April 30, 2001
Engineering school offers new major in bioinformatics
By Tim Stephens
The Baskin School of Engineering has launched a new major in bioinformatics leading
to a bachelor of science (B.S.) degree. The school will begin admitting students
to the new major in fall 2001.
Bioinformatics, also called computational biology, is an interdisciplinary field
that brings the power of advanced computational techniques to bear on complex problems
in molecular biology. UCSC has developed one of the top bioinformatics research
programs in the country under the leadership of David Haussler, professor of computer
science and director of the Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering.
The important contributions of Haussler's group to the Human Genome Project provide
a good example of the growing role for bioinformatics in biological and biomedical
research. Haussler's team assembled a draft sequence of the human genome from fragmented
data, made it available on the web, and continues to work on the analysis of the
genome. UCSC also has one of the top groups in the area of protein-structure prediction,
led by associate professor of computer engineering Kevin Karplus.
Researchers in biology and biochemistry are increasingly aware of the need for expertise
in bioinformatics, and students have begun to seek cross-disciplinary training, Karplus
"We regularly work with biology and chemistry undergraduates to plan double
majors as training for this exciting field," said Karplus, who will serve as
the undergraduate director for the bioinformatics program.
The curriculum for the major includes courses in mathematics, computer science, computer
engineering, chemistry, biology, biochemistry, and bioethics. There are also two
core courses in bioinformatics. Karplus and associate professor of computer engineering
Richard Hughey developed the curriculum with oversight from Haussler and Manuel Ares,
professor and chair of molecular, cell, and developmental biology.
The new degree will be administered initially by the Computer Engineering Department.
The engineering school's long-range plan calls for the establishment of a Biomolecular
Engineering Department, which will then assume responsibility for the bioinformatics
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