University Catalog 2006-2007

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Phone: 703-993-8382
Web: bioinformatics.gmu.edu

Faculty

Professors:Grefenstette, Willett

Associate professors: Jafri (chair), Jamison, Kinser, Seto, Vaisman, Weller

Assistant professor: Klimov

Research associate professor: Gillevet

Contract assistant professor: Solka

Affiliate faculty: Ascoli, Blackwell, Carr, Olds

Course Work

The department offers all course work designated BINF in the “Course Descriptions” chapter of this catalog.

Graduate Programs

Bioinformatics, MS

This degree addresses the growing national and regional demand for trained computational biologists. It combines a solid foundation in biotechnology with computational skills required for bio-in-formatics. The flexibility of the degree structure permits students to custom-design their curriculum under an advisor’s guidance, making the MS in bioinformatics especially relevant for students employed in today’s diverse biotechnology workplace. Students completing the program are qualified to pursue careers that require knowledge of current bioinformatics methods and the ability to develop new bioinformatics software.

Courses are generally offered in the late afternoon or early evening to accommodate students with full-time employment outside the university. Students employed at area biotechnology organizations may take up to 6 credits (out of 31) for bioinformatics work done on the job, under the guidance of a faculty member. This work-related project may be applied either as a 3-credit research project, or as a 6-credit master’s thesis.

Admission Requirements

Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in biology, computer science, or a related field, with a GPA of at least 3.00 in their last 60 credits of study. Applicants should have taken courses in molecular biology, computer science, calculus, and statistics. Students with deficiencies in one or more of these areas may be required to take additional courses from the undergraduate curriculum. To apply, prospective students should forward a completed Mason graduate application, two copies of official transcripts from each college and graduate institution attended, a current resume, and an expanded goals statement to the COS Prince William campus Graduate Admissions Processing Center. Applicants should also include three letters of recommendation, and an official report of scores obtained on the GRE-GEN exam. The GRE-SUB is recommended if it is given in the student’s undergraduate major. The GRE requirement will be waived if the student holds a master’s degree from a U.S. institution. TOEFL scores are required for all international applicants.

Degree Requirements

Candidates must successfully complete 31 credits as follows:

Graduate Certificate in Bioinformatics

This graduate certificate program addresses the growing national and regional demand for trained computational biologists by combining a solid foundation in biotechnology with computational skills relevant to bioinformatics. The flexibility of the certificate structure permits students to custom-design their curriculum under an advisor’s guidance, making the certificate in bioinformatics especially relevant for students employed in today’s diverse Northern Virginia high-technology workplace. Ideal candidates for this certificate are those who have a background in biological and computer sciences, and who are either currently working in or planning to enter the fields of biotechnology or bioinformatics. The certificate is also highly relevant for students who are interested in advancing their career goals, but who may not have adequate time available to undertake a graduate degree program. The 15-credit certificate is based on the set of core courses supporting the bioinformatics MS and PhD degree programs, along with a set of elective courses. Students completing the certificate receive the most advanced bioinformatics education available in the region. Completion of the certificate will enhance the careers of those students who are already working in the bioinformatics field, and can also serve as a useful intermediate step toward later enrollment in the bioinformatics MS or PhD degree program. Courses are generally offered in the late afternoon or early evening to accommodate students with full-time employment outside the university. For complete curriculum requirements, go to bioinformatics.gmu.edu.

Admission Requirements

Applicants should hold a BA or BS degree in a discipline related to biological or computer science from an accredited university, with a minimum GPA of 3.00. Applicants should have taken courses in molecular biology, computer science, calculus, or statistics, and should also possess working knowledge of a computer programming language. To apply, prospective students should forward a completed Mason graduate application, two copies of official transcripts from each college and graduate institution attended, and a current resume to the COS Prince William campus Graduate Admissions Processing Center. TOEFL scores are required for all international applicants.

The certificate program is a professional certification program that charges students at a differential (premium) tuition rate, with an additional $100 per credit added to the standard Mason graduate tuition rate for students who enroll in this certificate program, regardless of in-state or out-of-state status. The differential tuition is used to fund continuing improvements in the COS educational facilities used to support the certificate program. Students may not pursue this certificate concurrently with any other graduate degree program or certificate program offered by COS due to the differential (premium) tuition rate. However, students enrolled in academic programs outside COS may enroll in this certificate program concurrently.

Bioinformatics, PhD

Recent advances in molecular biology have produced an avalanche of data, including DNA sequences and genetic maps that cover thousands of genes whose functions are poorly understood or completely unknown. These advances are having a profound effect on the biological sciences, and have resulted in the development of the new discipline of bioinformatics. Bioinformatics utilizes computational approaches to analyze patterns in biological data and create complex models of biological activity, including attempts to elucidate the functions of genes and their interactions in genetic pathways. Widespread social benefits are expected from the exploitation of the wealth of new knowledge concerning the genetic mechanisms of life and related processes. The coming years will see major developments in medicine, functional genomics, and environmental sciences, as well as profound advances in understanding the fundamental processes of biology. These benefits are increasingly dependent on the application of advanced information technology to the analysis of biological information.

The main objective of the program is to train the next generation of computational biologists for careers in academia, industry, and government. The program provides students with an interdisciplinary academic environment, including fundamental biosciences courses as well as core and advanced courses in bioinformatics. In general, course requirements may be completed within the first two years. The program is structured to be accessible to both full- and part-time students.

Admission Requirements

Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in biology, computer science, or a related field, with a minimum GPA of 3.25. Admission also requires minimum GRE scores of 1100 (verbal plus quantitative) and 4.0 (analytical writing). Applicants should have taken courses in molecular biology, cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, calculus, computer programming and data structures, and probability and statistics. Students with deficiencies in one or more of these areas may be admitted provisionally and required to take additional courses from the undergraduate curriculum. To apply, prospective students should forward a completed Mason graduate application, two copies of official transcripts from each college and graduate institution attended, a current resume, and an expanded goals statement to the COS Prince William campus Graduate Admissions Processing Center. Applicants should also include three letters of recommendation, and an official report of scores obtained on the GRE-GEN exam. The GRE-SUB is recommended if it is given in the student’s undergraduate major. The GRE requirement for admission to the doctoral programs will be waived if the student holds a master’s degree from a U.S. institution. TOEFL scores are required for all international applicants.

Degree Requirements

The program requires 72 credits beyond the baccalaureate degree, with a minimum of 48 credits in course work and 24 credits of dissertation research. For those holding master’s degrees, the 72 required credits may be reduced by up to 30 credits, depending on graduate courses completed. The curriculum is divided into four areas: 12 credits of fundamental biosciences courses; 16 credits of core bioinformatics courses; 20 credits of electives or independent research; and 24 credits of dissertation research. The course work is organized as follows:

Students whose undergraduate record does not include basic biochemistry will be required to take a basic course prior to BINF 701 Biochemical Systematics (Biochemistry). If the undergraduate record is otherwise insufficient, students may be required to take prerequisite courses, some of which may not be applicable to the 48-credit course total for the bioinformatics PhD. By the end of the semester when course work is completed, the student must form a doctoral committee, which will supervise the candidacy exam. The exam includes written and oral components. Upon passing the candidacy exam and submitting an acceptable dissertation proposal, the student is advanced to doctoral candidacy.