Student Handbook

The 2020-2021 Biostatistics Student Handbook is available for download here.

Biostatisticians develop and apply statistical design and analysis methods for biomedical research to turn data into knowledge. With the emergence of big data, biostatistics expertise is in greater demand than ever before. As we move towards a vision of modern data science as a community, we are grounded in classical and foundational principles of statistical theory and methods. The Biostatistics Graduate Program at the University of Michigan School of Public Health trains the next generation of quantitative scientists in both classical and modern theory, methods, and applications in biostatistics.

The Department of Biostatistics at the University of Michigan School of Public Health is rated the top biostatistics program in the country by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. We bring biostatistical design and analysis expertise to a wide spectrum of health-related issues. At Michigan Biostatistics, you will learn how to develop and use statistical and computational methods in fields such as epidemiology, computational biology, genetics, imaging, cancer biology, endocrinology, transplantation, mobile health and electronic health records research. Our faculty, students, and staff work in important and diverse areas of current biostatistical research; including survival and event history analysis, statistical genetics and bioinformatics, clinical trials, causal inference, Bayesian methods, statistical computing, longitudinal data analysis, non-parametric and semi-parametric modeling, individualized/personalized health care and precision medicine, methods for missing data, and survey research. Our collaboration spans across public health, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, engineering, biological sciences, life sciences and liberal arts and sciences. We have strong ties with the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, Institute of Social Research, Institute of Health Policy and Innovation and the Michigan Institute of Data Science.

Biostatisticians have a varied and stimulating career, with skills that are in high demand. Our graduates have great job opportunities in academia, government, industry, and at biomedical research institutions.

Students come to our program with undergraduate degrees in mathematics, statistics, biology, social sciences, and other majors.  A bachelor’s degree is required, along with 3 semesters of calculus, a course in matrix or linear algebra, and an introductory course in statistics or biostatistics. Courses in real analysis/advanced calculus and computing are helpful although not required.

Master of Science (MS)


The MS program is designed to be completed in four semesters (twenty months) with a total of 48 credits and can be a terminal degree or a step toward the PhD. The program includes core courses, an epidemiology requirement, a public health requirement, biostatistics electives, and open electives.

Core Courses (22 credit hours)

COURSE CREDITS TITLE TERM
BIOS 601 4 Probability and Distribution Theory Fall, Year 1
BIOS 602 4 Biostatistical Inference Winter, Year 1
BIOS 650 4 Applied Statistics I: Linear Regression Fall, Year 1
BIOS 651 3 Applied Statistics II: Generalized Linear Models Winter, Year 1
BIOS 653 3 Applied Statistics III: Longitudinal Analysis Fall, Year 2
BIOS 699 4 Analysis of Biostatistical Investigations Winter, Year 2

Note that these courses are to be taken in the order they are offered; 601 is a pre-requisite for 602; 650 is a pre-requisite for 651; 650 and 651 are pre-requisites for 653; and 650, 651, and 653 are pre-requisites for 699.

Epidemiology Requirement (3-6 credit hours)

The epidemiology requirement may be satisfied in any one of the following four ways:

  1. Taking and passing the Public Health 512 exemption examination.
  2. Completing Epidemiology 601 (4 credits) or Public Health 512  (3 credits).
  3. Completing Epidemiology 516 and any necessary prerequisites to that course (3-6 credits).
  4. Completing Epidemiology 621 (3 credits) (This option can only be used to satisfy requirements for students funded by the Training Program in Cancer Research).
Public Health Requirement (0 credit hours)

All MS students must complete Foundations of Public Health Practice, an online non-credit course covering 12 foundational learning objectives required by the Council on Education in Public Health (CEPH). Students must pass the course exam with a cumulative score of 80% or better to fulfill this degree requirement. Students with a prior undergraduate or master’s degree from a CEPH-accredited program do not need to complete this course.

 Biostatistics Electives (12 credit hours)

At least 12 credit hours of Biostatistics or Statistics courses are required in addition to the core courses. Each course must be ≥2 credit hours and may be selected from Biostatistics at the 600/800 level or from Statistics at the 500/600 level, including special topic courses (BIOSTAT 664 or BIOSTAT 830). One-credit seminars and journal clubs (e.g., BIOSTAT 600, BIOSTAT 605, BIOSTAT 606, and BIOSTAT 803) do not count as electives. Up to 3 credit hours of biostatistics elective may be taken as S/U.


Open Electives (8-11 credit hours)

MS students will complete their required 48 credit hours with "open elective" courses, including additional electives in biostatistics (600+ level) and statistics (500+ level), Math 451, courses in public health or other areas to which biostatistics can be applied, and courses in computational methods. All approved courses are on a list maintained by the department and accessible to current Biostatistics students via Google Drive document.  

Other courses may be appropriate for open electives. Students who wish to take University of Michigan courses not currently on the approved list are encouraged to request approval from the Curriculum Committee.  To do so, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator and provide the name, number of the course and description.  (Courses far afield from biostatistics and public health are unlikely to be approved). Up to 6 credit hours of biostatistics elective may be taken as S/U.


Health Data Science

The HDS concentration is offered under the umbrella of the Biostatistics Master of Science degree program with the requirement of 48 credit hours. The purpose of this concentration is to address the rapidly growing needs of the marketplace for quantitative and computational skills in data analytics. This concentration expands and facilitates the professional training of computational skills and data analytic skills for students in the MS Program, and is particularly appealing for those who take the Master of Science degree as a terminal degree and plan on entering the data science industry. Ongoing PhD students are able to complete this concentration. If they choose this route, some additional coursework is needed in order to meet the requirements of both the PhD and the HDS concentration.

