Track in Computational Systems and Synthetic Bioengineering
Home → Education →  Graduate → Tracks →  Track in Computational Systems and Synthetic Bioengineering


Systems and synthetic bioengineering are complementary emergent fields that combine experimental, computational and theoretical methods to solve challenging biomedical problems. Systems bioengineering is based on a holistic approach of integrating large amounts of molecular information to elucidate the relationship between genotype and phenotype. This multi-scale understanding of biological systems will help answer important questions about physiological systems, human disease, and therapeutic strategies. Synthetic bioengineering is the design and construction of biological systems from molecular biological components for useful purposes. Such systems have applications in a wide range of complex biomedical problems.

Among the greatest challenges in these fields are how to obtain, manipulate, and interpret massive datasets. Research in this area also requires a multi-scale understanding of the system of interest, from molecules to cells to organisms to ecosystems. Computational systems and synthetic bioengineering draw from a wide range of specialties including mathematical modeling, scientific computing, signal processing, molecular biology, and high-throughput technologies to provide a unique approach to solving biomedical problems.

This track draws from the rich set of resources currently available at the University of Utah to provide students with valuable interdisciplinary academic and research experiences. Students will receive training in desirable skills, including large-scale data analysis and genomic technologies, making them well-suited for careers in academia, industry, and government.

Because computational systems and synthetic bioengineering are inherently interdisciplinary, the program supplements a strong bioengineering core with courses from a variety of departments. Below are summaries of the proposed course and research requirements for the track.

Masters Students

M.S. and M.E. students in the Computational Systems and Synthetic Bioengineering track must successfully complete the core course requirements outlined below, as well as the total course credit hour requirement of the M.S. or M.E. degree programs. At least nine (9) credit hours from the following core courses:

At least six (6) additional credit hours from graduate level courses related to the specific computational or mathematical research area of interest, for example:

More Information on the M.S. Program

Ph.D. Students

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam. Ph.D. students in the Computational Systems and Synthetic Bioengineering track are expected to have general knowledge in computational and numerical methods as well as in systems and synthetic bioengineering, with a specific focus in one bioengineering application. A student who, for example, applies computational methods to problems in cancer genomics, should have knowledge in both areas. The material for the exam will be based primarily on topics covered in the core courses. However, there will be a strong emphasis on the integration of computational approaches and the target area of application, material not likely to be covered explicitly in any course or textbook.

Course Program of Study. The course selection that will be appropriate for each student in the Computational Systems and Synthetic Bioengineering track will vary and depend highly on the specific research project in which the student participates. It will be especially important to choose courses that provide both the scientific background and the technical skills required to carry out this research. The Program of Study is a list created by the student and the supervisory committee of all courses to be completed by the student as part of the requirements for the Ph.D. The Program of Study requires formal approval by the student's advisor, Dissertation Supervisory Committee, and Director of Graduate Studies.

Additional Courses. Below is a selection of courses available at the University of Utah that may be appropriate for the Computational Systems and Synthetic Bioengineering track.

More Information on the Ph.D. Program


Please contact Dr. Orly Alter or Dr. Tara L. Deans