Skip to main content

PhD Programs

During the research phase of training, MSTP students select advisors and thesis committee members from over 400 graduate faculty members in 36 departments and four schools at Northwestern University. The MSTP has established partner relationships with eight graduate programs: four umbrella PhD programs with faculty from different departments and four department-based PhD programs. As partners, these programs offer significant course reductions to MSTP students to ensure that they can move through the research phase in a timely manner.


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.

Learn More

Driskill Graduate Program (DGP) in the 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.

Learn More

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 Ability Lab, 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.

Learn More

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.

Learn More

Department-Based PhD Programs

Biomedical Engineering (BME)

The BME program has robust connections to University-wide departments and schools as well as local hospitals, making the department a leader in the field of biomedicine that performs innovative research frequently translated into medical practice. 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.

Learn More


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 exploring multidisciplinary connections in nanotechnology, energy sciences, catalysis, life processes, biological chemistry, material science, drug development, chemical and biological engineering, and environmental science.

Learn More

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.

Learn More

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 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.

Learn More

Other PhD Programs

Students are welcome to join PhD programs outside of the partner relationships established here; for example, we currently have students in the Applied Physics PhD program, the Anthropology PhD program, and the Mechanical Engineering PhD program. The MSTP office will work with graduate programs to ensure that students also receive course and teaching load reductions as applicable.

Applicants interested in pursuing a PhD in a program offered by Northwestern but not listed here 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.

Choosing a PhD Program

Each laboratory and faculty member may be associated with one or more umbrella or departmental PhD program. Students select a PhD thesis adviser and laboratory first, and then choose to join one of the programs affiliated with them. 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 6 of the 9 required courses for PhD candidacy in the Life Sciences and NUIN; up to 4 of the 9 courses for Chemistry, depending on placement test results; 9 of the 15 courses for Engineering; and 8 of the 16 required courses for HSIP.

In addition to these 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.