To earn the doctoral degree in Biomedical Informatics, a trainee must complete a program of study approved by a committee of biomedical informatics faculty. This program must include successful completion of (a) the required coursework described below; (b) a preliminary evaluation; (c) an MS-level research project involving significant research, design, or development work and a written report; (d) a comprehensive examination composed by the doctoral committee; (e) 18 or more credits of doctoral dissertation research work leading to an acceptable dissertation; and (f) the accomplishments listed in the Requirements prior to Admission to Doctoral Candidacy section.
All required courses must be taken for a letter grade, with the exception of the Journal Clubs, Biomedical Informatics Colloquiums and some Independent and/or Dissertation Studies (to be determined by faculty advisors). A minimum grade of “B” is required in all graduate courses. The doctoral committee may waive course requirements that have been satisfied through prior university-level study, in accordance with the Committee on Graduate Studies guidelines. A trainee must comply with the regulations of the Committee on Graduate Studies, as well as those regulations established by the biomedical informatics faculty. We expect that the average full-time trainee will complete the degree in four years.
Up to 30 credits—grade “B” or better—from a master’s program in another institution or another department within the University of Pittsburgh can be considered for transfer towards the Biomedical Informatics Doctoral degree. In recognition of graduate study beyond the masters’ degree successfully completed elsewhere or within the University of Pittsburgh, no more than 12 additional credits may be accepted at the time of admission to meet the minimum credit requirement. (At least three terms, or 36 credits, of full-time doctoral study, or the equivalent in part-time study, must be successfully completed at the University of Pittsburgh.) Acceptance of transfer credit must be discussed between the trainee and advisor, and approved by the Chair of Curriculum Committee. Doctoral trainees who enter the program with a masters or higher degree (for example, a physician or nurse practitioner) may choose to, but will not be required to, earn a master’s degree in biomedical informatics as part of routine progression to the doctorate.
The doctoral degree in Biomedical Informatics requires at least 72 credits that include 26 credits of required core coursework, elective credits, and 18 dissertation credits following admission to candidacy.
Foundation Series (9 required core credits)
BIOINF 2011: Foundations of Clinical and Public Health Informatics (3 credits)
BIOINF 2051: Foundations of Bioinformatics (3 courses)
BIOINF 2118: Statistical Foundations of Biomedical Informatics (3 credits)
Research Methods Series (9 required core credits)
BIOINF 2119: Probabilistic Methods in Artificial Intelligence (3 credits)
BIOINF 2120: Symbolic Methods in Artificial Intelligence (3 credits)
BIOINF 2121: Human Computer Interaction and Evaluation Methods (3 credits)
Research Skills Series (8 required core credits)
BIOINF 2032: Biomedical Informatics Journal Club (1 credit) - Fall Term
BIOINF 2032: Biomedical Informatics Journal Club (1 credit) - Spring Term
BIOINF 2014: Biomedical Informatics Project Course (3 credits)
BIOINF 2134: Publication and Presentation in Biomedical Informatics (3 credits)
Elective Courses (22 credits)
Electives are chosen by the trainee — which must be approved by the trainee’s advisor — and consist of 2xxx or higher level courses that address trainee’s educational and career goals. Courses that are not listed below can also be chosen with approval from the trainee’s advisor.
BIOINF 2016: Foundations of Translational Bioinformatics (3 credits)
BIOINF 2018: Introduction to R Programming for Scientific Research (3 credits)
BIOINF 2103: Design and Analysis of Biomarker Studies (3 credits)
BIOINF 2110: Concepts of Software Project Engineering in Health Care (3 credits)
BIOINF 2117: Applied Medical Informatics (2 credits)
BIOINF 2124: Principles of Global Health Informatics (3 credits)
BIOINF 2125: Informatics and Industry (1 credit)
BIOINF 2129: Internship in Global Health Informatics (3 credits)
BIOINF 2132: Special Topic Seminar in Medical Informatics (2-3 credits)
BIOINF 2990: Masters Independent Study (1-6 credits)
BIOINF 2993: Masters Directed Study (1-6 credits)
BIOINF 3990: Doctoral Independent Study (1-9 credits)
BIOINF 3995: Doctoral Directed Study (1-9 credits)
Research (21 required credits)
BIOINF 2480: Master’s Project Research (3 credits minimum)
BIOINF 3999: Doctoral Dissertation Research (18 credits)
Teaching Practicum (3 required credits)
BIOINF 3998: Doctoral Teaching Practicum (3 credits) Each trainee is required to complete 3 credits (8 hours per week for one term) of teaching assistant service in biomedical informatics courses—in consultation with biomedical informatics faculty.
