Duke-NUS rolls out new PhD Programme in Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics

Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) now offers Singapore’s first-ever PhD programme in Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics (IBB) aimed at equipping researchers to analyse data in biomedical science research. The programme will commence in August 2017 and will train scientists who blend biomedical expertise with a deep knowledge of computer science, statistics, and data science.

With the high demand for talented, experienced professionals at the crossroads of biology, statistics, and computer science, Duke-NUS IBB PhD Programme graduates are set to be key innovators in biological research and keystones of advanced research across the spectrum from basic to clinical biomedical research.

The Duke-NUS IBB PhD programme will be headed by Assistant Professor Bibhas Chakraborty, Director of the Duke-NUS Centre for Quantitative Medicine (CQM), and Professor Steve Rozen, Director of the Duke-NUS Centre for Computational Biology (CCB).

“With ever more complex and larger amounts of data driving biomedical research, the need for integrated biostatistics and bioinformatics as an academic discipline is more pronounced than ever before,” said IBB PhD programme co-director Asst Prof Chakraborty. “This interdisciplinary pairing of the two enables the processing of different types of data or 'big data' into relevant information for modern, evidence-based medicine which will ultimately lead to better patient care.”

“The IBB PhD programme will provide an essential component in Singapore’s thrust to be a biomedical sciences hub,” added programme co-director Prof Rozen. “Given Duke-NUS’ expertise in quantitative medicine and computational biology, and our role in the SingHealth Duke-NUS Academic Medical Centre, Duke-NUS is ideally prepared to offer the first PhD programme in Singapore that will train researchers in this highly sought after expertise to spur biomedical research.”

Duke-NUS currently offers a PhD programme in Integrated Biology and Medicine (IBM) that admits student applicants who typically have research-oriented backgrounds in the basic sciences. In contrast, Duke-NUS’ new IBB PhD programme will recruit students with backgrounds in quantitative fields such as statistics, computer science, and more.

The Duke-NUS IBB PhD programme will provide training in quantitative and computational methods in biomedical sciences, covering a broad spectrum of disciplines. They include biostatistics for the design and analysis of early to late phase modern clinical trials, epidemiology methods for classical multivariate, modern high-dimensional and integrated surveillance-cum-special purpose data, and diagnostic and measurement methods, and bioinformatics for genomics and basic and translational biology and bioinformatics approaches to analysing next-generation DNA and RNA sequencing data. Students will choose to concentrate in biostatistics or bioinformatics.

Biostatistics is responsible for experimental design, data analysis, and evidence synthesis and interpretation for answering questions in translational, clinical, epidemiological and health services research. Recent years have seen major changes in the medical landscape, such as the needs for rapid responses to infectious diseases, personalised medicine, and the availability and connectivity of big data. They demand innovative approaches to statistical problem solving. Some examples include adaptive clinical trial designs, dynamic treatment regimes, and high-dimensional data analysis methods.

Bioinformatics is an integration of data analytics, statistics, machine learning, modelling, software engineering, and computer science to answer questions in basic and translational biomedical research. The recent explosion of demand for bioinformatics in the last five years has been driven partly by huge decreases in the cost of next generation DNA sequencing, which is 10,000 times cheaper than it was in 2006[1]. As a result, next-generation sequencing is now a foundational technology for much of biological research. The rapid development of many other high throughput technologies is also driving demand for bioinformatics experts.  

In addition to coursework and thesis research, students in the biostatistics concentration will be expected to complete an internship in a local or international biomedical institute. The bioinformatics concentration will be strongly focused on research, with students beginning thesis research, alongside coursework, in their second semester.

The first intake of the Duke-NUS IBB PhD Programme will be in August 2017, with an application deadline of 15 January 2017. The degree will take an average four to five years to complete, and scholarships will provide full tuition support and a stipend for living expenses. For more details, visit: https://www.duke-nus.edu.sg/education/PhD-in-Integrated-Biostatistics-and-Bioinformatics

[1] Wetterstrand KA. DNA Sequencing Costs: Data from the NHGRI Genome Sequencing Program (GSP) Available at: www.genome.gov/sequencingcostsdata. Accessed [7 November 2016].