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Training for the program involves three formal components:

  1. core courses (3)
  2. research lab rotations (2)
  3. seminar/workshop course


Trainees with sufficient skills in computer science, statistics, and biology take the following three courses in the second year of their PhD programs.

BIO 382K: Computational and Statistical Biology: An introduction to modern biology for students with quantitative backgrounds. The course includes a survey of modern biology and also introduces modern statistical approaches, bioinformatics analyses, and computational approaches fundamental to "big data" and other life sciences in contexts students are likely to encounter in their own research. [Syllabus]

CSE 380: Tools and Techniques of Computational Sciences: Graduate level introduction to the practical use of high performance computing hardware and software engineering principles for scientic technical computing. Topics include computer architectures, operating systems, programming languages, data structures, interoperability, and software development, management and performance. [Syllabus]

SDS 385: Statistical Models for Big Data: This course will cover big data modeling approaches including linear models, graphical models, matrix and tensor factorizations, clustering, and latent factor models. Algorithms explored will include sketching, fast n-body problems, random projections and hashing, large-scale online learning, and parallel learning. [Syllabus]


Each student will participate in (at least) two lab rotations designed to give the students direct mentoring, the experience of working on a research team, and experience working on real problems in big data. Trainees will do a "quantitative" and a "biomedical" rotation. Research group rotations will last a semester and each student will be expected to complete two rotations (typically both during the fall semester of year 3 of their PhD). For each rotation, the students will register for a 3 credit course.


Through the weekly seminar/workshop course (SDS 190C), students will be introduced to research areas, develop skills in critical literature evaluation, strengthen their oral and written communication, and work on team rotation projects.

The goal of the one credit (per semester) seminar/workshop is to teach students how to engage in research and communicate effectively in both written and oral formats. The seminar will be organized into thematic units and each unit will have the same basic three elements: 1) literature reviews and group discussion; 2) faculty presentations on their research; and 3) student presentations of their work on research rotations (written and oral). The third element will only be included when a rotation project team is ready.

Since students will participate in the seminar/workshop each semester they are part of the program; this will encompass 2 or 3 years (depending on whether they enter the training program during the first or second year of their PhD program).