Degree Requirements

Timeline for Completing the Degree


  • BIG program core and elective coursework.
  • Students complete two lab rotations, each for 8 to 12 weeks.
  • Students meet at least twice with academic advisor.


  • Core and elective coursework completed by the end of G2.
  • Dissertation laboratory declared by the end of September OR student meets, by the end of September, with program head or designate for an approved plan.
  • Students take and pass Preliminary Qualifying Examination (PQE) by November of G3.


  • Complete PQE.
  • First Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC) meeting held no later than September 30 of the G3 year: A DAC report is submitted to the program administrator no more than two days after every DAC meeting.
  • Second DAC meeting held no later than the end of G3 year: Research progress should compel the DAC to confirm in the report that project can plausibly lead to a dissertation.


  • DAC meeting held no later than end of the G4 year: DAC confirms research direction and/or progress likely leads to dissertation within 18 months.


  • DAC meeting held no later than end of December of the G4 year or within 6 months of the previous DAC meeting: DAC confirms strong indication of progress towards completion.
  • Final DAC Meeting.

Academic Structure

Degree Granting Department(s): BIG students will be granted a certificate in Bioinformatics & Integrative Genomics, but they select a home degree-granting program from the following DMS departments:

  • Biomedical and Biological Science
  • Immunology
  • Neuroscience
  • Virology

Courses and Rotations: Each student is expected to complete required courses in both programs: the home program and the BIG program. In the first year, students will rotate in at least two laboratories.

Student advising: Each student has a BIG faculty advisor with whom s/he will meet regularly throughout her/his time in graduate school. Also, a meeting for course selection with BIG faculty members will be required for the first two years at the beginning of each semester.

Teaching requirement: Each student is expected to serve as a volunteer teaching assistant (TA) for a class. Alternatively, the student may participate in one of the many Community Education Programs.

Qualifying Exam: The Qualifying Exam is available at 4 times: March or May of G2, September or October of G3. 

Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC): Students will follow the home program's advising structure. At least one member of the BIG faculty will serve on each student's DAC. Please refer to the Dissertation Advisory Committee Guidelines for more information. Each time you meet with your committee, you must submit the Dissertation Advisory Committee Report to the BIG program director.

Qualifying Examination

Committee: Students select a committee of three BIG Faculty members. Students submit their committee to the program manager for approval using the PQE Application Form.

Exam: The student will be provided a set of questions that typically require extensive reading and computation. One week later, the student will meet with their committee for a formal presentation of the student’s response to the questions. The examiners can then ask questions about the presentation or any material that the student is expected to have mastered in his/her coursework. If the student does not fully satisfy the committee, he/she will be asked to retake the exam. Please see the PQE Guidelines for more information. 

Sample email script for inviting professors to be on your PQE committee: 
"I've elected to complete my Preliminary Qualifying Examination (PQE) this coming spring/summer and would like you to be the chair of my exam committee. If you agree to participate in the examination process I wanted to provide a brief description of that role:

The primary goal of the PQE is to ensure that each student has achieved a high standard of scientific scholarship and skills that are critical for successful completion of their Ph.D. thesis and beyond. In addition to assessing each student’s foundation in genome sciences, computational methods, and statistical analysis the PQE will also test for competence in functional genomics, basic molecular biology techniques, high throughput sequence measurement and analysis, as well as population genetics.
Role of Examination Committee Chair
Role of Examination Committee Chair PQE chairs are experienced examiners and are responsible for keeping the exam on course and ensuring that examiners pursue an appropriate line of questions. The chair is also responsible for creating the examination questions (examples can be provided).
If you are willing to participate I can begin coordinating schedules. Please feel free to contact me with any questions! Hope to hear from you!"