FAQ

Below are frequently asked questions (FAQ) about the Bioinformatics Graduate Program.

What is bioinformatics?

Bioinformatics consists of a mathematical and/or statistical analysis of a biomedical problem using computation. We define bioinformatics widely and include traditional bioinformatics areas such as Systems Biology, Genomics, Proteomics, plus statistical and evolutionary genetics, clinical informatics, and protein modeling, are just some examples .

What is the typical training background of a U-M BIOINF student?

As an interdisciplinary field, Bioinformatics attracts graduate students from mathematics, statistics, physics, computer science, biomedical engineering, chemistry, biochemistry and biology. Most incoming students have both a major in one and a minor in another discipline. In recent years students have entered with undergraduate training in bioinformatics or computational biology.

What courses are required?

We require few specific courses, but a skill level in biology, statistics, and computing. We do require an introductory bioinformatics course, plus at least two of advanced bioinformatics courses, which apply statistics or modeling using computing to biomedical problems. Please refer to the curriculum pages of your program of study for a list of courses.

Each student obtains individual counseling by one of the two graduate program directors upon arrival and throughout their academic career. As Bioinformatics is still developing, new courses are added all the time. Current students are encouraged to contact the Program Directors about courses that may be relevant to their studies and are not listed on the website (esp. if they are new or infrequently offered).

Should I apply to PIBS, Bioinformatics Direct, or both?

In most cases, we recommend you apply to the PIBS program, as it provides flexibility in classes, funding, and a central admission for many biomedical programs. If you have no or very little biology background, please contact our Student Services Representative as to whether a direct application would be better. Current student who are considering transferring areas of study should also contact the Bioinformatics Graduate Office.

There is no need to apply both direct and through PIBS, as the same committee sees your applications.

What kind of research do your students do?

For most students, thesis work includes computing, reading, and writing. A small group also participates in wet laboratory work. Please check both the research areas and student webpages for an overview of the varied subjects addressed in research and student theses.

Where do graduates of your program end up?

Many of our graduate students obtain academic postdoctoral fellowships and go on to faculty positions. Quite a significant number of graduates go into non-academic professions such as small or large biotech companies. Some have founded their own business, and others apply their analytical skills in companies unrelated to bioinformatics. For a current list of graduate placement, please visit the alumni pages.

Is a Master's degree required for admission to the Ph.D. program?

No. If you want to get a Ph.D., directly apply to the Ph.D. Program.

Can I apply to the Master's program if I have been denied admission to the Ph.D. program?

Yes. Please contact the Student Services Representative as soon as possible if you plan to.

What fellowships are there for Master's students? How likely is it I can get one?

Our Master students are largely self-funded. You may apply for teaching or research assistantships but there is no guarantee. Please note that the Bioinformatics Program offers few positions and priority is given to Ph.D. students. A student may obtain a teaching position (GSI) in another unit.

While many Master's students get some funding, rarely is a student fully funded without some type of external award or fellowship. If interested in research assistantships, you need to contact specific faculty for those positions. Having significant programing experience is helpful.

Can I do a Master's while working?

Yes. Some students take coursework while working full time. A student is expected to complete all coursework within five years from the date of first enrollment in the program.

What TOEFL, GRE and GPA requirements do you have?

A minimum TOEFL score of 100 is required.
In general, quantitative GRE scores should be above 160/170 or 720/800.
A GPA below 3.0 will rarely be admitted.
The admissions review committee takes all components into account – letters of recommendation, experience, academic interests, as well as test scores. While the above GRE and GPA scores are typical of our applicant pool, they are not set limits which individually determine admission.

If interested, applicants with low GPAs may take graduate coursework in preparation to show academic promise. For those interested in courses at the Univ. of MI, please review the Rackham Graduate School pages for Non-Candidate for Degree.