Rice University


Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology (SSPB)

CTBP has participated in the formation of an innovative graduate program at Rice University entitled Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology (SSPB). This program aims at creating an integrated approach to training students who will work at the interface of experimental biology and quantitative physical science. CTBP faculty  play a leading role in planning and organizing activities for this program. The program that began enrolling students in the Fall of 2013.

The SSPB Program incorporates the following biological disciplines:


Systems biology aims to understand how biological components interact to produce defined physiological responses and behaviors over scales spanning biomolecules to tissues and further to organisms. Such multi-scale understanding of biological systems is particularly important for decrypting the causes and progression of human diseases and to developing new, personalized therapeutic strategies.


Synthetic biology is the engineering of living systems possessing unnatural properties, typically using genetically-encoded parts. Approaches range from the design of novel proteins to the construction of artificial gene networks that program cells to produce information, sense and respond to environmental cues, and produce industrially-important commodities for biological or biomedical applications.


Physical biology is an integration of biology with chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computer science to provide a highly quantitative approach to problems in biology, biomedicine and biotechnology. By taking an interdisciplinary and mathematical approach to biology, the physical and chemical properties of molecular structures can be linked directly to their role within the organism. Similarly to Systems and Synthetic Biology, Physical Biology unifies two of the most successful approaches in science: study of a disease or organism in toto (a holistic or "top down" approach) and the study of specific molecular mechanisms (a reductionist or "bottoms up" approach) to build a quantitative and fully rendered view of the relationship of physiochemical properties to the interaction of an organism with its environment.

For more information about the Ph.D. program in Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology, please visit SSPB.