Learn how to translate biological 'big data' into relevant knowledge
The Bachelor of Science in Bioinformatics engages you in an interdisciplinary field that enables students to make sense out of the wave of ‘big data’ that is key to personalized medicine and many areas of biological science.
This is a research-intensive program that gives you the skills and theoretical knowledge necessary to make meaningful contributions early on. Throughout the program, students will engage in research-based courses as well as a student-faculty research group. The goal of these focused learning groups is for students to produce and present independent professional-level work. Disciplines are approached and examined from a perspective that illuminates biological processes at a systems-level. Computer science techniques such as pattern matching, machine learning algorithms, microarray statistical analysis and next-generation gene sequence data are also explored.
Major Requirements: The BS in Bioinformatics requires 72 hours of major courses, which include a combination of computer science, computational biology, mathematics/statistics and chemistry.
Electives: Students complete 11-12 hours of required electives from BIOL, COSC, CHEM, and MATH (at least 5-6 3000+)
General Education Requirements: 56 hours of general education courses are required over the course of four years in addition to major courses and electives.
View and download the full degree plan for the Bioinformatics major (PDF).
A few examples of courses students in this major take:
- Mathematical Modeling in Biology – An introduction to ordinary differential equations and their applications to biology. Topics include first-order differential equations, first-order systems, linear systems, nonlinear systems, forcing and resonance, numerical methods, and dynamical systems, as time permits. Biological modeling and examples drawn from research articles in biology will be incorporated throughout the course.
- Bioinformatics – Focuses on the development and application of computational approaches to ask and answer biological questions. Material will be drawn from specific, relevant biological problems including biological sequence analysis, genome sequencing and assembly, biological pattern recognition, analysis of DNA microarray data, and biological networks.
- Biological Programming – Taught in the context of biological research, this course introduces students to the principles and tools necessary to manipulate and analyze biological data. With an emphasis on
data acquisition and analysis, topics may include computational techniques used in the study of genomes and proteomes, ecological data analysis and mathematical modeling of biological systems.
Our Faculty and Student Support Services
I teach based on my understanding of how we all learn new information through the context of compelling questions and a need-to-know basis. I find that this approach builds my students’ interest, motivation and ability to learn new material from numerous sources. It also facilitates my students’ transitions into successful professional careers as well as continuing studies in graduate school.
– Charles Hauser, Associate Professor of Bioinformatics
Student Support Services
Along with personal attention and mentorship from their professors, our students have access to offices and programs outside of the classroom that support their success. We encourage students to take advantage these resources that help them thrive and excel:
- Academic counseling and advising
- Supplemental instruction and tutoring
- Career preparation and advising
- Writing Center consultation
- Health and wellness counseling
- Student disability support
Outside the Classroom
Students majoring in Bioinformatics can explore career paths and practical application of their studies through research and interactions with the greater Austin community.
Jacquelyn Turcinovic ‘18 and Dr. Charles Hauser investigated the composition of fungal communities associated with root microbiomes of eight native plants within Wild Basin Creative Research Center (Schizachyrium scoparium, Arbutus xalapensis, Muhlenbergia reverchonii, Nolina lindheimeriana, Prosopis glandulosa, Yucca rupicola, Juniperus ashei, and Carex planostachys). The results to date indicate endosphere fractions of five of the eight plants appear enriched for Ascomycota; this enrichment was not restricted to monocots or eudicots. The fungi identified within the root (endosphere) is clearly distinguishable from fungi found outside the root (rhizosphere), thus potentially identifying “within-plant” from “outside-plant” fungal populations.  While these results are preliminary, they do support the hypothesis that plants are recruiting particular fungal systems to their root systems, ostensibly to facilitate plant uptake of critical nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen, promote plant growth, and both mediate protection from and sensitivity to pathogens.
Caley Thomasson ‘18 and Dr. Charles Hauser working with scientists at the Knipling Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory in Kerrville Tx, are employing a bioinformatic approach to identify potential vaccine targets against the southern cattle tick from a variety of assembled Rhipicephalus microplus sequences. Potential tick peptides were predicted and compared to human, fruit fly and cattle proteomes to identify proteins unique to ticks. These proteins would serve as possible targets in the development of a vaccine to combat the re-emergence of the Rhipicephalus microplus in the United States cattle industry.
