With the increasing availability of data from the genome and other "omics," computational and experimental systems biology have become important disciplines within the biological sciences. Columbia University offers PhD graduate education that prepares students to become leaders in this exciting and rapidly growing field.

Students interested in pursuing a PhD in systems biology traditionally apply through the Integrated Program in Cellular, Molecular, and Biomedical Studies at Columbia University. This program gives students the opportunity to study with any faculty member within the Columbia Department of Systems Biology. Alternately, students who have been admitted to Columbia through other affiliated PhD programs can also join the laboratories of faculty within the Department of Systems Biology.

Through courses, laboratory rotations, and doctoral research, you will learn to apply powerful, multidisciplinary perspectives that increase understanding of how complex biological systems are structured, how they evolve over time, and how they produce physiologic or pathologic traits.

Because advances in genomics and related disciplines increasingly rely on the ability to generate, integrate, and analyze large quantities of data, our educational program stresses the importance of high-throughput experimentation, advanced quantitative analysis, and innovative technology development. Students learn to use these tools to develop predictive models of biological networks, and to experimentally validate and interrogate predictions in the laboratory. The experience and skills that you gain will prepare you to move smoothly between the worlds of experimentation and computation, and to make original contributions at the cutting edge of basic and translational biological research.

Students who study systems and computational biology at Columbia University arrive with a wide range of interests, including biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, computer science, and engineering. As a student, you will have opportunities to develop your knowledge and skills in your areas of interest. Most importantly, you will learn to collaborate as a part of interdisciplinary teams that use state-of-the-art approaches to solve critical biological problems.

Research areas

Students in systems biology and computational biology at Columbia can pursue research in a variety of research areas, including:

  • Bioinformatics
  • Cancer Genomics
  • Chemical Biology
  • Development
  • Evolutionary Genetics
  • Microbiology
  • Regulatory Networks
  • Structural Biology
  • Synthetic Biology
  • Virology and Immunology

Degree requirements

As students within the Integrated Program for Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Studies at Columbia University, those who pursue the systems biology specialization must fulfill the general requirements of the program. However, given the varied interests and concentrations of our students, we make an effort to tailor specific degree requirements depending on the individual.

  • Students pursuing the systems biology specialization within the Integrated Program for Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Studies follow the Integrated Program's curriculum, which is intended to provide the flexibility to pursue a course of study focused in systems biology.
  • If you pursue a degree in one of our affiliated PhD programs, you will follow the requirements of the specific program in which you are enrolled.
  • Any student admitted through the Integrated Program for Molecular, Cellular, and Biomedical Studies at Columbia University interested in joining the systems biology track can submit a formal request at the end of their first year in the program, and must meet the following requirements: Students must satisfy the Systems Biology Specialization requirements, including all courses. Students must also join a DSB Faculty Lab. 

In general, education in systems and computational biology involves courses in the areas of biology, quantitative subjects, and computational biology. In the second and third years, students complete additional courses from a list of electives offered by participating departments. You will also take part in laboratory rotations with participating faculty sponsors of your choice.

After fulfilling these requirements, students take the qualifying examination, and upon successful completion, initiate their doctoral research. In general, we aim to have students complete the program within 5 years of their start date.

Careers in systems and computational biology

Because of the increasing importance of integrated, data-intensive research to the future of the biological sciences, graduates with specific training in systems and computational biology are currently in high demand. Many laboratories seek well-trained biologists with the experience to develop novel high-throughput experiments and scientists who can use sophisticated quantitative tools to analyze large datasets. In recent years, the National Institutes of Health have also showed strong support for leading centers in computational and systems biology. After receiving education and training in systems biology at Columbia University, you will be well prepared for careers in academic and industry settings that are using these approaches in biological research.


If you have questions about our program or require further information, please contact us.