There is no formal application procedure for the HDS concentration; all MS students are eligible, and only need to declare their intention to complete the HDS concentration by notifying the Graduate Program Coordinator by July 31st after the end of their first year. 

The HDS core courses are as follows (HDS specific courses in bold):

COURSES CREDITS TITLE TERM
BIOSTAT 601 4 Probability and Distribution Theory Fall, Year 1
BIOSTAT 625 3 Computing with Big Data Fall, Year 1
BIOSTAT 602 4 Biostatistical Inference Winter, Year 1
BIOSTAT 620 3 Introduction to Health Data Science Winter, Year 1
BIOSTAT 650 4 Applied Statistics I: Linear Regression Fall, Year 1
BIOSTAT 651 3 Applied Statistics II: Generalized Linear Models Winter, Year 1
BIOSTAT 629 4 Case Studies in Health Big Data* Winter, Year 2
BIOSTAT 699 4 Analysis of Biostatistical Investigations Winter, Year 2

*Note that 629 will typically be offered in two sections with a separate credit for each.  HDS student must take one of the sections; they may take both, using the second credit as a biostatistics or open elective. 

In addition to these core courses, HDS concentration students are encouraged to select their biostatistics or open electives from the following five courses:

COURSES CREDITS TITLE USUAL TERM
BIOS 607 1-3 Basic Computing for Data Analytics  Fall
BIOS 615 3 Statistical Computing  Fall
BIOS 617 3 Theory and Methods of Sample Design  Winter
BIOS 619 3 Clinical Trials  Fall
BIOS 626 3 Machine Learning for Health Sciences  Winter

In summary, the key HDS program-specific courses added to the regular Master of Science curriculum include a computing course, a course on introduction to health data science, and a course on health data case studies. In addition to the existing core and selective courses in the Master of Science program, the HDS concentration features three core courses and five elective courses, some of which are parts of the current Master of Science program courses and some are new courses designed specifically for the HDS concentration. The three core courses (BIOSTAT 625: Computing with Big Data, BIOSTAT 620, Introduction to Health Data Science and 629: Case Studies with Big Data) replace one required course for the traditional MS degree (BIOSTAT 653: Applied Statistics III – Longitudinal Data Analysis,).  Because there is an additional required course for the HDS concentration, only 8 credit hours of biostatistics electives are required, which are encouraged (but not required) to be selected from the elective courses above.  The epidemiology, public health, and open elective requirements are unchanged.

The HDS concentration has been structured as a terminal degree.  Because the standard MS program is required for considering for the PhD degree, MS students intending to go on to the PhD program should make sure they complete BIOSTAT 653 so that they have all core courses for the standard MS program.

 

Masters of Public Health (MPH)

Like the MS program, the MPH is designed to be completed in four semesters with a total of 48 credits, and can be a terminal degree or a step toward the PhD. MPH students in Biostatistics follow the MS biostatistics core course curriculum, comprised of Biostatistics 601, 602, 650, 651, 653, and 699 (see above), where 601 and 602 are to complete their MPH biostatistics requirements, and 699 is to satisfy their MPH capstone/integrated learning experience requirement. MPH students in biostatistics replace their epidemiology, public health, and open electives with core public health courses:

Core Public Health Courses for Biostatistics (13 credit hours)

Courses credits title usual term
PUBHLTH 508 1 Social Determinants of Health Fall
PUBHLTH 510 1 Communication Fundamentals Fall
PUBHLTH 511 2 Nutrition and Public Health Fall
PUBHLTH 512 3 Principles of Epidemiology for Public Health Winter
PUBHLTH 513 3 Public Health Systems, Policy and Management Winter
PUBHLTH 514 3 Public Health Sciences and the Environment Winter
PUBHLTH 516 1 Public Health Leadership Winter
MPH Applied Practice Experience (APEx)

MPH students typically complete an eight-week (≥318 hour) internship as a way to satisfy the Applied Practice Experience (APEx) requirement. The purpose of the internship is to provide the student with practical, hands-on training as a biostatistician in an appropriate government, industry or nonprofit organization within the public health sector. This internship should take place during the summer after the student's first year as an M.P.H. student. The student is responsible for securing the internship and must find a faculty member representative/mentor. The Office of Public Health Practice and STATCOM (see below) are two resources available that may help students find an appropriate internship. All internships must be approved by the Department of Biostatistics, Curriculum Committee Chair, at least six weeks prior to the start date, and be registered through Michigan Public Health Careers. The student is required to write a final report for assessment by their mentor.

In addition to or instead of an internship, MPH students can satisfy their APEx requirement through additional coursework or co-curricular activities.  See this page for more details.


Inter-professional Practice

MPH students are also required to complete training in performing on interdisciplinary teams.  This includes three components: 1) participating in an interprofessional practice activity; 2) completing an on-line interprofessional education module; and 3) completing a competency assessment. The interprofessional practice activity is organized by the University and will be offered at least once a year, typically in the Fall. On-line modules will be available in 2019 at the IPE website. The competency assessment consists of a questionnaire and short reflection paper. Contact the Program Coordinator for more details about the MPH Interprofessional Practice requirement.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Student pursuing the PhD must complete all of the requirements for the MS degree, including epidemiology requirements, public health requirements, and open electives.  In addition, PhD students must complete the following core PhD courses and additional electives, as well as a cognate.  In addition to coursework, students must pass a qualifying exam, form a dissertation committee, write and present a dissertation proposal, write a dissertation, and pass an oral defense of their dissertation.

It is anticipated that students entering with an MS degree in statistics or biostatistics will have at a minimum completed courses equivalent to BIOSTAT 601, 602, 650, as well as at least two graduate electives in statistics or biostatistics, allowing them to complete their required coursework in one or at most two years instead of three.

