The Illinois Informatics PhD program is a unique research degree defined by innovative application and invention of computational methods to advance existing or newly created fields of inquiry



  • Individually tailored, student-centric study
  • Renowned faculty from the entire campus and wide disciplinary spectrum, representing more than seven Schools and Colleges across the Urbana-Champaign campus
  • World-class computing resources
  • Fellowships and Assistantships for the most qualified applicants

Research and education in informatics has a strong interdisciplinary flavor as it involves experts in the information and computation foundations together with experts in the application areas. The Informatics PhD program at the University of Illinois will support such interdisciplinary research and promote the creation of new fields of research enabled by the development and application of new technologies. The Informatics PhD program at Illinois brings together faculty working in various application areas, faculty working in information and computation foundations, and interdisciplinary faculty conjoining the two.

With the help of an advisory committee, each student will craft his or her own program of study.

Research Areas

Initial Program Areas

  • Bioinformatics
  • Health and Medical Informatics
  • Spatial Informatics
  • Art and Cultural Informatics
  • Design, Technology, and Society
  • Data Analytics and Information Visualization
  • Cognitive Science and Language Processing

 Degree Requirement

The minimum course load for full-time graduate students is 12 hours. If you have a 50% assistantship (not fellowship), then the minimum is 8 hours. See for more information. A minimum GPA is required by the Graduate College and is explained at

  1. The total number of hours required for a PhD is 96 (64 with an approved MS):
    1. 32 hours for MS courses (400 or 500-level)
    2. 32 for PhD courses (400 or 500-level, as noted below)
    3. 32 for dissertation credits

    Students entering with a suitable MS can skip the first part and graduate in 4 years, with the first half being courses and the second half being dissertation. Students entering without a suitable MS will take 5 – 6 years.

  2. The Informatics Program requires the following courses:
    1. The INFO 500 Orientation seminar
    2. Two Research Practicums (lab rotations). This course is INFO 510 and requires an approval form.
    3. Two Applications courses (500-level)
    4. Two Foundations courses (500-level), all for some coherent plan of X-informatics.

This will supply 25 of the 32 PhD course hours. The student will also take at least two specialty courses (at either the 400 or 500-level) for the remaining required course hours.


With MS degree With BS degree
Required Courses:
Orientation Seminar (1 h, 2 semesters) 0 then 1 0 then 1
Research Practicum (4 h, 2 semesters) 8 8
Applications Courses (2 500-level courses from approved list) 8 8
Foundations Courses (2 500-level courses from approved list) 8 8
Thesis hours required (min/max applied toward degree): 32 min 32 min
Electives (400 or 500-level) 7 7
Masters degree 0 32*
Total hours 64 96
Qualifying exam required Yes Yes
Preliminary exam required Yes Yes
Final exam/Dissertation defense required Yes Yes
Dissertation deposit required Yes Yes

*Students entering without a Masters degree approved by their Advisory Committee, will be required to take 32 additional credit hours in 400- and 500-level courses approved by their Committee.


The Chair of the Governing Committee will appoint the supervising committee to approve each student’s program of study, which will be called the Advisory Committee (first half of studies) and then the Dissertation Committee (second half of studies). The membership of these committees should remain constant for each half of the student’s studies, except in unusual circumstances, but may typically change when it is constituted for the dissertation. Changes to the supervising committees must be approved by the Governing Committee. The student is apprised of progress after each year. This Committee must contain faculty with expertise in both the Applications area and the Foundations area chosen by the student, including at least four faculty members of the Informatics Program.


First half of the program, Years 1 and 2: All students are expected to meet professional informatics levels of knowledge in programming/databases and in mathematics/statistics, or other technical field, as relevant to their area. The level is judged by their Advisory Committee and will vary depending on the Area chosen. Some students may already be at an adequate level, while others may require remediation. Their committee will develop a plan for achieving an adequate level, including research experiences and additional coursework, and will monitor students’ progress within the remediation plan. In the first semester of study, students must take the Orientation Seminar (first for 0 credits, and then in a later semester for 1 credit). During the first two years students must take four courses, determined in consultation with their Advisory Committee: Two in Applications and two in Foundations. The signature for interdisciplinary informatics is to require courses in both Applications and Foundations. Courses below the 500 level cannot be used to fulfill these basic requirements, although they can be counted as part of the total course load required. Each student can choose the standard Applications and Foundations of an established Area, or with approval of their Advisory Committee, choose custom Applications and Foundations across Areas. Because students may establish new areas of research, courses outside those listed are also permitted, with approval of the student’s Advisory Committee. These four courses will form the heart of their studies and are intended to provide the basic discipline knowledge. Typically, these would be taken as soon as possible but at least by the end of Year 2, with any prerequisite 400-level courses taken in Year 1. The timing depends on prior preparation. As soon as they have sufficient preparation, students must also take two Research Practicums.The required courses will usually be taken by the end of Year 2 but may be taken later if the student needs further preparatory work before being prepared for 500-level courses. After completing the required courses, a student must take an Area Qualifier to demonstrate breadth of knowledge in their chosen area, whether standard or custom. After passing the Area Qualifier, students must form a Dissertation Committee.

Second half of the program, Years 3 and 4:The second half of the program is devoted to the dissertation research, which students typically carry out during Years 3 and 4. When ready, they must pass the Preliminary Examination (essentially a proposal defense). When finished, students must present an acceptable Dissertation and then pass the Final Examination to graduate from the Informatics PhD program.  A well-prepared student should pass the Preliminary Examination in Year 3 and the Final Examination in Year 4 to earn a PhD within four years of entering the program.