The PhD program emphasizes preparation for research, teaching, and scholarly endeavor in academic settings or private, industrial, or governmental laboratories. It is a flexible program welcoming students with a broad range of research interests within informatics including, but not limited to: bioinformatics and computational biology, geoinformatics, health informatics, human-computer interaction, and information science. It requires completion of a minimum number of semester hours of coursework, satisfactory performance on the qualifying, comprehensive, and proposal exams, and the production and formal defense of a dissertation describing original research results. The requirements described here are in addition to the University-wide requirements for the PhD degree described in the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College, Section XII.
The Ph.D. in informatics requires a total of 72 semester hours beyond the bachelor’s degree. A total of 19 semester hours of core courses are required, with an additional 12 semester hours of courses approved by the student’s committee. These additional courses are expected to be in the student’s area of specialization in informatics (e.g., health sciences, biology, geography, information science, etc.). The remaining semester hours are typically dedicated to dissertation research. Students should use the core courses plan of study worksheet and the supplement worksheet for additional PhD requirements to track their progress and plan ahead.
The purpose of the qualifying exam is to demonstrate the ability to read, analyze, synthesize, and communicate current research results.
Qualifying Exam Timetable
PhD students should take the qualifying exam at the beginning of their second year. PhD Students should start interacting with their initial advisor as soon as possible – preferably early in the fall semester – to set up a plan for starting research that will lead to success in the qualifying exam. Students must pass the qualifying exam by the end of their second year.
Qualifying Exam Structure
A qualifying exam is based on a small number (3-5) of research articles selected in consultation with the student's advisor. The candidate prepares a 15-20 page synthesis/discussion of this material. It is okay for a paper co-authored by the student to be one of the research articles covered by the qualifying exam report, however such a paper, by itself, cannot serve as a qualifying exam report.
Qualifying Exam Panel
Each student attempting the qualifying exam is required to file a Request for PhD Qualifying Exam form and submit the qualifying exam report two weeks prior to taking the Exam. A panel of three faculty belonging to the program should be selected in consultation with the student’s advisor. The candidate should make a 20-40-minute oral presentation during the Exam. The three-member faculty panel (which may include the student’s advisor) will decide the outcome of the exam by majority vote.
Qualifying Exam Failure
A student who fails the qualifying exam will be permitted to repeat the exam one additional time. PhD students who do not pass the qualifying exam by the second semester of the second year (regardless of the number of attempts undertaken) will be automatically switched into the MS program.
Please note that rules governing the comprehensive exam (unlike the qualifying exam) are mandated by the Graduate College. Students should always refer to the Manual of Rules of Regulations of the Graduate College as the final authority in the case of any perceived inconsistencies.
The comprehensive exam will consist of a review of the literature and preliminary outline and investigation of a research problem that will be pursued for the PhD thesis. Students should plan to pass their comprehensive exam before the end of their third year to remain in good standing.
Comprehensive Exam Structure
The structure and evaluation of the comprehensive exam follows the procedures outlined in the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College, Section XII (K). With the help of the Academic Services Coordinator, the student should update their departmental Plan of Study and complete a Request/Report for Doctoral Comprehensive Exam form and a Doctoral Plan of Study Summary Sheet found on the Grad College website. The Academic Services Coordinator will ensure that the appropriate paperwork is submitted to the Graduate College for approval. Students must be registered for classes at the time of their comprehensive exam.
The exam will prepare a 20-30 page survey/discussion (along the lines of the introduction and literature review from an eventual thesis) for distribution to their faculty committee, followed at least two weeks later by a brief 20-40 minute oral presentation, and a question/answer session.
The comprehensive exam committee, arranged by the student, requires a minimum of four faculty members, of which three must be UI tenure-track faculty. At least two of the faculty members are from the program and are members of the University of Iowa tenure-track faculty. In addition, no more than three panelists should be from the same home department. The committee must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and appointed by the Dean of the Graduate College.
Master’s Degree (MS) at Comprehensive Exam
Students may request that the MS degree be granted at the time of the comprehensive exam by notifying the Academic Services Coordinator at the time the comprehensive exam paperwork is completed. The MS degree without thesis is awarded upon successful completion of the comprehensive exam but may, at the examination committee's discretion, be awarded even if the student does not pass the exam. Students may also choose to complete the thesis requirements and be awarded an MS with thesis degree. If an MS degree is to be awarded, please be aware of the appropriate deadlines (e.g., for submission of the Application for Degree and Plan of Study Summary Form).
Post-Comprehensive Exam Registration
After completion of the comprehensive exam, the student is required to maintain continuous registration (fall and spring semesters) through completion of the dissertation and graduation. Note that there are special rules for post-comprehensive exam registration, as students will typically not be enrolled in classes, but rather will be working exclusively on the thesis requirement (see Section XII [L] of the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College).
Please note that post-comp registration must be for a minimum of 1 semester hour. For example, cooperative internships for 0 semester hours do not satisfy the registration requirement.
Academic Registration Requirement
Student registration should reflect accurately the amount and kind of work undertaken in the Graduate College. The Ph.D., D.M.A., and DNP are granted primarily on the basis of achievement, and engagement with one’s discipline is an important part of achieving quality in a dissertation. The purpose of the registration requirement is to promote a high level of intellectual and scholarly activity at The University of Iowa. These requirements foster intensive, concentrated engagement with the faculty members and graduate students in a student's program.
