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Northwestern University

Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences Program (IBiS)

Evanston, IL


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Northwestern University


IBiS Promotes Innovative and Interdisciplinary Research for Students

Northwestern University's Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences (IBiS) Program is located on Northwestern's beautiful lakeside main campus, just 12 miles from downtown Chicago. This unique program integrates the life sciences with other basic science disciplines, including chemistry, physics, engineering and nanotechnology, to promote powerful new approaches for addressing fundamental questions in biological and biomedical sciences The IBiS Ph.D. degree program trains students from diverse backgrounds, including biology, engineering, and chemistry, to pursue innovative and truly interdisciplinary life science research using state of the art approaches. The program is designed to foster the development of students into independent and creative scientists and teachers. Trainees pursue research in a broad spectrum of areas including cell and molecular biology, structural biology and biophysics, developmental systems biology, biochemistry, synthetic biology, biotechnology, neurobiology, and nanotechnology. IBiS combines an interactive and collaborative research environment, award winning faculty members who are leaders in their fields, and a flexible, yet rigorous, curriculum to provide exceptional training and research opportunities. The emphasis on cutting-edge, multidisciplinary technologies prepares IBiS students for success in the rapidly evolving life and biomedical sciences disciplines. Increasingly, the life sciences require interdisciplinary approaches in order to make essential progress in understanding normal cellular processes, diseases such as cancer, and the development of complex systems. With closely connected faculty members from life sciences, chemistry, and engineering departments, and with strong ties to numerous interdisciplinary centers including the Physical Sciences-Oncology Center, the Center for Cell and Developmental Systems Biology, the Chemistry of Life Processes Institute, and the Center for Structural Biology, IBiS promotes innovative research that crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries. To maximize research opportunities, IBiS collaborates with the Driskill Graduate Program (DGP), on Northwestern University's Medical School campus to sponsor NULaBS, (Northwestern University Life and Biomedical Sciences), allowing students to seamlessly pursue coursework or laboratory rotations on either campus and take full advantage of the impressive array of resources available across all of Northwestern. After the first year of coursework and laboratory rotations, students identify dissertation laboratories and participate in cross-campus research clusters to facilitate collaboration and depth of training in their area of specialization. IBiS students are fully supported, including competitive stipends, health and dental benefits, moving allowances, and generous scientific travel allowances, for as long as they remain students in good standing.

IBiS Faculty Members

A major strength of IBiS is its uniquely interdisciplinary faculty, drawn from the departments of Molecular Biosciences, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Neurobiology. IBiS faculty members are leaders in their fields. They share a strong commitment to training the next generation of scientists and creating a highly collaborative interdisciplinary research environment that fosters the development of novel technologies and approaches to addressing important questions in biomedical sciences. IBiS faculty members are also highly committed to teaching; IBiS core course and electives are small, interactive, and taught by individual faculty members in their areas of expertise, not "teams" of teachers. IBiS faculty members provide strong advising and mentoring throughout the Ph.D. degree program studies, and use Individual Development Plans (IDPs) to help students assemble programs of study that best fit them and their goals, and ensure that students achieve at their highest levels.

IBiS Students

IBiS students come from diverse backgrounds that together create an environment where students learn from each other. The IBiS Student Organization (ISO) provides a forum through which students can benefit from each other's expertise throughout their Ph.D. studies and beyond. The ISO sponsors a monthly student seminar series where students present their research in an informal "work in progress" format without faculty members present, to get input and feedback from their peers as well as student-invited seminar speakers. The ISO sponsors social events to promote interactions outside the lab, not only among IBiS students, but also graduate students and faculty members from across Northwestern. IBiS students produce outstanding thesis work that is published in the top scientific journals and graduates are prepared for a diverse array of career options.

Career Development Opportunities

IBiS is dedicated to providing comprehensive career development support to help students reach their career goals. IBiS co-sponsors the BioProfessionals Career Program to expose students to the wide array of career opportunities available to them upon completion of the Ph.D. degree program including: The "Pathway to the Professoriate" Series to prepare students for future faculty member positions; "Biosurvival Skills" workshops to foster scientific presentation, grant writing, and interviewing skills; and the "BioOpportunities" program to expose students to the diverse array of career opportunities available to students with life sciences Ph.D. degrees. IBiS students can also take advantage of an array of additional training opportunities. Students interested in teaching careers can participate in a Teaching Certificate program offered by Northwestern's Searle Center for Advancing Learning & Teaching. This fosters teaching and curriculum development skills, and prepares students to teach a Northwestern Undergraduate course. IBiS students with entrepreneurial interests can earn a certificate in "Business Management for Scientists and Engineering" through Northwestern's renowned Kellogg School of Management. Trainees in the Biotechnology Training Program can participate in 3-6 month internships in the industry to gain in depth exposure to commercial biotechnology research.

Research Facilities

IBiS provides access to and training in cutting edge facilities that support research in the Life and Biomedical Sciences including: The Center for Advanced Molecular Imaging (CAMI) contains state-of-the-art equipment for a full range of in vivo biological imaging from subcellular structures to small animals. The Computational, Modeling and Bioinformatics Center (CMBC) provides state-of-the-art analytical support for the development of data analysis methods and modeling of data. The Keck Biophysics Facility is equipped with advanced instruments for biophysical and biochemical characterization of macromolecules and their interactions. The Center for Molecular Innovation and Drug Discovery (CMIDD) brings together biologists and synthetic and medicinal chemists to enable the translation of basic science discoveries to potential new therapeutics. The Proteomics Center of Excellence provides state of the art analysis of proteomic samples. The High Throughput Analysis Robotics Facility (HTA) is equipped for high throughput robotic biological analysis and screening.

Degrees & Awards

Degrees Offered

Degree Concentration Sub-concentration
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Bioengineering and biotechnology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Biotechnology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Biochemistry
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Developmental and systems biology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Cell and molecular biology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Nanotechnology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Neurobiology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Structural biology and biophysics

Earning Your Degree

Part-time study available? No
Evening/weekend programs available? No
Distance learning programs available? No
Terminal master's degree available? Yes

Degree Requirements

Degree Requirement
Doctoral Degrees Entrance Exam GRE General Test
Thesis Required
Qualifying exam



Application Fee - Domestic
applications accepted?
Applications processed
on a rolling basis?

Application Deadlines

Type Domestic International Priority date
Fall deadline December 15th December 15th No

Entrance Requirements

Exam Details
Doctoral Degree Exam GRE General Test

International Students

Exam Details
TOEFL: Required TOEFL Paper score: 600

Tuition & Fees

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Financial Support

Financial award applicants must submit: FAFSA
Application deadlines for financial awards December 31
Types of financial support available Health Care Benefits
Institutionally-sponsored Loans
Scholarship and/or loans
Graduate Assistantships


Focus of faculty research: Biophysics/structural biology, cell/molecular biology, synthetic biology, developmental systems biology, chemical biology/nanotechnology
Externally sponsored research expenditures last year: 0

Location & Contact

Address 633 Clark Street
Evanston, IL  60208
United States
Contact Dr. Deborah Klos Dehring
Associate Director
Phone: 847-467-0451