Skip to main content
Explore URMC

Education / Graduate Education / Masters Degrees / Master of Science in Epidemiology / Student Handbook / Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiology Program (PhD-EPI)

Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiology Program (PhD-EPI)

Mission Statement

To prepare individuals for a career in the conduct of scholarly work in epidemiology that acknowledges the complexity of disease occurrence, etiology and prevention in populations.

Program Goals

  • Foster scholarly achievement in the field of epidemiology in an environment of interdisciplinary and collaborative research at the University of Rochester
  • Train graduate students to become independent research investigators and educators
  • Provide trainees with a unique set of skills and perspectives that can be applied in all areas of clinical and population research
  • Promote research and service at the local, state and national level, thereby contributing to improving the health of all communities
  • Build a cadre of prepared individuals who will reflect the strengths of the university as these individuals fill positions in academia, government, and industry nationwide

Program Objectives

The primary objective of the epidemiology doctoral program at the University of Rochester is to train epidemiologists in a wide variety of skills and methods, including statistics and biostatistics, in addition to solid course offerings in advanced epidemiologic methods and specialized areas of epidemiologic and population health research. Specific objectives are to:

  • Educate individuals in the science of Epidemiology
  • Teach the skills required to conduct population research
  • Provide intense mentoring to assure a productive and satisfying educational and research experience
  • Prepare students to successfully transition into a role of an independent investigator by providing opportunities for peer mentoring, writing grant proposals, publishing work in scientific journals, and reviewing the work of peers
  • Provide educational role models and opportunities that encourage students to develop and cultivate their own teaching skills
  • Nurture a research environment in which accuracy, integrity, and ethical practices are highly valued

Epidemiology PhD Program Competencies

Upon completion of the epidemiology doctoral program, every graduate should be able to:

  • Describe the importance of epidemiology as its own distinct scientific field in comparison to other disciplines in fields of public health and clinical research
  • Understand and describe traditional and emerging epidemiological study designs, including their advantages and limitations
  • Define key epidemiologic concepts of such as bias, confounding, and effect modification and assess their impact in epidemiologic investigations
  • Develop and apply a detailed statistical analysis strategy using a combination of techniques
  • Critically evaluate the design and conduct of published observational and interventional studies and interpret their findings
  • Design and conduct an original epidemiologic investigation that includes primary data collection
  • Understand the methodological commonalities and differences across specialized areas of epidemiologic and population health research

Program Requirements

  • 64 credit hours of formal coursework and 29 credit hours of dissertation research as mandated by the University of Rochester Graduate Studies Program
  • Coursework will focus on methodologic skills while providing adequate training in current epidemiologic content areas
  • Three electives specific to area of research interest
  • After 20 months of Dean’s funding students are required to obtain Research Assistantships throughout their tenure in the program. These can be from within University of Rochester or with other entities in the greater Rochester area.

Year 1 Sample Schedule of Classes

YEAR 1 (Fall Semester)

YEAR 1 (Spring Semester)


PM415 Principles of Epidemiology (3)

PM412 Survey Research (3)


BST463 Intro to Biostatistics (4)

PM416 Advanced Epi Methods  (3)


PM410 Intro to Data Management (3)

Elective or Epi Content Course  (3)


PM426 Social & Behavioral Medicine (3)

Elective or Epi Content Course (3)


Elective or Epi Content Course (3)

Elective or Epi Content Course (3)


IND503 Ethics (1)



Total Semester Credits: 17

Total Semester Credits: 15


Year 2 Sample Schedule of Classes

YEAR 2 (Fall Semester)

YEAR 2 (Spring Semester)


PM414 History of Epidemiology (3)

BST465 Clinical Trials (4)


BST464 Statistical Methods (4)

PM472 Measurement & Evaluation (3)


PM438 Grant Writing (3)

PM413 Field Epidemiology (3)


PM469 Multivariate Stats for Epi (3)

Elective or Epi Content Course (3)


Elective or Epi Content Course (3)

