Biostatistics Ph.D. Program

Ph.D. Student Directory (listing optional)


Requirements of the Ph.D. Program

The Ph.D. degree requires successful completion of:

Coursework

  1. Core courses
  2. Electives in Biostatistics and Statistics
  3. Epidemiology requirement
  4. Public health requirement (Foundations of Public Health Practice, online non-credit course). Students with an MPH from a CEPH-accredited institution are exempt.
  5. Electives in a cognate area
  6. Approaches to the Responsible Practice of Biostatistics (BIOS 810)
  7. Qualifying Examinations in Theory and Applications

Dissertation

  1. Presentation of proposal for research including an extensive literature review
  2. Research
  3. Writing of the dissertation
  4. Oral defense of the dissertation

After successful completion of coursework and the Qualifying Examinations, the student is advanced to candidacy and begins work on his/her dissertation.

All students admitted to one of our residential programs are considered for financial support. There are four types of financial support that we offer our students: Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA), Training Grants and Fellowships.

Graduate Student Instructor (GSI)

Graduate Student Instructors are appointed at 50% effort, which involves working approximately twenty hours per week. This appointment includes full payment of tuition, health insurance coverage, registration fees and a monthly stipend. GSI’s are appointed to help with the instruction of Biostatistics courses offered to students from other Public Health Departments. The duties of a GSI can include preparing materials for and teaching labs, holding office hours, grading homework and exams, and tutoring.

Graduate Student Research Assistant (GSRA)

GSRA’s are appointed at 50% effort, which involves working approximately twenty hours per week on a research project. This appointment includes full payment of tuition, health insurance coverage, registration fees and a monthly stipend. GSRA’s generally work closely with a faculty member who is a principal or co-investigator on the research project. The duties of the GSRA can involve analysis of biomedical research data or statistical research. Currently, GSRAs are working on projects involving statistical methods development and application to bioinformatics, cancer, clinical trials, dentistry, diabetes, environmental health, epidemiology, genetics, health education, kidney disease, and survival analysis.

Training Grants

Students are also supported through involvement in training grants which provide support similar to the GSRA or GSI appointments. Currently, the Department has three training grants. Information can be obtained by clicking on the links below.

Scholarships, Fellowships and Awards

Awards for tuition assistance are available and are granted without a work obligation. These awards are generally made on the basis of academic merit, expected contribution to the field, and underrepresented backgrounds. Some examples of awards our students have received include:

Other award/scholarship opportunities exist for continuing students. They include:

The Rackham Sources of Aid page lists various sources of information on financial assistance available to students on campus.

Prospective students interested in applying for specific awards should contact Student Services at 734-615-9817 or fenechn@umich.edu.

Financial Aid

Many of our students are offered funding as GSIs, GSRAs or fellows. If a student does not receive such an offer, he or she 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 most high school or college libraries and financial aid officers, as well as from the School of Public Health Office for Student Engagement and Practice. FAFSA is also available at www.fafsa.ed.gov.

Prerequisites

Applicants for the doctoral program would usually have a relevant master's degree (i.e. a graduate degree comparable to our MS in biostatistics), although strong candidates with a bachelor’s degree will be considered for Ph.D. admissions.

Mathematics prerequisites for the MS:

  • three semesters of calculus
  • a course in matrix or linear algebra
  • an introductory course in statistics or biostatistics
Students with less preparation in mathematics or statistics may be conditionally admitted.

Coursework

Students entering with a relevant master's degree in biostatistics or statistics are likely to have completed several of the courses required for the Ph.D. program. For this reason, we outline two programs of study: one for students with a relevant master's degree and one for students without a relevant master's degree. Each student should determine the details of the program of study after consultation with his/her faculty advisor.

Typically, a student entering with a relevant master's degree will have had the following courses or their equivalents:

  • BIOS 601 Probability and Distribution Theory
  • BIOS 602 Biostatistical Inference
  • BIOS 650 Applied Statistics I: Linear Regression
  • BIOS 810 Approaches to the Responsible Practice of Biostatistics
  • MATH 451 Advanced Calculus I
  • Foundations of Public Health TBA, starting Fall 2018
  • One or two electives in Biostatistics or Statistics

This accelerated program is not possible unless the student has already completed the first three courses listed above. MATH 451 can be taken in the first term of year 1, if necessary.

A. Core Courses (19 credit hours)
Coures Credits Title Usual Term
Prior to taking the Qualifying Examination:
BIOS 801 3 Advanced Inference I Fall, Year 1
BIOS 802 3 Advanced Inference II Winter, 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
Prior to achieving candidacy:
BIOS 680* 3 Stochastic Processes Year 2

* Or another advanced probability course.