Core PhD Courses (10 credit hours)

courses credits title usual term
BIOS 801 3 Advanced Inference I Fall
BIOS 802 3 Advanced Inference II Winter
BIOS 680 3 Stochastic Processes Fall
BIOS 810 1 Approaches to the Responsible Practice of Biostatistics Fall

Note that Math 451 (Advanced Calculus) is prerequisite for BIOSTAT 801/802 and does not count toward open electives for PhD requirements.

PhD Biostatistics Electives (15 credit hours)

At least 15 additional credit hours of Biostatistics or Statistics courses are required beyond the core MS and PhD courses. At least 12 of these credit hours must be in formal courses (a graded course in a lecture format), and at least 9 of these credit hours must be at the 800 level of biostatistics or 600 level of statistics. For students completing the PhD degree after the Michigan Biostatistics MS degree, the MS electives will count toward the PhD electives, subject to the 800/600 level requirement.

PhD Biostatistics Cognate Requirement

Rackham requires a 4-credit cognate (minor) requirement for Ph.D. students.  This requirement can be met via the Epidemiology requirement by taking EPID 601 (4 credits), or by taking EPID 515 (3 credits) and 516 (4 credits), by taking Public Health 512 (3 credits) together with an additional course in Epidemiology, or by taking EPID 621 (3 credits) if the student is funded by the Training Program in Cancer Research. Alternatively, students with sufficient background in epidemiology may fulfill the Epidemiology requirement by taking the Epidemiology Exemption Exam offered by the Epidemiology Department.

If, in the process of taking fulfilling the epidemiology requirement (including fulfilling it by use of the exemption exam), students do not receive 4 credits, they must make sure that have at least a total of 4 credits from outside of biostatistics or statistics in order to achieve candidacy. This can be achieved by taking at least four credit hours of courses outside of biostatistics or statistics under the open electives requirement.


PhD Qualifying Exam

Full-time Ph.D. students entering without a relevant master's degree are expected to take the Qualifying Exam within two years of entering the program, while students entering with a relevant master's degree are expected to take it within one year of entering the program. The two Qualifying Examination components are given during a two-day period and consist of one four-hour theory exam and one eight-hour applications exam, administered in May of each year. The goals of the qualifying exam are to encourage the student to review and synthesize what they have learned in the Master’s program and to assess their general understanding of statistical concepts, ability to independently and creatively use statistical concepts in application, and ability to convey ideas and findings coherently through writing.

The theory exam consists of six questions and is closed book; the problems do not require a computer. Questions will be at the level of the final exams used in our required Biostatistics core courses (601, 602, 650, 651, and 653). The applications exam will consist of a dataset provided to the student, along with a description of the data and a series of scientific hypotheses/questions to be addressed. Students are responsible for analyzing the data and producing a report of no more than four pages (double-spaced, 11-point font, 0.5-inch margins) with three sections: (i) methods, (ii) results, and (iii) conclusions, along with an appendix of no more than 4 figures and 4 tables.  Each exam will be pass/fail, based on the overall score achieved on the exam. Students must pass both the theory and application exam to remain in the program. Students who fail an exam will be given the opportunity to retake the exam the following year; students who pass one exam but not the other need only retake the exam they failed.

There is an M-box location for shared exams.  Please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator for access.


Applying for Candidacy

Students who have completed all required coursework and passed the qualifying exam should apply for candidacy by submitting the Candidacy Requirements form to the chair of the Candidacy Committee. Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator for details.

Once candidacy is achieved, students usually should not take more than one course per semester, in order to concentrate on completing their thesis. Students wishing to take more than one class should obtain permission from their advisor: see https://rackham.umich.edu/navigating-your-degree/candidacy-requirements/.

 Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee must have at least four members, with at least two from within and at least one from outside the Department of Biostatistics; the outside member is called the cognate member. The student may choose to have a single committee chair who must be a member of the Biostatistics department faculty, or two co-chairs, at least one of whom must be a member of the Biostatistics department faculty. The committee directs and reviews the student's doctoral research, conducts the oral defense of the dissertation, and decides whether or not the dissertation is approved. Ph.D. candidates should form their dissertation committee within 12 months of reaching candidacy; it is recommended that meetings with the committee members take place every six to 12 months.

 Dissertation Proposal

Candidates are expected to present their thesis proposal within 24 months of achieving candidacy. The proposal should address the overall aims of the thesis, carry out a literature review in the research area, present a section on preliminary results, and provide a plan for additional research. Usually the problems to be tackled in the dissertation are presented in the proposal, for some problems there is a comprehensive body of work, for others a partial idea or work in progress is sufficient. A detailed roadmap of solutions to all the problems/chapters are not needed for the proposal. The dissertation proposal should be presented well before completion of the dissertation, so that the student may get feedback and comments from the dissertation committee, as well as review and approve the proposed direction and content of the research. Students are required to create a written document for the proposal and present orally to the dissertation committee.


Dissertation Content and Defense

The dissertation research must be a creative, significant, and original contribution to the field of biostatistics, involving the development and evaluation of biostatistical methodology that has application to important biomedical problems. The development of computational techniques and software for novel statistical methods is an important aspect of scholarly work. Various models for the structure of a dissertation have been used and are acceptable. Usually, the dissertation consists of three separate, often fairly loosely related, papers that are judged to be of publishable quality, together with introduction and conclusion/future directions chapters. An alternative, more traditional, but now less commonly used form of dissertation would be one that provides an in-depth treatise on a topic that may look at various facets of a problem and may not easily subdivide into a set number of separate publishable papers. For guidance, students may wish to review the collection of Ph.D. dissertations that have been written in the department and that are on display in the departmental library, or on-line in Deep Blue.

