Why Northeastern?

Why Personal Health Informatics at Northeastern?
A unique program at a center of excellence in PHI research

The Personal Health Informatics Doctoral Degree Program at Northeastern is unlike other programs in medical or health informatics that are primarily focused on exploring impact of provider-facing technologies. Such programs are based either out of medical/nursing schools or information schools. In Northeastern’s joint program between Computer and Information Science and the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, the coursework, research, University environment, and immense number of collaborative opportunities in the Boston area all contribute to creating unique opportunities for students interested in the potential of person- and patient-facing health and wellness systems. Students have the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of research in an exciting new transdisciplinary field.

Internationally-Renowned Faculty

Personal Health Informatics faculty at Northeastern are working on projects in consumer informatics, clinical informatics, behavioral informatics, and assistive technologies. Topics of research, among others, include the use of mobile technologies to monitor and manage health, the use of virtual agents for physical exercise and health management, the development of assistive communication aids, the use of artificial intelligence to study mental and physical health behavior, and the development and evaluation of other novel technologies to study health behavior and improve health outcomes. Faculty members receive funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, foundations, and industry for their transdisciplinary research.

Faculty in the program are not only from Computer and Information Science and Bouvé College of Health Sciences, but also from the Departments of Communication Studies, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Psychology, Arts Media and Design, and the College of Business Administration.

A Unique, Transdiscplinary Program

The Personal Health Informatics Doctoral Program has three unique components that facilitate transdisciplinary training:

  • The program focuses on Personal Health Informatics studying the healthcare system and wellness systems and supporting technologies from the patient or consumer perspective. The emphasis is on technologies that can be proven to enhance care in medical and non-medical settings, throughout all life stages and for sick, well, and specially-challenged populations of people.
  • The program includes a usability evaluation practicum requirement, where all students are immersed in a healthcare context studying needs from the patient’s and consumer’s perspective and develop skills in ethnography and design.
  • The program immerses all students in a one-year transdisciplinary experiential learning team project course, where core concepts are put into practice to prepare students for independent research that spans technical and health domains.

A Fast-Moving University Committed to Transdisciplinary Health Research

Northeastern University is on an exciting trajectory of growth and innovation and making a major investment in interdisciplinary health research, with several recent hires in personal health informatics and more hiring planned over the next few years. In addition, Northeastern has identified health as one of three major strategic initiatives, with additional interdisciplinary faculty and faculty and research growth in areas such as Health Systems, Health Policy, Health and Administration, and Game Design (with health emphasis). The university is a leader in interdisciplinary research, urban engagement, experiential learning, and the integration of classroom learning with real-world experience. For an overview of the University’s dramatic rise in rankings and reputation, read Northeastern 2012: By Any Measure, a University on the Move or the 2013 version showing trends continuing, “No Limits.” Over the past nine years, Northeastern University has made a significant leap in the National Universities ranking by U.S. News & World Report, moving from #98 in 2007 to #56 in 2013 to #47 in ranking for 2016. Additionally, in the category, Up-and-Coming Schools, in 2013 Northeastern was ranked #3 for “making the most promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty and student life.”

The Northeastern doctorate in Personal Health Informatics builds on the following University strengths:

  • Outstanding faculty working on consumer- and patient-facing personal health technology design, development, and evaluation;
  • A successful interdisciplinary M.S. program in Health Informatics;
  • A new interdisciplinary M.S. program in Health Data Analytics;
  • A strong Ph.D. program in computer science, and new Ph.D. programs in cutting edge fields such as population health and network science;
  • Innovative transdisciplinary programs in areas such as game design, network science, bioinformatics, population health, bioengineering;
  • The Bouve College of Health Science’s focus on research in lifespan and aging, fitness and obesity prevention, and urban population health;
  • Excellence in community-led research with urban, at-risk populations of people/patients;
  • An outstanding experiential education program that grounds research and provides opportunities for engagement with the medical community for students at all levels;
  • Strong links to nearby world-class hospitals and medical research centers.

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University has an enrollment of more than 26,000 undergraduate and graduate students and approximately 4300 faculty and staff. It is one of the nation’s most dynamic private educational institutions. There are eight undergraduate colleges, eight graduate and professional schools and two undergraduate evening divisions. Northeastern University is recognized as one of the top universities in the nation for practice-oriented education as ranked by U.S. News and World Report and has risen rapidly in the rankings of top 100 research universities in the last few years. The Personal Health Informatics Ph.D. program is a transdisciplinary degree between the College of Computer and Information Science and the Bouvé College of Health Sciences.

Health is one of three areas of strategic focus at Northeastern, in addition to sustainability and security. Health informatics has been identified as a priority area within health. On campus, there are other complimentary efforts in the health domain that address topics with ties to personal health informatics, including the Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Research, the Health Policy and Law Program, the Institute on Urban Health Research, the Dietary Assessment Center, the Center for Population Health and Health Disparities, the Affective Science Institute, the Center for Community Health Education Research and Service, the Center for Networks and Complex Systems, the NSF Center for Health Organization Transformation, the Creative Industries Program in Game Design and Interactive Media, and the Playable Innovative Technologies (PLAIT) Lab. Northeastern is a member of the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT). Northeastern also has a strong program in entrepreneurship, with the High-Tech MBA, and overall the University has many programs that foster entrepreneurship in health (see a nice video on the Health Science Entrepreneurs Program).

An Innovative, Transdiscplinary Degree Program

The PHI Ph.D. is a true interdisciplinary degree granted from two dynamic Colleges at Northeastern.

The College of Computer and Information Science

Northeastern’s College of Computer and Information Science was the first college in the nation devoted to Computer Science. It is also one of the pioneers in the creation of degree programs in Information Science. As an independent college within a large university, it has formed interdisciplinary programs with all other academic units and this has led to ties with the Colleges of Arts, Media and Design , Business, Engineering, Science, Social Sciences and Humanities and the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at the undergraduate and graduate level.

The College has a diverse, full-time faculty of 36, and offers a broad array of educational opportunities to students. In addition to Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD programs in the computing discipline, the College offers several innovative undergraduate and graduate degree programs that combine computing with an important application domain. Ten faculty members have joint appointments with other academic departments, including Electrical and Computer Engineering, Art and Design, Health Sciences, Physics, and Political Science. The College has approximately 1200 undergraduates and 130 Ph.D. students. For some additional information, watch the CCIS Faculty Voices video.

The Bouvé College of Health Sciences

Bouvé College of Health Sciences has a faculty of 276, with approximately 2,100 undergraduate and 1,500 graduate students. It is the leading national model for education and research in the health, psychosocial and biomedical sciences and supports the University’s mission of educating students for a life of fulfillment and accomplishment and creating and translating knowledge to meet global and societal needs. The structure of the College fosters cross-disciplinary interaction among faculty and students, encourages innovation in the education of both entry level and advanced practice health professionals. The College builds partnerships with health care delivery systems and the community in order to assure that Bouvé students and faculty have access to practice sites that prepare our graduates to meet the health care needs of its urban neighbors and society. These ties to the community and others, such as the Health in Motion Van program (see video), create create research opportunities. For additional information, watch I am Bouvé and the Behrakis Tour.

Why PHI in Boston?…