytical Chemistry.
A key feature of our program is a two-semester independent project, which takes the place of a traditional master’s thesis. The project is ideally completed in collaboration with an industry or academic partner of the MS bioinformatics program, providing the student with invaluable real-world experience.
Graduate Program Requirements
Biotechnology Track Required Courses
Computational Track Required Courses
Sample Curricula for each of the Bioinformatics Tracks
Elective Credits: 2–3
Minimum Required Credits: 30
Minimum Required Credits: 30
Randy J. Zauhar
BS/BA (Eastern Washington); MS, PhD (Pennsylvania State)
Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
Director, Graduate Program in Bioinformatics
Research: development of cheminformatic algorithms for computer-aided drug design, including large-scale in silico screening of virtual chemical libraries, with applications to drug design projects involving a number of targets (ranging from antibiotics to estrogen antagonists); techniques for computing solvation effects in large macromolecules; molecular visualization
MS, PhD (Heinrich-Heine University, Germany)
Associate Professor of Biology
Research: positive strand RNA viruses; yeast as a model host system; role of RNA structure/RNA-protein interactions; assembly of the viral replication complex
BS, MS (Tsinghua, China); PhD (Vanderbilt)
Associate Professor of Bioinformatics
Research: use of computational and bioinformatics methods to generate and analyze three-dimensional structures of protein molecules and to gain insight into protein sequence, structure, and function relationships; leveraging and combining of a broad range of computational techniques that tackle biological problems in multiple dimensions
Preston B. Moore
BS (Bates); PhD (Boston)
Professor of Chemistry
Director, West Center for Computational Chemistry and Drug Design
Research: molecular interactions within biological systems; computational chemistry; molecular dynamics simulations
MS (Wuhan University, China); MS (Lamar University);
PhD (Old Dominion University)
Assistant Professor of Computer Sciences