Integrated biosciences Ph.D. program at UA



About our program

IB is a unique interdisciplinary PhD program where biology is at the interface of research that cuts across traditional departmental boundaries.

Today’s job market and research pursuits demand the ability to work on interdisciplinary teams. The questions being addressed require multidimensional approaches that can be accomplished only by working with a broad knowledge base. Thus, people who can interface with diverse scientists and engineers are highly sought after, both in private industry and in academic settings. 

The IB PhD program is specifically designed so that PhD students work in interdisciplinary teams from the inception of their studies, both learning how to work and communicate with colleagues across an array of disciplines. Students and their faculty mentors design personalized coursework and research training experiences that draw from expertise across various disciplines both on and off campus, encouraging novel approaches to bio-based research challenges.

We offer students unrivaled flexibility in the design of their Ph.D. curricula.

IB complements other bio-related graduate training opportunities at UA, such as those in the College of Polymer Science & Engineering, the School of Nursing, and the College of Engineering.

Philosophy and rationale for the Integrated Bioscience Program

Biological problems rank among the most pressing that face our society by virtue of their scientific importance and because of their consequences for national health, the economy, and environmental stability. Although reductionist biology has been successful in dissecting the diversity of life, most major advances in understanding complex systems have been made by interpreting results across levels of biological organization (molecular to ecosystem levels) and crossing the boundaries between biology and other disciplines.

Importantly, major discoveries and new products and solutions in bioscience become possible because of recent advances in other fields of science and math. The study of complex biological systems is best approached by incorporating many perspectives, bringing together a diversity of complementary disciplines to unravel the complexity that is biology. Therefore, the 21st century will likely be known as the era of integrated science, engineering, and innovative technology and those trained to work across traditionally disciplinary lines will be the most successful in this new age.

Integrated Bioscience research areas

Biogeochemistry examines the roles that biological activities have in modulating elemental cycles, as well as the roles that prevailing chemical conditions have on biology.  Research ranges from surveying the biogeochemical cycling of elements to applied questions (e.g., how can biological activities be economically exploited?; how do ecosystems respond to anthropogenic disturbances?).

Environmental Bioscience is an exceptionally broad field that spans from basic ecology/evolution to bioremediation and habitat restoration.

IB students in Environmental Bioscience study everything from pollination biology, life history evolution, microbial community ecology to applied issues (e.g., oil spills, mine discharge, groundwater contamination, stream pollution, habitat destruction, and brownfields).

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ElectrospinningBiological materials play key roles in organism function – from influencing how the cytoskeleton transports materials within cells to production of blue colors without using pigments in diverse animals to explaining how nearly invisible spider webs can stop fast flying insects in mid-air.

Investigating biological materials integrates biology, engineering and materials science and often spans the biological hierarchy.

Biological materials research also has important implications for health, technology and Biomimicry.

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GeckoThe unparalleled diversity of processes, materials, and resources, in the natural, world offer design solutions for societal challenges ranging from medicine to traffic to economy to sustainable urban growth. But successful translation of designs from nature requires a new way of thinking about the relationship between university research, education and community partners such as government and industry.

Students in Integrated Biosciences studying biomimicry can leverage university expertise in biomimetic research to collaborate with regional partners who have developed a business model using Biomimicry as the foundation for the Great Lakes region to become the world’s leader in sustainable innovation, both economically and educationally, powered by technologies inspired from the natural world around us.

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BioinformaticsBioinformatics is defined as an “interdisciplinary field that combines computer science, statistics, mathematics, and engineering to analyze and interpret biological data.” The massive growth of whole genome genetic data has also grown the need to interpret these data and to draw meaning from the wealth of organisms that are being assayed across the globe.

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Biomedical Science and BioengineeringResearch in this area is focused on investigation, innovation, and translation of scientific discoveries to enhance patient care. This involves designing devices that can be efficiently used to monitor patient’s conditions, developing imaging techniques for early diagnosis and to monitor treatment outcome, or investigating novel drug delivery systems and nanomedicine to effectively treat different pathological conditions.

Research areas include (but are not limited to):

  • developing and testing new therapies for patients who suffer diseases that result in the loss of healthy tissue using stem cells;
  • regenerative medicine;
  • developing biomaterials to facilitate tissue repair;
  • understanding cardiovascular dynamics and developing pioneering surgical and device treatments for heart failure;
  • understanding brain function and disease conditions and developing effective interventions and stimulation to facilitate repair; and
  • computational modeling to design new devices and therapy.

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IB Seminar Series speakers

Spring semester only | Seminars are generally held in the Biology Section of Auburn Science and Engineering, B201 on Fridays at 2 p.m. Our first seminar starts the week of Jan. 25. You can find the full schedule below. Coffee and cookies are provided. 

If you see a speaker who you would like to meet, please email Peter H. Niewiarowski for information.