Graduate admissions in (bio-) medical informatics

Many foreign (and some domestic) applicants are under the impression that one should apply to individual research labs or professors to join graduate programs. However, in most US universities the admission decision is delegated to a department-wide admissions committee, and the only way to be admitted to graduate study is by applying to that process, normally by December 15. Only after admissions decisions have been made (around March each year) do we try to match the admitted students' research interests to opportunities within individual research groups.

The MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) has a long tradition of encouraging studies in highly varied fields, and has provided opportunities for over forty years for doctoral studies in medical informatics. Since the advent of biomedical informatics as a field in the 1990's, it has also served as one of the appropriate places to study this field. Information on applying for admission to EECS may be found at
Note that, although EECS expects students to earn a master's degree on the way to a PhD, there is no terminal master's program, and candidates interested only in obtaining a master's degree compete for admission with those planning to study for the PhD.

Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), which is part of MIT's Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, also offers PhD programs in biomedical engineering/physics (MEMP). Information is at

MIT also hosts a Computational and Systems Biology (CSBi) doctoral program, described at

The Institute for Data, Systems and Society at MIT focuses on large-scale socio-technical problems in various engineering areas, and has been developing an interest in the healthcare system as a whole. Their doctoral program is described at

If you already have an MD or other doctoral degree in a health-related field, we collaborate with a Master's program in biomedical informatics hosted by Harvard Medical School. The program also normally includes association with one of the Boston-area hospitals' informatics laboratories. They also have a PhD program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Genomics. Information on these programs is at

A more general discussion of educational opportunities within the MIT CSAIL Clinical Decision Making Group is at

Although the range of options seems overwhelming, there is significant overlap among the classes, faculty and labs involved in many of these programs. Though the admission process may look disjointed, the educational process is better integrated!

Applicants should be aware that admission to these programs is highly competitive, so even most fully qualified students are not admitted simply because we are unable to educate so many good students.  Therefore, it is imperative for anyone seeking a graduate education in this field to look broadly at many available programs around the US and the world and to apply to ones that seem a good match to his or her interests. This maximizes the chances of admission to some good program, despite the significant random component of admission committee decisions.

Last edited by Peter Szolovits, May 4, 2020.