New York State Approves UB's Bachelor of Science Degree in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology

Interdisciplinary program will give students a "leg up" on graduate studies

Release Date: November 14, 2003 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The New York State Education Department has approved the University at Buffalo's Bachelor of Science program in bioinformatics and computational biology, the university's first degree program directed at training undergraduates in bioinformatics and related fields.

The new degree program will provide training in bioinformatics and computational biology, the fast-growing fields that have developed around the interface between the life sciences and the computational sciences.

The UB degree program is an important piece of the effort, first proposed by Gov. George E. Pataki in 2001, to harness the strengths of universities and the private sector to create across the state strategically targeted high-technology centers of innovation, such as the UB Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics, aimed at spurring economic development and creating jobs.

"The linkage of bioinformatics and life sciences in general with the economic future of the Western New York region places a particular responsibility on the university to develop its own programs in this field," said Kerry Grant, Ph.D., UB vice provost for academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School. "There is a large educational component associated with the development of a life-sciences economy in Western New York and we are fully committed to meeting that expectation."

UB Provost Elizabeth D. Capaldi said the program "is the first one of many that will allow students to be educated at the cutting edge of life sciences.

"This first program is meant for students specifically focused on bioinformatics, narrowly defined," Capaldi added. "Other programs will be broader and more general and this group of educated students will be a huge asset for companies seeking employees in the life-science economy we hope to build in Western New York."

Students will be able to matriculate in the UB program starting in Spring 2004.

While they may indicate their intention to major in bioinformatics and computational biology at any time during their freshman or sophomore years, applicants will be considered for entry into the program after they have completed four semesters at UB.

To be accepted, students must have maintained a 2.5 overall grade point average and 3.0 in the required courses in biology, chemistry, computer science and engineering and mathematics.

According to E. Bruce Pitman, Ph.D., UB associate dean for research and sponsored programs in the College of Arts and Sciences, the UB program was designed to provide students with a foundation in bioinformatics and computational biology that has both breadth and depth.

"Given that bioinformatics is such an interdisciplinary field, this degree requires two areas of emphasis, allowing students the flexibility that they are going to need to successfully pursue bioinformatics as it evolves over the next five to 15 years," he said.

The degree involves courses in UB's College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

"The comprehensive training students will get through this bachelor's degree in bioinformatics and computational biology is ideally suited for those who plan to pursue careers in bioinformatics and computational biology at the master's level or higher," said Pitman.

Students accepted into the highly interdisciplinary degree program will select computer science and engineering, biological sciences, biophysics or mathematics as their main area of emphasis, and then will be required to take courses in complementary fields.

In addition, all students in the bioinformatics and computational biology major will be required to take a range of courses that provide exposure to areas considered the "building blocks" of bioinformatics, such as probability and statistics, computing, organic chemistry and molecular biology.

"It's a rigorous major designed so that students graduating from UB can easily enter any bioinformatics or computational biology graduate program in the country," said Pitman, noting that the program was designed with input from other local institutions. Typical entry-level jobs in bioinformatics or computational biology require a master's degree, Pitman explained, and many master's programs require some fundamental courses in computing and biological science.

"Graduates of UB's program in bioinformatics will not have to take those prerequisite courses," he explained, "so this bachelor's degree will give students a leg up on some of their peers in graduate school because they will be able to skip some of the early courses."

Graduates of the UB program also would be very well qualified for positions as laboratory technicians, said Pitman.

Prospective students interested in more information on the major should contact the UB College of Arts and Sciences at 716-645-2711.

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