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PhD Programs

For the research phase of training, the MSTP has established partner relationships with eight Northwestern University graduate programs: four umbrella PhD programs with faculty from different departments and four department-based PhD programs. These programs offer significant course reductions to MSTP students to ensure that they can move through the research phase in a timely manner. 

Students are also welcome to join Northwestern PhD programs outside of the partner relationships listed below; for example, we currently have students in the Applied Physics, the Anthropology and the Mechanical Engineering PhD programs. Applicants interested in pursuing a PhD in a program offered by Northwestern but not listed below as one of our partner programs will be considered on a case-by-case basis and will require coordination with the PhD program of interest for consideration. Please contact the MSTP office with questions on coordinating with these PhD programs during the application process.

How to Choose a PhD Program

Students select a PhD thesis adviser and laboratory first, and then choose to join one of the programs affiliated with them. Each laboratory and faculty member may be associated with one or more of the umbrella or departmental PhD programs below. Typically, as the qualifying exam structures are similar across programs, students choose a program based on preferred course offerings. MSTP students receive course waivers based on the first two years of the medical school curriculum completed prior to beginning the research phase of training. Students are awarded credit for six of the nine required courses for PhD candidacy in the Life Sciences and NUIN; up to four of the nine courses for Chemistry, depending on placement test results; nine of the 15 courses for Engineering; and eight of the 16 required courses for HSIP.

In addition to the following PhD programs, there are numerous interdepartmental training programs, centers and institutes that afford additional training activities such as symposia, seminar series, special conferences and retreats.

Umbrella PhD Programs

Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences (IBiS) Graduate Program

IBiS promotes innovative research that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries in the life sciences. The program includes approximately 60 training faculty from diverse science and engineering departments on Northwestern's Evanston campus who are linked by common interests in addressing fundamental questions in the biological and biomedical sciences.

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Driskill Graduate Program (DGP) in Life Sciences

The Walter S. and Lucienne Driskill Graduate Program in Life Sciences is a comprehensive, interdisciplinary PhD program located on the downtown Chicago campus that trains students in modern biomedical sciences while giving them the flexibility to pursue a variety of research interests and dual degrees.

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Northwestern University Interdepartmental Neuroscience (NUIN) PhD Program

NUIN is an interdisciplinary and collaborative program offering students access to state-of-the-art resources for neuroscience research. The program is anchored in the Feinberg School of Medicine, Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and the Lurie Children’s Hospital on the university’s Chicago campus and the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, McCormick School of Engineering, and School of Communication on its Evanston campus.

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Health Sciences Integrated PhD (HSIP) Program

HSIP offers student training across multiple disciplines within the health sciences, spanning from informatics and program evaluation to implementation science and outcomes research. Integration across these programs provides the flexibility for doctoral students to receive rigorous interdisciplinary training in the core content needed for population and health research in the 21st century. Students choose one of five curricular tracks when they choose to join the program.

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Department-Based PhD Programs

Biomedical Engineering (BME)

The BME program's robust connections to university-wide departments and schools as well as local hospitals combined with innovative research frequently translated into medical practice has established the department as a leader in the field of biomedicine. The interdisciplinary faculty, with appointments in engineering, medicine, and arts and sciences, lead revolutionary research in multiple areas in which the principles of engineering can be used to advance biology and medicine.

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The Department of Chemistry is a center for global excellence in graduate education and research in chemistry. It has a long-standing commitment to collaborative research in the fundamentals of chemistry as well as to multidisciplinary connections in nanotechnology, energy sciences, catalysis, life processes, biological chemistry, material science, drug development, chemical and biological engineering, and environmental science.

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Chemical and Biological Engineering (ChBE)

ChBE is an internationally recognized program that prepares the next generation of engineers by fostering their growth in a collaborative, multidisciplinary community built on excellence in research and education. Its faculty and students shape the world through inventions and innovations in soft materials, complex systems, synthetic biology, biotechnology, and catalysis and use them to tackle global challenges in renewable energy, biomanufacturing, clean water, sustainability, and human health.

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Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)

The graduate program in material sciences and engineering is one of the highest ranked programs of its kind in the nation. It emphasizes both core materials science and engineering training and interdisciplinary research that’s on the cutting edge of the field. Students enrolled in the MSE PhD program have the option of completing the biotechnology training program, an interdisciplinary, interdepartmental program that provides select graduate students greater research and training opportunities than those available through the individual departments.

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