Undergraduate Bioinformatics Minor

Bioinformatics is an important interdisciplinary research area with tremendous opportunity in graduate training and industry employment. Beginning in Fall 2012, undergraduates in any UCLA Major can can obtain a Bioinformatics Minor. Since then, approximately 80 students have joined the minor program, representing majors in Computer Science; Chemistry; Molecular, Cell, & Developmental Biology; Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; and Computational and Systems Biology.

Scope and Objectives

The minor in Bioinformatics allows students to develop an integrated understanding of contemporary genomic-scale research. Through a comprehensive inventory of courses, the minor in Bioinformatics provides a solid foundation in, and familiarity with, active research problems at the interface of computer science, biology, and mathematics.

Students undertaking the Bioinformatics Minor explore the genetic determinants of complex human disease, including psychiatric diseases and cancer, the development of computational methods for the analysis of expression data and the epigenome, and the study of population genetics and evolution.

Through completing the Bioinformatics Minor, students will be able to:

  • undertake advanced computer programming tasks
  • understand issues fundamental to the inherent structure of biological information
  • develop computational methods to analyze biological data
  • engage in active research with a strong and growing group of faculty
  • competitively apply to graduate programs in Bioinformatics
  • competitively enter the biotechnology industry

Over 45 faculty specializing in computational and experimental biology are associated with the Bioinformatics Minor, spanning biology, mathematics, engineering, and medicine. With courses from over 12 departments, the minor encompasses the breadth of the growing bioinformatics field.

Course Requirements Overview

To obtain a minor in bioinformatics, students first complete background lower division courses in programming, biology and mathematics.  Next, they build on this foundation with a Bioinformatics gateway seminar course and complete the Bioinformatics core curriculum, an upper division course on Algorithms, and one upper division elective course. Students are strongly encouraged to participate in undergraduate research as early as possible in one of the many research groups affiliated with UCLA Bioinformatics.

Spring 2016 Information Session slides:

Worksheet of required courses:

Flowchart of course requisites:

Bioinformatics Lower Division Required Courses
Three required courses which are prerequisites for upper division courses

  • Advanced Programming – PIC 10C or CS 32
  • Linear Algebra and Applications – Math 33A
  • Introduction to Molecular Biology – Life Sciences 3 and 23L (may submit a petition to waive LS 23L and take LS 7 for LS 3.  Submit petition to 6426 Boelter Hall)

Gateway Course
Students are required to take the two-unit gateway seminar course as early as possible.

CS 184 “Introduction to Computational Systems Biology” – Survey course designed to introduce students to computational and systems modeling and computation in biology and medicine, providing motivation, flavor, culture, and cutting-edge contributions in computational biosciences and aiming for more informed basis for focused studies by students with computational and systems biology interests. Presentations by individual UCLA researchers discussing their active computational and systems biology research.

Bioinformatics Core Curriculum
Students are required to take two of the three core Bioinformatics courses.  However, we strongly recommend that students in the Bioinformatics Minor take all three.

  • Computer Science CM 121 “Introduction to Bioinformatics” – Introduction to bioinformatics and methodologies, with emphasis on concepts and inventing new computational and statistical techniques to analyze biological data. Focus on sequence analysis and alignment algorithms.
  • Computer Science CM 122 “Algorithms in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology” – Development and application of computational approaches to biological questions, with focus on formulating interdisciplinary problems as computational problems and then solving these problems using algorithmic techniques. Computational techniques include those from statistics and computer science.
  • Computer Science CM 124 “Computational Genetics” – Introduction to computational analysis of genetic variation and computational interdisciplinary research in genetics. Topics include introduction to genetics, identification of genes involved in disease, inferring human population history, technologies for obtaining genetic information, and genetic sequencing. Focus on formulating interdisciplinary problems as computational problems and then solving those problems using computational techniques from statistics and computer science.

Algorithms Course
In addition, students are required to take an upper division algorithms course, Computer Science 180, or Mathematics 182. This course provides an introduction to the design and analysis of algorithms.

