The past two decades have witnessed a revolution in the biological and biomedical sciences driven by the development of technologies such as next-generation sequencing, macromolecular structure determination and imaging, wearable sensor devices, and large-scale electronic health records. Exciting and efficient new approaches have become available for the analysis of entire genomes (the complete genetic program of an organism), proteomes (the entire set of proteins encoded by an organism), and other large data sets. In particular, a main focus of biological and biomedical research has been the determination of the collective function of the many genes of different organisms, how the different genes are regulated, and how they relate to organismal phenotype and disease. Moreover, the systematic acquisition of data by molecular technologies has created a tremendous gap between available data and their interpretation. Given the accelerating rate of data generation, this gap will not be closed solely with individual experiments; new computational and theoretical approaches are essential. Computational Biology and Bioinformatics is a field where biological and biomedical problems are addressed using diverse data sources with novel computational, statistical, and theoretical approaches. Activities in this field include: systems modeling, genomic analysis, natural language processing, macromolecular-structure simulation, and image analysis. Much work involves database design, data mining, algorithm development, high-performance computing, and physical simulation.
The Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Track combines research training opportunities in a range of different fields within the biological sciences, in addition to the computational sciences, biostatistics, and applied mathematics. The scope and balance of a student’s program are highly individualized. Each student in the Track develops, with the assistance of faculty advisers, a specific program of course work, independent reading, and research that gives a depth of coverage and fits his or her background, interests, and career goals. Upon exiting the Track at the end of their first year, most students then join the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics PhD program.