Admission Requirements | Program Requirements | Graduate Courses

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The University of Arkansas at Little Rock (UALR) and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) jointly offer master’s and doctorate degrees in bioinformatics. Combining the academic, clinical, and research resources of UAMS with the computational, scientific, academic, and research capabilities of UALR, this program prepares students to function in an interdisciplinary research environment. For more information, visit the Bioinformatics graduate program’s website.

Admission Requirements for both M.S. and Ph.D.

Applicants are expected to have a minimum of a four-year undergraduate degree (BS or BA) in the life sciences, statistics, or information/computer sciences. Students with an undergraduate degree in another field may be considered for admission if they have either relevant work experience in one of these three areas or complete sufficient remedial course work as defined below. Students who have not satisfactorily completed the following courses or their equivalent as part of their academic studies will be required to complete them on a remedial basis:

  • Biology/Chemistry/Genetics

A junior-level, life science course equivalent to UALR’s BIOL 3300 Genetics.

  • Statistics

A junior-level, calculus-based course equivalent to UALR’s STAT 3352 Applied Statistics I.

  • Programming

Some programming experience; a sophomore-level introduction to Java programming equivalent to UALR’s IFSC 2300 Object-Oriented Technology course is preferred.

  • Databases

A junior-level course equivalent to UALR’s IFSC 3320 Database Concepts is recommended.
Students will have to meet the minimum admission requirement of a GPA of 3.0 or a GPA of 3.3 or greater on their last 60 credit hours as an undergraduate. GRE scores, a letter of intent, a résumé, and letters of reference are considered in the admission process; TOEFL scores are required of international students who have not matriculated from a university in a country where the primary language is English. (Please see the UALR Graduate School’s requirement for English proficiency exams.)

Master of Science in Bioinformatics

Program Requirements

The MS program is built around four cores. Students must complete 35 credit hours consisting of the following:

Core Courses (four classes, 15 credits)
  • BINF 5445 Bioinformatics Theory and Applications (UALR-fall)
  • BIOL 5415 Biometry (UALR-fall) or BIOM 5013 Biometrical Analysis I (UAMS)
  • BIOL 5417 Molecular Biology (UALR-spring)
  • One of the following: CPSC 7375 Machine Learning (UALR-spring), CPSC 7373/CPSC 5383 Artificial Intelligence (UALR-fall), or CPSC 7385 Analysis of Algorithms (UALR-fall)
Elective (three to four classes, minimum of 12 credits)

Students will choose their courses in consultation with their faculty advisor. Electives are meant to further enhance a student’s ability to engage in research in one of four key areas: Drug Design, Integrated Bioinformatics & Genomics, Computational Biology, or Biomedical Informatics.

Other Requirements (six credits)

Four credits of either

  • BINF 7X56 Capstone Project
  • BINF 7X55 Thesis

Two credits of BINF 7193 Seminar (two semesters)

Lab Rotations of Research Experience (two credits)

Two credits of BINF Lab Rotation (two semesters) to locate a research mentor. During the Lab Rotation, students are assigned to one or more faculty to gain experience in that faculty’s research area.

  • Students will take a minimum of two semesters of Lab Rotations to identify their research mentor. Once students have found their mentor, they can complete their remaining lab research requirements with their mentor.
  • Lab rotations are graded. Students must produce a lab report (minimum four pages) by the end of the semester as part of their grade.

Master’s Advising
Master’s students are advised by the Bioinformatics Program Director.

M.S. Graduation Requirements

  • Successful completion of an approved program of study with a minimum GPA of 3.0 with no more than one grade below a B and successful completion of the writing requirement.
  • Successful defense of a Bioinformatics capstone project or thesis. The Review Committee will consist of a lead faculty research mentor and at least two other faculty members with Bioinformatics graduate faculty status.

Doctor of Philosophy in Bioinformatics

Program Requirements

The Ph.D. requires completion of the MS degree in bioinformatics or closely related field. Students pursuing the Ph.D. need to demonstrate good research potential in their culminating master’s project or thesis. Enrolling in a minimum of two credits of the BINF 7193 Bioinformatics Seminar and taking a minimum of 32 credit hours of research complete the Ph.D. program, culminating in the successful defense of the student’s dissertation research, completes the Ph.D. program. Students completing the M.S. degree in bioinformatics or its equivalent at another institution may be admitted directly in the Ph.D. program, but may need to complete additional course work to cover all four cores of the UALR/UAMS M.S. degree program.
Within the first six months of entering the Ph.D. program, students must have an approved advisory committee and defend their dissertation proposals. The dissertation proposal should be written according to standard grant format as would be used for submitting a proposal to NIH or NSF.

Important Program Information

Transfer of Credit and Advanced Placement

Transferability of credit is determined by the program director, based upon the applicability of the courses to the student’s educational goals and research project. Transfer of credit may not be granted when courses have been used to meet other degree requirements. Additionally, students with relevant graduate degrees in related fields may petition the program director for an Advanced Placement which reduces the total credits required for a master’s degree to 29 credits.

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantships that support research opportunities are available to qualified full-time students on a highly competitive basis. Tuition is paid, and a stipend is provided for living expenses. Students must pay registration fees, buy textbooks, and purchase any necessary support materials. For more information about graduate assistantships, the application process, and other financial assistance opportunities, visit the website.
A student supported by a graduate assistantship may not take less than nine credit hours during the Fall and Spring semesters and is prohibited from any other employment.

Entrance Exams

In the week prior to the start of classes, incoming students may be asked to undergo a series of entrance exams or placement interviews in which the student must demonstrate proficiency in the core areas. The student’s first semester of study will be based on the results of these exams/interviews and his/her interests. A student may be required to take additional undergraduate courses, which will not count toward his/her degree program, to remedy any deficiencies. Courses numbered at the 4000-level or below do not count for graduation credit and may not be covered under the assistantship tuition waiver.