The dissertation oral defense should be advertised using the thesis abstract at least three weeks in advance of the scheduled defense time. The dissertation should be supplied to both the dissertation committee and the front office in the department at least two weeks in advance of the scheduled defense time for review to any faculty member or student in the department prior to the defense. For the oral defense, the dissertation committee chair will call on the candidate for presentation of the dissertation, typically for a 50-minute presentation. The defense is public; therefore, examination of the candidate by committee members and others should take place with all who are interested present. The defense will conclude with ‘closed door’ deliberation of the dissertation committee.

Dual Degree

If you are planning to pursue a dual degree, you should check with a Graduate Program Coordinator and your Academic Advisor to ensure that you are planning adequately to complete your degree. The SPH Registrar may also provide guidance around academic requirements and forms.

PhD Admission Process

Because a number of our MS students apply to the PhD program, we discuss some of the details of the PhD admission process in this document (noting that many of these comments apply to the MS admission process as well).

Our approach to admissions is holistic; we generally have no specific criteria for admission or financial support.  We do expect a clear fit with our program, strong and relevant academic background, and demonstrated strength in mathematics and the English language.   

Specific areas of focus for applicant review: 

  • Undergraduate and graduate education:  universities, courses, grades.
  • Mathematics preparation:  universities, courses, grades.  We expect mostly As in these courses.
  • GRE scores, with focus on quantitative and verbal scores, with allowance for issues that can influence these scores.
  • Statement of purpose/personal statement.  We look for a logical fit with our biostatistics graduate program and evidence of clear thinking and writing.
  • Letters of recommendation. We have a strong preference for academic or research letters with other letters largely discounted.  Particularly valuable are evaluative letters from referees who clearly know the applicant well.  We look for strong support and a lack of red flags.  For internal Masters to PhD applicants, we prefer internal letters.
  • Other important information:  diversity relevance, computing skills, research experience, teaching experience.  This information can be particularly important for funding decisions.\
  • For non-native English speakers: TOEFL.  A score <100 is likely disqualifying and a higher score is much preferred.  This is the only specific numerical threshold to which we pay attention.

Internal MS candidates for the PhD program are considered before outside applicants.

To register for Biostatistics courses, to see the current course times and instructors, and to find courses in other Schools/Colleges visit Wolverine Access  

Full Time Study: Master’s and Ph.D. pre-candidates must register for a minimum of 9 credit hours to be considered full-time. An exception is that MS tuition scholarship students generally are expected to register for a minimum of 12 credit hours per semester.

PhD Registration: PhD candidates should register for at least 8 credit hours in BIOSTAT 995 each semester. If this credit is split between multiple advisors, students need to inform and contact the Graduate Program Coordinator. If a PhD candidate is taking other courses, credit hours can be modified subject to approval of the dissertation advisor.

PhD students must be registered each Fall and Winter term (continuously enrolled) to remain in good standing. Students may apply to take Leave of Absence or Extramural Study, which allows them to remain in good standing without registration. PhD students have year-round eligibility for University services even during summers when they may not be registered.

PhD students defending during Spring/Summer term must enroll and register for that semester, contact the student coordinator for a waiver if a late fee is incurred.

Late Registration: If you are not registered before the first day of class, a $50 late registration fee will be assessed to your account.

Drop/Add: Students may add, drop, or modify a course via Wolverine Access through the end of the third week of classes in a full term. After the third full week in a full term students must obtain instructor approval to drop, add, or modify a course via Wolverine Access. A drop/add form is sometimes required, when changes are not allowed using the online system (e.g., when converting enrollment to audit) and can be obtained from the Graduate Program Coordinator. Once the form has all signatures, the student will need to take the form to the central Registrar's Office, along with their picture ID.

Any class dropped after the third week will result in a grade of "W" for that course unless special arrangements can be made with the instructor. Courses cannot be dropped or added after the last day of classes. A student who wants to drop the only course for which they are registered must follow the term withdrawal procedures: see https://rackham.umich.edu/navigating-your-degree/term-withdrawal/. A “W” is not included when calculating GPA.

Transferring Credit: Up to six credit hours required for a degree program may be transferred to a student's record from inside and/or outside of the University of Michigan. The transfer from within the University appears on the SPH academic record and the associated grade(s) received for the credit(s) also appear and will be computed in the student's cumulative GPA. Credits transferred from an outside institution will not be computed as part of the student's cumulative GPA.

Courses cannot be transferred for credit if they were already applied toward another degree, taken more than five years prior to entering the present SPH program, or if a grade below a "B" was earned.

Independent Study. There are three independent study courses offered by Biostatistics:

BIOSTAT 610: Readings in Biostatistics. Primarily intended for MS students. Independent study in a special topic under the guidance of a faculty member. (1-4 credits).
BIOSTAT820: Readings in Biostatistics. Primarily intended for Ph.D. students. Students assigned special topics for literature study under guidance of individual faculty members. (1-4 credits).
BIOSTAT 990: Dissertation/Pre-Candidacy. For dissertation work by a doctoral student not yet admitted to status as a candidate, (1-8 Full term, 1-4 Half term).
These courses do not count toward any program requirements (elective, open elective, or cognate). 

Letter grade coursework (A, B, C, D, or E) are converted into numbers, or points, as follows: A+/A = 4.0, A-= 3.7, B+ = 3.3, B = 3.0, B- = 2.7, C+ = 2.3, C = 2.0, C- = 1.7, D+ = 1.3, D = 1.0, D- = 0.7, E = 0. A grade of C- or better is required to obtain credit for a course. To maintain satisfactory academic standing, a graduate student must make satisfactory progress toward their degree and have a minimum Rackham cumulative grade point average (GPA) of B (3.0). Students who fall below the GPA requirement of their program or Rackham are placed on academic probation, and cannot graduate until their probationary status is removed.

