The Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Informatics (BMI) program is a joint program offered at UNO and UNMC. It is designed to prepare the next generation of biomedical informatics researchers who are uniquely positioned to advance research and practice in contemporary information and knowledge management that impact biomedical, clinical and translational research, health care services, health care practice, public health care, and health care delivery in general. Graduates will be able to use their preparation to investigate and apply information science and technology to solve problems in the related biomedical fields in a comprehensive, competitive and effective way.
This page describes the essential components of the Ph.D. program requirement such as the coursework, comprehensive exams, candidacy and dissertation. A more detailed description of each of these topics is given in the Doctoral Handbook.
Ph.D. in BMI Required Courses
The doctoral BMI program requires 90 credit hours beyond a baccalaureate degree and consists of common required foundation/core courses, to include doctoral seminars and colloquia, a major field of study, a minor field of study in a related discipline, and the dissertation.
Incoming Ph.D. students are placed onto one of two tracks: bioinformatics or health informatics based on their background and research interests. Typically, applicants on the health informatics track should have a background in anatomy, physiology, cell biology or equivalent. Applicants on the bioinformatics track should have a background in programming languages, data structures and algorithms, statistics, math, or experimental methods.
A full doctoral student program without advanced placement consists of:
- Foundation/Core Courses (24 credits)
The foundation courses are divided into the two tracks mentioned above. The list of acceptable foundation courses are listed in the graduate catalog and are typically 3 credits each (courses with lab/discussion sections are 4 credits each). Occasionally, a student’s work experience may be sufficient to waive one or more foundation courses. Students with degrees in disciplines outside their track will usually have to take foundation courses.
As part of the core course requirement, students must either take BMI 8100 – Introduction to Biomedical Informatics for 3 credits or a GPC approved equivalent course.
- Research Foundations/Seminars/Tools (18 credits)
Miscellaneous Information Systems and Qualitative Analysis (ISQA) courses and one College of Information Science and Technology course (CIST 9080) work to give students analytic and statistical methods necessary for research.
ISQA 9010 Research Directions in IT is required.
- Major Field of Studies Electives (18 credits)
Students will gain the fundamental, in-depth knowledge needed in their field of biomedical informatics research. At least 3 courses (9 credits total) must be 9000-level BMI courses. The remaining courses should include at least one 8000-level graduate only course. The supervisory committee should determine the remaining 6 credits and allow at most only 6 hours of cross-listed 8**6 courses.
- Cognate Field (9 credits)
Graduate coursework (8000 or higher) in the areas of Biology, Medicine, ISQA, Cybersecurity, Neuroscience, Public Health, Computer Science, and/or Pathology. These courses are determined with faculty advisement.
- Colloquia (3 credits minimum) CIST 9040, 9050, and 9060 (1 credit each)
All students are required to take these courses. All of them are offered simultaneously during a semester.
- Dissertation (18 credits minimum)
The dissertation is an original research project conducted and written under the direction of the supervisory committee. More information is described below.
Undergraduate courses taken from any institution do not count as credits toward a doctoral degree.
Every Ph.D. student is required to teach at least ONE course while studying in the program. One semester before teaching a course, students will be mentored under the faculty member responsible for teaching the course through attending the lectures and doing additional duties as determined by the mentor. Students will be evaluated by the mentor and assigned to teach a course only after they satisfactorily perform their duties while being mentored.
The comprehensive examination can be taken after the student has completed all coursework according to his/her plan of study and formed a supervisory committee.
Before taking the written part of the exam, students will provide a selection of 4 - 5 topics from the areas covered in the BMI 8100 – Introduction of Biomedical Informatics course. The selected topics should not have significant overlap within the major or minor area of study given in the student’s plan of study. The topics should be selected so that they express breadth in the areas of the core disciplines of the program in computer science, information systems and integrated informatics. The doctoral program committee will select two topics from the set of 4-5 topics and inform the student in advance of the exam.
The oral portion cannot be taken without successfully passing the written part of the exam. The purpose of the oral exam is to make students thoroughly familiar with the theory behind the techniques that they will use; to give them a complete grounding in the literature of their research field (current and historical); and most importantly, to get them to think about their research.
The information provided here and further details on the examinations are given in the BMI Doctoral Handbook.
The dissertation of a Ph.D. candidate is supervised by the chair or co-chairs of the student’s supervisory committee in consultation with other members of the supervisory committee. When the supervisory committee deems it appropriate for the Ph.D. candidate to defend his/her dissertation, the Ph.D. candidate should prepare a dissertation thesis and submit it to the supervisory committee members and arrange for a dissertation defense.
After successfully defending his/her dissertation thesis, the student should contact the Office of Graduate Studies to apply for graduation.
Four to five years of full-time graduate study is normally required to complete a doctoral program. The time required by a Ph.D. student to graduate from our Ph.D. program will depend on the dissertation work pursued by the student and his/her previous education background. The Office of Graduate Studies allows a maximum of 8 years from the date of submission of the student's plan of study up to the student passing his/her dissertation defense. The UNO Graduate School requires that a minimum of 7 months must elapse between the date of the Ph.D. student’s advancement to candidacy and the date of his/her dissertation defense.
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