Doctoral Program

The Ph.D. application deadline is December 1st. There are two paths. Most students apply through the Program in the Biological Sciences (PIBS) here. If you already identified your mentor and/or are transferring from another U of M program, you should instead apply to the direct Program here.

Students in this program must complete required course work. During their first year, they must complete at least two research rotations, and are expected to identify their dissertation lab by the end of the year. In the second year of study, students complete preliminary examinations (written and oral) in order to be admitted to Ph.D. Once students become Ph.D. candidates, they are expected to devote most of their time to research and writing their dissertation. 

Academic Advising

Ph.D. students must meet with one of the department directors for academic advising regularly until candidacy for class selection, which will take into account curriculum requirements as well as students' background and interests.

Course Work

Students are required to take at least one course in each of the following areas

Students without Molecular Biology background are strongly advised to take the introductory biology course, BIOINF 523, the summer before starting and before taking the graduate level Molecular Biology course. BIOINF 523 alone is insufficient to qualify as Molecular Biology. Most Introductory Molecular Biology courses offered by PIBS programs qualify, ask advisers if it is not listed.

For Statistics, most students take a Probability + Statistics series, either Stats 425 and Stats 426, or the mathematically rigorous Math 525 + Math 526, or Biostats 601 and Biostats 602 series. It is also possible to take Biostat 601 followed by Stats 426. For students with adequate graduate level course preparation in probability, Stats 426 or Biostats 602 is sufficient. Other upper level statistics courses such as STATS 500 or higher can also be taken, but are often difficult to enroll in.

The program encourages students to find other courses that may meet the core area criteria. All requests to substitute courses not listed that may meet that particular core area's requirements should be addressed to the Program Directors.
A student must get a grade of "B" or better in each of the required courses. Any exceptions need permission.

Most students need to take a minimum of 8 major (3-4 credit) courses. Students with a relevant Master’s degree need to take a minimum of 6 major (3-4 credit) courses. The remaining credits for Ph.D. students are filled by rotation and dissertation research credits (Bioinformatics 990 and 995 respectively).

Typical Sample Trajectories for Studies in some selected areas of Bioinformatics can be found here.

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Within 6-9 months of candidacy (usually after passing the preliminary exam), an abstract of a proposed Ph.D. research project must be submitted to the Bioinformatics Program Directors, together with nominations for members of their dissertation committee to the Directors. The committee should consist of at least 5 faculty members (the chair usually being the mentor, plus at least 3 others who are CCMB affiliated faculty); thus a minimum of 4 CCMB faculty on the committee. At least one of these members should be a primary or joint DCMB faculty member. The make-up of the dissertation committee must meet Rackham's Guidelines and be approved by the Bioinformatics Program Directors, before being forwarded for approval to the Rackham Office of Academic Records and Dissertations.

After the dissertation committee is formed, it is the committee's responsibility to keep the Bioinformatics Program Directors informed of the student's status and progress.

A student should meet with the committee every 6-9 months, but at a minimum once per year. A Bioinformatics Committee Form is required for each meeting; it is to be completed and signed by all committee members and the student, which is then reviewed by the Directors.

The Dissertation

The process of preparing the dissertation should begin while actively involved in the dissertation research. There are specific guidelines available from the Rackham Graduate School for the format and layout of the text of your dissertation.

One should consult the Dissertation Handbook regarding the dissertation committee composition, formatting requirements, and copyrighted material in the dissertation. The defending student should closely consult the Dissertation Handbook, the Student Handbook of Policies and Procedures, his/her mentor and his/her student services representative.

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Preparing to Defend

The oral defense of the dissertation will consist of a public seminar, followed by possible questioning by the dissertation committee, and will need to follow Rackham guidelines.

Once the student and committee have agreed that the student is prepared to defend the thesis, these steps need to be followed:

  1. Register for a Rackham pre-defense meeting
  2. The student must determine a date and time with the committee members.
  3. Once the date and time are established, the student must contact the Student Services Representative who will reserve a room.
    A room in Palmer Commons Bldg. is preferred.**
  4. Send a title to the Student Services Representative at least *3* weeks in advance. Also contact the Program's Media Consultant, Alex Terzian to confirm set up arrangements.
  5. Send an abstract to the Students Services Representative at least *2* weeks in advance. The title and abstract will be announced to all DCM&B affiliated faculty, students, and postdocs. If other units should be notified, that can also be done.
  6. The student will receive the necessary forms from Rackham to disseminate among the committee members.
  7. After the defense, the committee members will send their evaluations to Rackham.
  8. The student must attend a Rackham post-defense meeting


Any questions may be addressed to the Bioinformatics Graduate Program office or the Directors.

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