All doctoral programs will contain a minimum of 72 semester hours of graduate work. Of those 72 semester hours, at least 39 must be earned while registered in The University of Iowa Graduate College, and after formal program admission. For example, the academic registration requirement cannot be fulfilled by coursework completed under the non-degree or non-departmental student classification or with transfer credit.
A student must be registered in the semester in which they earn their degree. For full details, see the Manual of Rules of Regulations of the Graduate College, Section XII (C).
At least six months prior to the final exam, a student must form a dissertation committee and circulate a formal thesis proposal to the committee. The proposal should describe the research performed to date, any related work, and outline the expected thesis results. The student must, in essence, argue the originality and significance of the expected results to the committee in a manner consistent with their advisor's counsel (this may or may not include an oral presentation). Possible outcomes of a thesis proposal are (i) the committee finds the proposal satisfactory, or (ii) the committee suggests modifications and in a few weeks after the proposal the student and committee reach a consensus (via e-mail or meetings) on a modified set of expected thesis results, or (iii) the committee asks the student to redo their proposal, likely with a fresh proposal document and oral presentation, giving the student enough time to address the committee’s concerns.
Students should complete the form, Request to Appoint a PhD Committee/Proposal Defense, when all members have agreed to serve on the committee and a tentative date has been set for the proposal defense. The committee, proposed by the candidate and his or her advisor, requires a minimum of four faculty members, of which three must be UI tenure-track faculty. At least two of the faculty members are from the program and are members of the University of Iowa tenure-track faculty. In addition, no more than three panelists should be from the same home department. The committee must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and appointed by the Dean of the Graduate College.
The dissertation must describe original research performed by the PhD candidate and must be defended before a faculty committee. Please note that rules governing the final exam/dissertation defense (unlike the qualifying exam) are mandated by the Graduate College and not the program. Students should always refer to the Manual of Rules of Regulations of the Graduate College as the final authority in the case of any perceived inconsistencies in determining all requirements that must be met.
The structure and evaluation of the final exam will follow the procedure outline in the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College, Section XII (M) through XII (P). The final exam committee, which should be the same as the committee composed for the proposal defense, must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies and appointed by the Dean of the Graduate College. With the help of the Academic Services Coordinator, students should complete a Request/Report for Final Examination: Advanced Degree, found on the Graduate College website. Be aware that the appropriate paperwork, especially thesis deposits, must be filed with the Graduate College within the specified time constraints. Further details regarding submission and formatting requirements, for the thesis, is also found on the Graduate College website.
IGPI Doctoral Guidelines and Deadlines
Progressing toward degree completion at an appropriate rate
Continuance, Probation & Dismissal for Ph.D. Students
The Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Informatics (IGPI) expects that doctoral students will make timely progress toward the completion of their degree. In general, it is anticipated that Informatics graduate students will complete all degree requirements within 5-6 years. Progression targets, which include series of established degree program milestones along with recommended timing and sequence, are presented below. These milestones correspond with the formal requirements of earning a Ph.D. in Informatics.
Normal* progress is required in order for students to be in good standing in the program. Failure to make normal progress will result in students being placed on probation. Under exceptional circumstances, the program faculty, with the approval of the program Director, may grant continuance even when normal progress has been interrupted.
*Normal progress is defined as:
(1) Progressing toward degree completion at a timely rate. A timely rate of progress should keep students within the following schedule for completion of milestones. Timing begins at the point of students’ first semester in the program after admission.
|Identify Advisor||2nd semester|
|Qualifying Exam||3rd semester|
|Comprehensive Exam||3rd year|
|Proposal Exam||4th-5th year|
|Final Exam||5th-6th year|
These are the milestones for PhD students completing degrees under a specific subprogram.
|Program Milestones||Bioinformatics & Computational Biology||Geoinformatics||Health Informatics||Information Science|
|Identify Advisor||2nd semester||2nd semester||2nd semester||2nd semester|
|Qualifying Exam||4th semester||4th semester||3rd semester||4th semester|
|Comprehensive Exam||4th year||4th year||3rd year||3rd year|
|Final Exam||5th-6th year||5th-6th year||5th-6th year||5th-6th year|
(2) Satisfactory progress and performance in course work. Satisfactory progress and performance in course work means a student’s cumulative GPA should be at or above 3.0, and that a student is only taking courses in an approved plan of study.
Failure to maintain normal progress will result in a student being placed on probation. Students who are placed on probation will receive written notification, which is to include the action(s) necessary to return to good standing. Students will have one semester to complete the action(s) required in the written notice. Failure to satisfy the remediation plan will result in dismissal.
Being placed on probation can jeopardize funding support (e.g., assistantships or fellowships).
Dismissed students who are supported by assistantships or fellowships lose that support until and unless they are formally reinstated into the program.
Students dismissed from the graduate program, or placed on probation may appeal in writing to the Director of the program, who will rule on the case. Students have 10 days to appeal after they are notified of dismissal or probation.
If a student wishes to appeal the decision of the program Director, they may do so according to the “Academic Grievance Procedures” of the Graduate College.