It is assumed that students entering with a relevant Master's degree will have taken equivalent courses that will enable them to be exempted from 3-6 hours of this requirement.

B. Electives (15 credit hours)

Electives may be selected from Biostatistics at the 600/800 level, from Statistics at the 500/600 level, or with approval of the Candidacy Committee, from courses taught in other departments. At least 12 of these hours should be in formal courses and 9 of the 12 hours should be at the 800 level in Biostatistics or 600 level in Statistics. A formal course is defined to be a graded course that is taught in a lecture format.

C. Epidemiology Requirement

All students in the School of Public Health are required to demonstrate competency in biostatistics and epidemiology. The epidemiology requirement may be satisfied in any one of the following ways:

  1. Completing Epidemiology 601 (Fall) or PH 512 (Fall & Winter).
  2. Taking and passing the Epidemiology exemption examination.
  3. Completing Epidemiology 516 and any necessary prerequisites to that course. (Option available to MS student but not to MPH students)
  4. Epidemiology 621 as an option for students funded by the Training Program in Cancer Research.
  5. PLEASE NOTE: If a student has passed the epidemiology exemtion exam, 3 credits will be applied towards the Rackham cognate requirement.

D1. Open Elective Requirement

Depending on the number of credit hours used to complete their epidemiology cognate, Ph.D. students will take 7-10 credit hours of "open elective" courses to be selected from an approved list. If the Epidemiology course taken is 515/516, the student needs 7 credits. If the Epidemiology course is 601, then 9 credits. If the Epidemiology course is 503, then 10 credits. All current Biostatistics students are granted access to the approved list, which is maintained on a Google Drive document. The approved list includes additional electives in biostatistics (600+ level) and statistics (500+ level), applied courses in public health or related topics, and courses in computational methods. Students who want to take University of Michigan courses that are not currently on the approved list are encouraged to request approval from the Curriculum Committee; please contact Nicole Fenech (fenechn@umich.edu) and provide the name, number of the course and description.  (Courses far afield from biostatistics and public health will not be approved).

In Table 3, we present a possible sequence of courses and examinations for a student entering with a relevant Master's degree. Prior to registering for this sequence, the student should confirm with his/her faculty advisor that he/she has adequate prior course work. Also, the student should discuss with his/her faculty advisor the possibility of receiving exemptions from the Core courses listed above. BIOS 820 or 990 taken in the last term are individually-tailored reading courses in the area of biostatistics in which the student would like to do his or her literature review.

TABLE 3: A sample sequence of courses* for a PhD student entering with a relevant Master's degree.
Fall Year 1 Credits Winter Year 1 Credits
BIOS 801 3 BIOS 802 3
Elective (Biostat/Stat) 3 BIOS 651 3
EPID/Cognate/Open Elective 3-4 2 Electives (Biostat/Stat) 6

PUBHLTH 610 Fall 2017 & before
Foundations of Public Health
(starting Fall 201

1

non-credit

   
TOTAL 10-11 TOTAL 12
Fall Year 2 Credits Winter Year 2 Credits
BIOS 653 3 BIOS 699 4
2 Electives (Biostat/Stat) 6 BIOS 680 3
EPID/Cognate/Open Elective 3 EPID/Cognate/Open Elective 0-3
    BIOS 820 or 990 0-4
TOTAL 12 TOTAL 10-11

May Year 2:Qualifying Examinations

*Students who have taken BIOS 651 or equivalent prior to entry in the PhD program could finish Core courses (BIOS 801, 802, 653, 699) the first year and write the Qualifying Examinations May Year 1.

*This represents a minimal program of study for the PhD degree. The timing of electives and of cognates/open electives may be freely interchanged.

D2. Public Health Requirement 

All MS and Ph.D students (who do not have MPH degree) are required to take a 1-credit course on "Introduction to Public Health" (PUBHLTH 610) during the first semester of the program. This course is offered in the Fall of every year.

This program does not assume any relevant course work for a student entering the PhD program. In practice, students with a relevant Master's are likely to have had some courses that are equivalent to requirements in this program. Therefore, prior to registering for courses the student should discuss with his/her advisor the specific courses that should be taken.

A. Core courses (34 credit hours)
Courses Credits Title Usual Term
Prior to taking the Qualifying Examination:
BIOS 601 4 Probability and Distribution Theory Fall, Year 1
BIOS 602 4 Biostatistical Inference Winter, Year 1
BIOS 801 3 Advanced Inference I Fall, Year 2
BIOS 802 3 Advanced Inference II Winter, Year 2
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
BIOS 810 1 Approaches to the Responsible Practice of Biostatistics Fall, Year 1

PH 610 Fall 2017 & before

Foundations of Public Health
(starting Fall 2018)

1

Introduction to Public Health

non-credit

Fall, Year 1
MATH 451 3 Advanced Calculus Year 1

Prior to achieving candidacy:

BIOS 680* 3 Stochastic Processes Year 2

* Or another advanced probability course.

