Program Structure

Structure of Coursework

Core courses. CTE trainees will share a common core of five courses (15 credits), comprised of three foundational courses in tissue engineering, molecular and cell biology, and computational analysis of biological data, a course on bioethics, and a course on interdisciplinary research: 

  1. Introduction to Regenerative Medicine (BMES 5984): Offered every spring, the course introduces the fundamental principles of regenerative medicine and the current issues in this field. The course discusses how this field integrates the principles from several fields to develop materials and therapies to repair or replace damaged cells, tissue, and organs.
  2. Biological Paradigms for Bioinformatics (GBCB 5314): Offered every fall, the course is an introduction to the central paradigms of molecular cell biology. It presents material from cell molecular biology and genetics and places these in a genomics context. The course prepares students in mathematical disciplines to interact in teams in the pursuit of bioinformatics research.
  3. Computational Systems Biology (CS 5854, Murali): Offered every spring, this course covers applications of computational, mathematical, and statistical techniques to the modeling and analysis of molecular interaction networks. It emphasizes interaction between biological and computational disciplines in systems biology through semester-long group research projects.
  4. Issues in Bioethics (STS 5444, Zallen): Offered every semester, this course provides students with in-depth exposure to ethical, social, and policy issues related to experimentation on humans, animals, and genetically modified microbes. Students who complete this course receive certification, now required by the federal government, from the Virginia Tech Institutional Review Board attesting to their training in human-subjects protections. Short modules drawing on specific CTE issues are incorporated into this course. 
  5. Interdisciplinary Research (GRAD 5134): CTE faculty team teach this course every alternate year, starting in year three. In every offering, we will focus on an important social or scientific problem relevant to CTE, e.g., how environmental chemicals are processed by the body and can harm it. In studying this problem, students will learn about toxicology (Ehrich) functional tissue mimics (Rajagopalan), techniques to expose liver mimics to mixtures of chemicals (Davalos), using mass spectrometry to measure cellular responses (Helm), and analyzing the resulting large datasets to prioritize new experiments (Murali).

Elective courses. Students will take elective courses from one or more of the following tracks (courses listed are illustrative rather than comprehensive):

  • Tissue engineering: Polymeric Biomaterials (CHE 5214, Rajagopalan), Biomedical Eng. & Human Disease (BMES 5024), Fundamentals of Tissue Structure (BMES 5424), Biomedical Microdevices (BMES 5714, Davalos)
  • Molecular biology: Biochemistry for the Life Sciences (BCHM 5124), Computational Cell Biology (GBCB/BIOL/CS 5424, Tyson), Molecular Biology of the Cell (BIOL 5884)
  • Computer science: Algorithms in Bioinformatics (CS 5124, Heath), Theory of Algorithms (CS 5114, Heath/Murali), Numerical Analysis (CS 5465), Data Mining (CS 6604)

Plan of study. We will fine tune the core and electives for each CTE student, keeping in mind their previous educational training, departmental requirements, and research interests. Ultimately, each student will create a personalized plan of study with guidance from advisors and the thesis committee.