Photo credit: Rick Gaber


Prospective students in Life and Biomedical Sciences apply to either IBiS (Evanston campus) or
DGP (Chicago campus).

These programs operate collaboratively and have equivalent requirements in order to facilitate students taking full advantage of the impressive array of resources available at Northwestern. IBiS and DGP offer complementary but distinct research environments, and prospective students are encouraged to explore both web sites and apply to the program that best suits their research interests. In choosing a program for admission, applicants should focus on identifying a concentration of faculty in either program that most closely matches their research interests.

Regardless of the site of entry, the PhD program in Life and Biomedical Sciences enables and encourages students to take advantage of training faculty, coursework, and resources from across all of Northwestern. Students participate in cross-campus activities throughout all stages of their academic careers, and have the opportunity to work with and learn from faculty across the whole of the University.



During the first year, students are given the opportunity to work in three different laboratories, under the supervision of leading scientists, allowing them to explore the diverse interdisciplinary research opportunities available and hone their research interests.  By the end of the first three quarters, students are expected to choose a thesis lab.


Students take six graded courses in the first year. At least four must be chosen from designated core courses to be offered on both campuses in six major areas:

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Systems-level Biology
  • Biophysics
  • Quantitative Biology, Chemical Biology, or Bioengineering
  • Genetics

Download a list of DGP and IBiS Core and Elective courses here.

Beyond the six first-year courses, students are required to take at least two other graded courses during their second or third year. These can be additional courses from the core and/or advanced electives, some of which are offered by the cluster areas.


Once students join a thesis lab, they are required to choose and begin to participate in the activities of one of the Research Clusters that will provide advanced, more focused, training activities over the reminder of their PhD studies.

Qualifying Exam

At the end of the second year, students will take a qualifying exam based on but not limited to their thesis proposal. They are then ready to proceed to complete their thesis work.