Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics student works at 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 a breathtaking range of research opportunities, from applications to clinical medical problems and specific diseases to computational work on synthetic biological systems. There are very active groups in:

  • Cancer Informatics
  • Database applications
  • Medical informatics
  • Infectious disease modeling
  • Modeling and analysis of complex diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and neurological disorders
  • ‘Omics’ studies, including gene expression, Proteomics & Metabolomics
  • Statistical, population, and molecular genetics including next generation sequence analysis
  • Structural analysis and prediction of macromolecules, including proteins
  • Systems biology

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 genome sciences or cancer proteomics.

Explore our faculty.

Program Requirements

Coursework

Bioinformatics requires students to gain skills in bioinformatics, biology, statistics, and computing/programming, and to apply these skills in advanced bioinformatics courses. All students take a required introductory bioinformatics course in the Fall semester of the first year, plus biology, statistics, and computational courses corresponding to their background and interests. Students are closely advised to match their backgrounds to this curriculum, and a special curriculum is available for cross-training, i.e., to bring students with quantitative background into the biosciences, and to acquaint biologists with computer science and statistical methods.

All students also take at least two advanced bioinformatics courses which apply quantitative and computational approaches to biomedical problems (e.g., high throughput sequence analysis, data science, proteome informatics, computational neuroscience and systems biology). Courses in many other departments and schools may also qualify as advanced bioinformatics (e.g., complex systems, statistical genetics, Bayesian informatics).

The Bioinformatics program also includes weekly research seminars with invited speakers, several journal clubs, and a lively seminar where students present their 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

Eight to thirteen new Ph.D. students join our program every year. Our students have been quite successful with winning prestigious fellowships from the graduate school. Each term, we emphasize and encourage contact between faculty and students through kick-off research events and regular social gatherings.

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.