MCB Graduate Studies

The Molecular and Computational Biology section offers two graduate tracks, leading to a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology and a Ph.D. in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, respectively. The two tracks differ mostly in their formal requirements; beyond this, they do not constrain students’ research or course selection in any way.

Students with backgrounds in experimental biology are generally admitted to the Molecular Biology Ph.D. program. Students with strong quantitative backgrounds in math, statistics or computer science are generally admitted to the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Ph.D. program.

A particular strength of Molecular and Computational Biology is the integration of cutting edge molecular biology with novel design of algorithms to analyze data.  More than 30 years ago, the founders of this department had the vision to unite biological research with mathematics and computer science.

Ph. D. in Molecular Biology

During the first year, students in the Ph.D. program take two core courses (BISC 502a/b) that provide an in-depth understanding of modern molecular and computational biology, genetics, and biochemistry. Students also complete three laboratory rotations with different advisers as part of their research training (BISC 504L). At the end of the first year, each student chooses a permanent advisor who supervises the thesis research.

Ph. D. in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

During the first year, the student’s program is under the direction of an initial guidance committee composed of members of the admissions committee. Students take appropriate courses in mathematics and also join the molecular biology graduate students in the course BISC 502a, Graduate Molecular Biology. Before the end of the first year, the student must form a guidance committee consisting of an advisor and four other faculty members, including at least one from another department. Thereafter, the student’s program of studies and dissertation are under the direction of the permanent guidance committee and the dissertation committee.

For both programs, students are encouraged to identify cross-disciplinary research opportunities.

  • Department of Biological Sciences
  • University of Southern California
  • Allan Hancock Foundation Building
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0371