Bioinformatics Upper Division Electives
Students take an elective course from a list of available courses:

  • Computational and Systems Biology CM187 – “Research Communication in Computational and System Biology”
  • Computer Science 170A – “Mathematical Modeling and Methods for Computer Science”
  • Computer Science CM121 – “Introduction to Bioinformatics”
  • Computer Science CM122 – “Algorithms in Bioinformatics and Systems Biology”
  • Computer Science CM124 – “Computational Genetics”
  • Computer Science/Computational and Systems Biology CM186 – “Computational Systems Biology: Modeling and Simulation of Biological Systems”
  • Ecology and Evolution 135 – “Population Genetics”
  • Electrical Engineering 102 – “Systems and Signals”
  • Electrical Engineering 141 – “Principles of Feedback Control”
  • Human Genetics C144 – “Genomic Technologies”
  • Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology 144 – “Molecular Biology”
  • Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology 172 – “Genomics and Bioinformatics”
  • Physiological Sciences 125 – “Molecular Systems Biology”
  • Statistics 100A OR 100B – “Introduction to Mathematical Statistics” OR Civil and Environmental Engineering 110 – “Introduction to Probability and Statistics for Engineers” OR Electrical Engineering 131A – “Probability and Statistics OR Mathematics 170A – Probability Theory”

Research Opportunities

In addition, students with a Bioinformatics Minor may obtain credits for research with 8 units of Computer Science 194/199 or Bioinformatics 194/199, which can be used as additional electives to complete Minor requirements.

Minor Administration

The UCLA Bioinformatics Minor is hosted in the UCLA Department of Computer Science and chaired by Professor Eleazar Eskin. Advising is performed by HSSEAS Advisors and the Department of Computer Science.

Detailed Program Requirements (from the UCLA Catalog)

To enter the minor, students must be (1) in good academic standing (2.0 grade point average, or better), (2) have completed 2 of the 3 lower division requirements with a minimum grade of C, and (3) file a petition in the Office of Academic and Student Affairs of the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, 6426 Boelter Hall. See http://www.seasoasa.ucla.edu/change-of-major/ for details on the process of changing Major/Minor.

Required Lower Division Courses (14 units minimum): Computer Science 32 or Program in Computing 10C, Life Sciences 3, 23L, Mathematics 33A.

Required Upper Division Courses (18 units minimum): Computer Science 180 (or Mathematics 182), M184, and three courses selected from Civil and Environmental Engineering 110, Computer Science CM121, CM122, CM124, 170A, CM186, CM187, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 135, Electrical Engineering 102, 131A, 141, Human Genetics C144, Mathematics 170A, Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology 144, 172, Physiological Science 125, Statistics 100A, 100B. At least two of the courses must be selected from Computer Science CM121, CM122, and CM124. Eight units of either Bioinformatics 199 or Computer Science 194 or 199 may be applied as an elective by petition.

Students are strongly encouraged to take Computational and Systems Biology M184 as early as possible to obtain an overview of computational biology.

If students apply any of Civil and Environmental Engineering 110, Electrical Engineering 131A, Mathematics 170A, or Statistics 100A toward major requirements or another minor, then no other course from that set may be applied toward the minor requirements.

A minimum of 20 units applied toward the minor requirements must be in addition to units applied toward major requirements or another minor.

All minor courses must be taken for a letter grade (unless not offered on that grading basis), and students must have a minimum grade of C- in each and an overall C (2.0) grade-point average in all courses taken for the minor. Successful completion of the minor is indicated on the transcript and diploma.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why would I want to minor in Bioinformatics?
There are several great reasons to minor in Bioinformatics at UCLA. If you are considering a career in computational biology, the minor program will provide an excellent introduction to core concepts in the field while offering a hands-on learning experience in wet and dry labs. If you are a Life Sciences major and want to focus your career on coding, completion of the minor program will ensure you graduate with competent programming skills. Regardless of your major or long-term career objectives, the coursework and research experiences offered by the minor program will help you decide future directions and provide you with a competitive edge in negotiating the job market or graduate school application process.

Is the Bioinformatics minor open to any undergraduate major?
Yes, as long as you are able to complete all program requirements in addition to your major requirements.

Are the eight units of research required in order to complete the Bioinformatics minor?
No, but students in the minor program are encouraged to supplement coursework with hands-on research experience.