Students may elect courses without letter grades, either as a visit (audit) or for Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading. A visit/audit does not count for credit, but a grade of S does.  However, non-letter grade courses do not count toward any program requirements (elective, open elective, or cognate).

A student may receive a grade of Incomplete (“I”) if there is a limited amount of coursework remaining to be done by the end of the semester and the instructor approves an extension for completing the unfinished work. The instructor must agree to this arrangement and determine a deadline for finishing the assigned work before a grade is assigned. For MPH students, an incomplete must be completed within four full terms of the end of the course or the grade will convert to an E; MS and PhD students who do not convert an incomplete will have it remain an I.  Students with 8 or more accumulated incomplete credit hours will be placed on academic probation.

At end of every Winter Semester students will receive a formal evaluation from the Department Chair based on faculty review and discussion.  This letter will summarize current GPA and department standing, highlight student successes during the past year, and make recommendations for improvement.

 
Advising: 

The department assigns cohort advisors to provide general academic advising for all Masters students; MS and MPH students will be paired with one of these cohort academic advisors. In addition, each student will be paired with an individual advisor for more specific support. For Masters students funded as graduate student research assistant, this will usually be their GSRA supervisor.  Any Ph.D. students not initially appointed as GSRAs will be initially paired with an academic advisor based on interests expressed in the admissions application and admissions questionnaire.  

The cohort and individual academic advisors will help students navigate the curriculum and requirements, support them through any academic difficulties, and provide signatures and approvals on forms pertaining to the curriculum.  Students should meet with their academic advisor during orientation and before the start of every semester thereafter, and be proactive in seeking out the advisors' assistance when needed.

If a student’s initial advising match is not a good fit, the student should discuss his their concerns with the Graduate Program Coordinator, the Graduate Program Director, and/or the Associate Chair for Academic Affairs.

Mentoring: 

A mentor is someone who you connect with on a personal and professional level, who might help you explore career trajectories, provide connections for you, and with who whom you might maintain a relationship throughout your career. In addition to your advisor, a mentoring relationship can be found through your GSRA/GSI assignment if you have one, internships or job, or with other faculty members in the department and School. We encourage you to be proactive in finding multiple mentors, to augment the guidance of your academic advisors.  

Masters Degree Cohort Advising Expectations

Every year several faculty members are assigned as mentors for an incoming cohort and serve as cohort advisors to a group of students. Following are the expectations for both faculty and students in their advising roles for the Masters degree in Biostatistics.  

The cohort faculty advisor serves as an academic advisor to provide general guidance related to courses, coursework, career planning, and University of Michigan/SPH navigation during the Master’s program. 

The cohort faculty advisors hold a large group information session and small group appointments during Fall orientation. The cohort faculty advisor will be prepared to help with general questions about the department and its graduate programs, degree requirements, available courses for each semester, and registration deadlines. Any degree requirement questions the cohort advisor cannot answer should be directed to the Graduate Program Coordinator.

The cohort faculty is available by appointment to meet and discuss issues related to navigating the program. Cohort advisors will seek to initiate an in-person meeting outside of orientation with students at least once per academic year.

The cohort faculty advisors are available to connect students to SPH/University resources for issues outside of academic performance, including mental health, obtaining internships, cultural integration, and writing assistance.

Masters and PhD Degree Individual Advising Expectations

The individual faculty advisor serves as a backup for this support as well as a general source of more personally tailored guidance. Like the cohort advisor, the individual advisor is available by appointment if requested to meet and discuss issues related to navigating the program. The individual advisor should initiate an in-person meeting outside of orientation with students at least once per academic year. As part of this meeting, it is advised that students and faculty use the MORE advising forms to help guide their discussion.

Student Expectations

The student is expected to actively contribute to a welcoming and supportive climate within the department. The student is expected to behave in a professional and courteous manner in email, online and personal communications and interactions. 

The student is expected to read the student handbook and attend the Fall orientation session and the small group appointment. The student is expected to read the program requirements and course offerings on the Biostatistics website.

Students are expected to attend meetings with their advisors at least once per year and more often, if needed. The student is expected to regularly communicate with their advisors about academic progress, and to initiate contact with an advisor if needing assistance.

Students are strongly encouraged to contact their advisors for information regarding SPH/University resources for issues outside of academic performance, including mental health, obtaining internships, cultural integration, and writing assistance.

Students are responsible for upholding the School and University standards of academic conduct and should be aware of all policies and procedures. These include (but are not limited to):

No plagiarism or cheating.  While study groups and other collaborative behaviors are appropriate and very much encouraged, all work turned in for grading should only be that of the student, or, in the case of group projects, only that of the students working together on the project.  Copying of homework or exam results or collaboration on an exam, or use of material such as notes, books, or the internet unless expressly allowed in exams, are examples of cheating and are expressly forbidden.  Cheating can result in grade reductions and can result in loss of funding, removal from consideration for future funding opportunities, or dismissal from the program.

Respectful behavior toward other students and faculty. Sexual harassment, threats of violence, or other highly disruptive behaviors are not tolerated and can result in dismissal from the program. Details of the policies as well as procedures to be followed if there are claims of violations can be found at sph.umich.edu/student-resources/mph-mhsa.html.

For an overview of student rights and responsibilities at the University of Michigan, see https://oscr.umich.edu/statement.

Students needing special classroom or exam accommodation should inform faculty as early as possible in the semester, and both students and faculty should inform and work together with staff if help is needed in supplying these accommodations.

