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Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics

PhD Program in Epidemiology & Translational Science

  • Applications are due December 5, 2014 for admission in Fall of 2015.
Please check out the new PhD Program website!

Q+A webinar sessions for Prospective Students:
We will hold a second conference call-in question and answer session about the PhD Program in Epidemiology and Translational Science on Thurs., November 13, 2014, 3-4:00 pm Pacific Time. The session will be led by the program director, (Maria Glymour) and colleagues in order to give a brief overview and to answer specific questions. We welcome you to call in and listen or ask questions. Please email Patty Hoppe by Mon., Nov. 10 for dial-in info and passcode. Inquiries about the PhD Program? Check out the "FAQ" link here.

The PhD program in Epidemiology and Translational Science is a new degree track in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (DEB) at the UCSF School of Medicine, offered in collaboration with UCSF's renowned Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. Doctoral students receive high caliber training in core skills of epidemiologic and biostatistical methods along with opportunities for practical experience to enhance classroom training. We especially encourage applications from students interested in our 11 areas of concentration with particular research depth at UCSF:

  1. Aging (including cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disease, and dementia/brain aging)
  2. Bioinformatics
  3. Biostatistics
  4. Cancer epidemiology
  5. Clinical epidemiology
  6. Environmental and occupational epidemiology
  7. Genetic epidemiology
  8. Global health
  9. Infectious disease epidemiology
  10. Screening and early detection
  11. Social epidemiology


The UCSF PhD in Epidemiology & Translational Science emphasizes translation from research to population health impact. We are located in a School of Medicine on a Health Sciences Campus, with countless opportunities for training in clinical, basic and population sciences with faculty in in our department and other UCSF departments.

Our training program takes advantage of these resources and emphasizes applied research rotations with leading research groups to complement core classroom training. Students take courses within the UCSF Training In Clinical Research program, throughout UCSF, or via intercampus exchange elsewhere in the UC system or several other Bay Area universities. We emphasize not only theoretical research skills, but practical aspects of conducting research, including successful multidisciplinary collaborations, experience in teaching epidemiology and translational sciences, and planning/completion of original research. With this model of formal and applied training, our graduates are emerging as a new generation of epidemiologists and translational scientists who will transform both clinical practice and population health.

We accept only a small group of top-notch PhD students each year, so our program is flexible and accommodating to individual professional goals and background. The PhD program is a three to four-year course of study for individuals who wish to pursue independent research careers in epidemiology and translational science and who have already completed training at the Master's level in epidemiology, public health or related fields. Epidemiology serves as a key discipline in team science and in problem-based learning. We view the use of epidemiology in translational science as a critical perspective and set of research methods that will move basic scientific discoveries to practical clinical applications and dissemination of new basic and clinical knowledge to population health settings. A central goal is to take advantage of the highly interdisciplinary nature of UCSF and to adopt a transdisciplinary approach to graduate education.


Admission Requirements include:

  • A bachelor's degree and prior grade point average ≥ 3.0 (on a scale with A=4.0, B=3.0, etc.) or its equivalent.
  • A prior Masters degree in epidemiology, public health, clinical research, or a related field is required for admission to the PhD program.
      Note: Exceptions may be made to accept students without a master's degree. These students will be required to complete the first year of Training in Clinical Research (TICR) courses or their equivalent. Continuing enrollment in the PhD Program will be contingent on successful completion of this year of didactic training.
  • Applicants must have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) which will be part of the evaluation for admission.
      Note: Physicians and medical students are assumed to have taken the MCAT examination, and other professionals (e.g., dentists) the equivalent examination, for the GRE.
  • Applicants from countries judged by the Graduate Division not to have English as their primary language must also have taken the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
      They must have received a score ≥ 570 (paper),≥ 230 (computer), or IBT (internet based test) with a score of 80. Applicants may also take the IELTS test with a minimum score of 7. Students who have completed degrees in countries where English is the native language are exempt from the testing requirement. In rare cases, exceptions to these requirements can be made by the Admissions Committee. Only the Graduate Division can grant formal admission.
  • Affirmation of the Professional Conduct Statement (signed during orientation).

PhD students are required to spend six quarters in residence and generally to take 8-12 units per quarter for a total of 48 units. A written and oral qualifying examination is needed to advance to candidacy, as required by the UCSF Graduate Division. Applicants can take advantage of UCSF's strengths in biomedical and clinical research as part of our transdisciplinary approach to training and research.

Overall students are expected to develop expertise in epidemiologic theory and methods, biostatistics, and a "third area" (i.e., not epidemiology or biostatistics) designated by the student that is relevant to her or his research interests (e.g. demography, anthropology, oncology, behavioral science, virology). To accomplish this, doctoral students will take a series of advanced doctoral level courses during their first two years in the PhD program.

A student, in consultation with his or her advisors, decides which thematic area to follow and which courses to take. Doctoral students will generally take courses offered in the School of Medicine and other UCSF professional schools. Course opportunities also exist at UC Berkeley and Stanford.


