PhD in Biomedical Informatics

The PhD program in Biomedical Informatics is part of the Coordinated Doctoral Programs in the Biomedical Sciences. Students are trained to employ a scientific approach to information in health care and biomedicine. Students may only enroll full-time, as required by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS). The first two years are generally devoted to coursework and research. Subsequent years focus on independent research that culminates in a dissertation.

Degree Requirements

  • 60 points of approved coursework and 6 residence units (the equivalent of 3 years of full-time study)
  • Teaching assistant for 2 courses
  • Regular paper and poster submissions to national conferences beginning the first year
  • Conference attendance
  • Mid-semester reports
  • Yearly meetings with advisory committee
  • Regular meetings, either individually or in a group, with research advisor
  • Two (Oral I/Oral II) preliminary examinations
  • Dissertation


PhD Preliminary Examinations

Students must pass two preliminary oral examinations before reaching candidacy. The first oral exam is generally taken the summer of the second year and the second oral exam is taken after the student has identified his or her dissertation topic. The dissertation proposal defense must take place within 6 months after passing the second oral exam. Students receive the MA degree and then the MPhil degree, respectively, after obtaining the requisite residence units and passing the first oral (for the MA) and second oral (for the MPhil) examinations. Upon earning the MPhil degree, the student has reached candidacy.

PhD Research

Research is the primary focus of the doctoral program, and accordingly represents more than half of the required points. Due to the centrality of research to a student’s degree program, students are expected to receive “A” or above in research every semester. Grades below that level may result in program dismissal. Students are expected to work a minimum of 25 hours per week on research in the first year, increasing to 60 hours by the third year. Research should be the primary occupation of the student’s time during the summer, due to the absence of coursework. The doctoral dissertation is the culmination of the student’s research activity.


PhD students are fully funded, either by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) training grant, a faculty grant, or other sponsorship (e.g. government or foundation scholarship or industry fellowship). Supplementary employment or its equivalent that provides additional compensation while pursuing your PhD studies must have advance approval by the student’s research advisor and the Graduate Affairs Office of GSAS. NLM-funded trainees are required to attend the annual NLM 3-day training meeting that takes place in either June or July and to submit yearly written updates on their studies. Any summer courses taken by PhD students are at their own expense.