Graduate Catalog
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology
Interdisciplinary Academic Programs
Virginia Tech Life Sciences I Building 970 Washington Street NW (0910) Blacksburg, VA 24061 Blacksburg VA 24061
Life Sciences I
Degree(s) Offered:
• PhD
PhD Degree in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology
Minimum GPA: 3.0
Offered In:
Email Contact(s):
Web Resource(s):
Phone Number(s):
Application Deadlines:
Fall: Mar 01
Spring: Sep 01
Summer I: Mar 01
Summer II: Mar 01
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The Graduate School
Life Sciences I

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Program Director : Liwu Li
Professors: Daniela Cimini; Glenda Gillaspy; Lenwood Heath; Jason Holliday; Maria Lazar; Biswarup Mukhopadhyay; T Murali; Christopher North; Alexey Onufriev; Mohammad Saghai-Maroof; Adrian Sandu; Clifford Shaffer; Igor Sharakhov; Edward Smith; Zhijian Tu; Boris Vinatzer; Layne Watson; Liqing Zhang; Jinsong Zhu
Associate Professors: Bahareh Behkam; Young Cao; Silke Hauf; Richard Helm; John Jelesko; Song Li; Michelle Olsen; Amy Pruden-Bagchi; Florian Schubot; Ryan Senger; Hehuang Xie
Assistant Professors: Rana Ashkar; Bastiaan Bargmann; Jing Chen; Rebecca Cockrum; Kate Langwig; Gota Morota; Sujith Vijayan; Mark Williams
Research Assistant Professors: Fernando Biase
Collegiate Assistant Professors: Anne Brown
Assistant Professor of Practice: Cassidy Rist

Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology Introduction

The research paradigm exemplified by the Human Genome Project requires anĀ  academic training paradigm that creates team-oriented researchers who may be specialists in one area but who are literate in several other disciplines. For example, researchers with expertise in the mathematical, statistical, or computer sciences also require sufficient knowledge in biology to understand the questions in order to develop appropriate analytical methods and computer tools. Similarly, life scientists need sufficient grounding in mathematics, statistics and computer science to be educated users of these quantitative methods and tools, and to conceptualize new tools. Research and training environments that produce such a combination of skills are not commonly found in academia. Our program is designed to provide that training environment in genetics/genomics, bioinformatics, and computational biology.

Our program will allow Ph.D. students to conduct original research in the areas of genetics, bioinformatics, and computational biology. This training will enable graduates of the program to pursue careers in academia, government, or the private sector. This will be achieved through a combination of discipline-specific and cross-disciplinary course work, as well as a multidisciplinary research environment maintained by program faculty and distinguished by a high level of collaboration between disciplines.

The scientific and training focus of the program is on three interdependent areas which have emerged as significant in the post-genomic era: experimental approaches and technologies for addressing complex biological questions, methods for collection, management and analysis of large biological data sets, and data-based modeling of biological systems.

Offered In (Blacksburg)

Degree Requirements

Minimum GPA: 3.0
Institution code: 5859
Testing Requirements:
    • Paper
      • 600.0
    • Computer
      • 250.0
    • IELTS
      • 6.5
  • GRE
    • General Test
      • Verbal : 300.0
      • Quantitative : 700.0
      • Analytical : 3.0
GBCB is a Ph.D. program only, it does not offer a Master's degree. The Ph.D. degree requires a minimum of 90 total credit hours beyond the baccalaureate. Additionally, a dissertation must be written and defended before a 4-person committee. The Ph.D. plan of study is due by the end of the fourth semester of study.

The distribution of the 90 required hours can be:
30-63 credit hours of research (7994 level only)
27-60 graded coursework (graduate level)

For the purposes of this program and to insure that students have a breadth of exposure, four specialty tracks are defined: LIFE SCIENCES, COMPUTER SCIENCE, STATISTICS, and MATHEMATICS

A student will select one of the specialty tracks as his/her primary track, which will typically be consistent with the student's undergraduate training. The other tracks will be denoted as secondary tracks. Requirements will differ among the specialty tracks, with some requiring more coursework, and with correspondingly fewer credit hours of Research and Dissertation.

In addition, a core curriculum that is common to all students has been defined:
GBCB 5874 Problem Solving(3 credits)
STS 5444 Issues in Bioethics(3 credits)
GBCB 5004 Seminar (4 credits)

A sample plan of study will include the following:
Primary Track: At least 9 credit hours must be from the primary track. For students whose primary track is the Life Science track, 3 of these credit hrs must be a genomics course. Several genomics courses are offered through different departments. (e.g., CSES/GBCB 5844 - Plant Genomics)

Secondary Tracks: At least 12 credit hours must be taken, with the courses coming from at least two of the three secondary tracks. For students whose primary track is not in Life Sciences, at least 6 of these credit hrs must be in the life sciences track. 
Students in the Statistics primary track must take a genomics course.

General Electives: Choice of at least 6 credit hrs of electives 
Research & Dissertation: Sufficient to accumulate 90 total credit hours, minimum of 30 hours required.

Examinations: All GBCB students must pass a preliminary and a final exam.

The preliminary exam, oral and written, is conducted by the student's advisory committee. Between the third and fourth years, each student must prepare a dissertation research plan and give an oral defense of that plan and the scientific foundations on which it is based. The dissertation research plan is expected to be a refinement of the initial research plan presented presented by the student to his committee at the end of the second year. The proposal is to be prepared in an NIH-style format and should provide a clearly defined description of the research the student plans to complete.The oral defense of the plan will include questions both directly related to the proposal as well as more general questions that examine the student's knowledge of fundamental principles.

The student may be tested on any aspect of his proposal, the philosophy of science, and research methodology. It is recommended that the student meet with his/her advisory committee prior to preparing for the exam to discuss the nature of the exam and evaluation procedures.

The final exam, oral and written, is primarily a defense of the dissertation, but other areas of science may be included.

Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology Facilities Introduction

These are some of the many buildings housing several labs that GBCB students and faculty work in: Fralin Life Sciences Institute (FLSI), Torgersen Hall, Derring Hall, Life Sciences Building I (LSI), Latham Hall, McBryde Hall, Fralin Hall, Engel Hall, Seitz Hall, Price Hall, Steger Hall, and many others across campus due to the breadth of our program.

Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology

Several facilities are shared across campus due to the breadth of our program:
Some of the buildings are Derring Hall, Latham Hall, Life Sciences 1 Building, McBryde Hall, Price Hall, Steger Hall and Torgersen Hall.

Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology

Several facilities are shared across campus due to the breadth of our program.
Some of the buildings are Torgersen Hall, McBryde Hall, VBI, Latham Hall, Derring Hall, Life Sciences 1 Building, Price Hall, etc.
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