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PhD Degree Requirements

The requirements for a PhD from the university are:

  1. Dissertation: research thesis written, approved, and submitted to the library
  2. Residence: at least two consecutive semesters of full-time study
  3. Oral Exam: successfully passing the DBO

The additional requirements for the school and/or program are:

  1. Pass all required core courses in the first year
    • EN.580.710 Ethical Challenges in BME (Fall, 2 credits)
    • EN.580.711 Quantitative Methods in BME (Spring, 1 credit)
  2. Attend two semesters of BME seminars (typically, during the first year)
  3. 30 credits of coursework (see Coursework Requirements section below)
    • Minimum of 12 credits in the life sciences or medicine
    • Minimum of 12 credits in the quantitative sciences or engineering
    • Minimum of 3 credits of substantial theory content
  4. Ethics/RCR course – refreshed every four years
  5. Annual Individual Development Plans (IDPs)*
  6. One teaching or teaching assistant experience
  7. Annual thesis committee meetings after DBO
  8. Thesis proposal (written document and presentation)
  9. Research defense (permission to write meeting)
  10. Public defense (final presentation)

* IDPs are required every year including the first year.

For more information about these requirements consult the BME PhD Canvas Dashboard.

Coursework Requirements:

BME PhD students must complete at least 30 credits of relevant course coursework. A minimum of 12 of these credit hours must be in courses covering life sciences or medicine, and a minimum of 12 of these credit hours must be in courses covering quantitative/engineering subjects such as math, applied math, engineering, computer science, or quantitative biology. These courses must be at the 400 level or higher, with at least 6 credits at the 600/700 level. Of these 6 credits, at least 3 must come from courses with substantial theory content in engineering, mathematics, or computer science.  This refers to any classes with a significant coding or math component, covering topics including but not limited to biostatistics, mathematical or computational modeling, computational genomics, data science, dynamical systems, numerical methods, mathematical foundations of imaging, transport phenomena, and signal processing. Many courses fall within both the life science and quantitative categories. These can contribute toward the requirement for either category, but not both categories simultaneously. Required seminar and ethics courses do not count toward either the life science or quantitative credit requirements.

For more details on grade policies, please check our BME PhD Canvas Dashboard.

Program Progression

To ensure the BME PhD and The School of Medicine (SOM) have access to current information about students’ progress, all BME PhD students are required to:

  1. In the first year, complete Rotation and Direct match reports.
  2. Annually, complete the BME PhD Survey.
  3. Within the first 24 months in the program, pass the DBO.
  4. Annually, complete IDPs.
  5. Annually, complete the School of Medicine (SOM) Advancement Checklist.
  6. Once a thesis lab has been selected, schedule annual or semi-annual thesis committee meetings

The Doctoral Board Oral (DBO) Examination

Upon completion of a majority of the required course work, PhD students must pass a Doctoral Board Oral (DBO) examination.

Learn more about the Doctoral Board Examinations, as well as scheduling, in the BME PhD Dashboard (

Teaching Requirement

Each student will assist in teaching one semester of a BME course (min 3 credits). Alternatively, students may teach their own courses.

Learn more about the teaching requirement in the BME PhD Dashboard (

Annual Individual Development plans

Every year, you will complete Individual Development Plans (IDP) in collaboration with your research mentor. This includes having a detailed conversation about professional and career development with your mentor each year, using the written IDP document as a guide. This is a program requirement and is also part of JHU policy.

Learn more about the IDPs in the BME PhD Dashboard (

Thesis committee meetings

Within 12 months (in year 3 of the program) after passing the DBO, the student and advisor are expected to form a thesis committee and hold the first thesis committee meeting. The first thesis meeting is for the thesis proposal presentation and discussion. Annual thesis committee meetings are required for years 3 and 4 and semi-annual (i.e., every 6 months) meetings are required beginning on year 5. The thesis committees or students can request meetings at an increased frequency if they feel it is required.

Maximum Time to Degree

As of 2019, the maximum time to degree for a JHU PhD is 9 years; official leaves of absence (e.g., for internships or health reasons) are not included in the calculation.

For more information about program progression and milestones, consult the handbook and the BME PhD Dashboard.

View the PhD Handbook on the Student Resources Page

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