PhD Curriculum

The requirements for each student in the PhD program in Bioinformatics include the successful completion of a set of core courses in Biology, Biochemistry, Mathematics, and Computer Science, while the main emphasis of the program is on the successful completion of an original and independent research project. Each student must also complete a minor program of study in accordance with Institute policies.

Admission to candidacy requires passing written and oral comprehensive examinations administered by the Bioinformatics PhD Graduate Committee (see the Qualifying Exams section below). The PhD dissertation written on results of the individual research project should provide evidence that the PhD candidate is ready to start an independent research career. The PhD thesis should be defended publicly and approved by the thesis committee.

Each student regardless of home unit is required to complete course work from the following categories.  Specific courses should be selected in consultation with the student’s faculty advisor, committee, and the Bioinformatics program director.  

A. 9 credit hours of Bioinformatics and Computational Bioscience (e.g. BIOL 6150, BIOL 7200, BIOL 7210)

B.  9 credit hours in Biology, Biochemistry or Biomedical Engineering (e.g. BIOL 7015, BMED 6517, BIOL 8803)

C. 9 credit hours of Mathematics and Computer Science (e.g. CS 7641, CSE 6242, MATH 6702)

D. 9 credit hours of courses in an approved minor

E. 24 research credit hours

Credit hours for courses in categories A, B, and C could be completed by previous graduate study (such as study in the Georgia Tech Master's Degree in Bioinformatics program). Approval of transfer of credits from courses taken elsewhere is done by the Bioinformatics graduate committee.  Typically, 2/3 of credit hours in each category A, B, C, D should be at 6000 or higher level. Students can use appropriate 4000 level courses from the list of recommended courses (see separate tab), if the student's thesis committee approves them and include them into a program of study.  A student must maintain a GPA of 3.2 in his/her course work.

Participating Schools may have additional requirements and policies for students registered for the Bioinformatics PhD program in that School as the home unit, such as a requirement that courses in sections B or C must be taken in the home department, and/or specifics on affiliation of thesis committee members. These further define the course of study, but do not constitute additional academic workload.

Please download the pdf. below to complete the PhD Program of Study form:

Program of Study Bioinformatics.pdf


The student must successfully pass a qualifying exam, preferably within 24 months after entering the PhD program. The exam consists of written and oral parts. The written part is a written proposal of the planned PhD dissertation research, in the format of a research grant proposal. The oral examination is a presentation of this written thesis proposal. The written exam in Bioinformatics and the oral exam are administered by a faculty committee consisting of:

  • Two Bioinformatics Program faculty
  • One faculty member from the Home Unit
  • Thesis advisor as an observer, not as a participant (as a rule).

The committee is suggested by the advisor and approved jointly by the Chair of the Bioinformatics Graduate Committee and the Chair of a Home Unit Graduate Committee.

The guidelines of the qualifying exam are given as an example and not as a strict guideline to follow by each home unit. Each home unit is allowed to modify the qualifying exam policy to make it most suitable to the unit profile.

Students who wish to transfer to the Bioinformatics program after passing their qualifying exam in another PhD major can be admitted by the Bioinformatics Graduate committee without the requirement of passing the Bioinformatics qualifying exam. In this case the advisor (with co-advisor) and thesis committee may have to specify additional courses to be taken to satisfy the requirements of the program of study.

Home Unit approval for degree petition, as well as approval by the Bioinformatics Graduate Committee, will be required.


A student should choose a thesis advisor (from the Bioinformatics Program Faculty) and co-advisors within the first year of being in the PhD program. In the second year a student along with advisor are expected to assemble the thesis committee. The thesis committee should consist of a minimum of five faculty members. At least three members of the committee should be from Bioinformatics Program Faculty and at least two members of thesis committee should be from the home unit. Not later than in the middle of the third year a student has to present and defend a written PhD proposal.


A student should meet with his/her thesis committee at least once a year to review the research progress.


Within 5 years after entering the PhD program, the student is expected to complete the thesis research, and, typically, the student should have the results of the research published or submitted in peer reviewed journals. Upon submitting a written thesis and public defense and approval by the committee, the student is awarded the PhD degree.