Customizing bioinformatics graduate programs for diversified student backgrounds

Huanmei Wu, Oindrila Raha, Jian Zhang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations


For graduate programs, usually, the curricula are developed based on the generic learning outcomes of the matching undergraduate programs. However, most graduate programs have diversified students from various backgrounds with undergraduate degrees from an assortment of majors. Even for graduate students coming from the same undergraduate majors, they might come from different countries with differing undergraduate learning outcomes. It is even more challenging for graduate programs where there are no corresponding undergraduate programs. The graduate program curriculum should be customized based on the backgrounds of special student groups. This paper will describe the redesign of our professional Bioinformatics MS program for incoming domestic and international students with diverse backgrounds. The MS students in Bioinformatics program may have a previous degree in biotechnology, computer science, biology, computer engineering, electrical engineering, biomedical engineering, or other science and engineering fields. Thus, it is of great significance to categorize the program specific competencies and student learning outcomes from their previous study. It will help to customize the student specific plan of study in the Bioinformatics MS program so that they can complete the graduate study with the job-ready skills. For example, detailed studies have been carried out for the Bioinformatics related programs in India, where a substantial population of our Bioinformatics MS students comes from. In India, Bioinformatics is a growing subject and has emerged as an independent program from biomedical engineering and biotechnology. The Bioinformatics in India is taught at in all different degree levels: Bachelors, Masters, PhD, and certificates. Graduate students from India who are familiar with the Indian education system have helped to compare and contrast the various Bioinformatics related degree programs, including both Bioinformatics and Biotechnology degree programs of BS, MS, B. Tech. (Bachelor of Technology), M.Tech. (Master of Technology), M.Phil (Master of Philosophy), PhD, and integrated (such as BS+MS or MS+PhD) programs. The corresponding program competencies and the student learning outcomes are tabulated and compared. The job market in India and the USA are also analyzed. The information has been used to redesign our MS Bioinformatics program, including the alternative prerequisites, the different sequences of courses, and the diverse plans of study for students with various backgrounds. For example, some existing 3-credit introductory courses (such as Programming in Bioinformatics) are re-designed into various 1-credit common course modules (such as Programming in R, or Python, or Perl). Students are provided with more flexibility to select specific course modules based on their backgrounds and future career interests. New course modules have also been developed based on the job market needs, such as big data analysis for Bioinformatics. These student-oriented and career-ready customization of graduate programs will better serve our expanded student groups and provide a better workforce for the job market.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFIE 2016 - Frontiers in Education 2016
Subtitle of host publicationThe Crossroads of Engineering and Business
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781509017904
StatePublished - Nov 28 2016
Event46th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2016 - Erie, United States
Duration: Oct 12 2016Oct 15 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
ISSN (Print)1539-4565


Other46th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2016
CountryUnited States


  • Bioinformatics Curricula
  • International Students
  • Student-oriented

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications

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