Johns Hopkins launches nation's first undergraduate minor in computational medicine

Field focuses on quantitative approaches to understanding, diagnosing, and treating disease

The Johns Hopkins Institute for Computational Medicine, acclaimed worldwide for its groundbreaking research, has launched the nation's first undergraduate minor in the emerging field of computational medicine.

The minor course of study exposes students to the fundamentals of computational medicine—a discipline devoted to the development of quantitative approaches to understanding the mechanisms, diagnosis, and treatment of human disease.

A core faculty of 19 researchers, who hold primary and joint appointments in multiple departments and schools, will act as advisors to students. Courses will guide students through recent advances in modeling and computing technologies that have opened the door to new possibilities for identifying, analyzing, and treating diseases.

The program, which is open to any Johns Hopkins undergraduate, is expected to attract students interested in computer science, biomedical engineering, electrical and computer engineering, applied mathematics and statistics, biology, neuroscience, biophysics, and public health, as well as those interested in medical school.

"We can no longer pretend that our mental models and intuition are sufficient to guide us to an understanding of human disease," says Rai Winslow, director of the Institute for Computational Medicine, a multidisciplinary research institute spanning the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Whiting School of Engineering. "Complexity demands that we develop experimentally and clinically based mechanistic computer models of disease that can be tailored to the individual and applied to deliver improved health care at lower costs. Students with a minor in CM will have unique preparation for medical school. The role of computer modeling of disease is expanding in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, and students with a minor in CM will be able to pursue novel career paths in these areas."

While there are no formal tracks or specializations within the minor, students will be exposed to key areas that include:

  • Computational Physiological Medicine: A field that develops integrative, mechanistic models of biological systems in disease and applies insights gained from these models to the development of improved diagnostics and therapies.

  • Computational Molecular Medicine: A field that harnesses massive datasets from high-throughput assays, such as next-generation sequencing systems, to construct statistical models for identifying the drivers of disease.

  • Computational Anatomical Medicine: A field that uses medical imaging and computational methods to analyze the variation in structure and function of human organs in health and disease to assist in the diagnosis and prognosis of complex diseases.

  • Computational Healthcare: An emerging field devoted to statistical modeling and analysis of large healthcare datasets to improve patient health.