This bioinformatics program consists of a core curriculum that provides the basics of biology, chemistry, computer science and statistics, as well as an introduction to the field of bioinformatics. The bachelor’s program in bioinformatics requires breadth of training via VCU Life Sciences’ general education requirements, specific training in the collateral course work and bioinformatics core, and focused training in the areas of biology/genomics, computational science or quantitative/statistical bioinformatics through the concentration-specific courses.

Students wishing to pursue the bioinformatics major must apply for admission into the program. High school seniors as well as students transferring to VCU should follow the regular VCU admissions process and deadlines, being sure to indicate clearly in their application that they wish to apply to the bioinformatics program. Continuing VCU students wishing to apply to the program will find information about the application process at csbc.vcu.edu/bioinformatics-programs/undergraduate or by calling the director of undergraduate curricula at (804) 828-0559 or the Center for the Study of Biological Complexity at (804) 827-0026.

Transfer students and continuing VCU students with at least 15 college credits should present a suggested college GPA of 3.0 including relevant course work in science, math or computer science.

Learning outcomes

Upon completing this program, students will know and know how to do the following:

  • Present scientific results, both orally and in writing, in a way that makes clear to an appropriate target audience the distinction between what is known (and how) and what is merely suspected between an observation and a conclusion in a way that tells a compelling story
  • Will have demonstrated fundamental knowledge of the basic concepts of biology (particularly molecular biology), the physical sciences, mathematics, statistics and computational science and the ability to apply that knowledge within the context of bioinformatics
  • Will have demonstrated an ability to identify and analyze bioinformatics problems and strategies to solve said problems
  • Will possess an appropriate level of technical knowledge and ability necessary to address a scientific problem by exploiting biological software and datasets and creating simple bioinformatics tools
  • Will have demonstrated an ability to identify and access relevant scientific literature and draw from it in a meaningful and critical manner
 

Degree requirements for Bioinformatics, Bachelor of Science (B.S.) with a concentration in quantitative/statistical

General Education requirements

University Core Education Curriculum (minimum 21 credits)
UNIV   111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry IFocused Inquiry I3
UNIV   112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry IIFocused Inquiry II3
UNIV   200Inquiry and the Craft of Argument3
Approved humanities/fine arts3
Approved natural/physical sciences3-4
Approved quantitative literacy3-4
Approved social/behavioral sciences3-4
General education requirements
LFSC   301Integrative Life Sciences Research3
MATH   151Precalculus Mathematics (fulfills University Core quantitative literacy)4
Select one of the following:3
Concepts of Statistics (preferred)
Basic Practice of Statistics (with program approval)
Foreign language through 102 level or equivalent course or by placement testing0-8
Total Hours27-38

Collateral requirements

MATH   200Calculus with Analytic Geometry4
Select one of the following:4-5
University Physics I (preferred)
General Physics (may be substituted with program approval)
Total Hours8-9

Major core requirements

BIOL   151Introduction to Biological Sciences I3
BIOL   152Introduction to Biological Sciences II3
BIOL   300Cellular and Molecular Biology3
BNFO   201Computing Skills and Concepts for Bioinformatics3
Select one of the following:2
Phage Discovery I (preferred)
Introduction to Biological Science Laboratory I (with program approval)
Select one of the following:2
Phage Discovery II (preferred)
Introduction to Biological Science Laboratory II (with program approval)
BNFO   300Molecular Biology Through Discovery3
BNFO 301/BIOL   351Introduction to Bioinformatics3
BNFO   420Applications in Bioinformatics (University Core capstone)3
CHEM   101
CHEZ   101
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory I
4
CHEM   102General Chemistry3
CHEM   301Organic Chemistry3
CMSC   255Introduction to Programming4
STAT   314Applications of Statistics4
Total Hours43

Concentration-required courses

MATH   201Calculus with Analytic Geometry4
MATH   307Multivariate Calculus4
MATH   310Linear Algebra3
STAT   321Introduction to Statistical Computing3
Total Hours14

Open electives

Select five to 20 open elective credits5-20

Total minimum requirement 120 credits

Concentration electives

BIOS/STAT 513Mathematical Statistics I3
BIOS/STAT 514Mathematical Statistics II3
BIOS   524Biostatistical Computing3
BIOS/STAT 543Statistical Methods I3
BIOS/STAT 544Statistical Methods II3
BIOS   546Theory of Linear Models3
BNFO/MATH/BIOL 380Introduction to Mathematical Biology4
BNFO   491Special Topics in Bioinformatics (variable) 11-4
BNFO   492Independent Study (variable) 11-4
BNFO   496Undergraduate Teaching Assistantship in Bioinformatics1-2
BNFO   497Research and Thesis (variable) 11-4
BNFO/BIOL 540Fundamentals of Molecular Genetics3
CMSC   256Data Structures and Object Oriented Programming3
MATH   211Mathematical Structures3
STAT/MATH 309Introduction to Probability Theory3
STAT   421Applied Statistical Computing Using R3
STAT   441Applied Statistics for Engineers and Scientists3
1

May be taken only with adviser’s permission

What follows is a sample plan that meets the prescribed requirements within a four-year course of study at VCU. Please contact your adviser before beginning course work toward a degree.

Freshman year
Fall semesterHours
BIOL   151 Introduction to Biological Sciences I 3
BNFO   251
Phage Discovery I
or Phage Discovery I
2
MATH   151 Precalculus Mathematics (approved quantitative literacy, University Core Curriculum Tier II) 4
UNIV   101 Introduction to the University 1
UNIV   111 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry I Focused Inquiry I 3
Open elective 3
 Term Hours: 16
Spring semester
BIOL   152 Introduction to Biological Sciences II 3
BNFO   252
Phage Discovery II
or Phage Discovery II
2
CHEM   101
CHEZ   101
General Chemistry
and General Chemistry Laboratory I
4
MATH   200 Calculus with Analytic Geometry 4
UNIV   112 Play VideoPlay course video for Focused Inquiry II Focused Inquiry II 3
 Term Hours: 16
Sophomore year
Fall semester
BNFO   201 Computing Skills and Concepts for Bioinformatics 3
BNFO   300 Molecular Biology Through Discovery 3
CHEM   102 General Chemistry 3
MATH   201 Calculus with Analytic Geometry 4
UNIV   200 Inquiry and the Craft of Argument 3
 Term Hours: 16
Spring semester
BIOL   300 Cellular and Molecular Biology 3
BNFO   301
Introduction to Bioinformatics
or Introduction to Bioinformatics
3
ENVS   201 Earth System Science (or other approved natural/physical sciences course <sup>University Core Curriculum Tier II</sup>) 3
MATH   307 Multivariate Calculus 4
STAT   212 Concepts of Statistics 3
 Term Hours: 16
Junior year
Fall semester
BNFO   492 Independent Study (or other concentration elective) 4
CHEM   301 Organic Chemistry 3
LFSC   301 Integrative Life Sciences Research 3
MATH   310 Linear Algebra 3
 Term Hours: 13
Spring semester
CMSC   255 Introduction to Programming 4
STAT   314 Applications of Statistics 4
Approved humanities/fine arts course (University Core Curriculum Tier II) 3
Select one of the following: 5
PHYS   207 University Physics I (preferred) 5
PHYS   201 General Physics (may be substituted with program approval) 4
 Term Hours: 16
Senior year
Fall semester
STAT   321 Introduction to Statistical Computing 3
Approved social/behavioral sciences course (University Core Curriculum Tier II) 3
Concentration elective 3
Open elective or foreign language 3
 Term Hours: 12
Spring semester
BNFO   420 Applications in Bioinformatics (University Core capstone) 3
Open elective or foreign language 3
Open electives 9
 Term Hours: 15
 Total Hours: 120
 

Bioinformatics

BNFO   201. Computing Skills and Concepts for Bioinformatics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: MATH   151 or 200 with a minimum grade of C, or satisfactory score on the VCU Mathematics Placement Test within the one-year period immediately preceding the beginning of the course. An introduction to computation in bioinformatics, including basics of data representation, and computer organization, as well as programming in PERL or other appropriate scripting language. Bioinformatics applications in the literature will be discussed. Guest speakers will share bioinformatics career experiences and opportunities.

BNFO   251. Phage Discovery I. 2 Hours.

Semester course; 4 laboratory hours. 2 credits. Corequisite: BIOL   151 or 152. An exploratory laboratory where students will purify phage from soil, visualize phage using electron microscopy and isolate genomic material for nucleic acid sequencing. Registration by override only. Crosslisted as: LFSC   251.

BNFO   252. Phage Discovery II. 2 Hours.

Semester course; 4 laboratory hours. 2 credits. Corequisite: BIOL   151 or 152. An exploratory laboratory where students will learn about the genomes of viruses infecting bacteria. Students will be given the genome sequence of a novel virus, which will be the basis for a series of computer-based analyses to understand the biology of the virus and to compare it with other viruses that infect the same host. Registration by override only. Crosslisted as: LFSC   252.

BNFO   292. Independent Study. 1-2 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-2 credits. May be repeated for a maximum total of 6 credits. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. A course designed to provide an opportunity for independent readings of the bioinformatics literature under supervision of a staff member.

BNFO   300. Molecular Biology Through Discovery. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. The course aims to expand students' "ignorance," a prerequisite for success in science, by confronting them with the interface between the known and the unknown, stressing the process by which the boundary is traversed. It will do so using as the raw material the study of molecular biology, an essential groundwork for bioinformatics.

BNFO   301. Introduction to Bioinformatics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Introduction to the basic concepts, tools and possibilities of bioinformatics, the analysis of large bodies of biological information. The course stresses problem-solving and integrative projects, making extensive use of exercises in class that draw on bioinformatics resources on the Web and on local servers. Graded as pass/fail. Crosslisted as: BIOL   351.

