Carnegie Mellon University

 About the MSAS Program

Automation has disrupted numerous industries, including manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation.  Similarly, Automated Science is beginning to radically transform the pace and economics of scientific research in academia and industry. This transformation requires a suitably trained workforce. The MSAS program provides that training.

Carnegie Mellon’s School of Computer Science has always been at the vanguard of interdisciplinary science, engineering, and education. The MSAS program follows in that tradition by leveraging pioneering research and education in Automated Science by Computational Biology Department faculty and, more broadly, CMU’s deep expertise in Machine Learning and Robotics.

Industrial and academic research labs use automated instruments routinely. Recently, companies such as Emerald Cloud Lab and Transcriptic have emerged to provide scientists access to automated instruments in much the same way that Amazon Web Services provides access to computing resources.  The main advantages of automated instruments are their lower costs and higher throughput, precision, and reproducibility, when compared to experiments performed by humans.  In parallel, algorithmic approaches to experimental design/selection have shown to be an effective means for maximizing the yield (in terms of scientific knowledge) from finite research budgets.  The economic and scientific advantages of automation in research are thus well established, and so the trend towards Automated Science is inexorable.

Target Audience, Prerequisites, and Career paths

The MSAS program is suitable for students who might otherwise seek to prepare for a career as a laboratory technician by obtaining a M.S. in Biology or Chemistry.  We strongly encourage students with undergraduate degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Biomedical Engineering, or Computer Science (or some combination of those) to apply.   Applicant should have completed college-level coursework in at least one of the life sciences, statistics, and at least some programming. Ideal candidates will have also some coursework in algorithms and data structures.

Employers already seek individuals capable of configuring, customizing, operating, and maintaining automated systems to perform scientific research.  Typical job titles include Laboratory Automation Specialists and Automation Engineers.  Qualified individuals possessing automation skills will command higher salaries than traditional laboratory technicians do.

Some MSAS graduates will want to pursue a Ph.D. in a related field, such as Biology, Chemistry, Computational Biology.  The MSAS program provides substantial opportunities to conduct research with Carnegie Mellon University faculty.

External Advisory Board

To ensure that the curriculum is aligned with current and future workforce and research needs, the MSAS program regularly consults our External Advisory Board (EAB).  The EAB consists of experts from industry and non-profit research institutions.  These members and the individuals within their professional networks are invited to campus to give seminars, to participate in career development activities, to suggest and sometimes mentor MSAS Capstone projects, and to recruit summer interns and full-time employees.