PhD in Informatics and Computing


Program Description

The PhD INF program prepares graduate students to work in the transformative "fourth paradigm" of science and engineering, an interdisciplinary field relying on Big Data and advanced software, hardware, and statistics skills. After a streamlined five-year plan of study, graduates will be ready to be leaders in industry and government research labs, faculty and research scientists in academia, and entrepreneurs in cutting-edge informatics application areas. Graduates will make contributions to exciting projects that address critical areas of national need in bioinformatics, population health, environmental sustainability, ecology, software engineering, wearable computing, cyber-physical systems, and cybersecurity.

Students' research and education are strengthened through broad collaborations with a variety of academic, government, and private entities.

We accept students from broad formal educational backgrounds such as biology, ecology, computer science, electrical engineering, and statistics, however, all students must possess sufficient mastery of key foundational areas in order to meaningfully engage in and contribute to original research. These areas include programming, data structures, software development methods, and statistics. Program faculty may require that students admitted into the program correct any deficiencies in these areas by enrolling in additional undergraduate or graduate courses.

Available Emphasis Areas:

  • Bioengineering Informatics - Emphasis
  • Cyber and Software Systems - Emphasis
  • Ecological and Environmental Informatics - Emphasis
  • Health and Bioinformatics - Emphasis

The doctoral degree in Informatics and Computing enables students to engage in a research-intensive course of study within a broad range of informatics and computing areas, including population health, bioinformatics, remote sensing, ecological modeling wireless sensor and communication systems, cyber-physical systems, software architecture and visualization, computer graphics, model-driven design, machine learning, wearable computing, and cybersecurity.

Our five-year degree program is strengthened by committed mentorship and professional development training, with students benefiting from a broad range of collaborations and partnerships, including but not limited to: Center for Bioengineering Innovation, Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics, Center for Ecosystem Science and Society, Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental Research, Department of Biological Sciences, Department of Physics and Astronomy, School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability, and School of Forestry.

Regional research collaborators include but are not limited to: Translational Genomics Research Institute, Northern Arizona Healthcare and Flagstaff Medical Center, North Country HealthCare, U.S. Geological Survey, and Northern Arizona Planetary Science Alliance.

What Can I Do with a Doctor of Philosophy in Informatics and Computing?

The Ph.D. program in Informatics and Computing prepares graduates for meaningful and fulfilling careers in the application of informatics and computing to critical areas of national need. We aim to prepare students to be leaders in industry and government research labs, faculty and research scientists in academia, or entrepreneurs in cutting-edge informatics application areas.

University Requirements

To receive a Doctor of Philosophy Degree (Ph.D.) at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses, from one or more disciplines, ranging from at least 60-109 units of graduate-level courses. Most plans require research, a dissertation, and comprehensive exams. All plans have residency requirements regarding time spent on the Flagstaff campus engaged in full-time study.

In addition to University Requirements:

Complete individual plan requirements.


Admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • NAU Graduate Online application is required for all programs. Details on admission requirements are included in the online application.
  • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A"), or the equivalent.
  • Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.
  • Transcripts

For details on graduate admission policies, please visit the Graduate Admissions Policy International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy

Individual program admission requirements include:

  • GRE® revised General Test
  • 3 letters of recommendation
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Resume or Curriculum Vitae
  • Expertise in key foundational areas in informatics, including core topics such as programming, data structures, software development methods, and statistics, as well as areas that support specific emphases, such as biology, ecology, and cyber systems.

Student Learning Outcomes

Graduates of this training program will demonstrate the following advanced competencies and program learning outcomes (PLOs):

PLO1: Identify, explain, and assess the major theories, research methods, and technical approaches driving informatics-driven science and engineering and the impact of these elements on society.

PLO2: Identify, explain, synthesize, and apply the fundamental concepts of informatics, including large-scale data representation and organization, various types of programming languages, software development methods, data processing, information extraction and machine learning, and statistical analysis.

PLO3: Identify, explain, synthesize, and apply the interdisciplinary combination of core informatics and in-depth disciplinary expertise defining one of the following emphasis areas:

  • Health and Bioinformatics, focusing genetic and genomic analysis, population health, and disease transmission;
  • Ecological and Environmental Informatics, focusing on ecological and environmental analyses and remote sensing;
  • Cyber and Software Systems, focusing on the design and implementation of cyber-physical and large-scale software systems.
  • Bioengineering Informatics, focusing on data analysis and control in bioengineering applications.

PLO4: Identify, survey, analyze, organize, and critically distill information from the scientific literature within an informatics emphasis area and creatively identify open research questions.

PLO5: Independently apply appropriate expertise, methods, and tools to the creative design, execution, and assessment of an investigation that addresses original informatics research questions.

PLO6: Compose and engage in highly effective written and oral communication in informatics areas; demonstrate clear argumentation and logical cohesion in a variety of written and oral communications, including scholarly dissemination, funding requests, industry, and lay-communication.

Last updated Sep 2020

About the School

Northern Arizona University is a public university offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees of high quality and societal value. As a student, you are at the center of the NAU experi ... Read More

Northern Arizona University is a public university offering undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees of high quality and societal value. As a student, you are at the center of the NAU experience, which is guided by a dedicated and distinguished faculty committed to teaching, individual engagement, and research excellence. Read less