Biomedical Informatics  

The PhD Degree in Biomedical Informatics

The PhD degree allows graduates to lead research in academic, industry, or government positions. All prospective applicants should note that the program in Biomedical Informatics is intellectually rigorous, and emphasizes research in novel computational methods aimed at advancing biology and medicine. You may also want to investigate degree programs from other computational and quantitative graduate programs (Bioengineering, Computer Science, Statistics) and other programs in the Biosciences Programs (such as Genetics, Chemical Systems Biology, or Structural Biology). In contrast to the other computational/quantitative programs, BMI focuses more on informatics issues of knowledge representation and reasoning, data mining and analysis, and machine learning, while in contrast to the Biosciences programs, BMI places greater emphasis on method development and evaluation than on basic science. Faculty from many departments have research projects of a computational nature, and in some cases there is considerable overlap, but our applications committee evaluates the fit of your application to our program, so the choice of a home program is an important one.

Our students come from diverse backgrounds and training experiences. Some enter straight from baccalaureate training, while others have pursued advanced degrees, such as an MS, MPH, or MD, or worked in clinical medicine, bioengineering, biotechnology, or software engineering.


Please see the prerequisites page.

Degree Requirements

The curriculum is described here.

The doctoral program is a full-time, residential, research-oriented program. BMI does not offer part-time or distance education leading to the PhD. However, some students have applied to the part-time distance education MS program, completed that degree, and then submitted a separate application to the PhD program. There is no guarantee that Masters graduates will be accepted into the PhD program.

PhD students typically start in the fall quarter, but may begin in the preceding summer. They spend an average of five years at Stanford.

Candidates are encouraged to explore the various research interests of the biomedical informatics core and participating faculty. Lab rotations during the first year expose students to different labs and faculty. Prior to being formally admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree at the end of the second year of study, each student must demonstrate knowledge of informatics fundamentals and a potential for succeeding in research by passing a qualifying oral examination. Students later complete and defend a doctoral dissertation.

MDs interested in the PhD should contact us as early as possible, especially if you are coordinating the BMI training with further medical residency or fellowship training. It is also important to ensure that appropriate math and computer science prerequisites are completed before applying.


All of our PhD students are fully funded. However, our NLM Training Grant only covers US citizens or permanent residents, so international students need to seek external fellowship support, and should start on this process well in advance of applying. Others are also encouraged to apply for external fellowship support (e.g., NSF) on their own, but are not required to do so during the application process. We do not accept "self-pay" PhD students. Our students are supported by one or more of the following means:

  1. The National Library of Medicine Training Grant. BMI supports most doctoral students through a training grant from the National Library of Medicine at NIH. The NLM training grant (and other funds) pay tuition, a stipend, and health insurance. Students on the NLM training grant must be US citizens or permanent residents.
  2. The Stanford Graduate Fellowship. This award is open to all PhD applicants in all departments and programs regardless of citizenship, and is quite competitive. BMI applies for a small number of applicants each year.
  3. Our students also may receive Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowships, Stanford BIO-X Fellowships, National Center for Human Genome Research Fellowships, National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships, NSF Fellowships, and others.
  4. Other Sources of Funding. On rare occasions, faculty will express willingness to fund a student directly from their research funds. This generally happens when there is an unusually good fit between the applicant's background and the faculty member's research interests. Research funds are tightly restricted and changing mentors may present difficulty. Note that this option is generally not available.

Application Instructions and Deadlines

Applications are due early December each year.

Frequently Asked Questions

See here. (Highly recommended!)

Footer Links: