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Biology Meets Computers

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At first glance, you might not think biology is even remotely related to computer science. But in recent years, computer science has helped other scientists make enormous advances by giving them access to huge amounts of data.

Today, computer scientists develop ways to model and analyze biological data that can help scientists speed up their research or discover new insights into the secrets of life. And the Human Genome Project, for example, would not have been possible without having computers to analyze huge amounts of genetic data. Combining biology with computer science is called bioinformatics or computational biology.

Ashtyn Moelenhoff

Top reasons to major in computer science with an emphasis in biology

  • Computing is part of everything people do
    Computers and technology touches almost everything we use including the cars we drive, the airplanes that take us hundreds of miles away, or our cell phones we can't live without.
  • Solve complex and challenging problems and make a positive difference in the world
    You could help doctors save lives by writing usable software to control ultrasounds, MRIs and new medical technologies. Or help save the Earth by creating programs that helps other scientists monitor the environment.
  • There are lots of high-paying, flexible jobs
    Computer science is among the highest paid college degrees and its jobs are growing at twice the national average. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salaries in 2012 was $60,038 for computer science graduates.
  • You could earn $40,000 on internships while in school
    At Oregon State, the Multiple Engineering Cooperative Program allows you to go on two six-month internships and earn 70% of the typical full-time salary. Many students get hired at one of the companies after they graduate.
  • Collaborate with other people
    It takes a team to create solutions to complex problems, so you'll work with people with different kinds of skills, both inside and outside the field. You'll also have opportunities to make your individual contributions by seeing things in a way that other people haven't thought about.
  • Be creative and innovative
    Coming up with ways to make computers and applications easy to use takes a lot of creativity, innovation and imagination, so you will always find new challenges in your work.
  • The future opportunities are limitless
    There are things that people haven't even thought of that are yet to come. And you can be a part of that — an exciting future where the possibilities are endless!

Things you could do with a computer science degree with an emphasis in biology

  • Write software that helps other scientists monitor the environment
  • Develop software to improve medical technology that saves lives
  • Work with other scientists find cures for cancer by speeding up their research through computer modeling
  • Help scientists discover the secrets of life


This is the in-depth coursework for junior and senior years. Lower level computer science and pre-requisites for the science courses are taken in the first two years.


  • CS 434 - Machine Learning & Data Mining
  • CS 440 - Database Management Systems
  • BI 212 - Principles of Biology
  • BI 213 - Principles of Biology

Choose one of the following

  • CS 419 - Introduction to Information Visualization
  • CS 419 - Scientific Visualization

Choose one course in each of the following subject areas


  • BOT 331 - Plant Physiology
  • Z 423 - Environmental Physiology
  • Z 425 - Embryology and Development
  • Z 430 - Principles of Physiology
  • Z 431 - Physiology
  • Z 432 - Vertebrate Physiology

Ecology and Systematics

  • BI 370 - Ecology
  • BOT 341 - Plant Ecology
  • BOT 425 - Flora of the Pacific Northwest
  • ENT 420 - Insect Ecology
  • MB 448 - Microbial Ecology
  • Z 351 - Marine Ecology
  • Z 361 - Invertebrate Biology
  • Z 365 - Biology of Insects
  • Z 371 - Vertebrate Biology


  • BI 445 - Evolution
  • HSTS 415 - Theory of Evolution and Foundation of Modern Biology
  • Z 345 - Introduction to Evolution


  • BI 311 - Genetics
  • MB 310 - Bacterial Molecular Genetics
  • MCB 530 - Introduction to Population Genetic

Recommended Electives

  • CS 475 - Intro. to Parallel Computing
  • CS 331 - Intro. to Artificial Intelligence
  • MTH 451 - Numerical Linear Algebra
  • MTH 341 - Linear Algebra 1
  • CS 420 - Graph Theory with Applications to Computer Science
  • CS 419 - Scientific Visualization
  • CS 419 - Introduction to Information Visualization

Become a computer science major

Contact one of our advisors:

Lizbeth Marquez

Calvin Hughes

Change your major