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Learn Science By Doing Science

The way we teach our courses is quite different from the classroom environment you might be used to: most of our courses are primarily project-oriented and hands-on, encouraging students to solve problems and become independent learners. In our courses, you'll have opportunities to discover your own virus, to write and defend a research proposal describing your own idea, examine the diversity of bacteria in your mouth, and design your own bioinformatics research project to learn something new about influenza.


Students wishing to pursue the bioinformatics major must apply for admission into the program.

New and transfer students
High school seniors as well as students transferring to VCU should follow the regular VCU admissions process and deadlines, being sure to indicate clearly in their application that they wish to apply to the bioinformatics program.

Current students
Continuing VCU students wishing to apply to the program should meet with Herschell Emery, Ph.D., the bioinformatics academic adviser and director of undergraduate curricula. Find him in Grace E. Harris Hall, Room 3116b, or contact him at (804) 828-0559 or hsemery@vcu.edu.

Molecular Biology Meets Computer Science!

The Bachelor of Science in Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary training program focused on the integration of molecular biology with computer science. Undergraduate students pursuing a bioinformatics degree typically enjoy biology as well as utilizing computers and find the major is a good way to combine both interests. If you are pre-med and wondering if Bioinformatics is a good fit, rest assured this program is appropriate for students with post-graduation interests in research and industry as well as health care.

What do our graduates do after their BS degree? ~50% go to graduate school, ~25% attend medical school and ~25% obtain employment.


The bioinformatics curriculum blends a variety of biology, math, chemistry and computer science courses with a core of bioinformatics courses. Students also take VCU Life Sciences general education requirements. Students learn to read scientific papers, bioinformatics programming, algorithms, and research techniques through core bioinformatics courses. Students choose a track with requirements and electives to strengthen their interest area toward biology, computer science and/or math. 

Program tracks

Biological/genomic track
Students in this track are primarily motivated by biology and have chosen the bioinformatics major to increase their knowledge of the bioinformatics approach. The track-specific course work focuses on upper-level biology topics such as advanced molecular biology and biochemistry. Students in this track often also complete the requirements for a minor in biology or chemistry.

Computational track
While all of our students learn to use computer programming to answer a biological question, students in this track embrace the most computational approaches. The track-specific course work features upper-level computer science courses designed to improve students’ programming skills and understanding of algorithms. Students in this track often also complete the requirements for a minor in computer science.

Quantitative/statistical track
Students in this track enjoy problem-solving using math and statistics. The track-specific course work features mathematical and statistical theory and methods courses to deepen students’ knowledge of quantitative modeling and analysis. Students in this track often also complete the requirements for a minor in math.

Accelerated Bachelor's to Master's degree in Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics undergaduate students can apply to our Accelerated Bachelor's to Master's program in their junior or senior year, to complete an efficient combined BS/MS curriculum. Through this program, a student can begin taking graduate courses as an advanced undergraduate. Accelerating students can count 12 credits of coursework (at the 500- and 600-level) towards the degree requirements of both the B.S. and M.S. degrees in Bioinformatics, saving  tuition and time while gaining a masters degree.

Program goals

  1. Graduates will have acquired fundamental skills in oral and written communication, critical thinking, information fluency and quantitative literacy, placed within the context of bioinformatics and science in general.
  2. Graduates will have acquired fundamental knowledge in the basic scientific disciplines of biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, computer science and statistics.
  3. Graduates will be able to use the process of science to good effect, to formulate a significant problem, to find and critically build upon the work of others in multiple fields, to use or devise appropriate tools (including those of bioinformatics) to address the problem, and, finally, to communicate their results in a meaningful way to the world.

Learning outcomes

Graduates will have demonstrated:

  1. The ability to present scientific results, both orally and in writing, in a way that makes clear to an appropriate target audience the distinction between what is known (and how) and what is merely suspected and between an observation and a conclusion, in a way that tells a compelling story.
  2. Fundamental knowledge of the basic concepts of biology (particularly molecular biology), the physical sciences, mathematics, statistics and computational science, and the ability to apply that knowledge within the context of bioinformatics.
  3. An ability to identify and analyze bioinformatics problems and strategies to solve said problems.
  4. An appropriate level of technical knowledge and ability necessary to address a scientific problem by exploiting biological software and datasets and creating simple bioinformatics tools.
  5. An ability to identify and access relevant scientific literature and draw from it in a meaningful and critical manner.

For more details on core courses, review our curriculum map linking courses to learning outcomes.

Virginia Commonwealth University | VCU Life Sciences | Center for the Study of Biological Complexity
Grace E. Harris Hall, Room 3102 | P.O. Box 842537 | Richmond, Virginia 23284 | Phone: (804) 827-0026
Updated: Edit | Created by VCU University Relations