Academic Probation and Dismissal. Biostatistics students can be placed on academic probation for two reasons: (1) overall GPA below 3.0 or PhD candidates receiving an unsatisfactory grade in their candidacy course (BIO 995), and/or (2) unsatisfactory performance in a GSI or GSRA role.  Students receiving funding retain their funding for the semester they are on probation. Students on academic probation will be notified by email with an attached letter from the Department Chair and/or advisor. After the probationary semester, the student’s status will be reviewed by the student’s advisor, the Graduate Program Director, and Associate Chair for Academic Affairs (or a third member of the faculty chosen by the Department Chair if two of these people are the same). If the student’s academic performance and/or their GSRA/GSI/other work requirements has not improved to an acceptable level, they will be, with rare exceptions, dismissed from the program.  Students place on academic probation within two months of the end of the Winter semester, or during Spring/Summer terms, will not have their probationary semester start until the Fall Semester following; similarly students placed on probation within two months of the end of the Fall Semester will not have their probationary semester start until the Winter semester following.  Students who obtain a leave of absence or withdraw from the program will not have such time count as a probation semester.

The student may request an appeal from dismissal.  The Department Chair will convene a committee of three other faculty not involved in the original decision who will review the student’s appeal.  The committee may overturn the original decision or uphold it; it they uphold it, they will provide a detailed response to the student’s appeal within 60 days of the appeal request.

Every year, Department of Biostatistics faculty work hard to create as many funded positions as possible for departmental students. Fully-funded positions come with full payment of tuition, health insurance coverage, registration fees, and a monthly stipend; total cost for a faculty member to support an out-of-state student ranges from $65,000 to $90,000 per year. All students admitted to our PhD program receive full funding, and all students admitted to our MS and MPH programs are considered for financial support. 

There are five types of financial support provided to our students: (1) Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), (2) Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA), (3) Training Grants and Fellowships, (4) Tuition Scholarships, and (5) Temporary-Hourly Employment. GSI, GSRA, and training grant and fellowship positions are fully funded; tuition scholarships and temporary hourly employment are not.

Health insurance (GradCare) and dental insurance (option 1) is provided to GSRA and GSIs. Unfunded international students are required to purchase U-M International Student/Scholar Health Insurance (IHI). Unfunded domestic students can purchase health insurance through Domestic Student Health Insurance Plan Health.

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI):  Graduate Student Instructors are appointed at 50% effort, which involves working twenty hours per week. GSI’s are appointed to help with the instruction of Biostatistics courses, most often service courses offered to students from other School of Public Health departments, but also some courses for our own students. The duties of a GSI typically include preparing and teaching lab sessions, holding office hours, and grading homeworks and exams.

Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA): A full GSRA appointment is at 50% effort, which involves working twenty hours per week. GSRAs generally work closely with a faculty member who is a principal investigator or co-investigator on a research project. The duties of a GSRA can involve analysis of biomedical research data, statistical methods research, or both. Most GSRA appointments are full (50%), although partial GSRA appointments (e.g. 25% effort) occasionally are made with proportionate responsibilities and benefits, but still covering full tuition. A more detailed discussion of responsibilities and best practices for GSRAs and their faculty advisors can be found at https://sph.umich.edu/biostat/gsra-responsibilities.html.

Training Grants and Fellowships: Some students are supported through training grants or fellowships. Training grants and fellowships may or may not require a specific work product, but typically do require participation in relevant coursework, research, and/or seminars. Currently the Department is home to two NIH-funded training grants, in Cancer Biostatistics and Genome Science (https://sph.umich.edu/csg/gstp.html).

Tuition Scholarships, and Awards: Tuition scholarships are granted without a work obligation. These philanthropy-based awards are usually made on the basis of academic merit and expected contribution to the field and to promote the diversity and inclusion by funding students who represent a broad array of life experiences and perspectives.

Temporary-Hourly Employment: Temporary-hourly positions pay an hourly wage, and usually provide research and/or teaching experience, but do not pay tuition or benefits. The Department hires graders and occasionally tutors for several biostatistics courses; hours vary week to week and are accrued on an as-needed basis according to demand during the semester. In addition, Department faculty occasionally seek students for temporary-hourly research positions; in filling such positions, faculty speak directly with students they know from class or other activities, and/or after reviewing student files, so it is useful for students interested in such funding to keep their files up to date (see below). The Department occasionally receives information from individuals outside the Department on temporary-hourly positions; information about these positions is shared with students by email. The number of students funded on temporary-hourly positions typically is small.

Other Employment: The UM Student Employment Office website posts work-study and non-work-study jobs for which UM students are eligible to apply. You can also set up your account on the SPH Jobs site "Career Connection" to alert you to relevant job and internship postings, both on and off campus. If you are interested in applying for Graduate Student Appointments outside the Department of Biostatistics, you should check the UM Jobs website. These positions are highly competitive and there are not many available; we recommend you search early and apply to several positions if you are interested. There are a large number of research centers and initiatives at UM SPH and across campus that hire students. You may wish to reach out to centers in your areas of interest directly to see if there is a good fit for employment.

Expectations for Fully-Funded Students
Fully-funded (full payment of tuition, health insurance coverage, registration fees, monthly stipend) Biostatistics graduate students are expected to commit full-time effort to their academic coursework, scientific research, and professional development. Fully-funded students may not seek additional employment in any position where regularly scheduled work commitments are expected beyond their GSRA, GSI, fellowship, or training grant commitments. Grading and tutoring are not considered regular employment but, if undertaken, should not interfere with the student’s education and research and should only be undertaken with the prior approval of the GSI/GSRA/fellowship/training grant supervisor and academic advisor. Given that summer work is often required for GSRA appointees, students must receive permission from their GSRA advisor to take an internship. Fully-funded students are expected to maintain a grade average better than B+. 

