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Office of Graduate Education Stanford Biosciences Office of Graduate Education

Russ Altman, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine, Genetics, Bioengineering, and Biomedical Data Science

Russ Altman, MD, PhDRuss was born in Brooklyn, New York. He attended Harvard College and majored in biochemistry and molecular biology. Russ came to Stanford as an MD/PhD student and, after realizing that informatics was his passion, joined the Medical Information Sciences (now Biomedical Data Science) program. After completing medical school and a residency in internal medicine, he joined the Stanford faculty in 1992— initially in the Department of Medicine, but has since added appointments in Genetics, Bioengineering and Biomedical Data Science. The proliferation of departmental affiliations can be attributed to the unclear place for biomedical informatics within academia, as well as his issues with attachment and boundaries.

Russ encourages his trainees to work independently through innovation, implementation and discovery, ensures that trainees always leave meetings with hope (if not actual solutions), and provides structure in terms of written reports and regularly scheduled meetings so that there is accountability on the scale of weeks to months—while allowing freedom about how hours and days are spent. He believes that the development of written and oral communication skills is critical, as is regular interaction with published literature. Finally, Russ encourages his trainees to achieve technical virtuosity in their chosen discipline, to guarantee the depth of capability that will ultimately allow them to turn their ideas into results.

Life as a graduate student and post-doc is in many ways an aberration. While it is possible to mono-maniacally focus on only research, this does not really prepare you for almost every possible existence afterwards, where work constantly interacts with your identity, community and life. I don’t have magical answers to the major questions facing young scientists trying to make their way, but I look forward to hearing about their challenges and providing some perspective and approaches. One important principle for me is the interconnected health of mind and body.

Students can email Russ directly at However, they need to book 4-8 weeks in advance of the meeting.