Systems Biology and Bioinformatics, PhD

BRB 9th Floor, School of Medicine
Phone: 216.368.5961

Degree: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Field of Study: Systems Biology and Bioinformatics

Program Overview

Do you want to convert big data into understandable models that just might change the world? With a graduate degree in systems biology and bioinformatics, you can combine your love of math, statistics, computers and biology to develop computational models with which to provide new insight and understanding of big data, leading to big discoveries in both laboratory and clinical settings.

Data science is the convergence of data engineering, math, statistics, advanced computing, the scientific method and subject-matter expertise. It involves the collection, management and transformation of "big data" into actionable information that can answer some of the world's most pressing problems. Yet there is a distinct need for data science experts who can efficiently interpret data into information that is useful for strategic decision-making. It is the goal of the Systems Biology and Bioinformatics program to produce the scientists that are needed to assist in extracting meaning from the burgeoning biological 'omics field. 

‌The SYBB program offers a multidisciplinary training program personally customized to the student leading to an MS or PhD. The program draws training faculty (currently 38 trainers) from more than 12 departments and 6 schools across the CWRU campus, ensuring students in the program acquire the core competencies needed to succeed in the bioinformatics analysis of biological big data.

The SYBB participating departments and centers include:

  • Biology
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Case Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine
  • Center for Proteomics and Bioinformatics
  • Center for Systems Immunology
  • Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • Genetics and Genome Sciences
  • Mathematics
  • Nutrition
  • Physiology and Biophysics
  • Pharmacology

Program Competencies

The specific academic requirements of the SYBB Program are intended to provide students with a required core curriculum in Systems Biology and a set of electives designed both to assure minimum competencies in Fundamental Core Competencies and equip them for their particular thesis research discipline. Each trainee will be guided in their customized course of study by a mentoring committee to ensure the completion of training in the program competencies as well as maintenance of a focus on molecular systems theory. These competencies include:

  • Evaluation of the scientific discovery process and of the role of bioinformatics in it in detail, including data generation steps and understanding biology
  • Application of computational and statistical methods appropriate to solve a given scientific problem
  • Construction of software systems of varying complexity based on design and development principles
  • Effective teamwork to accomplish a common scientific goal
  • Building knowledge in local and global impact of bioinformatics and systems biology on individuals, organizations, and society
  • Effective communication of bioinformatics and systems biology problems to a range of audiences, including, but not limited to, other bioinformatics professionals.


Students are admitted to this PhD program through the Biomedical Sciences Training Program (BSTP) or the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP).

Biomedical Sciences Training Program (BSTP)

The BSTP offers a common entry point to most of the School of Medicine's biomedical PhD programs. BSTP students can choose among research mentors in many different PhD programs in the School of Medicine.

Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP)

Students in the MSTP earn the dual MD/PhD degree. MSTP students also have the choice of mentors in many different PhD programs. The admission requirements of those programs can be viewed on their pages in the Bulletin. Program requirements for the dual can be found on the Medical Scientist Training Program, PhD/Medicine, MD program page.

PhD Policies

For PhD policies and procedures, please review the School of Graduate Studies section of the General Bulletin.