The PhD in Health Informatics program at UNC Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) prepares graduate students to contribute to the field of biomedical and health informatics studies through research, teaching and exposure to practical biomedical and health informatics challenges. The Carolina Health Informatics Program (CHIP) PhD trains scholars for careers in research and instruction as well as leadership roles in the industry. CHIP provides students with research experience, familiarity with biomedical and health informatics concepts, theories and methods. In addition, the program supports an active research community at UNC-CH and strong connections to the thriving biomedical and health informatics industry in the Research Triangle Park, NC area.
Total: 55 credits
- Pillars: 21 credits
- Electives: 12 credits
- Research credit (994): 6 credits at a minimum
- Transfer: 15 - 18 credits
- Note: Coursework can be transferred in from previous degrees. CHIP limits transfer credit to 15 - 18 for the PhD. The recommendation to grant transfer credit will be made on an individual basis and will require the approval of the graduate school.
The PhD in Health Informatics degree is a 100% residential doctoral degree program.
For more information about residency credit requirements at UNC - Chapel Hill, please follow this link to the UNC Graduate School student handbook.
Enrolled Student Demographics
- Total Enrolled - 22 doctoral students
- Female 41%; Male 59%
- International 45%
Follow this link to view student profiles.
Who Should Apply?
Individuals seeking advanced health informatics training for a broad range of research and leadership roles in academic, corporate, non-profit, and governmental settings.
Applicants with research exposure and the following educational backgrounds tend to have the most success in our programs:
- Computer Science
- Information Science
- Public Health
- Life Sciences
Follow this link for UNC Graduate School general application guidelines.
See Admission Requirements section below for CHIP doctoral admission information.
The program is structured to support interdisciplinary research training, gaining teaching experience, and administrative knowledge acquisition. It includes rigorous coursework prior to dissertation research and is designed to adapt to the diverse needs of program students. The CHIP doctoral timeline tab (see above) outlines the average process each of our graduate students follows to fulfill the program requirements.
The coursework portion of the program is based upon five content pillars:
- Core and frontier topics in health informatics (foundational concepts of informatics)
- Tools and infrastructure (advanced techniques for manipulating health data)
- Research methods and execution of research
- Project management and academic leadership skills
- Implementation science and translation.
See Sample Course Tab above.
The coursework is followed by comprehensive examinations, consisting of a written portion and an oral defense. After successful completion of comprehensive examinations, the student will prepare and defend a dissertation proposal before engaging in the dissertation research project, followed by a public dissertation defense. For more information, please see the CHIP PhD Handbook.
Additionally, students are expected to actively participate in scholarly writing and dissemination of research through presentations at regional and national conferences, as well as publications in high impact scholarly journals.
Program Cost & Funding
Tuition & Fees
For more information on tuition, please see the Tuition Estimator.
Bachelors Degree & GPA
- An undergraduate degree from an accredited institution
- GPA of 3.0 or greater
Unofficial copies of transcripts from all post-secondary education.
Letters of Recommendation
3 strong letters of recommendation from advisors, previous instructors, employers, or mentors.
Standardized Test Scores
- GRE test scores are NOT required but highly encouraged for all applicants.
- Applicants who are already holders of research or professional doctoral degrees do not need to submit GRE scores.
- For international applicants: A TOEFL score above 90 or an IELTS score above 7.
Statement of Purpose
- Description of previous research and professional experience (required)
- Motivation for seeking PhD in Health Informatics, research interests and what type of
research applicant hopes to pursue while in the program, as well as post-graduation
career goals (required)
- Additional information that would be helpful for application reviewers (optional)
Please Note: Program applicants are expected to clearly demonstrate an interest in the area of health informatics, as well as articulate plans for research to pursue as part of PhD studies and post-graduate career goals.
Interested in Applying?
If you are interested in the PhD Program and would like to speak to a program representative, please fill out the following inquiry form. If you would like to apply, please first visit the grad school page, which outlines the requirements for applying.
Doctoral students should aim to fulfill the required pillar coursework within the first two years of CHIP.
Spring: Prep for Comprehensive Exams
With the help of their adviser, students will develop a full– length, systematic review of literature pertaining to a research topic they will pursue for their dissertation. Graduate students will also begin assemble their dissertation committees at this point.
Doctoral students will present their comprehensive research review to their committee. Once the written review passes committee, graduate students will defend their review through oral examination.
Using the research collected from the comprehensive exam, students will develop a dissertation proposal and conduct a verbal defense of their proposal to their committee.