Students with concerns about their GSRA, GSI, training grant, or fellowship position are encouraged to speak with their faculty supervisor and/or advisor about those concerns. If that seems unfeasible, students may seek out another faculty or staff member with whom they are comfortable, or may request a meeting with the GSRA/GSI Student Committee (new link to request will be needed). Students may also use UM conflict resolution resources, such as the Office of Student Conflict Resolution (OSCR), Graduate Employee’s Organization (GEO), and the Office of Institutional Equality (OIE).

Matching Fully-Funded Students to Positions
Students with a full funding commitment (full payment of tuition, health insurance coverage, registration fees, monthly stipend) from the Department are matched to positions using a centralized matching system. Newly admitted students who accept the Department’s offer of admission and support in April are asked to complete a questionnaire in which they indicate their funding preferences. Continuing students to whom full funding is committed and for whom a new position may be needed are also asked to complete the questionnaire. Matching is then done through the Admissions Committee, taking into consideration faculty and student preferences, relevant coursework and experience, and other relevant student credentials in the departmental student file.

Allocating Full Funding to Initially Unfunded Students 
In some but not all years, after positions have been allocated to all students to whom full funding has been promised, additional fully-funded positions (GSI or GSRA, some for one semester, others longer term) may remain or become available. When this happens, often in late spring or summer but potentially at any time, unfunded Masters students with grade averages better than B+ (the minimum grade average for funded students) are informed that there may be positions available, and asked to fill out the matching questionnaire. Matching is done through the centralized matching system in the same fashion as for students with funding commitments; for students already in the Department, student performance in Department classes, involvement in Department activities, and previous interactions between faculty and students often are important in funding decisions. Students should not reach out directly to individual Biostatistics faculty for GSRA funding requests outside of the centralized system.

Students May Provide Additional Information for Funding Matches
To ensure fully informed consideration for any positions that become available, students will each semester be offered the opportunity to add materials to be provided to potential faculty funders beyond their original graduate school application and current Michigan transcript. These materials might include an updated cv/resume, a brief research statement, descriptions of additional research activities or job experiences, or any other documents the student thinks would be helpful. 

Questions about funding process may be directed to the Graduate Program Coordinator or the Admissions Committee Chair.

Students who do not obtain funding or employment, or who need additional support beyond these sources, may apply for financial aid through the University of Michigan’s Office of Financial Aid. This office requires applicants for any and all types of financial aid to complete the Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA) provided by the American College Testing Center (ACTC). A FAFSA will be sent to you directly if you indicate your interest in financial assistance on the admission application form. FAFSAs are available from the School of Public Health Office for Student Engagement and Practice, and at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Statistics in the Community (STATCOM) is a student-led volunteer organization providing pro-bono (free) statistical consulting to government organizations, non-profit agencies, and other groups providing public health or related services. All biostatistics students are eligible to participate, and STATCOM teams with students from Statistics, Survey Methodology, and other departments, as well as with the Michigan Institute for Data Science (MIDAS), which provides office and meeting space on the 6th floor of Weisner Hall. STATCOM is a particularly useful way for masters’ students who do not have a funded position to obtain research and consulting experience. Projects range from one-time consulting on, for example, data collection design, to larger projects that involved design, analysis, and reporting. STATCOM project scheduling is designed to work around classroom and employment demands. Students interested in participating in STATCOM should contact the STATCOM student leadership team or the faculty advisors.

The Department of Biostatistics has several computing options available to students. 

The Biostatistics Student Computing Laboratory (BSCL) is located in room M4048A SPH II. This lab contains 10 Windows workstations as well as printing resources. This lab is exclusively available to Biostatistics graduate students (MPH, MS, and PhD) and students taking Biostatistics classes. The computers in this lab are maintained by SPH Instructional & Computing Services (sph.help@umich.edu) while the printers are maintained by the Biostatistics front office. 

Campus Computing Sites offer public-access workstations with university-licensed software across the UM-Ann Arbor campus. More than 2,000 Windows and Mac computers are located in 17 locations on Central Campus, 4 locations on North Campus, and in 100+ cyberstation locations in study lounges, dining areas, and collaboration and study spaces. All Campus Computing Sites (excluding cyberstations) have black and white laser printers, and several provide color or large format printing, scanners, and instructional and training materials. 

The Biostatistics High-Performance Computing Cluster (BHPCC) is available for faculty, students and researchers in the Department of Biostatistics. You need to ask your advisor to authorize and sponsor a biostatistics cluster account. The cluster consists of 53 compute nodes with a total of 892 physical CPU cores and ~7TB of memory. The cluster has a number of statistical software packages installed including: R, SAS, and Gurobi. The cluster makes use of Slurm for workload management. More information about the cluster is available on the department website  or by email (sph-biostat-help@umich.edu).  

Advanced Research Computing Technology Services (ARC-TS) provide a central HPC cluster environment for researchers at the University of Michigan and their collaborators. Access to this cluster, known as Flux (http://arc-ts.umich.edu/flux-user-guide/), requires the purchase of an allocation on a per month per core basis. Students need to discuss with advisors about the plan of using Flux.  ARC also maintains several high-performance research storage options. For more details about the University cluster and storage options visit the ARC-TS website.

Study Aids: Selected previous exams from MS and PhD core courses (601, 602, 650, 651, 653, 801, and 802) are available on M-Box under “Core Course Exam Materials”. Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator to obtain access

Wellness Resources: The Department of Biostatistics has a Student Navigator whose role is work with students facing challenges in stress and work-life balance, problems with home or family life, or difficulties dealing with the program or other aspects of graduate student life that the student has not been able to resolve with assistance from the academic advisor, or would prefer not to discuss with the advisor.  Students are strongly encouraged to make use of the Navigator to sort out issues as early as possible to preserve or improve their quality of life while in the program.  

