Ph.D. Program Requirement Details

The four Ph.D. degree programs administered by the CCMB have comparable organization and requirements, but differ in minute details to conform to the specific requirements of the different departments.

1. Course Work

A common requirement feature is that every student shall:

  • take four computational biology graduate courses from a list of such courses approved by CCMB.
  • take two additional courses selected by the student in consultation with his/her advisor.
  • complete eight-week rotations in two laboratories within 24 months of admission to the program. One of these rotations must take place with an advisor outside the student’s home department.
  • complete a project during their rotations and present its results in a public seminar.

NOTE: The following details apply to the Computer Science and Computational Biology degree:

  • The two courses in (b) must be graduate-level courses in computer science, outside of computational biology, selected from a pre-approved list.
  • The equivalent of laboratory rotations (point(c)) are new special- topic CS courses taught by CCMB/CS faculty.
  • CS-labeled courses must cover at least three different areas.
  • At least six 200-level courses must be completed.

2 Advancement to Candidacy and Thesis Research

The specific requirements for the advancement to candidacy and for the completion of the doctoral dissertation are detailed under the rubrics of the distinct Ph.D. programs listed below. Note that the requirements of the two Biology Ph.D. programs are identical:

Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics (with Computational Biology Annotation):
Requirements for Admission include the prescribed coursework and meeting the requirements for a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics as described in the handbook.

The student’s thesis research will normally be done under the supervision of a member of the faculty of the CCMB, and proceeds through the following steps:

  1. A thesis proposal, demonstrating the student’s knowledge of the area, outlining the proposed research problem and its solution, and demonstrating the student is capable of successfully completing a Ph.D., is required.
  2. The thesis itself will be read by the thesis supervisor and two readers appointed by the CCMB and the Division of Applied Mathematics upon the recommendation of the thesis supervisor.
  3. The thesis (defense) will be presented at a meeting open to students, faculty, and the public. Its adequacy will be judged by the thesis supervisor, and the readers.


Ph.D. in Computer Science and Computational Biology:
Requirements for Admission include the prescribed coursework, a programming assignment that tests programming ability, and a research project that tests ability to perform research. The research projects must be proposed after the selection of a research advisor and it's result must be presented to an appointed faculty committee by the end of the second year.

The student’s thesis research will normally be done under the supervision of a member of the faculty of the CCMB, and proceeds through the following steps:

  1. A thesis proposal, demonstrating the student’s knowledge of the area, outlining the proposed research problem and its solution, and demonstrating that the student has done substantial work in the area and is capable of successfully completing a Ph.D. is required.
  2. The thesis itself will be read by the thesis supervisor and two readers appointed by the CCMB upon the recommendation of the thesis supervisor.
  3. The thesis (defense) will be presented at a meeting open to students, faculty, and the public. Its adequacy will be judged by the thesis supervisor, the readers, and the faculty of the CCMB and the Department of Computer Science attending the oral presentation. The defense is expected to occur no earlier than six months after the presentation of the proposal.


Ph.D. in Biology and Computational Biology:
Requirements for Admission include the required coursework as well as satisfactory completion of an oral qualifying exam by the end of the fourth semester. The student will  form a qualifying committee of no fewer than four faculty by the end of the summer following the first year of the program. A written thesis proposal shall be submitted by the student not less than two weeks prior to the examination. This will determine whether the student has the motivation, intellectual capacity, curiousity, educational background and technical skill to pursue the Ph.D. successfully.

The student’s thesis research will normally be done under the supervision of a member of the faculty of the CCMB, and proceeds through the following steps:

  1. Shortly after advancing to candidacy, the student will constitute a thesis committee consisting of not fewer than four faculty advisors, at least one of whom must not be a member of the Brown University faculty.
  2. The student will meet with this committee at least annually.
  3. Upon completion, the thesis will be presented at a meeting open to students, faculty, and the public followed by a thesis defense to members of the thesis committee and other faculty members who choose to participate. The thesis must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks before the defense.