The Doctor of Philosophy in informatics requires a minimum of 72 s.h. of graduate credit. It is offered in four subprograms: bioinformatics and computational biology, geoinformatics, health informatics, and information science.

Students select an advisor from their subprogram's affiliated faculty members. In consultation with their advisors, students prepare a study plan, which is reviewed by their mentors and curricular advisory committees at least once a year.

Ph.D. students must pass a comprehensive examination at or near completion of their coursework requirements. The exam may be written, oral, or both, depending on the structure of the student's subprogram or the decision of the student's committee.

A student who does not already hold an M.S. in informatics from the University of Iowa and who has passed the Ph.D. comprehensive examination may be granted an M.S. degree in informatics without taking the final master's degree exam in the health informatics, geoinformatics, or information science subprogram, upon recommendation of the Informatics Program. The bioinformatics and computational biology subprogram does not grant an M.S. degree when a student passes the comprehensive exam.

Students should consult the Computer Science Graduate Student Handbook, for detailed information about Ph.D. requirements, such as required courses, examinations, and dissertation requirements.

Listed below are the general categories of coursework required to earn the degree; for more specific information on courses, curriculum, and requirements of the Doctor of Philosophy in informatics, visit the UI General Catalog or the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Informatics website.

Bioinformatics and Computational Biology Subprogram Requirements
Title Hours
Core Courses 19-21
Statistics Courses 6
Additional Upper-Level Electives 45-47
Dissertation Work (see below) -
Total Hours 72-74


Geoinformatics Subprogram Requirements
Title Hours
Core Informatics Courses 9-10
Core Geoinformatics Courses 12
Additional Upper-Level Electives 51
Dissertation Work (see below) -
Total Hours 72-73


Health Informatics Subprogram Requirements
Title Hours
Core and Foundation Courses 28
Health Informatics Electives 9
Additional Upper-Level Electives 35
Dissertation Work (see below) -
Total Hours 72


Information Science Subprogram Requirements
Title Hours
Core Courses 18-19
Additional Upper-Level Electives 54
Dissertation Work (see below) -
Total Hours 72-73

Important Deadlines

Application Deadline: January 1st (for Fall semester enrollment)


Admission decisions are based on prior academic performance, letters of reference, the applicant's statement about background and purpose, and scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test. Students need not have a master's degree to begin the Ph.D. program or to be granted the doctoral degree. A student admitted without a master's degree may choose to be granted an M.S. or the M.C.S. while working toward the doctorate.

Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College on the Graduate College website. For more information, see the Graduate Admissions Process page.

Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the qualifying exam is to demonstrate the ability to read, analyze, synthesize, and communicate current research results. Qualifying exams are given twice a year, approximately mid-September and mid-February. Ph.D. students should take the qualifying exam at the beginning of their second year. Ph.D. students should start interacting with their initial advisor as soon as possible—preferably early in the fall semester—to set up a plan for starting research that will lead to success in the qualifying exam. Students must pass the qualifying exam by the end of their second year. A qualifying exam is based on a small number (3-5) of research articles selected in consultation with the student's advisor. The candidate prepares a 15-20 page synthesis/discussion of this material. It is okay for a paper co-authored by the student to be one of the research articles covered by the qualifying exam report, however such a paper, by itself, cannot serve as a qualifying exam report. A panel of three faculty will be selected by the Department and a date and time will be assigned during the scheduled exam period for the candidate's 20-40 minute oral presentation. The three-member faculty panel, along with the student's advisor acting in an advisory (non-voting) capacity, will decide the outcome of the exam by majority vote.

Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive examination is an evaluation of a student's mastery of a research area near completion of formal course work, and before preparation of the dissertation. The exam may be written, oral, or both, at the department's discretion, and is administered by a faculty committee. The comprehensive exam typically should be completed by the end of a student's third year and no later than the end of the fourth year in the Ph.D. program.

Dissertation Proposal

At least six months prior to the final exam, a student must form a dissertation committee and circulate a formal thesis proposal to the committee.  The proposal should describe the research performed to date, related work, and outline the expected thesis results.  The student must, in essence, argue the originality and significance of the expected results to the committee in a manner consistent with their advisor's counsel (this may or may not include an oral presentation). Possible outcomes of a thesis proposal are (i) the committee finds the proposal satisfactory, or (ii) the committee suggests modifications and in a few weeks after the proposal the student and committee reach a consensus (via e-mail or face-to-face meetings) on a modified set of expected thesis results, or (iii) the committee asks the student to redo their proposal, likely with a fresh proposal document and oral presentation, giving the student enough time to address the committee’s concerns.


Each student must write a dissertation, a significant, original contribution to the field of computer science. Once students obtain some preliminary results and can identify and describe the boundaries of their dissertation, they prepare a written proposal for their committee's review. The dissertation must be prepared in accordance with the format specified in the Graduate College Thesis Manual.

Final Oral Examination

Once the dissertation is complete and has been reviewed by the student's committee, a final oral examination is administered on campus. This examination must take place no sooner than the semester following successful completion of the comprehensive examination and no later than five years after completion of the comprehensive exam.