How does the research scheduling work? How do I find a lab to join? How many hours do I commit to?
Research units are arranged between students and affiliated faculty, and students may receive up to 8 units credit toward the minor with enrollment in Computer Science 194/199 or Bioinformatics 194/199. Learn more about available research projects in bioinformatics at UCLA: http://bioinformatics.ucla.edu/undergraduate-research/.

What do Bioinformatics minors go on to do after college?
Many UCLA undergraduates who completed the Bioinformatics minor work in industry and academia. At present, there is a rapidly growing industry around next-generation sequencing. Recent UCLA Bioinformatics alumni have gained admittance to graduate programs in computational biology at universities such as Harvard and Princeton.

Where can I get current updates about the Bioinformatics minor?
Visit the Bioinformatics website: http://bioinformatics.ucla.edu/.

What is the preparation for the minor?
1) CS 32 or Pic 10C
2) LS 3 and 23L (or LS 7A by petition, see below)
3) Math 33A

What about the Life Science 7 Series?
At this time, we will be accepting petitions for LS 7A for LS 3 and 23L.  You may also petition to waive LS 23L if you do not need the units to the requirement of 20 units being unique and counting to the minor only. Petition form may be found here: http://www.seasoasa.ucla.edu/petition-process/

Forms are also available at 6426 Boetler Hall. Submit the completed petition to 6426 Boetler Hall.

When can I add the minor?
Any student in any major at UCLA may add a Bioinformatics minor once they have completed the minimum eligibility (2 of the 3 preparation requirements with C’s or better).  Letters and Science students with 150 units or more must meet with College Academic Counseling in Murphy Hall first.

How do I add the minor?
Turn in the Undergraduate Program Change petition and attach a short statement about why you want to add the minor.  Turn it in at Boelter Hall 6426.  If you are turning it in during week 6 and 7 please notify the front desk that it is a Bioinformatics request.  Otherwise your petition may get put with our other change of major requests for processing and it will delay processing.

When are the minor courses offered?
CS proposed offerings
Math proposed offerings
EE proposed offerings

For other department courses, you will need to check with that home department.

Can I meet with a Counselor?
Yes.  We have drop in hours on Wednesday mornings from 9-11:30am and Thursday afternoons from 1-4pm. For more information: http://www.seasoasa.ucla.edu/counselors.

How do I enroll in an Engineering course?
If you are a declared minor, you should be within the restrictions and able to add your required courses.  If you have not actually processed the paperwork yet you will not be able to add yourself.

Historically we’ve been able to accommodate all bioinformatics requests.

How do I enroll in one of my required courses when it is listed as CLOSED with an Enrollment of 0/0?
It is pretty common to see a closed section with no enrollment or very low enrollment like 5 seats, check to see if it is an “M” course, e.g. Com Sci CM122, which is the same course as CHEM CM160B.  The M indicates that the course is listed in multiple departments.  Go to the course info to see what other departments off the course (it may be numbered differently) and check the seats.  It doesn’t matter if you enroll in Computer Science or Chemistry in this example.  It is the same course with the same credit.  Enroll where there is room.

How do I track my requirements?
Use the worksheet linked at the top of this page to track your requirements.

My DPR is not reflecting the course I took, how do I fix that? (Only applicable to students admitted prior to Fall 2012)
Don’t use the DPR to look at your Bioinformatics requirements.  It does not pick up credit correctly and may not be checking cross listed courses.  Unfortunately, the only way to track is manually with a worksheet.

If you were admitted in Fall 2012 or later, you can use your Degree Audit Report or DARS.  If you see something applying incorrectly, please send an email to cs.ugrads@seas.ucla.edu with your UID and the issue.

If I take LS30A and 30B, can I enroll in Math 33A?
No.  The requisite for Math 33A is Math 3B, 31A or 32A with a grade of C- or better.

MyUCLA is telling me I don’t meet the requisites, what do I do?
The system may not be reading your AP or transfer credit correctly.  Just follow the instructions here to be enrolled: http://www.seasoasa.ucla.edu/faqs-undergraduate-students/#computer-science  and indicate that this is for Bioinformatics.  During peak enrollment, we are getting dozens of enrollment requests, and it helps to know what minor you are requesting help with.