Columbia Systems Biology Launches Master's Course with School of Professional Studies



The Department of Systems Biology is pleased to announce a new partnership with Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies to offer postbaccalaureate education in systems biology. The first course, titled Systems Biology: Blueprint for a 21st Century Scientific Revolution, is now accepting registrations for the spring 2017 semester.

The new course will provide a Master’s level overview of how systems biology is helping to address today’s grand challenges in biomedical research, what it can realistically be expected to achieve, and where it promises to have the most significant impact. Combining critical readings, discussions, tutorials, presentations, projects, and other activities, the course is designed for anyone interested in understanding the implications of systems biology across the sciences — including how it is affecting such fields as precision medicine, vaccine and antibiotic development, agriculture, science policy, and regulation.

The course is designed for anyone interested in understanding the implications of systems biology across the sciences.

Diana Murray, a research scientist as well as Program Director of Research and Outreach in the Department of Systems Biology, will be teaching the course and anticipates interest from a variety of students. “In our experience,” she explains, “postbaccalaureate and preprofessional students, as well as students and professionals from other disciplines, are very keen on obtaining a broad contextual perspective of systems biology. They want to learn how they can participate and apply the underlying conceptual approaches of systems biology in their careers. We are excited to be expanding beyond our existing PhD program to fill this need and hope the hands-on activities and case study examinations we are developing for the SPS program will, in turn, benefit our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.”

The ultimate goal of the new course is to give students the ability to critically evaluate key concepts, applications, and technologies in systems biology. In their final paper, students will synthesize what they have learned by writing a formal proposal for a project that uses systems biology methods to explore a unique scientific question.

Although the course assumes a basic understanding of molecular biology, it is intended to be accessible to students with a scientific background in any field. For the benefit of those who need to review the fundamentals, the course will include refresher readings, tutorials, and in-class presentations. 

The course is currently being offered as an elective within the MS degree in applied analytics. It is the first in what is planned to become a module of three courses that the Department of Systems Biology will develop for the School of Professional Studies. The School’s modular approach offers students the ability to customize their studies, combining modules in various disciplines that address their specific needs and interests. In this way, the systems biology module will complement others in overlapping fields such as biotechnology, bioethics, data science, and technology management.

Diana Murray
Department of Systems Biology research scientist and Director of Research and Outreach Diana Murray designed and will be instructing the new Master's course.

“In the near future,” Dr. Murray anticipates, “our hope is that systems biology courses will add important new dimensions to the SPS’s scientific portfolio, reflecting the ways in which ideas and technologies that are important in the discipline are transforming biological and biomedical research, as well as other fields.”

The School of Professional Studies curriculum is designed to meet the needs of various types of students. This includes advanced undergraduate students and recent college graduates who are preparing to apply to graduate school, as well as older professionals seeking to change careers or explore new ideas. In addition, the courses provide continuing education for those working in nonscientific fields that intersect with biomedical research, such as healthcare, business and finance, computing, bioethics, policymaking, and patent law.

The new course will take place on the Columbia University’s Morningside Heights campus, giving participants the opportunity to study in the same inspiring environment as the larger university community.

For more information, view the course listing at the School of Professional Studies website.

Chris Williams