Contact Us

Mailing Address
SSPB Program
Rice University
6500 Main Street, MS-180
Houston, Texas 77030-1400

Physical Address
Ph.D. Program in Systems, Synthetic, and Physical Biology
Suite 170 BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC)
Rice University
6500 Main Street
Houston, Texas 77005


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The SSPB Ph.D. program at Rice University trains students to combine principles from science, technology, engineering and mathematics in order to make transformative discoveries and advances in biological engineering. SSPB students are highly interdisciplinary, with strong foundations in the quantitative and life sciences. SSPB faculty come from 8 different departments across the Schools of Engineering and Natural Sciences. The curriculum is designed to provide students from diverse backgrounds exposure to a breadth of biological and quantitative topics. The curriculum includes three newly designed core courses in Systems Biology, Synthetic Biology, and Physical Biology, at least two advanced courses in computer science, physics, applied mathematics or statistics, and two courses focusing on a biological subject within the area of a student’s dissertation research. Students joining the SSPB program are expected to have prior training in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, statistics, or physics.

The Systems, Synthetic and Physical Biology (SSPB) program is a new interdisciplinary Ph.D. program that began enrolling students in the Fall of 2013. The SSPB Program incorporates the following biological disciplines:

Systems BiologyJosh
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
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 BiologyQian
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.


To foster research and training at the forefront of the fields of systems, synthetic, and physical biology.

2013 students  
The inaugural 2013 SSPB class
(from left to right, front row:
Dongya Jia, Juexiao Wang,
Felix Ekness, Brianna Kuypers,
Qian Mei; from left to right,
top row: Tyler McLaughlin,
Josh Atkinson)