Biomolecular Engineering and Bioinformatics
Biomolecular Engineering and Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary program that combines expertise from biology, mathematics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering to train students and develop technologies to address major problems at the forefront of biomedical and bio-industrial research. The program builds upon the research and academic strengths of the faculty in the Biomolecular Engineering Department, as well as many other departments.
The BME concentration is designed for students interested in protein engineering, stem cell engineering, and synthetic biology. The emphasis is on designing biomolecules (DNA, RNA, proteins) and cells for particular functions, and the underlying sciences are biochemistry and cell biology.
The BINF concentration combines mathematics, science, and engineering to explore and understand biological data from high-throughput experiments, such as genome sequencing, gene-expression chips, and proteomics experiments.
Study and Research Opportunities
- There are two concentrations in the major: biomolecular engineering (wet lab) and bioinformatics (dry lab).
- There is a minor in bioinformatics, suitable for students majoring in the life sciences.
- All major students have a 3-quarter capstone experience, which can be an individual thesis, an intensive group engineering project, or a series of project-intensive graduate bioinformatics courses.
- One of the capstone options is the international iGEM synthetic biology competition, which UCSC sends a team to every year.
- Students are encouraged to participate in faculty research early (starting in their third year or sooner), particularly if they intend to do a senior thesis.
Information for First-Year Students (Freshmen)
Please see the current UC Santa Cruz General Catalog for a full description of the BSOE admissions policy.
Freshman Applicants: Once at UCSC, students will be accepted into the major based on grade-point average in courses required for the major, after 50 units (~10 courses) have been completed.
High School Preparation
It is recommended that high school students applying to the BSOE have completed four years of mathematics and three years of science in high school, if possible one year each of chemistry, physics, and biology. Comparable college mathematics and science courses completed at other institutions may be accepted in place of high school preparation.
Information for Transfers
Transfer students need to have completed eight transferable courses that count toward the major, with a GPA in those courses of 2.8 or better. However, students are recommended to complete at least ten transferable courses prior to transfer, as they may otherwise have difficulty finishing in a timely fashion.
Students may satisfy the bioethics requirement if they have completed a suitable ethics course at their community college, even if the course does not articulate to BME 80G.
Students in Biomolecular Engineering and Bioinformatics can look forward to careers in academia, the information and biotechnology industries, public health, or medical sciences.
Unlike other engineering fields, but like life sciences, biomolecular engineers generally need to get Ph.Ds to get cutting-edge research and design jobs.
Those in bioinformatics can get good-paying jobs with just a B.S., though an M.S. degree offers the most potential for rapid advancement.
UCSC is attempting to set up exchange programs with Danish Technical University and Aarhus University for bioinformatics and is exploring other options for education abroad.
Awards, Honors, and Recognitions
The Pew Charitable Trusts has named Angela Brooks, assistant professor of biomolecular engineering at UC Santa Cruz, a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. Brooks will receive a $300,000 award over four years to support her research on how mutations associated with cancer cause changes in gene expression.
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