The UCLA Bioinformatics Ph.D. Program

UCLA offers an integrated doctoral training for students interested in working at the interface of computer science, biology, and mathematics to address the fundamental challenges of contemporary genomic-scale research. The interdisciplinary Ph.D. program consists of an integrated one-year core curriculum, research rotations, over 50 elective courses, and faculty mentors spanning biology, mathematics, engineering, and medicine.

Doctoral Degree Requirements & Time-To-Degree


The program provides a comprehensive system of advising throughout a student’s graduate study.  During orientation, the advising committee and the program chair meet with new students to review first-year requirements.  Throughout their first term, students are expected to meet individually with the chair or other members of the advising committee to identify faculty is closest to the student’s own interests and whose laboratory rotations would be most appropriate to join.  At the end of the fall quarter, the entire advising committee meets with the first-year students to answer questions that have arisen.  In subsequent quarters, each student’s enrollment and performance in core courses and laboratory rotations are closely monitored, and students are counseled individually by the advising chair.  At the end of spring quarter of the first year, students submit a Faculty Mentor Approval form, co-signed by the proposed mentor, to the advising committee, which considers the choice of mentor and the ability of faculty to serve in this capacity.

The advising program continues after a student has chosen a faculty research mentor.  Each year, students receive a memorandum outlining current requirements (e.g., course electives, the written and oral qualifying examinations and midstream seminar).  The advising committee also meets annually to discuss student progress and identify potential problems.  Students then receive a letter assessing their current progress and making specific recommendations as needed.  An overall assessment of student progress is also made annually to the neuroscience committee.

In addition to the formal advising procedures outlined above, students are encouraged to seek advice on career development from faculty members in the Bioinformatics community at UCLA.  An annual retreat serves to allow informal and organized contacts between faculty and students, providing further opportunity for advising.

Major Fields or Subdisciplines

These fields include computer science, genomics, molecular evolution/comparative genomics, mathematics, neuroinformatics, proteomics and statistics.

Foreign Language Requirement


Course Requirements

Students must take the core courses, Chemistry and Biochemistry 202 (six units), M252 (six units), 260A-260B, Statistics M254, 12 units of laboratory rotation courses, and at least six units of seminar courses.

Students who have gaps in their previous training may take, with their adviser’s approval, appropriate undergraduate courses. However, these courses may not be applied toward the required courses for the doctoral degree.

Teaching Experience

One quarter of teaching experience is required.

Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations

Academic Senate regulations require all doctoral students to complete and pass University written and oral qualifying examinations prior to doctoral advancement to candidacy. Also, under Senate regulations the University oral qualifying examination is open only to the student and appointed members of the doctoral committee. In addition to University requirements, some graduate programs have other pre-candidacy examination requirements. What follows in this section is how students are required to fulfill all of these requirements for this doctoral program.

Doctoral students must complete the core curriculum before they are permitted to take the written and oral qualifying examinations. Students are required to pass a written qualifying examination that consists of a research proposal outside of their dissertation topic and the University Oral Qualifying Examination in which they defend their dissertation research proposal before their doctoral committee. Students are expected to complete the written examination by the beginning of the second year and the oral examination by the end of Spring Quarter of the third year.

During their first year, doctoral students perform laboratory rotations with program faculty whose research is of interest to them and select a dissertation adviser from the program faculty inside list by the end of their third quarter of enrollment. By the end of their second spring quarter, students must select a doctoral committee that consists of three program faculty and one outside member and is approved by the program chair and the Graduate Division. By the end of their second year, students must submit a written dissertation proposal.  All members of the doctoral committee must receive a copy of the proposal before the oral qualifying examination is scheduled.

Approximately one year after the successful completion of the qualifying examinations and advancement to doctoral candidacy, students must present, within an oral seminar format, a summary of their research to date and proposed future research.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students are advanced to candidacy upon successful completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations.

Doctoral Dissertation

Every doctoral degree program requires the completion of an approved dissertation that demonstrates the student’s ability to perform original, independent research and constitutes a distinct contribution to knowledge in the principal field of study.

Final Oral Examination (Defense of the Dissertation)

Required for all students in the program.


Students are expected to complete the written qualifying examination by the beginning of the second year of study and the University Oral Qualifying Examination by the end of Spring Quarter of the third year. The normative time-to-degree is 16 quarters.

Termination of Graduate Study and Appeal of Termination

University Policy

A student who fails to meet the above requirements may be recommended for termination of graduate study. A graduate student may be disqualified from continuing in the graduate program for a variety of reasons. The most common is failure to maintain the minimum cumulative grade point average (3.00) required by the Academic Senate to remain in good standing (some programs require a higher grade point average). Other examples include failure of examinations, lack of timely progress toward the degree and poor performance in core courses. Probationary students (those with cumulative grade point averages below 3.00) are subject to immediate dismissal upon the recommendation of their department. University guidelines governing termination of graduate students, including the appeal procedure, are outlined in Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study at UCLA.

Special Departmental or Program Policy

Students must receive at least a grade of B- in core courses or repeat the course. Students who received three grades of B- in core courses, who fail all or part of the written or oral qualifying examinations twice (the examination committee determines the form of re-examination for students who fail all or part of the written examination), or who fail to maintain minimum progress may be recommended for termination by vote of the entire interdepartmental program committee. Students may appeal a recommendation for termination in writing to the interdepartmental program committee and may personally present additional or mitigating information to the committee, in person or in writing.