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Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences
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Biomedical Informatics Track

The Walter S. and Lucienne Driskill Graduate Training Program in Life Sciences (DGP) Biomedical Informatics (BMI) track is tailored for students whose primary interests are within the sphere of bioinformatics. Informatics methods are becoming standard in many areas of biological and medical investigations, and BMI training focuses on building new tools. The program track is best suited for students who are:

  • Looking for a program with emphasis on bioinformatics
  • Have a solid biologic sciences base
  • Interested in graduate-level courses biology, genetics, microbiology or related topics
  • Looking for a program with a primary emphasis on building computational applications and algorithm development

To determine which Northwestern informatics program best suits your interests and needs, visit the Programs in Health and Biomedical Informatics at Northwestern University site.


Applicants seeking admission into the DGP informatics track should indicate "Biomedical Informatics" in the specialization question in the CollegeNet application.


The track’s curriculum is based on the curriculum development work done by the Center for Behavioral Intervention Technologies (CBIT) executive committee. It follows the model of recent informatics curriculum activities, including those of the American Medical Informatics Association Academic Forum, and focuses on competencies.

Find information on the core, distribution and elective course work available within the program at the Center for Education in Health Sciences. There are a small number of core competencies that are required of every BMI trainee, including:

  • Broad overview: A survey and understanding of the field of BMI. This is satisfied by HSIP440: Introduction to Biomedical Informatics. Students are required to take this or a similar course.
  • Informatics Methods: A basic understanding of a variety of informatics methods. These include methods from across BMI, such as sequence analysis, graph analysis, image processing, human computer interaction, database design, ontology and organizational theory. This is satisfied by a three-quarter sequence of courses in Informatics Methods (HSIP 441, 442 and 443). Students are required to take all three of these courses.
  • Computation: While individual informatics scientists may not do computer programming, they will certainly interact frequently with programmers and other computational professionals. They must have, at least, a basic understanding, both theoretical and hands-on, of computation and software. Students must take one computation class. 
  • Understanding of their target domain: A fundamental difference between informatics and computer science is the domain-dependence of informatics; therefore, CBIT requires that all trainees have an understanding of their target domain (in this case, biological sciences). Students are therefore required to take two biological sciences courses, which will most likely be drawn from the DGP course list. Courses from the Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences Graduate Program and Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience will also be considered.
  • Biostatistics: Evaluation and measurement are inextricably bound to informatics research; therefore, an understanding of biostatistics at the intermediate level is a requirement for all informatics trainees. This requirement is satisfied by EPI_BIO 302 Intermediate Biostatistics or a similar class. Please note that the DGP course Statistics and Data Analysis for Life Scientists is an introductory level class and therefore does not meet this requirement.
  • Responsible Conduct of Research: Informatics research often involves sensitive data and real-world clinical systems. All students in the DGP, regardless of track, must complete IGP 494, Colloquium on Integrity in Biomedical Research.
  • Introduction to Life Sciences Research: All DGP students take IGP_496, Introduction to Life Science Research, which focuses on proposal writing and preparation for the qualifying exam.

In addition to demonstrating the core competencies, all trainees will be expected to complete two additional distribution requirements from a different informatics domain.

Chicago Opportunities

The Chicago Metropolitan Exchanges allows graduate students in the DGP to take relevant courses at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois-Chicago without added tuition costs.

Chicago also provides excellent employment opportunities after graduation. With seven medical schools and more than 50 hospitals serving 8.7 million people, Chicago is a major center of healthcare and biomedical research. It is also home to many companies and organizations involved in healthcare IT and terminology. With facilities like the Argonne National Laboratory and the International Center for Advanced Internet Research, Chicago is uniquely positioned to bring together incredibly large volumes of clinical data, academic and corporate biomedical scientists and the world’s leading computational scientists and resources.

Additional Northwestern Programs in Biomedical Informatics

Students interested in other informatics domains are encouraged to look into the Health Sciences Integrated Program, which offers doctoral student training across multiple disciplines within the Health Sciences and a track specific for health and biomedical informatics. The program may be best suited for students who are looking for a program emphasis on clinical informatics, clinical research informatics and public health informatics.


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