B. Electives (15 credit hours)

At least 15 credit hours of electives are required. They may be selected from Biostatistics at the 600/800 level, from Statistics at the 500/600 level, or with approval of the Candidacy Committee, from courses taught in other Departments. At least 12 of these hours should be in formal courses, 9 of the 12 hours should be at the 800 level in Biostatistics or 600 level in Statistics. A formal course is defined to be a graded course that is taught in a lecture format.

C. Epidemiology Requirement

All students in the School of Public Health are required to demonstrate competency in biostatistics and epidemiology. The epidemiology requirement may be satisfied in any one of the following ways:

  1. Completing Epidemiology 601 (Fall) or PH 512  (Fall & Winter).
  2. Taking and passing the Epidemiology exemption examination.
  3. Completing Epidemiology 516 and any necessary prerequisites to that course. (Option available to MS students, but not to MPH students)
  4. Epidemiology 621 as an option for students funded by the Training Program in Cancer Research 
  5. PLEASE NOTE: If a student has passed the epidemiology exemtion exam, 3 credits will be applied towards the Rackham cognate requirement.

D1a. Cognate Requirement (for entering class prior to Fall 2015)

PhD students must complete at least 9 hours of course work in a cognate area. This should consist of a coherent set of courses in an area (or in related areas) of application of biostatistics; the courses should be approved for graduate credit and may be from more than one department. Cognate courses should be primarily applied as opposed to mathematics/statistical in nature. For example, courses in areas such as mathematics, statistics, operational research, computer science, econometrics and psychometrics would most likely not qualify as cognate courses. Courses from other departments in Public Health or in areas such as genetics, biology, psychology, economics and many other similar areas will likely qualify as cognate courses. Courses in Bioinformatics that are biological or experimental in nature would typically count toward the cognate, whereas those that are more quantitative or technical would not. Courses taken to satisfy the epidemiology requirement count toward the cognate requirement. Faculty advisors can provide guidance and recommend approval of cognate courses. If questions arise on review by Student Services, the Curriculum Committee will make the final decision.

Waivers of cognate requirements .   It is possible to have cognate courses taken in a graduate program elsewhere recognized and to receive a partial or complete waiver. It should be noted, however, that if the previously taken courses were applied toward a degree, the required credit hours for the UM degree will not be reduced. A waiver of cognate requirements should be discussed with your advisor and must be approved by the Curriculum Committee and all requests must go through the Department's Student Services office.

D1b. Open Elective Requirement (for entering class Fall 2015 or later)

Depending on the number of credit hours used to complete their epidemiology cognate, Ph.D. students will take 7-10 credit hours of "open elective" courses to be selected from an approved list. If the Epidemiology course taken is 515/516, the student needs 7 credits. If the Epidemiology course is 601, then 9 credits. If the Epidemiology course is 503, then 10 credits. All current Biostatistics students are granted access to the approved list, which is maintained on a Google Drive document. The approved list includes additional electives in biostatistics (600+ level) and statistics (500+ level), Math 451, applied courses in public health or related topics, and courses in computational methods. Students who want to take University of Michigan courses that are not currently on the approved list are encouraged to request approval from the Curriculum Committee; please contact Nicole Fenech (fenechn@umich.edu) and provide the name, number of the course and description.  (Courses far afield from biostatistics and public health will not be approved).

D2. Public Health Requirement (new requirement for MS and Ph.D students beginning Fall 2013 cohort)

All MS and Ph.D students (who do not have MPH degree) are required to take a 1-credit course on "Introduction to Public Health" (PUBHLTH 610) during the first semester of the program. This course is offered in the Fall of every year.

In Table 4 we present a possible sequence of courses and examinations for students entering without a relevant Master's degree.

TABLE 4: A sample sequences of courses* for a PhD student entering without a relevant Master's degree.
Fall Year 1 Credits Winter Year 1 Credits
BIOS 600 0-1 BIOS 602 4
BIOS 601 4 BIOS 651 3
BIOS 650 4 EPID/Cognate/Open Elective 3-4
EPID/Cognate/Open Elective 3-4 EPID/MATH 451 3

PUBHLTH 610 Fall 2017 & before

Foundations of Public Health
(starting Fall 2018)

1

non-credit

   
BIOS 810 1    
TOTAL 13-15 TOTAL 13-14
Fall Year 2 Credits Winter Year 2 Credits
BIOS 653 3 BIOS 680 3
2 Electives (Biostat/Stat) 6 BIOS 699 4
BIOS 801 3 BIOS 802 3
    EPID/Cognate/Open Elective 3
TOTAL 12 TOTAL 13

Spring/Summer Year 2: Qualifying Examinations

* This represents a minimal program of study for the PhD degree. The timing of electives and of cognates may be freely interchanged. These courses also allow a student to receive a Master's degree at the end of the second year. Three additional electives would be taken in year 3 for a total of 15 credit hours of electives. BIOS 820 or 990, which are individually-tailored reading courses in the area of biostatistics in which the student would like to do his or her literature review, are particularly recommended.

