Carnegie Mellon University

Curriculum overview (144-153 units)

For a 2-minute tutorial on how to view current CMU course listings, please refer to this YouTube video:

  • Foundation courses (60-69* units)
  • Breadth courses (36 units)
  • Depth courses (48* units)

* if a student waives more than 9 units of foundation classes, then they need to complete additional depth credits to reach a total of 144 units to graduate.

Curriculum at a Glance

Foundation Courses (up to 69 units)

Fundamental course, must be complete in year 1

  • 02-601: Programming for Scientists (12 units, Fall)*
  • 02-613: Algorithms and Advanced Data Structures (12 units, Fall or Spring)
  • 02-680: Essential Statistics and Mathematics for Scientists (9 units, Fall)*
  • 03-709: Applied Cell and Molecular Biology (12 units, Fall)*
  • 03-621: Genomes, Evolution, and Disease: Advanced Quantitative Genetic Analysis (9 units, Spring)*
  • 02-602: Professional Issues in Computational Biology (3 units, Fall)
  • 02-620: Machine Learning for Scientists (12 units, Spring)

    * students may waive one or more of these classes based on either placement exams (or, for some class(es), projects).  If more than 9 units are waived, then the student needs to complete additional depth credits to reach a total of 144 units.

Breadth Courses (36 units)

Advanced core courses, typically taken in second year

  • Genomics (12 units, 03-711 in Fall or 02-710 in Spring)
  • 02-712: Biological Modeling (12 units, 02-712 in Fall)
  • 02-750: Automation (12 units, 02-750 in Spring)

Depth Courses (48* units)

Elective courses, taken throughout the degree as per student interest and individual course pre-requisites.

48* units of relevant courses, including:

* if a student has waived more than 9 units of foundation courses, then they have to take additional depth courses to get up to a total of 144 units to the degree. These additional depth classes can be from either department. See program handbooks here for more.

§ some courses listed on these links may have limited space or restrictions in how they apply to the degree, students should talk with their advisors with questions.

Sample schedule

Students must take a minimum of 36 units every semester and may take a maximum of 48 units every semester.

This sample is reference only. Every person's educational path is different and you are required to talk to the academic advisors every semester before signing up for classes to make sure that you are meeting requirements and taking the best to achieve your goals. Students are not eligible to register until they have spoken to the advisor.

Fall of year 1 (48 units)
  • 02-601: Programming (12 units)
  • 02-602: Professional Issues (3 units)
  • 02-613: Algorithms & Data Structures (12 units) or biology elective, talk to the advisor.
  • 02-680: Essential Math & Stats for Scientists (9 units)
  • 03-709: Applied Cell & Molecular Biology (12 units)
Spring of year 1 (36 units)
  • 02-620: Machine Learning for Scientists (12 units)
  • 03-621: Quantitative Genetics (9 units)
  • 12 unit Graduate elective in Comp Bio (02-6xx) or Biology (03-6xx)
  • 3 unit Seminar (02-702 or 03-655) or optional to take a second 12-unit elective
Fall of year 2 (36 units)
  • 02-712: Modeling & Simulation (12 units)
  • 03-711: Genomics (12 units) or 12 unit Graduate elective in Comp Bio (02-6xx) or Biology (03-6xx)
  • 12 unit Graduate elective in Comp Bio (02-6xx) or Biology (03-6xx)
Spring of year 2 (36 units)
  • 02-750: Automation of scientific research (12 units)
  • 03-711: Genomics (12 units) or 12 unit Graduate elective in Comp Bio (02-6xx) or Biology (03-6xx)
  • 12 unit Graduate elective in Comp Bio (02-6xx) or Biology (03-6xx)

NOTE: in some rare situations, a student may reach the final semester with fewer than 36 units left to graduate. If that happens, additional classes must be taken to stay at the department/university minimum of 36 units required for all students in all semesters. Please contact the academic advisor if you find yourself in such a situation.

Graduation Requirements

  • You must have a B average (GPA = 3.00) over all courses counted for graduation
  • This includes the Foundation, Breadth, and Depth courses
  • These courses must total at least 144 units
  • 03-604 (Professional Issues) can count toward the 140 units, but not be factored in for GPA calculation
  • Courses counted for undergraduate degree certification cannot count for M.S. degree

Additional Curriculum Notes


Each semester, all students are encouraged to and attend some or all of the weekly Department of Biological Sciences Research Seminars and Ray and Stephanie Lane Computational Biology Department Seminars. Graduate students are strongly urged to meet the speakers to broaden their knowledge of cutting-edge biological science and to make useful contacts; the faculty host can arrange individual or small group meetings for interested students. Students may also count up to 3 units of seminar (typically 1 semester) as depth coursework (03-655 or 02-702).

Research for credit

Research is not required, but is allowed. Certain projects funded by or related to defense research or other sensitive US government areas are NOT permitted. At this time, no research ongoing in Biological Sciences, Computational Biology, or Chemical Engineering Departments falls under such restrictions, but some research in other departments in Electrical and Computer Engineering, Computer Science, Machine Learning, and some other departments does. Every mentor is required to verify with the head of their department that no sensitive topics are being researched in their lab before taking a student researcher; such verification is required in all departments (even those listed above as not currently involving sensitive topics.) If any uncertainty exists

Students may count up to 12 units of research for credit toward depth classes. Students may take as many units of research as they want (up to 12 units per semester). However, only 12 units total may count toward depth electives. Research done with faculty in the Computational Biology Department counts as 02-700 (and therefore toward the Computational Biology Depth sub-category). Research done with faculty in the Biological Sciences Department counts as 03-699 (and therefore toward the Biological Sciences Depth sub-category).*

Students may not receive credit for research that is also paid.

If a student wishes to do an optional Honors Thesis, they may enroll in 03-700 (Honors Research) in their final semester. Up to 12 units of Honors Research may be counted as depth elective (in addition to the maximums

* NOTE: some faculty are listed in both Departments. Before starting, students should check with the academic advisor to see which department is the primary home for faculty listed in both places. As of May 2021, they are as follows: Hinman & McManus are primarily Biological Sciences and Murphy & Schwartz are Computational Biology.



Students who are interested in doing an internship in industry or at a research lab not at CMU can take 03-601R, Computational Biology Internship, for 3 units of credit.

Students will need the offer letter spelling out dates of employment, hours to be worked, and wages or stipend (if any). Note that, during the summer, tuition for 03-601R will not be assessed. More details are available in the program handbook, but note the Program Assistant Director will need to be in contact with the student's supervisor at the company to earn credit and a grade.

It is advisable to contact the Assistant Director (Internship and Job Placement) and/or the Assistant Department Head for Graduate Affairs during the fall semester to begin seeking and preparing for an internship (i.e. resumes, cover letters and making contacts).

International students who secure paid internships outside of Carnegie Mellon must register for both 03-601R and Curricular Practical Training (CPT). The Office of International Education (OIE) oversees CPT registration.