- Biomedical Informatics Colloquium (0 credit): The colloquium will showcase presentations from DBMI researchers and invited speakers from across campus and beyond. It will meet weekly for one hour during the Fall and Spring terms. Minimum 75% attendance is required of all trainees.
- Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research: This requirement must be satisfied within the first month of beginning any academic program at the Department Biomedical Informatics through the CITI training modules.
The University of Pittsburgh now requires the completion of CITI training modules for all individuals involved in research. Go to http://www.rcco.pitt.edu/ResearchTrainingRequirements.htm to access the Training for Researchers guidance document. To simplify user access and better track completion of required research courses, we have built a special pathway or portal to access CITI using the current Pitt HSConnect login process. This will allow users and administrators to continue to use the same method to identify which courses have been completed. All new investigators and research team members, including non-Pitt/UPMC investigators, must create an account on the University of Pittsburgh HSConnect site which can be found at: www.hsconnect.pitt.edu. Users must go through the Pitt CITI Access Portal to affiliate with the university as there is no way to directly affiliate with the university from the CITI website. If you completed the CITI training using by selecting UPMC as your participating site, you must still go to the Pitt CITI Access Portal to affiliate with the University of Pittsburgh.
Once you complete the online modules, it is YOUR responsibility to present a copy of your completion certificate to the Training Program Coordinator for your permanent record.
- Conflict of Interest: This requirement must be satisfied within the first month of beginning any academic program at the Department Biomedical Informatics through the CITI training modules.
Login to the Superform Web site: https://coi.hs.pitt.edu, using your HS Connect login. Under “Review & File Your COI Forms,” select “University of Pittsburgh Faculty/Researcher Form” or “University of Pittsburgh Designated Administrator/Staff Form” to begin making your disclosure. Print your signature page and present it to the Training Program Coordinator.
- Attendance at and participation in the Department Biomedical Informatics’ invited special lectures, symposia, conferences, etc., e.g., The Annual Lindberg Lecture and particularly the Annual Training Program Retreat. Such lectures are considered to be important educational experiences, and introduce trainees to the primary researchers and their work in the field of biomedical informatics.
- Doctoral trainees are required to produce one first-author, peer-reviewed conference or journal paper per year beginning in their second year of graduate study.
At approximately the end of the first year of full-time graduate study, a preliminary evaluation designed to assess the breadth of the trainee's knowledge of the discipline, achievement to date, and potential to apply research methods independently will be conducted. The evaluation results will be reported to the Office of Graduate Studies of the School of Medicine. The Preliminary Evaluation consists of an oral presentation in the form of a poster presentation at the Annual Training Program Retreat in late August or a presentation in the fall Biomedical Informatics Colloquium, together with the regular evaluation that is done on all trainees in the program by the Evaluation Committee at least twice each year.
Trainees pursuing a doctoral degree should have completed the master’s-level research project/thesis by the end of the summer term of the second year of full-time study. The doctoral trainee should register to receive 3 credits under Master’s Thesis/Project Research (BIOINF 2480). The research project is intended to provide doctoral trainees with an early research experience and to identify content and methodology deficiencies for remediation prior to the doctoral comprehensive examination. The research project has two key deliverables: (1) the writing and submission (to the Training Program, via the research advisor) of a paper of publishable quality based upon the research and (2) the completion of an oral examination on its contents. The research project is required of master’s and doctoral trainees. The research paper is expected to be 20-30 pages double spaced type, inclusive of abstract, figures, tables and references, and to include Objective, Background, Design, Measurements, Results, and Conclusion (or the equivalent, dependent on the specific research focus). There is the strong expectation that trainees will submit their projects for publication to appropriate journals and conferences, such as JAMIA, AMIA, or other respected academic publications in their field of study. All trainees should refer to Master’s Research Project Requirements for detailed description of this requirement, including committee, timeline, and deliverables.
