Systems and Synthetic Biology

Systems and Synthetic Biology

About the Major

The Systems & Synthetic Biology (SSB) major provides students with a broad understanding of these two related and interdisciplinary fields. Systems Biology aims to understand how complex organismal properties and structures arise from simple components and interactions, and to identify design principles common to many types of biological regulation. Synthetic Biology focuses on the modification (or, ultimately, de novo construction) of organisms to engineer pathways and processes. This major emphasizes integrative, computational and quantitative approaches to solving biological problems and engineering new biological outcomes.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the major, graduates will be able to:

  • Describe the molecular and structural unity of all life, explain how the diversity of life is generated and perpetuated and exemplify this diversity among and within life's three domains.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of how genetics, biochemistry and direct observations are used to elucidate cell and organismal organization and function.
  • Demonstrate scientific quantitative skills, such as the ability to evaluate experimental design, read graphs, and use information from scientific papers.
  • Design, use, and assess computer software that analyzes complex biological data sets.
  • Effectively communicate results of experiments in systems and synthetic biology.
  • Define interactions among genes, proteins, metabolites and other biological components using systems biology methods and understand their emergent properties.
  • Use computational and experimental techniques to define and reconstruct biological networks and circuits.
  • Use computational and experimental techniques to engineer enzyme activities and biological circuits to produce new biological outcomes.  


The biotech workforce has a growing demand for biologists that are fluent in different merging disciplines that are covered by the Systems and Synthetic Biology Major. This combination of skills will allow graduates to work at the interface between biologists and engineers found in new emerging industries related to the pharmaceutical, biomedical, bioenergy, agricultural, nutrition, and microbiome industries. The program is also an excellent background for students wishing to enter graduate programs in biology and bioengineering or professional schools.