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In May of their first year, students are required to take a written qualifying exam to demonstrate proficiency in the fundamentals of bioinformatics and computational biology, as well as competence in synthesizing these fundamentals into original scientific hypotheses or approaches.

The written qualifying exam is scheduled two weeks after the spring (3rd) rotation, in the first part of May. An exam committee consisting of the DGS and BCB faculty with knowledge of the material covered in the module is assembled to create and evaluate the exams. Each committee member is expected to serve at least two consecutive years so that membership can be staggered to maintain consistency and experience among the committee as a whole. The exam comprises four sections relating to broad subject areas:

  1. Dynamic Modeling,
  2. Evolutionary and Functional Genomics
  3. Quantitative Genetics
  4. Structural Bioinformatics.

Each section comprises of two exam questions that are based on a reading list of 2-4 research papers in that subject area. Students are assigned the reading lists for all 8 questions two weeks prior to the exam date. The exam itself is an open-book take-home exam spread over four days. Students are required to complete and submit written answers to 5 of the 8 questions. Exams are graded as either pass or fail. Students who do not pass have the option to take the exam again at the end of their second year. Students who fail a second time are dismissed from the program.