Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics student works on computer

The Program in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Michigan is an interdisciplinary gateway program that coordinates admissions and the first year of Ph.D. studies for 14 department programs, including Bioinformatics.

PIBS offers you the flexibility and convenience of applying to any of our participating programs through one application. We invite you to thoroughly explore Bioinformatics and the other 13 programs before selecting your top preferences when you apply.

Program Overview

The Bioinformatics Program accepted its first students in 2001, establishing itself as one of the first Bioinformatics programs in the nation. Bioinformatics at the University of Michigan is housed in the Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics (DCM&B), an interdisciplinary center whose mission is to catalyze research and teaching on biomedical problems where quantitative and computational methods can be of decisive value.

Students in our program come from many backgrounds: biological sciences, computer science and basic quantitative sciences such as statistics, mathematics, chemistry, and physics. A significant number join the program after some post-graduate job experience or training (e.g., Master's).

Bioinformatics maintains a student body of approximately 40 Ph.D. students, plus Master's students. They are mentored by the DCM&B faculty, which is more than 100 strong and represents more than 20 departments and programs and six colleges within the University. Faculty members with biological and more quantitative expertise are both well represented.

Research Areas

Bioinformatics offers an extensive range of research opportunities, from applications for clinical medical problems and specific diseases to computational work on synthetic biological systems. There are very active groups in:
• Genomics, regulatory genomics and epigenomics
• Protein structure, proteomics, and alternative splicing
• Multi-“omics” integrative bioinformatics
• Systems biology and networks analysis
• Biomedical data science, translational bioinformatics, and pharmacogenomics
• Methodological development in computational biology
• Applications to complex genetic diseases
• 4D Nucleome
• Single Cell Analysis
• Signal/Image Processing and Machine Learning
Bioinformatics has had an NIH supported training grant since 2005. Our students are eligible for a wide range of other training grant support related to more specific areas of research, such as genomesciences or cancer proteomics.

Explore our faculty.

Program Requirements

Coursework

Students are required to take courses in each of the following areas:

 
• Introductory Bioinformatics
• Computing & Informatics
• Probability & Statistics
• Molecular Biology
• Bioinformatics 602 (Journal Club) taken once in the first year.
• Bioinformatics 603 (Journal Club) taken once; students present papers for discussion
• Research Responsibility and Ethics course (PIBS 503)
• One Advanced Bioinformatics course offered or cross-listed by the Bioinformatics Graduate Program
• One additional Advanced Bioinformatics course in any program

 
Details about courses available in each of these areas can be found on the department website. Courses may be offered by Bioinformatics
or other units.

Attendance at weekly seminars is also expected. Offered seminars include a weekly series of invited guest speakers, “Tools & Tech” presentations that highlight a tool or technology, either under development or in current use that is of interest to NCIBI researchers; and BISTRO, a lively seminar where students present their ongoing research.

Preliminary Examination

Students take a preliminary exam in their second year, usually at the end of the 3rd or 4th term. The preliminary exam should show both creativity and skill, and should not be identical to the student’s thesis work. The aims of the examination are two-fold. The first aim is to demonstrate that students have developed the ability to analyze a scientific problem and develop appropriate strategies to carry out a research plan. The second aim is to demonstrate that students have enough Bioinformatics knowledge needed to carry out their thesis research. Students sometimes develop their prelim proposals into a paper and/or a thesis chapter later.

Teaching Requirement

Teaching, in Bioinformatics or in other departments, is encouraged and expected for at least one term from most Bioinformatics students. Individual circumstances such as English language ability, interest, and funding situation of the mentor are considered.

Expected Length of Program

The expected time to degree is typically 5 years.

Student Interests

Approximately 8 - 15 new students join the Ph.D. program each year. Each term, contact between faculty and students is encouraged through research events & social gatherings. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the program, students are encouraged to develop and pursue their own research interests. In an effort to support students’ academic growth, the department and other units (such as Rackham Graduate School) offer funding to assist students with conference participation or workshop attendance.

~ 50% of program alumni choose academia, while others with go into industry with many working at biotechnology companies. Aware of this, current students are provided opportunities to meet with guest seminar speakers or visitors from industry. In addition, outside internships are encouraged if related to a student’s research as they have proven to be valuable experiences.

 

The program supports student-led initiatives that are focused on building community such as student organized social activities, a pre-Thanksgiving dinner, and group run in the local marathon. Separately, Bioinformatics coordinates an annual off-site weekend retreat and an annual picnic.

 
Several Bioinformatics students also are engaged with, or have developed, on-campus academic and civic groups. These include, but are not limited, to Michigan Science Writers (MiSciWriters), InnoWorks, and Girls Who Code. The Bioinformatics Program is proud of their efforts & provides support as needed.

Career Expectations

Students from the Bioinformatics Graduate Program have entered careers in academia, biotechnology, business, and biomedical research. There are already three CEOs of new firms among our small number of alumni, and two young tenure-track professors.