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University of Pittsburgh    
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog 
  Jun 21, 2024
2018-2019 Graduate & Professional Studies Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Biomedical Informatics (PhD, MS, Certificate)

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Biomedical informatics is the science and engineering of information handling in health care delivery and biomedical research, studying and developing models of the various aspects of health care delivery and biomedical research in order to better understand how they operate. Those models suggest interventions that may improve health care delivery and biomedical research, including new methods for capturing, organizing, analyzing, and conveying clinical information to clinicians and researchers. Experiments are performed in which the effect of promising interventions on health care delivery or biomedical research are observed and compared to existing methods, which serve as controls. The analysis of the results of such experiments can lead to greater understanding of health care delivery and biomedical research, and thereby to methods with which to improve them.

Example areas of investigations in biomedical informatics at the University of Pittsburgh include the development and evaluation of new computer-based methods for (1) analyzing proteomic data to diagnosis disease, (2) supporting clinical trials, (3) providing clinical information to patients, (4) understanding the mechanism of diseases from genomic data, (5) natural language processing of electronically available medical text to extract important clinical features, (6) alerting clinicians when patient care appears atypical, (7) real-time detection and assessment of outbreaks of infectious disease and (8) teaching clinical trainees.

This program offers both master’s and doctoral degrees. Most students choose to follow a general course of study in biomedical informatics; some, however, elect a specialization in one of the following areas: bioinformatics, clinical informatics, image informatics, or biosurveillance/infectious disease informatics. The specific curricula for the specializations, which are variations of the general course of study in biomedical informatics, can be found on the Training Program Web site at

Individuals who want a less intensive exposure to informatics may seek a 15-credit certificate in lieu of an academic degree. The biomedical informatics certificate can be a means of augmenting professional training in fields related to informatics and/or fulfilling educational needs associated with a professional position. Trainees across all health professions are welcome.


Contact Information

Toni Porterfield
Training Program Coordinator
415 Baum
Fax: 412-648-9118


More information on Admissions, Financial Aid, Curriculum, Courses, Degree Requirements, and Faculty, can be found at

PhD Requirements

Credits: To earn the PhD degree in biomedical informatics, a student must complete a program of study approved by a committee of biomedical informatics faculty. This program requires must include a minimum of 72 credits consisting of required Foundation Series (9 credits); Research Methods Series (9 credits); Research Skills Series (7 credits); BIOINF 3998  Teaching Practicum (3 credits); electives (9 or more); successful completion of a written preliminary evaluation followed by an oral exam; an MS-level research project involving significant research, design, or development work and a written report; successful completion of a doctoral comprehensive examination composed by a doctoral committee; and research work leading to an acceptable dissertation. All required courses must be taken for a letter grade, with the exception of the Journal Clubs/Colloquiums and some independent and/or dissertations studies (to be determined by the faculty advisors). A minimum “B” grade is required in all graduate courses.

Admission to Candidacy/Dissertation: To qualify for admission to candidacy, a student must have completed formal coursework with a 3.3 GPA or higher, successfully completed the master’s level project, passed the comprehensive examination, and received approval of the proposed subject and plan for the dissertations from their dissertation committee following a prospectus meeting. The dissertation committee usually includes the principal dissertation advisor and three additional faculty (a majority of the committee must be biomedical informatics core faculty, and have University graduate faculty status).

An appropriate dissertation project involves a substantive piece of original and independent biomedical informatics research, grounded in an appropriate mode 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 Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees section of this document.

MS Requirements

Credits: The Master of Science in Biomedical Informatics requires a minimum of 36 credits consisting of required biomedical informatics core Foundation Series (9 credits); required computational competency Research Methods Series (6 credits); biomedical informatics distribution Research Skills Series (7 credits minimum); electives (11 or more credits); and Master’s Thesis/Project Research (BIOINF 2480  3 or more credits).

All required courses must be taken for a letter grade, with the exception of the Journal Clubs/Colloquiums and some independent and/or dissertation studies (to be determined by faculty advisors). A minimum “B” grade is required in all graduate courses.

Research Project or Thesis: A key element of the program is a research project with two key deliverables: (1) the writing and submission of a paper of publishable quality based upon the research and (2) the completion of an oral examination on its contents. A master’s project committee will oversee the student’s research progress, including the oral comprehensive examination. Students have the option of developing their projects into a formal master’s thesis.

Successful completion of the oral examination on the research project satisfies the comprehensive examination requirement of the University’s Committee on Graduate Studies. Final certification of the completion of the master’s degree requires submission of the hard copy of the master’s research project to the program coordinator.

Certificate Requirements

The biomedical informatics certificate is a 15-credit (minimum) experience. The curriculum of all students in this program will have the following general structure: required Foundation Series (7 credits); electives (minimum 6 credits); and BIOINF 2480  research project (2-3 credits)

Research Project: The research project should be summarized in a report commensurate with its scope, one copy of which must be submitted to the training program coordinator after approval by the student’s research advisor.

Additional Requirements for Doctoral, Master’s, and Certificate Students in Biomedical Informatics

Instruction in the Responsible Conduct of Research: This Web-based set of instructions and evaluation modules may be accessed at

Attendance at and participation in the Department of Biomedical Informatics’ invited lectures, symposia, conferences, etc. (particularly the Annual Training Program Retreat and special departmental lectures). Such lectures are considered important educational experiences, as well as introducing students to primary researchers and their work in the field of biomedical informatics.

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