Chelsey Wildenborg ’17 worked on a project investigating potential cell-toxicity due to a nanoparticle exposure using the unicellular green alga model organism Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Chelsey trained a machine learning algorithm (MLSeq) using RNASeq data from control and treated cells and using a random forest method was able to successfully classify unknown samples.
Publications and Conferences
- A total of 38 St. Edward’s students are co-authors on 2 papers published based on research completed as a part of the Genomics and Research Explorations in Genomics courses taught by Professor Charles Hauser in collaboration with Dr. Sarah Elgin and the Genomics Education Alliance (GEP). Both papers were published in the journal G3: Genes | Genomics | Genetics.
Texas Academy of Sciences
- Jacquelyn Turcinovich ’18 was awarded a ‘best poster presentation’ award for her work, “Effects of the fungal microbiome on phosphorus sensitivity in the common bean, Phaseolus vulgaris L.”, 2016
- Joe Dylan Sosa was awarded a best poster award, for his work titled, “Analysis of fungal and bacterial root microbiomes of C. planostachys (Cyperaceae)”. 2015.
Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS)
- Jacquelyn Ileana Turcinovic, was awarded best oral presentation for her work, “Network and community analyses of fungal microbiomes at Wild Basin” (2015)
Access to Austin's Science and Tech Scene
- The Society for Computational Biology led by Joe Dylan Sosa and Isavanna Reyes, organized a trip to the local bioinformatics company, Asuragen (Sp17). Dr. Jessica Larson and several bioinformatics research scientists, met with students and discussed their career paths, career opportunities, and provided a tour of the facility. Dylan’s comment was, “This is an awesome opportunity to learn more about both the industry side of bioinformatics as well as a local biotech company”.
Students have been successful in competing for prestigious Research Experience for Undergraduates (REUs) opportunities that immerse students in ongoing research projects. Our students have recently carried out research at:
- Jacquelyn Turcinovic ‘18, BRITE REU, Boston University
- James Stewart ’17, Plant Genomics Summer Research Program, Michigan State University
- Maria Cardenas ‘16, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, SMART PREP Program, Baylor College of Medicine
- Isavanna Reyes ‘17, HHMI Exceptional Research Opportunities Program
- Dylan Sosa ’17, Genomic Research: Undergraduate Scholar Program, Genome Institute, Washington University in St. Louis
Research and Field Experience Course
The Bioinformatics Curriculum is centered on project-based learning, examples include:
- Since 2005, students enrolled in Genomics have engaged in a national Course Based Undergraduate Research Project (CURE) organized by Dr. Sarah Elgin and the Genomics Education Partnership (GEP). This collaboration has led to 2 scientific publications with 38 St. Edward’s students as co-authors.
- Bioinformatics is a project-based course in which students apply their programming skills (Python) to a variety of biological problem, set such as: sequence alignment, hidden markov models, phylogenetic profiles and RNA-Seq analyses.
- A collaboration between Dr. Michael Kart (CS) and Dr. Hauser (BINF) resulted in a pair of team-taught courses in which students isolated, sequenced and characterized phages from soil samples collected in the Austin area. These pair of courses were organized by the HHMI - Science Education Alliance (SEA) and resulted in the publication of 2 phage genomes.
Professionals with a background in bioinformatics are in high demand in both academia and the private industry. Graduates of the Bioinformatics program are prepared for careers in the field of genomics — in projects such as the Human Genome Project — as well as related fields.
Our graduates have entered the field in a wide range of roles. Here's what they are doing:
- Senior Business Analyst
- Ph.D. in Computational Biology, Washington University
- Bioinformatics Scientist
- M.D. University of North Texas
- Account Manager of public research company
- PhD Candidate at MD Anderson Cancer Center
- Ph.D. Candidate, Computer Science, University California Riverside
- Master Candidate, Bioinformatics, St. Louis University
Read about our successful alumni. See what they have to say about life after St. Edward’s.
Big Dreams, Bright Futures
James Stewart '17 examined bacteria and fungi in soil, applied his passion for analytical thinking to the debate over climate change, and wrote computer programs to analyze plant DNA during his student experience as a Bioinformatics major at St. Edward's. Read more about what it's like to earn a STEM degree at Austin's premier private liberal arts university.