Elective or Epi Content Course (3)


Total Semester Credits: 16

Total Semester Credits: 16



Epidemiology Content Courses (3 credits each) include:

  • PM417 Molecular Epidemiology (spring)
  • PM418 Cardiovascular Epidemiology (fall)
  • PM424 Chronic Disease Epidemiology (spring)
  • PM442 Nutritional Epidemiology (spring)
  • PM451 Infectious Disease Epidemiology (fall)
  • PM466 Cancer Epidemiology (fall)
  • PM470 Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology (fall)
  • PM489 Injury Epidemiology and Emergency Care Research Methods (fall)

Comprehensive Examinations

A predetermined objective system of grading both the oral and written qualifying examination is established. Student performance in the oral examination is independently scored by each committee member and these scores are averaged to one grade which represents 30% of the overall qualifying examination grade (0-100%). Each written examination is independently scored by two faculty reviewers.  If the scores differ by more than 10% or if the two grades result in a differing decision regarding the pass/fail status of the student, that written exam is graded by a third reviewer. The scores are then averaged and this grade represents 70% of the overall grade. The weighted average of the oral and written exams represents the student’s final qualifying examination grade.  A cut-off score for passing has been established, determining successful completion of the examination. Students will receive formal notification of pass/fail status but will not receive the actual grade. If a student does not pass the exam, he may repeat the examination once following a minimum of six months of remedial preparation.

  • Written and oral qualifying examinations are required upon completion of a minimum of 55 credit hours of coursework.
  • Written examination is developed yearly by the Executive Committee of the Program and administered in a two- day classroom setting.
  • Oral examination is administered by the Executive Committee of the Program.

Completion (pass) status

  • Based on scores of written and oral examination
  • Second qualifying examination opportunity is provided for those who fail
  • A minimum of six months must elapse since the first examination
  • No further opportunities will be provided
  • Any student not successfully completing the examination will be counseled to complete requirements for a Master of Public Health

Teaching Assistantships

  • Each student is required to serve as a Teaching Assistant for a minimum of two courses
  • If additional Teaching Assistant positions need to be filled in order to meet course demands, students who are funded on a training fellowship will be the first asked to serve in these additional Teaching Assistantships.

Seminar Series

  • All students are required to attend this weekly series
  • The series includes “Nuts & Bolts” informal discussions with an investigator, formal lecture series of speakers in Epidemiology and Public Health, and Journal Club

Dissertation Research

Research Component of the Doctoral Training that is planned as an intense, carefully mentored process:

  • Program faculty will provide the primary source of research opportunities for students to share in during their training, as well as serving as the foundation for dissertation research
  • Collaboration with faculty across URMC clinical and basic science departments is encouraged
  • The inclusion of primary data collection in the doctoral research will be a critical component of each project
  • Candidates are required to make a formal oral presentation of their planned research investigation to their respective Dissertation Advisory Committee. This presentation is open to any URMC faculty and staff
  • Each student will be strongly encouraged to seek pre-doctoral funding to support the dissertation research.
  • At the completion of the research investigation the student will be required to present and defend his/her research methodology and findings at a public forum
  • The committee for the final defense will consist of the dissertation committee
    • The committee Chairman must be at the Assistant Professor or higher level and must hold a primary appointment in the Division of Epidemiology. Faculty at the Assistant Professor level must have served as a member on the committee of a completed dissertation research project prior to serving as committee Chairman
    • Other members will include at least one full-time faculty member of the rank of Assistant Professor or higher who holds a primary appointment in the PHS and two “outside” members who hold a primary appointment in another department
    • All other requirements for completion of this process will follow the regulations outlined in the Official Bulletin for Graduate Studies (
  • Award of Degree
    • A degree candidate upon meeting all degree requirements will be recommended for the degree at the next meeting of the Board of Trustees
    • Degrees are approved by the Board of Trustees at its regular meetings in October, February and May
    • Degrees are conferred annually at the University’s Graduate Commencement in May