Ph.D. Degree, Biostatistics
In addition to the general university requirements for admission to graduate study, applicants to the doctoral program in Biostatistics are expected to:
- Have a bachelor's degree with a major in mathematics, statistics, computer science, the biological, physical or social sciences. Students should have adequate backgrounds in linear algebra, multivariate calculus and computer programming in order to successfully complete the program.
- Provide three letters of recommendation from academic advisors or other faculty members familiar with the applicant. For candidates whose academic record predates the application by five years or more, letters of recommendation may be submitted by supervisors.
- Submit official scores of the Graduate Record Examination or Medical College Aptitude Test.
The doctoral program of study and research normally takes four years of full-time study and research beyond the baccalaureate. A total of 60 credits are required. The general program requirements call for a minimum of two years of full-time graduate study or the equivalent, and at least one additional year devoted to the research and writing of an acceptable dissertation. Students must also adhere to the University's requirements as described in the Graduate Bulletin.
During the first two years of study, the student obtains a general education in statistical theory and methodology. The student develops a program of course work under the guidance of a faculty advisor and, upon successful completion of the course work, typically receives a master's degree at the end of the second year. However, a master's degree is not a prerequisite for obtaining a doctoral degree.
Students typically take courses from the list below, however other courses can be selected with the advisor's approval.
STA 550 Introduction to Computing with R
STA 554 Introduction to the Theory of Statistics I
STA 555 Introduction to the Theory of Statistics II
STA 556 Introduction to Bayesian Inference I
STA 558 Methods of Data Analysis I
STA 559 Methods of Data Analysis II
STA 560 Introduction to Stochastic Processes I
STA 566 Analysis of Categorical Data I
STA 656 Design of Clinical Trials
STA 664 Time Series Analysis I
STA 665 Time Series Analysis II
STA 666 Survivorship Analysis I
STA 670 Statistical Analysis with Missing Data
STA 670 Longitudinal Data Analysis
STA 670 Analysis of Propensity Scores
EPI 611 Controversies in Epidemiology
EPI 612 Quantitative Methods in Epidemiology
EPI 701 Advanced Quantitative Methods for
SOC 708 Multilevel Analysis
EAPS 662 Survey Research Methods
Students are required to take six credit hours in courses other than biostatistics; these typically are from the departments of epidemiology, economics, sociology, health policy and management, mathematics, computer science, and biology.
Students wishing to pursue the PhD degree must pass two written preliminary examinations, one in mathematical statistics and probability, and the other in applied statistics. Students normally take the preliminary exams at the end of the second year of study. Typically the mathematical statistics and probability exam is offered in June and the applied statistics exam in January of each year.
The required courses for the mathematical statistics and probability exam are STA 554, STA 555 and STA 560.
The applied statistics preliminary exam is based on two courses typically chosen from the following: STA 556, STA 566, STA 656, STA 664, STA 666, and STA 670.
After successfully passing the two written preliminary examinations, the student begins the process of specialization. As soon as possible, the student selects a dissertation advisor. A committee is formed to guide the student's subsequent progress toward the degree. Readiness to begin the dissertation is marked by completion of the oral qualifying examination, which should take place within 18 months after passing the two written preliminary examinations. Upon completion of the oral qualifying examination, the student advances to candidacy and begins work on the dissertation.
If a student fails a written preliminary exam, he/she will have one chance to take that exam again. If the student fails the exam the second time, he/she will be dismissed from the doctoral program. In the very special circumstance when, on the second taking, the student is judged to have performed marginally, but not a clear pass, he/she will be given a third chance to take the exam, for which a clear pass is required, otherwise he/she will be dismissed from the doctoral program.
While part-time study is permitted in the doctoral program, applicants should be aware that the University requires at least one academic year of full-time study. Furthermore the University has a requirement that all doctoral work be completed within eight years. Thus, it is likely that two or more years of full-time work toward a doctoral degree will be necessary if the student hopes to complete this requirement.
The research tool requirement for the doctoral degree is met by satisfactorily demonstrating computer literacy; competency is evaluated by the faculty.
Admission to Candidacy
A student is admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree upon completion of the following:
- Satisfactory record in course and research study (minimum GPA of 3.0);
- Completion of the University's residence requirement;
- Successful completion of the oral exam;
- Approval by the student's committee of a proposed dissertation topic.
The dissertation is based on independent research by the candidate and should constitute a significant original contribution to the area of biostatistics. The dissertation committee consists of at least three members, all of whom must hold the rank of assistant professor or above. One of the committee members must be a non-biostatistics faculty member. Outside readers may be included at the discretion of the committee. The dissertation must be approved by and successfully defended before the dissertation committee; the defense is open to the University community.
The dissertation should be provided in writing and available for committee members to review at least one month before the defense. In addition, the dissertation should be publically orally presented at a public seminar or meeting; examples include the department's seminar series, the American Statistical Association (ASA) local chapter meeting, the Joint Statistical Meeting (JSM), or ENAR meeting.
Each student is assigned an advisor who assists the student in selecting courses, a project and a dissertation topic. Students meet with their advisors on a regular basis to discuss progress in the program and to establish goals for the next term.
Ph.D. students are required to complete a field placement during which they work closely with a faculty member on actual epidemiologic projects, including experience in the areas of study design, data management and analysis. This requirement can be met by completion of EPI 690 Field Placement or by equivalent experience obtained in a prior degree program, in a work setting, or as part of the dissertation. The acceptability of equivalent experience is determined by the Department's academic committee.
Proficiency in computer programming/data management fulfills the research tool requirement.
Upon completion of all required courses, each doctoral candidate must pass a two-part written qualifying examination. The first part covers general epidemiologic and appropriate biostatistical principles and methods. The second part covers the student's chosen specialty area in epidemiology. Ordinarily, both parts of the exam are administered in the same semester.
Admission To Candidacy
A student is admitted to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy upon the following:
Satisfactory record in course and research study (minimum GPA of 3.0);
Completion of the University's residency requirement;
Satisfactory completion of the research tool requirement;
Satisfactory completion of the qualifying examination; and
Approval by the student's committee of a proposed dissertation topic.
The Ph.D. dissertation is part of each candidate's curriculum for the doctorate. The dissertation committee must approve form and content of the dissertation which must represent an original and significant contribution in the field of epidemiology. The chair of the dissertation committee must be a member of the Department of Epidemiology; the committee consists of a minimum of three members, all of whom must hold the rank of assistant professor or above. One of the committee members must be from outside the Department of Epidemiology. The dissertation topic, proposed study design, methods and detailed analysis plan must be presented in writing to and approved by the committee before the student initiates dissertation research. Outside readers may be included at the discretion of the committee. The dissertation must be approved by and successfully defended before the dissertation committee; the defense is open to the University community.
Each Ph.D. candidate is required to take part in and demonstrate competence in the teaching of epidemiology. Satisfaction of this requirement is determined by the Department's Academic Committee.
*Please note: These materials are for informational purposes only. To be sure all requirements are completed, students should always consult the Assistant to the chair for guidance.s