BNFO   380. Introduction to Mathematical Biology. 4 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture and 2 laboratory hours. 4 credits. Prerequisites: MATH   200 and BIOL   151, or permission of instructor. An introduction to mathematical biology. Various mathematical modeling tools will be covered and implemented in a range of biological areas. Additionally, the collaborative research process will be presented and discussed. Crosslisted as: MATH   380/BIOL   380.

BNFO   420. Applications in Bioinformatics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 2 laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: CMSC   245 or 255 and BNFO   301. Capstone course. Students will integrate biological, computational and quantitative skills to complete bioinformatics projects in a professional team-problem-solving context. Course includes explicit instruction in the conduct of research as well as a review of applicable strategies, methods and technologies. Written and oral presentation is emphasized, with systematic feedback and practice opportunities provided.

BNFO   440. Computational Methods in Bioinformatics. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 2 laboratory hours. 3 credits. Prerequisites: CMSC   255 and 256; BNFO   301, or permission of instructor. An introduction to mathematical and computational methods in bioinformatics analysis. Topics include but are not limited to operating systems, interfaces, languages, SQL, search algorithms, string manipulation, gene sequencing, simulation and modeling, and pattern recognition. Students will be exposed to Maple, Matlab, SPSS, E-cell, BioPerl, Epigram and C as part of the requirements of this course.

BNFO   491. Special Topics in Bioinformatics. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-4 credits. Prerequisites: permission of instructor and adviser. An introductory, detailed study of a selected topic in bioinformatics unavailable as an existing course. Students will find specific topics and prerequisites for each special topics course listed in the Schedule of Classes. If multiple topics are offered, students may elect to take more than one. Adviser's approval is required for counting each special topics course toward meeting specific requirements of the B.S. program.

BNFO   492. Independent Study. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. A minimum of three hours of supervised activity per week per credit is required. 1-4 credits. May be repeated for a maximum total of 6 credits. Prerequisite: BIOL 218. Projects should include data collection and analysis, learning bioinformatics-related research techniques, and mastering experimental procedures, all under the direct supervision of a faculty member. A final report must be submitted at the completion of the project. Graded as pass/fail.

BNFO   496. Undergraduate Teaching Assistantship in Bioinformatics. 1-2 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. 1-2 credits. May be repeated for a maximum total of 2 credits. Prerequisites: permission of instructor and a minimum grade of B in the course the student will TA. Student will work with course instructor to implement course objectives. Typical duties involve media preparation, answering questions, providing feedback on course assignments and peer mentoring. Provides exposure to the practice, possibilities, rewards and responsibilities of the act of teaching.

BNFO   497. Research and Thesis. 1-4 Hours.

Semester course; variable hours. A minimum of three hours of supervised activity per week per credit is required. 1-4 credits. May be repeated for a maximum total of 6 credits. Prerequisites: BIOL 218, junior or senior status. Projects should include data collection and analysis, learning bioinformatics-related research techniques, and mastering experimental procedures, all under the direct supervision of a faculty member. A written thesis of substantial quality is required at the completion of the research.

Life Sciences

LFSC   251. Phage Discovery I. 2 Hours.

Semester course; 4 laboratory hours. 2 credits. Corequisite: BIOL   151 or 152. An exploratory laboratory where students will purify phage from soil, visualize phage using electron microscopy and isolate genomic material for nucleic acid sequencing. Registration by override only. Crosslisted as: BNFO   251.

LFSC   252. Phage Discovery II. 2 Hours.

Semester course; 4 laboratory hours. 2 credits. Corequisite: BIOL   151 or 152. An exploratory laboratory where students will learn about the genomes of viruses infecting bacteria. Students will be given the genome sequence of a novel virus, which will be the basis for a series of computer-based analyses to understand the biology of the virus and to compare it with other viruses that infect the same host. Registration by override only. Crosslisted as: BNFO   252.

LFSC   301. Integrative Life Sciences Research. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 2 lecture and 1 recitation hours. 3 credits. Pre- or corequisite: UNIV   200 or HONR   200. Students will leave this course knowing enough about science and the process of science to feel confident in critically evaluating scientific information and/or embarking on their own process of discovery with a faculty mentor. They will gain an appreciation of the interdisciplinary and complex nature of life sciences and will hone their critical thinking about how science interacts with and informs society.

LFSC   307. Community Solutions: Multiple Perspectives. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: PYSC 101. Explores possibilities for addressing social concerns of the Richmond community by understanding the complex nature of social issues as essential to their successful amelioration via perspectives of life and social sciences. Toward this end, expertise from the social sciences, the life sciences and the community are integrated. Includes a service-learning experience (a 20-hour volunteer requirement). Crosslisted as: PSYC   307.

LFSC   401. Faith and Life Sciences. 3 Hours.

Semester course; 3 lecture hours. 3 credits. Prerequisite: UNIV   200 or HONR   200. Open to students of any school or program. Explores the complex relationships between faith traditions and the life sciences. Topics include epistemology, impact of life sciences on ideas of fate and responsibility, limits of science and technology, and scientific and religious perspectives on human origins, consciousness, aggression, forgiveness, health, illness and death. Crosslisted as: RELS   401.