The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia recently gave final approval for Virginia Tech's proposed bachelor of science degree program in systems biology.

The new program, based in the College of Science's Academy of Integrated Science, will be available to undergraduate students beginning in 2016 spring semester.

The new major is among several new bachelor's degree programs recently approved by SCHEV. The nanoscience and computational modeling and data analytics bachelor’s degree programs were offered for the first time this spring. The bachelor’s degree program in neuroscience will begin this fall.

“The new systems biology degree program continues the momentum started in 2011 when the College of Science introduced the Integrated Science Curriculum, creating a fully interdisciplinary approach to science by incorporating physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, and statistics in a single four-semester course of study,” noted Lay Nam Chang, dean of the College of Science.

The systems biology degree program involves the study of the biological, chemical, and physical processes within living organisms to produce life-supporting behaviors that are not easily reducible to the properties of the individual components. The program will focus on the powerful, emerging paradigm of molecular systems biology such as quantitative, computational, and systems-level approaches that connect the biochemical and genetic properties of individual macromolecules with the physiological behavior of living cells and tissues.

Systems biology is an active area of research that is a promising area for technological and biomedical innovations, and the program will bridge the molecular/cellular divide, training students for employment or graduate education in an emerging field. 

The new program will be led by John Tyson, University Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences, an  expert in systems biology who conducts research in computational cell biology, cell cycle regulation, and signal transduction networks.

“We have taken several years to carefully develop these new interdisciplinary programs to provide not only an excellent education, but an education that provides training to help our graduates earn excellent jobs when they leave Virginia Tech,” said J.P. Morgan, professor of statistics and director of the Academy of Integrated Science. Students who pursue this degree will be better prepared for careers in biomedicine, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and agricultural production.

“It has taken teams of highly motivated Virginia Tech faculty several years to craft these new interdisciplinary programs," added Morgan. "The result is degree training at four of the most exciting frontiers in science, providing a depth and breadth of education that promises to place our graduates among the top job market competitors in these burgeoning new fields.”

Students interested in the systems biology program can email an academic advisor in the Academy of Integrated Science or call 540-231-2551.