Direct Admission to the Ph.D. Program in Biostatistics

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1 Rationale Direct Admission to the Ph.D. Program in Biostatistics The University of Texas School of Public Health (UTSPH) Division of Biostatistics is in competition for students with some very fine schools of public health that already offer direct admission to their Ph.D. programs. We therefore fail to recruit some of the very best students because we can only offer admission to the M.S. program with the right to petition for the Ph.D. program for applicants without a prior master s degree. The external committee reviewing the application of the Division of Biostatistics for a Biostatistics Training Grant listed the lack of a direct admissions program as one of the criticisms of the proposal. In addition direct admission should be attractive to those with advanced degrees such an M.D. or an M.S. in areas that in our current system would not substitute for an M.S. in biostatistics. It should be pointed out that direct admission Ph.D. is not a dramatic departure from the current program followed by students who enter and complete the M.S. program and then go on to the Ph.D. program. Direct admission, however, allows the student somewhat more flexibility than the current M.S. program (includes 3 to 6 hours for a thesis and approximately 9 hours for a minor) followed by the Ph.D. program (includes 3 to 6 hours for a dissertation and about 9 hours for each of the two minor areas). With direct admission, the student would no longer have to obtain the minor that is required for an M.S., but only the two minors required for the Ph.D., and would not have to submit a thesis and a dissertation but only a dissertation. The program is designed for well-qualified students who have a bachelor s degree with appropriate grounding in mathematics and statistics. Graduates of the program are expected to become independent investigators in the development and application of biostatistical analyses to problems of human health and disease. They are expected to assume senior statistical posts in governmental or private health research agencies or to pursue careers in teaching and research. Admission Requirements The Division of Biostatistics has a five-person application review committee. This committee discusses and arrives at a consensus for each applicant, taking into consideration the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, the Grade Point Average (GPA), the GPA in mathematics and statistics courses, the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score, the letters of reference, the student s statement of purpose, and the work experience of the applicant. A student requesting direct admission to the Ph.D. program is expected to have a bachelor s degree that emphasizes the development of strong quantitative skills, such as degrees in Page -1-

2 mathematical, biomedical or physical sciences. The successful applicant will have mastered multivariable calculus and linear algebra. Duration of the program UTSPH has instituted a limit of seven years for completing a Ph.D. degree. The direct admission Ph.D student is expected to complete the degree program within this time period. The advisory committee for each Ph.D. candidate, which includes the student as a fully participating member, meets at least twice a year to discuss the student s progress. These meetings consider: discussion regarding the student s preparation for the qualifying examination; a review and possible modification of the student s academic program; and assessment of the student s progress and/or continuation in the program. Graduation Requirements Satisfactory completion of a prescribed course of study of at least one academic year (a minimum of 72 semester credit hours). Satisfactory performance on a qualifying examination deemed by the faculty of the Advisory Committee to test depth of knowledge in the major and two minor fields of concentration in the public health sciences, and a capacity to conceive and conduct independent research in the chosen field. Students will have completed at least 60 semester credit hours in preparation for the qualifying examination. Satisfactory completion of an original research dissertation, written in English, that makes a substantial contribution to knowledge in the public health sciences. All doctoral students must present their dissertation research in a public forum at the school prior to graduation. All completed dissertations will be made available to the public. All courses taken by students count toward their degree, but no more than a total of 9 credit hours of the 72 credit hour minimum may be earned for dissertation research. Students must be enrolled during the semester in which they take the qualifying examination. Students must also be enrolled in the semester in which the research proposal is submitted and continuously thereafter through the semester in which the degree requirements are completed. Students are required to satisfactorily complete a written comprehensive examination covering biostatistics and each of the two minor fields. If the student fails the qualifying examination twice, the student will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program. The faculty members of the student s committee make a recommendation to the Page -2-

3 members of the Biostatistics Division regarding the option of completing a thesis and receiving a terminal M.S. degree. After due consideration, members of the Division vote on the recommendation of the committee. Thus, the ability to complete an M.S. degree program is not automatic. PhD Competencies The graduates of the program are expected to be independent investigators in both the development and application of biostatistical analyses to problems of human health and disease. They have the opportunity to train for senior statistical posts in governmental or private health research agencies, or to follow academic careers in teaching and research. Specific competencies: 1. Acquire new knowledge as the statistical field develops by being able to critically review both the applied literature and the statistical research literature. 2. Contribute to the body of biostatistical theory and methodology in a research area of interest by publishing original research in peer-reviewed journals. 3. Independently design innovative and complex experiments and surveys that will contribute to the discipline of public health. 4. Serve as the expert statistician on a collaborative team of investigators addressing a public health question by selecting and justifying an appropriate design, analyzing and correctly interpreting the results, documenting in a reproducible manner the analysis and results and presenting orally and in writing a summary of the study, results and interpretations. 5. Consider the ethical issues involved in the design of studies, data management, analysis, reporting and release of information 6. Mentor those having less experience, knowledge or skill. 7. Teach statistics at the graduate level. Curriculum The courses in biostatistics may be taken by any adequately-prepared student. Students in the Ph.D. program are expected to acquire a greater breadth and depth in biostatistics than those who complete the M.S. program. The recommended courses for the direct admission Ph.D. include all recommended courses for the M.S. program plus the recommended courses for the Ph.D. program. However, the eight (8) credit hours for the Intermediate Biostatistics Course series (PH 1725/1726) count toward the minimum credit hours for the M.S. program but do not count toward the minimum credit hours for the Ph.D. program or the direct admission Ph.D. It is expected that most candidates for the direct admission Ph.D. will be sufficiently prepared for advanced courses beyond Intermediate Biostatistics. Page -3-

4 Required: Biostatistical Seminar Series (PH 1998; minimum of one semester). Strongly recommended (major core ): Applied Statistical Analysis (PH 1820/21) Theory of Biostatistics (PH 1910/11) Linear Models (PH 1915) Theoretical Multivariate Analyses (PH 1971) Stochastic Processes I (PH 1950) Survival Analysis (PH 1831) Logistic Regression (PH 1830) Recommended (major selected ):(student selects at least four of the following courses) Statistical Methods in Epidemiological Research (PH 1730) Sampling Techniques (PH 1745) Distribution-Free Methods (PH 1855) Statistical Methods in Correlated Outcome Data (PH 1918) Time Series Analysis (PH 1960) Statistical Methodology in Clinical Trials (PH1835) Categorical Data Analysis (PH 1920) Generalized Linear Models (PH 1916) Geometric Approach of Multivariate Analyses (PH 1970) Stochastic Processes II (PH 1951) Special topics courses: Nonparametric Regression Design of Experiments Spatial Statistical Methods Computational Systems Biology Population Genetics Statistical Genetics Introduction to Genomics and Bioinformatics Monte Carlo Approach in Statistics and Genetics Data Mining in Genetics Epidemiology Introduction to Microarrays and Computational Systems Evolution of DNA and Protein Sequences Page -4-

5 Statistical Methods to Handle Missing Data A typical plan of study would include the following: Semester Credit Hours Biostatistics Courses: Required seminar (1) 1 Major core (7) 28 Major selected (4) PH minors: Minor area Minor area Electives* 0-4 Dissertation 6-9 Total 72 *Electives may include Special Topics in Biostatistics courses or other public health courses. Page -5-

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