Writing Requirement

An English Writing Proficiency Exam (WPE) will be offered early each spring term. This exam will assess the student’s ability to communicate in a written format. Each student must pass this exam to fulfill graduation requirements. A student who does not pass the WPE is required to take the English Writing Proficiency Laboratory (EWPL) which is offered each Spring term. The student must take the EWPL each Spring term until he/she passes.

International Student Requirements

International students whose native language is not English must take the English proficiency exam and have an official score that meets the minimum standards established by the UALR Graduate School. (Please see the UALR Graduate School’s website for information on approved exams and minimum required score.) Only students who have studied full-time for two or more years at a college or university where English is the language of instruction located in a country where English is the native language are exempt from this English proficiency exam.
Exceptions to this policy must be approved by the UALR Graduate School.

Dissertation Defense

Students will orally defend their research before their Doctoral Advisory Committee. Printed copies of the penultimate draft of the dissertation must be delivered to the Advisory Committee members at least two weeks prior to the defense. The defense will be open to the public and must be announced at least two weeks in advance by the program director. Following the open presentation session (including the typical question-and-answer period) will be a closed examination of the candidate by the Doctoral Advisory Committee. The examination can be wide-ranging but will usually utilize the student’s research as a starting point. At the completion of the examination, the student will be temporarily excused and the Doctoral Advisor and Advisory Committee will vote to either pass or fail the student.

Doctoral Advisory Committee

The student’s Doctoral Advisory Committee will be composed of a minimum of five members, including the student’s doctoral advisor who will serve as the committee chair. Four of the committee members, including the chair, must hold bioinformatics graduate faculty status. The fifth member must be an external member who is not affiliated with the program, UALR, or UAMS. The Bioinformatics graduate coordinator in conjunction with the Bioinformatics Steering Committee, must approve the committee constituency.
The dissertation subject should be selected by the student and Doctoral Advisory Committee at least two years prior to the oral defense of the research. It must be a scholarly contribution to a major field of bioinformatics and involve all four core courses of the program. The written dissertation format must follow the UALR Graduate School’s Dissertation and Thesis Guide found on the Graduate School website. Changes may not be made to the student’s Doctoral Advisory Committee within six months of the dissertation defense. In event of extenuating circumstances, an appeal may be made to the Bioinformatics program director to change this requirement.

Graduation Requirements

  • Successful completion of an approved program of study (including completion of the Master of Science in Bioinformatics or a closely related degree) with a minimum GPA of 3.0 with no more than one grade below a B;
  • Successful completion of the dissertation proposal defense; proposal should be written using a grant proposal format; the dissertation proposal defense will also serve as the candidacy examination;
  • Successful completion of the dissertation and oral defense; and
  • Successful completion of the writing requirement.

Courses in Bioinformatics

BINF 5445 Bioinformatics Theory and Applications
Prerequisites: course director’s permission plus the following: BIOL 3300 Genetics or equivalent, IFSC 3320 Database Concepts or equivalent, IFSC 2300 Object-oriented Technology (Java Programming) or experience with another programming language such as “C” or “C++”, STAT 3352 Applied Statistics I or equivalent, MATH 1304 Calculus I or equivalent recommended, BINF 3345 Introduction to Bioinformatics recommended, some exposure to molecular biology recommended. An overview of concepts central to the study and application of bioinformatics drawing upon the fields of biostatistics, computer and information science, and the life sciences. Three hours of lecture plus two hours of laboratory per week. Four credit hours.
BINF 7145, 7245 Introduction to Bioinformatics Research
Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Rotations through the bioinformatics, biostatistics, information science, and/or life sciences research laboratories of faculty participating in the bioinformatics graduate program.
BINF 7193 Bioinformatics Seminar
Prerequisites: bioinformatics graduate student status or instructor’s consent. A survey of scientific and technical topics relevant to bioinformatics. The seminar has two components: attending seminars hosted primarily by BINF Ph.D. students and participating in a presentation workshop where students present seminars on their research interests. A passing grade is required in both components for a passing grade in the course. One credit hour.
BINF 7199, 7299, 7399, 7499 Special Topics in Bioinformatics
Prerequisites: instructor’s consent. Detailed study in bioinformatics and related areas; may be lecture or lecture and laboratory, depending on specific topics. Variable credit of one to four hours. Offered on demand.
BINF 7155-7455 Graduate Thesis
Prerequisite: Consent of thesis advisor. Scholarly investigation of a selected problem in bioinformatics culminating in a written, orally defended thesis. Maximum of four hours may be applied to M.S. Variable credit of one to four hours.
BINF 7156-7456 Bioinformatics Capstone Project
Prerequisites: course director’s permission. This course provides a structured context in which the student completes an individual capstone project for the master’s degree in bioinformatics. The project draws upon the core content of the graduate program and is done under the direction of a project mentor who is a member of the graduate faculty of the UALR/UAMS Joint Graduate Program in Bioinformatics. Maximum of four hours may be applied to M.S. Variable credit of one to four hours.
BINF 7295 Practical Topics in Science Management
A survey of practical topics relevant to practicing scientists and engineers such as ethics, project management, and grant writing. While an emphasis is placed on bioinformatics, topics will be if interest to all participating in science and engineering projects. Two credit hours. Cross-listed with ASCI 7295.
BINF 9100-9900 Doctoral Research/Dissertation
Prerequisite: Consent of advisor. Bioinformatics doctoral research leading to Ph.D. dissertation.