Qualifying Examinations

As a rule, students must be admitted to the Biostatistics Ph.D. program before taking the Qualifying Examination. This rule may be waived in exceptional circumstances, subject to written consent of the Admission and Candidacy Committees. The Qualifying Examination is not individualized to the student. They are prepared and graded by the members of the Candidacy Committee.

The Qualifying Examination is offered once each year, in late May.

A student who has failed the Qualifying Examination and wishes to continue in the Ph.D. program, may retake the examination. If a student fails the examination twice, then he/she will not be allowed to continue in the program.

Except for special cases, full-time Ph.D. students entering without a relevant master's degree must take the Qualifying Examinations within two years of entering the program, while students entering with a relevant master's degree must take them within one year of entering the program. The requirements for part-time students are prorated, so that, for example, a half-time student entering with a relevant master's degree will be required to take the Qualifying Examinations within two years. A student retaking a Qualifying Examination must retake it the next time it is offered. If a student wishes to delay the examinations, he/she must submit a written request to the Candidacy Committee, justifying the delay.

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancing to candidacy requires passing the Qualifying Examinations and completing the required coursework. Once these requirements are met, the student should apply for candidacy by submitting the Candidacy Requirements form to the chair of the Candidacy Committee. The Candidacy Committee then makes the final decision regarding advancement.

Dissertation Committee

In accordance with Rackham Graduate School regulations, 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. A member whose research interests are closely aligned with those of the student is the committee chair, unless this member is from outside the Department, in which case this member and a member from within the department are designated as co-chairs. The dissertation committee is selected by mutual agreement between the student and committee members and is nominated to the dean of the Graduate School by the chair of the department. 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.
  • Candidates are expected to present their thesis proposal within 24 months of achieving candidacy. The proposal presents an opportunity to practice writing skills for the thesis and to present the materials to the members of the dissertation committee. The dissertation proposal does not require a complete outline of the dissertation or the very near completion of the work. Rather, the proposal should be presented along the lines of an NIH grant proposal and generally address questions of overall aims, carry out a comprehensive literature review in the research area, present a section on preliminary results, and provide a detailed plan for additional research. Presentation of the proposal offers a very useful milestone for the student to give a more formal summary of work and to get feedback and comments from the dissertation committee. The additional purpose of the thesis proposal is for the whole committee to review and approve the proposed direction and content of the proposed research.

Dissertation Content

The dissertation research must be a creative and significant 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 software and computational techniques 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. In some cases, the thesis consists of three separate, often fairly loosely related, papers that are judged to be of publishable quality. A more traditional form of thesis 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.

Dissertation Submission

  • It is the responsibility of the student to see that the dissertation defense is advertised within the department at least three weeks in advance of the scheduled defense time. In addition, the student is responsible for providing a copy of the submitted dissertation to each member of the dissertation committee at least two weeks in advance of the date of the defense.
  • The dissertation should be submitted by the student to the graduate office in the department at least two weeks prior to the defense. The thesis would then be available for review to any faculty member or student in the department prior to the defense. The Front Office will send a note to all faculty and students regarding the availability of the thesis and lend it out to anyone interested.
Conduct of Defense (Examination)
  • The chair will call on the candidate for presentation of the dissertation, typically for a 50-minute presentation and will then call on committee members for questions. It is typical to call on the external member(s) of the committee first and then on others on the committee. Once the committee has completed a first round of questions, the chair will solicit any questions from the audience. Further questions from the committee will also be invited.
  • The defense is to be public; therefore, examination of the candidate by committee members and others should take place with all who are interested present. There would still be time for an ‘in camera’ deliberation of the dissertation committee, and in exceptional circumstances where more information is needed, the committee may decide to meet again with the candidate after the public meeting is complete.

Rackham Procedures

Please make sure to read important Rackham guidelines and procedures.

Contact Information

E-mail: fenechn@umich.edu

Telephone: 734-615-9817

Mail
Department of Biostatistics
School of Public Health
University of Michigan
1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2029
Fax: 734-763-2215

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PhD Application Information

Information for INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS