PhD Program

Degree Requirements


All students in the PhD program in Epidemiology are required to take 14 courses for credit and a grade, including 10 core courses, 2 methods elective courses, and 2 substantive elective courses. PhD students are also required to: a) take a noncredit introductory course on SAS data management, b) participate in the journal club series (credit optional),  c) take the noncredit Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) course, and d) complete Public Health 101.

In addition to the approved methods and substantive elective courses, students may choose appropriate elective courses offered by other graduate departments at Brown University when relevant to a student’s thesis work or career goals.

Based upon individual interests, students may take more than the minimum number of required and elective courses.  Students may also register for independent study courses under the guidance of individual faculty members.  These may be directly related to their work toward completion of their doctoral dissertation or may be taken early in their graduate student career as they work towards identifying a dissertation area and specific project.

Some courses may be waived if students have received credit elsewhere.  Generally, only required introductory courses can be waived, and then only when a student can demonstrate that s/he has satisfactorily completed an equivalent course at Brown or at another institution in the past.

Specifically, students pursuing a PhD in Epidemiology are required to take the following core courses:

PHP 2150 - Foundations in Epidemiologic Research Methods
PHP 2200 - Intermediate Methods in Epidemiologic Research
PHP 2250 – Advanced Quantitative Methods for Epidemiologic Research
PHP 2180 – Interpretation and Application of Epidemiologic Evidence 
PHP 2510 - Principles of Biostatistics and Data Analysis
PHP 2511 - Applied Regression Analysis
PHP 2090 - Research Grant Writing for Public Health
PHP 2130 - Human Biology for Epidemiology
PHP 2260 - Applied Epidemiology Analysis Using SAS

In addition, doctoral students are required to take the following non-credit courses during the first semester:

Graduate Student Course on SAS Data Management
This workshop (SAS Programming 1: Essentials) is designed as a basic introduction to SAS and must be completed by the end of the first term by all students unless a waiver is obtained. Courses in the second term will assume this course has been completed and that the students understand the material in the first four modules. The emphasis is on data management skills, programming best practices and resources for continued learning. The topics for this course are: module 1 learn structure of SAS and how to read data into SAS; module 2 learn basic data management commands such as creating new variables, how to open existing SAS data sets, and how to combine data; module 3 learn how to use basic SAS functions, how to generate descriptive statistics for data checking and how to handle dates in SAS; module 4 learn how to import data from other sources and to apply sample design information to procedure statement syntax. At the end of each module there is a problem set for students to complete and check on their own. In keeping with the goal of the workshop to develop skills there is no time limit and there is no limit on the number of times a student can retry a problem. All problems are self-graded.

Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) Course
All first-year doctoral students in the School of Public Health are required to successfully complete “Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) Training.” This five-week introduction to the scope and complexity of ethical situations that confront modern public health practitioners is led by the School's Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Training covers multiple topics including: the context and history of ethical research practices within public health; research misconduct; the peer review process and its purpose; publication practices and responsible authorship; practical and ethical issues in human-subjects research; data acquisition, storage, and privacy; use of electronic resources; recognizing and navigating conflicts of interest; the mentoring relationship and associated responsibilities of mentors and trainees; and societal impact of public health research. Discussion of the ethics of diversity is incorporated to convey an appreciation for the fact that differences of race, culture, age, gender, disability, and religion can affect the conduct and interpretation of research. The training includes presentations, short illustrative films specific to public health research issues, and small group discussion of hypothetical and real scenarios drawn from current literature and the news media. Supplemental materials and homework assignments are provided through the Collaborative Institutional Review Board Training Initiative (CITI) program online system. School of Public Health faculty and University staff from the Office of Vice President for Research and Research Administration participate as presenters and discussants along with students. Successful completion of this course includes attendance at all meetings and passing the written final examination. 

Students must also take 2 of the following methods elective courses (note, not all courses will be offered each year):

PHP 2030 - Clinical Trials Methodology
PHP 2040 - Applied Research Methods 
PHP 2240 - Methods in Environmental Epidemiology 
PHP 2520 - Statistical Inference I 
PHP 2530 - Bayesian Statistical Methods
PHP 2540 - Advanced Methods for Multivariate Analysis
PHP 2601 - Linear and Generalized Linear Models
PHP 2602 - Analysis of Lifetime Data 
PHP 2603 - Analysis of Longitudinal Data 
PHP 2610 - Causal Inference and Missing Data
PHP 2620 - Statistical Methods in Bioinformatics I

Additional methods electives will be approved at the discretion of the Department of Epidemiology's Curriculum Committee - students wishing to have a course approved should consult with their advisor. 

Students must also take 2 of the following substantive elective courses (note, not all courses will be offered each year):

PHP 1700 - Introduction to Environmental Health
PHP 1854 - The Epidemiology and Control of Infectious Diseases
PHP 1880 - Meditation, Mindfulness, and Health
PHP 1920 - Social Determinants of Health
PHP 1960 - Epidemiology of Chronic Disease
PHP 1964 - Cander Epidemiology and Prevention
PHP 2170 -Injury as a Public Health Problem
PHP 2210A - Epidemiology of Chronic Disease
PHP 2220B - Nutritional Epidemiology
PHP 2220C - Perinatal Epidemiology
PHP 2220E - Topics in Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
PHP 2220H - Epidemiology, Treatment and Prevention of HIV
PHP 2222 - Genetics, Human Population and Diseases

In addition to the above lists of approved substantive elective courses, students may choose appropriate elective courses offered by other graduate departments at Brown University. For example, where relevant to a student’s thesis work or career goals, doctoral students may obtain permission (from their advisor and the Graduate Program Director) to count the following towards the substantive elective course requirements (the courses listed below are examples, other coures can be requested):

BIOL 1290 - Cancer Biology 
BIOL 2320 - Current Topics in Developmental Biology 
BIOL 2860 - Molecular Mechanisms of Disease
ECON 1370 - Race and Inequality in the United States
ECON 1630 - Econometrics I
NEUR 1670 - Neuropharmacology and Synaptic Transmission

Written Qualifying Exams

Epidemiology doctoral students will take a two-part written qualifying exam to evaluate knowledge of 1) intermediate level Biostatistics and 2) intermediate and advanced Epidemiology.  For full-time students, the Biostatistics component is taken at the end of the second semester, and the Epidemiology component is taken shortly after the end of the fourth semester (June).  Faculty from the appropriate track will write and grade the examination. The Epidemiology comprehensive exam will cover material from all classes required for Epidemiology doctoral students and typically completed by the end of the 4th semester. 

Research Assistantships

Students in Epidemiology participate in RAships in a variety of on and off campus settings, including Public Health Research Centers, the Rhode Island Department of Health, and clinical departments at Brown-affiliated hospitals.  An RAship is an integral part of the student’s training program.  Prior to the end of the first semester, the Epidemiology Graduate Program Director will identify one or more RA options for an individual student, through discussions with the student and potential RA advisors.  All efforts will be made to identify RAships that are well-aligned with the student’s substantive interests.  Students will have the option to accept the proposed RAship, to identify an alternative that is acceptable to the Graduate Program Director, or to forgo financial support. 

Teaching Requirements

PhD students are required to develop experience and expertise in teaching.  This is accomplished by (a) serving as a Teaching Assistant in a course taught by departmental faculty for at least one semester, and (b) completing the New Teaching Assistants Orientation conducted by the Harriet W. Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning prior to the start of the Teaching Assistantship, and (c) compoleting a Teaching Experience (for credit).

Students whose native language is not English must be evaluated and certified for English proficiency before serving as a Teaching Assistant.   English language assessments are done by appointment only at the Center for Language Studies.

Individual Development Plan (IDP)

The IDP is a valuable tool that gives students the opportunity to address their short term and long term career goals.  The NIH has mandated that IDP's be a regular part of training and that institutions encourage trainees to comply with this mandate. In addition, the School of Public Health is requiring all students, regardless of funding, to fill out an IDP.

The Department of Epidemiology requests that students complete an IDP each calendar year. The deadline for submission of the Individual Development Plan Google Form is December 15th. Before submitting your IDP, please review responses with your academic advisor. In addition to NIH reporting requirements, the Department views the IDP as an important opportunity to review progress with your advisor, set academic and research goals for the coming year, and update your academic CV.

Epidemiology Graduate Handbook