PhD in Epidemiology

Degree Requirements

Students enrolled in the Ph.D. program in Epidemiology are required to complete a minimum of 48 credit hours in course and dissertation work in order to graduate. Coursework includes a required course in the Foundations of Public Health, an epidemiology core consisting of 4 methods courses and a doctoral seminar (15 credit hours), three courses in biostatistics (8 credit hours), a minimum of 3 concentration courses (9 credit hours) approved by the student’s supervisory committee, and dissertation research (minimum of 12 credit hours).  These courses are designed to help students build a foundation of multi-disciplinary knowledge and skills and in-depth knowledge of one or more research content areas. A period of 3-4 years is typically required for a student to complete the degree.

At least 50% of the coursework for the doctoral degree must be completed at the University of Nebraska. No graduate credit will be accepted for transfer unless earned at an institution fully accredited to offer graduate work; nor should the student expect any graduate credit to be transferred unless the Graduate Committee evaluates the quality and suitability as equal to the offerings available at the University of Nebraska. A candidate must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 for all graduate courses completed for the PhD. Failure to maintain a 3.0 GPA will result in suspension or termination from the PhD Program. Students must conform to all scholarship requirements specified in the University of Nebraska Medical Center Graduate Studies Bulletin. Students are expected to complete the courses listed below or an equivalent. These courses are subject to change and other courses can be substituted at the discretion of the supervisory committee.

Advisor and Supervisory Committee

At admission, students will be assigned a temporary advisor. No later than the end of the second semester of coursework, students should choose a permanent advisor. After admission to the Graduate College and prior to completing half of the total hours for the degree, a doctoral student must work with an advisor and form a Supervisory Committee. The Supervisory Committee must consist of at least four members (including the student’s advisor) who are University of Nebraska Graduate Faculty Members. It is urged that one or more members of the Supervisory Committee be from a field or fields of study different from the major area of interest, whenever such representation will contribute to the student's program and/or the overall effectiveness of the graduate program. The Dean of Graduate Studies, upon recommendation of the department Graduate Committee, will appoint the committee. This committee will approve a proposed program of study for the degree. Additional members may be added to the committee for the purpose of the dissertation. The committee also approves the dissertation and final oral examination.

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Program of Study

Within four weeks of its appointment, the Supervisory Committee shall meet to designate and subsequently to file with the Graduate Studies Office a proposed program of study, including designation of all required courses and the general area of research for the dissertation. Any subsequent changes in the program or in the dissertation topic shall be approved by the Supervisory Committee and the action reported to the Graduate Studies Office.

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Selected to complement the student’s prior training and area of research emphasis and may be drawn from epidemiology, biostatistics, basic science, pathobiology, or other relevant areas.  Students are expected to work with his/her supervisory committee to determine the appropriate elective courses to take during the student’s study period. The selected elective courses should contribute to the student’s doctoral study and scholarship development. 

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The doctoral dissertation must be an original and significant piece of epidemiologic research that makes a contribution to the field. A student is expected to conduct and successfully defend his/her dissertation research by working with the student’s supervisory committee. The supervisory committee will be assembled by the student’s advisor, reviewed by the Epidemiology Department Graduate Program Committee, and approved by the Epidemiology Department Chair.  Completion of between 12 and 15 dissertation credit hours will be required as determined by the student’s supervisory committee. A successful oral defense of the dissertation is required, and at least one paper based on the written dissertation must be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal prior to the defense. 

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The following elements must also be completed in addition to the required coursework and the dissertation:

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination consists of written and oral components and is designed to test students’ knowledge and skills related to the core competencies of epidemiology and assess students’ readiness to undertake dissertation research. The contents and format of the written portion will be determined by the student’s supervisory committee.  Students must pass the written component before taking the oral exam.  The oral component consists of an oral defense of the proposed dissertation research. A student becomes a doctoral candidate after he/she passes both parts of the comprehensive exam.

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Training in the ethical conduct of research

Documentation of completion of approved training in the conduct of research with human subjects must be submitted prior to advancing to candidacy.

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Practical experience in the conduct of epidemiologic research

All doctoral students are expected to be involved in research during their studies, typically as research assistants.  These experiences provide students with diverse skills, which may include project management, exposure assessment, data collection and cleaning, data analysis, and scientific writing.  Prior to taking the comprehensive exam, students will present a summary of their practical research experiences, which must be approved by the supervisory committee.

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Doctoral students will be afforded a variety of opportunities to participate in classroom teaching, which may include assisting with preparation of course materials, grading, conducting laboratory or discussion sections, and lecturing. Employment as a teaching assistant fulfills the teaching requirement.  Students who have not had a paid teaching assistantship must submit documentation of teaching experience that includes, at minimum, one lecture and one additional teaching experience.

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For More Information Contact:

Graduate Program Chair