Doctoral trainees pursuing a master’s on their way to a doctoral degree have the option of developing their project into a formal master’s thesis. It is expected that those trainees who choose the thesis option will satisfy all additional University requirements, including format and submission of copies, for the master’s thesis. For more information, see www.pitt.edu/~graduate/regmasters.html and www.pitt.edu/~graduate/dissertation.html.
Doctoral Comprehensive Examination
The comprehensive examination should be scheduled as the trainee nears the end of coursework and no later than the first term of completion of coursework requirements in the doctoral program. The comprehensive examination has both written and oral components, which are overseen by a comprehensive exam committee of four (minimum) faculty, at least three of which must be members of the Biomedical Informatics Core Faculty.
See specific Doctoral Degree Comprehensive Examination Guidelines.
Requirements Prior to Admission to Doctoral Candidacy
The following skills must be demonstrated in the course of graduate study and prior to being admitted to doctoral candidacy.
- Writing accomplishment: This is satisfied by submitting a journal article or peer-reviewed conference paper with approval by his/her advisor
Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree, Doctoral Committee, and the Doctoral Dissertation
To qualify for admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree, a doctoral trainee must have completed formal coursework with a 3.3 QPA or higher, successfully completed the master’s level project, passed the doctoral comprehensive examination, and received approval of the proposed subject and plan for the dissertation from his/her dissertation committee following a Dissertation Proposal Meeting (also called the Dissertation Prospectus Meeting). Note that 18 credits of dissertation study must be completed after completion of coursework.
The Dissertation Committee usually includes the principal dissertation advisor (responsible for oversight of thee trainee's dissertation research; also referred to as the "major advisor") and three additional members. The role of the Dissertation Committee Chair (responsible for administrative oversight and the final oral examination) may be filled by the dissertation advisor or another committee member. The majority of the committee, including those members filling the roles of the dissertation advisor and the committee Chair, must have Graduate Faculty status. A majority of the committee must be Biomedical Informatics Core Faculty. A minimum of one Graduate Faculty member from the University community who is not a member of the trainee’s training program must participate on the committee. The dissertation committee must be approved by the Director of the training program prior to seeking approval from the Graduate Dean (signed nomination of a doctoral dissertation committee form). Only upon this approval may the trainee meet with his/her committee at their Dissertation Proposal Meeting and proceed with Admission to Candidacy. This doctoral committee has the responsibility to advise the trainee during the progress of the candidate's research and has the authority to require high quality research and/or the rewriting of any portion or the entire dissertation. It conducts the final oral examination and determines whether the dissertation meets acceptable standards.
The Dissertation Advisor has the responsibility for primary oversight of the progress of the candidate's research. The Dissertation Committee Chair will arrange the dates of the proposal, annual, and final oral examination meetings of the committee well in advance, will oversee submission of all documents and forms requiring committee approval and signatures, and will coordinate and communicate all other matters related to the process of the dissertation in accordance to these guidelines. The Training Program Coordinator is available to assist the Chair in this process.
An appropriate dissertation project involves a substantive piece of original and independent biomedical informatics research, grounded in an appropriate body of literature and providing a significant contribution to the field. The dissertation must be successfully defended in a public oral defense.
The dissertation process will follow the applicable regulations and procedures of the University and the School of Medicine, as described in the Regulations Governing Graduate Study at the University of Pittsburgh (see www.pitt.edu/~graduate/reg.html).
University policy requires submission of dissertations in electronic form for the doctoral degree. See www.pitt.edu/~graduate/regphd.html#dissertation and specifically www.pitt.edu/AFShome/g/r/graduate/public/html/etd/