Carnegie Mellon University

Program Description

The M.S. in Computational Biology program has a low student-to-faculty ratio to ensure that each student receives individual attention and advising. Together with the M.S. Program Advising Committee, each students designs a unique schedule of research and coursework to address specific needs and goals. Students may attend the Departmental of Biological Sciences' Research Seminar and participate in the weekly Graduate Research Seminar (Journal Club), series that comprise a variety of presentations by outsides scientists, Carnegie Mellon faculty and students, permitting a penetrating look at varied scientific disciplines and contemporary investigative approaches. Students also attend various informal seminars whose topics range from scientific integrity and ethics to professional development.

Please note that applications are managed by the School of Computer Science in order to allow simultaneous application to other programs in related fields, but the academic home of the program is Mellon College of Science because it is a shared program so some functions (academics) are primarily under the Department of Biological Sciences.


Matriculating students arrive at the Carnegie Mellon campus in August to attend the University-wide orientation. The week before classes start, the Department of Biological Sciences and Ray and Stephanie Lane Computational Biology Department holds their orientations, which includes research presentations, course advising, building and campus tours, safety training and ethics discussions.


The typical semester-long course at CMU consists of 9-12 units. Full-time student status requires enrollment at least 36 units of coursework per semester. The minimum number of units required for the MSCB degree certification for students starting in fall 2019 is 144. These courses are primarily in the Computational Biology Department (course codes beginning with 02-) and the Biological Sciences Department (course codes beginning with 03-) and are divided over the following categories:

Foundation courses
Professional Issues in Computational Biology
Breadth courses
Depth courses

For a full description of the coursework, visit the Curriculum page.


Each semester, all students are encouraged to and attend some or all of the weekly Department of Biological Sciences Research Seminars and 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).


Students who are interested in research for credit may take 03-700 or 02-700 (M.S. Thesis Research). The number of credits for this course will be determined by the faculty mentor. In order for more than 12 units of research to count toward total units for graduation, the student must write and defend a Masters thesis. Students should contact faculty directly to learn about available research opportunities. It is strongly advised that students wait until their second semester to begin research. M.S. students are not eligible for research assistantships, but students can work or do research for an hourly pay within the limitations of number of hours and pay range. Students can not get course credit and an hourly wage for the same work (refer to MSCB Student Handbook).


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.

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. 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.

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).

Employment During the Academic Year

Students are allowed to work for wages on projects separate from their research-for-credit projects (03-700 & 02-700), provided academic progress is not compromised. For students who desire to earn wages, there are limited employment opportunities in faculty research groups; students are responsible for seeking out such opportunities. It is strongly advised that students wait until their second semester to begin work.

The number of hours worked will not exceed 12 hours per week; the pay scale will ordinarily range from $10 to $16 per hour.