Biobanks have been developed as a tool to better understand the genetic basis of disease by linking DNA samples to corresponding medical information. The broad scope of such projects presents a challenge to informed consent and participant understanding. To address this, 200 telephone interviews were conducted with participants in the NUgene Project, Northwestern University's biobank. Interviews included a modified version of the “quality of informed consent measure” (QuIC) and semi-structured questions which were analyzed thematically for 109 of the interviews. The QuIC, originally applied to cancer clinical trials, objectively assessed some of the components of informed consent for a biobank, and interview questions provided rich data to assist in interpreting participant understanding. The best understood domains included: the nature of the study, benefit to future patients, and the voluntary nature of participation. Lower knowledge scores included: potential risks and discomforts, experimental nature of the research, procedures in the event of study-related injury, and confidentiality issues. Qualitatively, confidentiality protections of the study were described as good by most (>50%). Although some cited concerns with employer (12%) or insurance discrimination (25%), most considered the risks to privacy low (25%) or none (∼60%). Only 10% of participants explicitly stated they had no expectation for personal benefit, and when asked whether they expected to be contacted with study results, respondents were split between having no expectation (39%), being hopeful for results (37%) and expecting to be contacted with results (12%). These findings are informative to those establishing and implementing biobanks, and to the IRBs reviewing such studies. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.