Computational and Systems Biology B.S.

College of Letters and Science

Division of Computational and Systems Biology

About the Major

Computational and Systems Biology majors select a coherent integration of courses from one of five designated concentrations: bioinformatics, biological data sciences, biomedical systems, neurosystems, or systems biology. The synergy for all concentrations is integrative systems, information, and computational systems modeling sciences in biology. The focus is primarily quantitative, as mastery of advanced quantitative skills is essential for multidisciplinary understanding. Each concentration emphasizes different systems or modalities, and modeling or other computational approaches. For students interested in broad options for postgraduate studies in life sciences and related areas, including medicine, the systems biology concentration covers the widest spectrum of quantitative systems studies at all levels. The other concentrations are more focused. For example, bioinformatics is more focused on computational aspects of genetics and biology at molecular and cellular levels. Students normally select one, but because the concentrations have substantial methodologic overlap, well-justified combinations are also possible.

The bioinformatics concentration is designed for students interested in computational discovery and management of biological data, primarily genomic, proteomic, or metabolomic data. Bioinformatics emphasizes computational, statistical, and other mathematical approaches for mining, modeling, and analyzing high-throughput biological data and the inherent structure of biological information. Example research problems include finding statistical patterns that reveal genomic or evolutionary or developmental information, studying how regulatory sequences give rise to programs of gene expression, or researching how the genome encodes the capabilities of the human mind.

The biological data sciences concentration addresses a diverse set of biological questions—ranging from medicine, to genomics, physiology, pharmacology, neuroscience, ecology, and evolution—using recent tools and advances in mathematics and computation—specifically machine learning, statistical data sciences, and informatics. Biological data sciences leverages new and developing courses within computational and systems biology and across UCLA, and greatly aids students who aim to go directly into industry—biotech, pharmaceuticals, and more—as well as computational biology graduate school. The concentration has a strong focus and deep integration with life sciences.

The biomedical systems concentration is designed for students interested primarily in medical system studies; the systems aspects of biomedical, surgical, or other biomedical engineering system devices including MEMS or nanoscale system devices; and use of dynamic biosystem modeling for optimizing or developing new clinical diagnostic or therapeutic protocols. Example research problems include feedback biocontrol system model development for imaging-based medical diagnosis and optimal control of therapeutic drug delivery.

The neurosystems concentration is designed for students interested primarily in the nervous system, or quantitative neurophysiology, with emphasis on neural system networks that control behavior at molecular, cellular, and whole-organism levels; neural information and control systems; and systems electrophysiology and neural electronic systems for controlling prostheses. Example research problems include analysis of (real) neural networks in normal and abnormal brain function, design of prosthetic systems for hearing (cochlear implant) and walking (spinal cord stimulation) recovery, and MEMS-based brain-machine interface devices.

The systems biology concentration is designed for students who want to understand biological systems holistically and quantitatively, and pursue research with an emphasis on systems and integrative principles in biology or medicine. The curriculum imparts an understanding of systems biology (often called the new physiology) using dynamical systems modeling, control, computer simulation, and other computational methods—integrated with the biology. For example, at the cellular level, systems biologists integrate proteomic, transcriptomic, and metabolomic information into a more complete systems picture of living organisms. However, the methodologies include single-scale or multiscale modeling for enhancing understanding of regulatory biomechanisms at all levels—molecular, cellular, organ, and/or whole-organism levels—and are prevalent in population and ecosystem studies, as well as systems-level problems in medicine and pharmacology.


Computational and Systems Biology Interdepartmental Program in the General Catalog
Computational and Systems Biology Interdepartmental Program website

Contact Information

Computational and Systems Biology Interdepartmental Program
102 Hershey Hall
Box 951600

Choosing Your Course of Study at UCLA

Making the Right Decision

One of the most important decisions you will make in college is your choice of major — the field of study that represents your principal interest and that will likely contribute to your career goals. Some students select their major at the time they fill out the University’s application for admission, although a far greater number are undecided about their major.

Students in the College of Letters and Science do not need to declare their major in their freshman year. In fact, you can be an “undeclared major” until the end of your sophomore year, which is particularly advantageous if you are not certain of your specific academic goals. It is wise to wait and explore the diversity of subject areas offered at UCLA through taking introductory courses in a variety of disciplines. It would not be unusual for you to become enthusiastic about disciplines previously unfamiliar to you. With careful planning, these courses may also apply toward fulfilling your university and college requirements.

To narrow your choice of study, carefully consider the general college requirements, the description of courses offered in the major, and the departmental requirements for completing the program of study. Look at the books required for each course. Sit in on a few classes and talk with professors during their office hours. Discuss interests and plans with a departmental counselor or faculty adviser, a college counselor, or advisers in the UCLA Career Center.

Certain majors, especially in the arts, engineering, the sciences, and theater, film, or television require early declaration. Some have enrollment quotas and allow application by new majors only during a specified term. Students should check with the departmental adviser for the majors that interest them.

In addition, UCLA undergraduate students are limited to between 208 and 216 quarter units, depending on the college or school, to complete the academic program and fulfill all degree requirements. So, if you wait to declare a major, you should not wait too long. In any case, you must declare your major by the beginning of your junior year (90 quarter units).

When you are ready to declare your major, you should obtain a Petition for Change of Major from your college or school office.