Curriculum for New Biology Graduate Fellows

The unique feature of the NBFP is that all Fellows will learn and apply systems biology techniques to improve animal, plant or food production in a multidisciplinary New Biology framework. The novel integration of teaching, research and public engagement activities will further enrich the Fellows academic experiences. Innovative exposure of the Fellows to professional and leadership development opportunities and communication of their experiences at meetings and to a wider audience through the extension and private sector internships will also hone the Fellows’ decision making (critical thinking and problem solving) skills.

The New Biology Graduate Fellows Program enhances or supplements a candidate degree that is grant by the graduate student’s department.  The Steering Committee will review the course work proposed by the Fellow in consultation with the Faculty mentors.

Core Competencies

Each Fellow will gain competencies in

  • Animal, plant or food sciences
  • Statistics, computer science or informatics
  • Systems biology or bioinformatics.

Training Competencies

Fellows will develop communication, leadership, professional and decision-making skills through:

  • Course-work
  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Public engagement

New Biology Graduate Fellows Program Curriculum

  1. Courses. Fellows must take at least one course in each of the three Core areas and an ethics course. Ethics courses include CPSC 590 Professionalism and Ethics. The animal, plant or food science course will be selected in consultation with the Faculty mentor. The systems biology or bioinformatics courses include:
    • Systems biology or bioinformatics courses
      • CPSC 567 Bioinformatics and Systems Biology
      • ANSC 545 Statistical Genomics
      • ANSC 542 Applied Bioinformatics
      • ANSC 593 Bioinformatics
    • Statistics or computer sciences or informatics courses
      • ANSC 445 Statistical methods
      • CSE 400 Data Structures,
      • CSE 411 Database Systems
      • CPSC 565 Perl & UNIX for Bioinformatics
      • CPSC 542 Applied Statistical Methods II
      • CPSC 541 Regression Analysis
    • Seminar, Symposium, Meetings
      • In addition to the department seminar, Fellows will present their research at an annual NBFP Symposium that will be coordinated with the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB).
  2. Research. The Fellows will learn the scientific method, critical thinking and problem solving skills, to work independently and in teams while working on their thesis research at the Faculty mentors’ lab. The research projects identified by the Fellow in discussion with the Faculty mentor must have the common thread of applying systems biology to integrate information from multiple sources and mine large, multivariate and multi-factorial data sets to understand and improve animal, plant or food production or human health. The Steering Committee will review the research proposal co-authored by the Fellow and the Faculty mentor.
  3. Teaching. The Fellows will be offered the opportunity to teach in consultation with the Faculty mentor.Teaching responsibilities will not exceed 3 hours/week during one semester and include a few lectures, leading lab/discussion, and grading. The Steering Committee will review the teaching proposal co-authored by the Fellow and a course instructor.
  4. Public engagement. The Fellows will be offered the opportunity to reach to the community through extension activities or internships in consultation with the Faculty mentor. The Steering Committee will review the public engagement proposal co-authored by the Fellow and a supervisor. Regardless of the public engagement activity selected, Fellows are expected to communicate their findings of their research in an extension website (USDA eXtension,, in addition to the program’s website.

The Fellows will complete all or most of the courses during the initial academic semesters leaving the remainder for thesis research and writing, teaching and public engagement. The Fellows will complete the required course-work, pass a preliminary examination (Ph.D. only) and a thesis defense administered by a committee, in fulfillment of departmental requirements. The thesis committee must include one member of the NBFP steering committee.

At graduation, the New Biology Fellows will have multidisciplinary expertise in animal, plant, or food sciences, statistics or computer sciences or informatics, and systems biology or bioinformatics. In addition to a graduate degree in their home department, Fellows will be encouraged to pursue collateral specializations (e.g., Leadership Certificate,Teacher Certificate, Illinois Certificate in Business Administration for Scientists, M. Sc. in Applied Statistics).