PhD Candidacy Awarded
With guidance from their adviser, doctoral students will begin research on their dissertation project and writing their dissertation draft.
Research and dissertation draft writing should continue throughout the summer months and the fall semester. All committee members must review the draft dissertation and provide feedback. Once all committee members have approved the draft dissertation, graduate students will begin finalizing their dissertation.
Spring: Complete Dissertation project
Doctoral students will complete their dissertation project and prepare for their dissertation defense.
Fall: Dissertation Defense
Doctoral students will present and orally defend their completed dissertation to their committee.
This list of courses describes the nature of the 5 pillars that make up the CHIP PhD curriculum. This is by no means an exhaustive list of courses available to CHIP students. This list is also subject to change to reflect the development of different courses. CHIP encourages all PhD students to use this list as a guide to completing the pillar requirements but stresses that courses listed under each pillar do not include every option a student could take to fulfill the pillar requirement. For any questions regarding courses and pillar requirements, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 - Core & Frontier Courses
Core & Frontier courses will expose students to the foundational concepts in informatics. This pillar will also allow students to gain a firm understanding of where research challenges lie and the nature of these challenges. Courses in this pillar will cover: advanced data modeling, data management and warehousing; data integration and networking; data presentation and visualization principles; data governance and data ethics.
6 credit hours are required.
Example of Core & Frontier Courses
BIOS 511 - Introduction to Statistical Computing and Data Management
COMP 722 - Data Mining
INLS 523 - Database Systems I
INLS 541 - Information Visualization
INLS 623 - Database Systems II
INLS 718 - User Interface Design
INLS 725 - Electronic Health Records
INLS 760 - Web Databases
NURS 730 - Foundations in Clinical Informatics: Data, Information, and Knowledge
2 - Tools & Infrastructure Courses
Tools & Infrastructure courses will go beyond the basic concepts and principles covered in core topics. This pillar will offer opportunities for students to gain experience in manipulating wide varieties of data occurring in diverse health care contexts. It will also train students to build new tools and methods for extracting insights from health data. The courses in this pillar will cover: advanced training in statistical analysis; data mining; system analysis and design; data interpretation and data quality.
6 credit hours are required.
Example of Tools & Infrastructure Courses
COMP 790 – Machine learning in Computational Biology
HPM 804/DPOP 804 – Introduction to Healthcare Database Research
INLS 582 - Systems Analysis
INLS 613 - Text Mining
INLS 641 - Visual Analytics
INLS 725 – Electronic Health Records
3 - Research Methods Courses
Research Methods courses will focus on constructing sound research studies concentrated on various aspects of health care. The courses in this pillar will cover: gathering research data; analysis of research data; drawing conclusions from research data; presenting research data; and identifying limitations based on gaps present in research data.
3 credit hours are required.
Example of Research Methods Courses
DPET 831 - Quantitative Methods in Clinical Research
INLS 581 – Research Methods Overview
INLS 884 – Seminar in Research Methodology
4 - Project Management & Leadership Courses
Project Management & Leadership courses examine current techniques and methods on leading and sustaining research projects. Emphasis will be placed on project management skills in the context of developing and maintaining research projects that span a several year period.
3 credit hours are required.
Example of Project Management & Leadership Courses
GRAD 712 - Leadership in the Workplace
GRAD 713 – Applied Project Management; Frameworks, Principles and Techniques
HPM 620 - Implementing Health Informatics Initiatives
HPM 625 – Diagnosis and design of Multilevel Intelligence for a Smart Health System
HPM 940 – Leadership in health Informatics
HPM 959 – Strategic Management in Health Leadership
INLS 690-215 – Leadership: Nature and Nurture
NURS 871 - Leadership and Advanced Practice Roles in Health Care Organizations
5 - Implementation Science & Research Translation Courses
Implementation Science & Research Translation courses emphasize developing research projects with an eye toward the conversion of key outcomes that will have a direct impact on the health care of individuals or a community. Coursework in this pillar will cover: understanding intellectual property rights; collaboration with stakeholders such as government, for-profit and non-profit organizations; dissemination of research; and ensuring long-term sustainability of outcomes/solution.
3 credit hours are required.
Examples of Implementation Science & Research Translation Courses
PATH 723 – Practical Considerations for Translational Research
HPM 532 - Health Care Consulting
HPM 759 – Health Policy Analysis and Advocacy for Health Leaders
NURS 871 – Leadership and Advanced Practice Roles in health Care Organization