Apr 13, 2024  
USC Catalogue 2020-2021 
USC Catalogue 2020-2021 [ARCHIVED CATALOGUE]

Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (PhD)

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Application deadline: December 15

During the first year, the student’s program is under the direction of an initial qualifying exam committee composed of members of the admissions committee. After passing the screening procedure before the end of the first semester, the student must form a qualifying exam committee consisting of an adviser and four other faculty members, including at least one from another department. Thereafter, the student’s program of studies and dissertation are under the direction of the permanent qualifying exam committee and the dissertation committee.

Screening Procedure

The screening examination should be taken by the end of the second semester in the program. If the student fails the examination, the department, at its discretion, may permit the student to repeat the examination during the next semester. The screening examination consists of written examinations on topics including molecular biology, mathematical probability and statistics, and algorithms.

Course Requirements

The students must complete, with no grade lower than a B, a minimum of 60 units of courses carrying graduate credit and approved by the qualifying exam committee. The required courses include: BISC 542 , BISC 577a , CSCI 570 , MATH 505a , MATH 541a , and MATH 578a /MATH 578b . Students must take at least one biology course in the area of molecular biology, genetics or biochemistry. An additional 6 units of elective courses will be taken from the following list: BISC 502a /BISC 502b , BME 530 , MATH 502a , MATH 505b , MATH 541b , MATH 555a , MATH 650 , CSCI 521 , CSCI 559 , CSCI 567 , CSCI 596 , CSCI 596 , or other graduate level courses in BISC, BME, MATH or CSCI. Students must register for a minimum of 4 units of dissertation research (BISC 794a /BISC 794b ). Students must be registered in BISC 542  (computational section) their first three years in the program (6 semesters). Students are required to enroll in BISC 593  (2 units) during the fall semester of their second year for TA preparation. In addition, international students may be required to take courses in the American Language Institute (ALI).

Transfer of Credit

No transfer of credit will be considered until the screening examination is passed. A maximum of 30 units of graduate work at another institution may be applied toward the course requirements for the PhD A grade of B- (A = 4.0) or lower will not be accepted and, at most, two grades of B will be accepted. A PhD candidate may petition the department for transfer of additional credit, after he or she passes the qualifying examination.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination should be taken within two semesters following successful completion of the screening examination.

The written portion of the qualifying examination consists of a dissertation proposal. This document should include: introduction, statement of the problem, literature survey, methodology, summary of preliminary results, proposed research, references, appendix (including one or two fundamental references).

The oral portion of the qualifying examination consists of presentation of the PhD dissertation proposal. The student must demonstrate research potential.


Following passage of the screening examination and approval of a dissertation topic by the qualifying exam committee, the student begins research toward the dissertation under the supervision of the dissertation committee. The primary requirement of the PhD is an acceptable dissertation based on a substantial amount of original research conducted by the student.

Defense of the Dissertation

The defense of the dissertation is either a defense oral or a final oral. In most cases a defense oral will suffice if approved by the dissertation committee.

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