Students are required to complete two quarters of "Research Team Rotations" (4 units each), similar to the Lab Rotation requirement in other established PhD Programs at UCSF (e.g., BMS, BMI and PSPG). The objective of these rotations is for the student to have the opportunity to:

  1. Apply concepts taught in formal classes
  2. Learn practical aspects of conducting research, including how to work within a multidisciplinary team
  3. Acquire exposure to areas of research other than the student's primary area
  4. Launch projects with potential for developing into qualifying examination or dissertation research topic
  5. Decide on a dissertation mentor, if not already identified.

Research Team Rotations are categorized as focused on either analysis (Analytic Rotations) or generation of data (Non-Analytic Rotations). In Analytic Rotations the experience should include direct manipulation of data including drafting of statistical analysis code. In Non-Analytic Rotations, the focus will be on non-analytic aspects of conducting research including design, start-up, recruitment, measurement (in wet lab or other setting), data management, and/or regulatory and financial tasks. PhD students are required to complete one Analytic and one Non-Analytic rotation


In the UCSF Epidemiology and Translational Science PhD program, doctoral students must take and pass a combined written and an oral qualifying examination. This generally occurs after completing the requisite first year coursework, which requires at least three quarters.


Doctoral students conduct original epidemiologic/translational research that will produce publishable results. Students are strongly encouraged to carry out primary data collection for at least one component of their dissertation research. All students are expected to have had experience in all of the key phases of epidemiologic research (e.g. conceptualization of the question; critical review of the existing literature; preparation of a grant proposal; collection, management, and analysis of epidemiologic data; and writing of one or more manuscripts for publication) and will have been tested on these essentials in their qualifying examinations. It is recognized that many of the students in the doctoral program, most of whom enter with substantial prior research experience, have actually performed one or more of these tasks before beginning the doctoral program. Furthermore, it is acknowledged that the Graduate Division of UCSF assigns to each student's Dissertation Committee the ultimate authority to determine what constitutes an acceptable dissertation and to certify that the student has successfully completed that task. As a result, some doctoral students may conduct analyses of previously collected data for one or more components of their dissertations. In instances when students use previously collected data in their dissertations, they will be asked to demonstrate their proficiency in field methods by writing a summary of their fieldwork-related activities during the two "Research Team Rotations." The Graduate Committee will then evaluate the student's training in writing survey instruments, designing databases and other aspects of original data collection.

Given the approval of their Dissertation Committee, doctoral candidates have the option of submitting for their dissertation requirement either a single dissertation or three (or more) publishable first authored articles based on their doctoral student research. If one or more of these papers has already been published before the dissertation is filed, the Graduate Division requires that all co-authors of the paper give written permission for the paper to be submitted as part of the dissertation. Research completed and scientific papers written before the student has entered the doctoral program cannot be used as a part of the PhD dissertation under any circumstances.


The UCSF PhD program in Epidemiology and Translational Science will not require a formal dissertation defense. However, doctoral students are expected to present some aspect of their dissertation research findings in a DEB monthly seminar. At earlier stages of their research, they are also expected to present their work at "work-in-progress" sessions of the weekly doctoral seminar.


Program faculty and members of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics can be viewed at the departmental website along with their fields of interest.

Faculty members who are in the UCSF Academic Senate and members of the program's graduate group are indicated by an asterisk.


To apply for the Doctoral Program starting in Fall of 2015, you must complete the online UCSF Graduate Division application, and pay the $90 nonrefundable processing fee by December 5, 2014. (https://gradapplication.ucsf.edu)*

Original Transcripts should be sent to:
Patty Hoppe
PhD Program Manager
UCSF - Dept. of Epidemiology + Biostatistics
185 Berry St., Lobby 5
Suite 5700, Box 0560
San Francisco, CA 94107

Contact information:
Email: phoppe@epi.ucsf.edu
Ph: 415 514 8098

Deadline: Applications are due by December 5, 2014 for admission in Fall 2015. All online informational material including transcripts must be received by this date. If any portion of the application is not received by this date, the application will be considered incomplete and will not be further considered without petition, explanation, and payment of $75 late fee.

Costs: The PhD Program is a minimum three-year course of study, requiring registration for approximately 12 quarters, although the total amount of time will depend on a particular student's program and rate of progression. Fees for 2014-2015 will be $16,424.00 for California residents and $31,526.00 for non-residents, and are subject to change without notice. Please refer to the Registrar's Office website for further details (http://registrar.ucsf.edu/registration/fees/graddiv).

Fees do not cover books or software.

Selected students will be eligible for support with a stipend, which will vary with need and the number of students accepted in year one. The amount of this stipend will be determined as part of the admissions process. Students are encouraged to seek independent funding by contacting UCSF faculty in their areas of interest. An additional offset of fees will be available in the scholar's second year in the program depending upon the scope and magnitude of his/her contribution as an instructional assistant.

Interviews: Selected applicants will be interviewed by the admissions committee or it's designate.

* Online applications (via web-link to the UCSF Graduate Division Office) will go "live" on September 29, 2014.