The School of Public Health has an “embedded” counselor from the Community and Psychological Services (CAPS) Program at the University.  CAPS provides more comprehensive counseling and psychotheraphy services, including outreach to University medical services as appropriate.  Students are encouraged to make use of CAPS services as needed, with or without discussions or referrals from the Student Navigator. 

The University has other several wellness resources. For more information, click on the wellness icon on your canvas account or visit the University Health Services.

Writing Lab: Learning to write well is a key part of a successful statistician’s “toolbox”. The School of Public Health maintains a Writing Lab at 5025 SPH II for all graduate students. The Lab provides support for drafting proposals, writing dissertations, responding to advisors and professors, and preparing manuscripts. Services are provided on both a drop-in and appointment basis. The Sweetland Center for Writing is another writing resource for students and provides similar services for all students on campus.

The School of Public Health buildings are open from 7:00 am-5:30 pm.  You will need to use your MCard to access at other times.  

The front office personnel are the key operators for the copy machines.  They can help with assigning copy codes, training, and when problems arise with the machines.

The Department and the School have mandatory student e-mail groups where policies, procedures, events and important information will be shared. You are responsible for receiving and acting upon any information included in emails to sph.students@umich.edu and sph.bio.students@umich.edu Each Biostatistics student is given a mailbox which is located in the Biostatistics Copy Room (M4311).  While the majority of important student information is now electronic, you may still receive items in your mailbox such as returned assignments so we recommend you check it periodically.

Funded students are provided a workspace. Carrels are available to unfunded students on a first-come, first-serve basis. See the Graduate Program Coordinator for more details.

A refrigerator and microwave are provided for shared use in our kitchenette. Please be sure to wipe up any spills in the microwaves and clean things out of the refrigerator in a timely manner. Do not put anything other than water down the sink drains.  You are welcome to enjoy your lunch in these areas as well, please clean up after yourself.  Also keep in mind that offices are across the hall from the common room.  Please keep it fairly quiet since people are working.

There are several gender inclusive restrooms located within the School of Public Health: SPH I: Basement Room B857T; SPH II: Floor 2 Room 2237T and Floor 3 Room 3237

The Department of Biostatistics maintains lactation space in M4239 A.  The School of Public Health has two lactation rooms, 2759 SPH I and 6023 SPH II. To gain access, contact SPH facilities.

Room M2025 (located in in the SPH II hallway that connects with SPH I) is designated as a 'Reflection Room' for the School. This space can be used for prayer, meditation, or private reflection any time throughout the day.

To reserve conference rooms 4034 and 4117, please see the front office personnel. Rooms throughout the School can be requested/reserved using the SPH intranet “The Heights”.

University of Michigan. Your M-Card is your student ID and gives you access to the library system, recreation facilities, student priced tickets for University Musical Society and theatrical events, etc. M-Cards are issued at student orientation and are good for 5 years; replacements or renewals can be obtained at 1011 Student Services Building (SSB) or at other sites on campus.

There is limited parking available on the UM campus.  UM Parking and Transportation Services has information at ltp.umich.edu/parking/ about student parking options.  We strongly encourage you to walk, bike, or take public transportation to SPH during the week. The parking lot on Washington Heights is open for non-permit holders on evenings and weekends. In addition to the Ann Arbor bus system (see below), the University of Michigan runs an extensive bus services (the “blue buses”) throughout North, Central, and South Campus, as well as to graduate student housing; see https://ltp.umich.edu/transit/routes.php for more details.

The University provides a number of resources for graduate students with children or other family dependents.  These include parental accommodation allowing students to maintain full-time status immediately after the birth or adoption of a child; leave of absence for urgent family necessities or dependent care; subsidies for the child care; and the “Family Helpers” program that connects members of the UM community who want to offer occasional/short-term/part-time services with members of the UM community in need of assistance.  A full list of resources is available at rackham.umich.edu/rackham-life/grad-students-with-children.

The University has a number of artistic and musical performance venues.  The University Music Society offers discounted tickets to University of Michigan students: see https://ums.org/season/tickets/student-tickets/.

Ann Arbor: Ann Arbor has an excellent public bus system for a US city of its size (Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority), although weekend service is limited relative to weekday service. Details of the system are available at www.theride.org. Your M-card can be used to ride all AATA buses for free.

If you have questions about visas, work permits, and other general questions about life in Ann Arbor, you can visit the International Center.

If you have questions about visas, work permits, and other general questions about life in Ann Arbor, you can visit the International Center.

The English Language Institute offers a full range of courses and other types of language and academic support for international graduate students.

For additional writing support you may also wish to seek assistance at the School of Public Health Writing Lab or the Sweetland Center for Writing.

If needed, international students may purchase health insurance via the International Center. Information can be found here

PhD students are expected to work and study during all terms including Spring/Summer. In addition to regular University of Michigan holidays and season days, students employed as GSRAs are expected to get a minimum of 10 business days of vacation per year. All GSRA vacations need to be approved by the advisor. 

If travelling abroad for study, conferences, or personal reasons, please be sure to review the UM international travel policy. This policy can be found on the Human Resources website and includes information about the UM Travel Registry, UM resources, and additional optional insurance. For details, go to this link.

For international students traveling outside the US, please speak with the International Center to discuss timeframe and potential obstacles (e.g., visa approval). Students, especially if still needing required classes, should be aware that special processing now is common and often takes up to 2 months. If international students are unable to return due to administrative issues (e.g., visa delays), an unpaid leave may be required depending on the duration of the absence. 

Off-site work needs to be agreed upon with the faculty advisor prior to departure. A written statement of work expectations is required and must be filed with the Biostatistics Graduate Office.