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), and c) take the noncredit Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) course.

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 (pending approval for Spring 2013)
PHP 2510 - Principles of Biostatistics and Data Analysis
PHP 2511 - Applied Regression Analysis
PHP 2040 - Applied Research Methods
PHP 2130 - Human Biology for Epidemiology
PHP 2090 - Scientific Writing in Public Health
One additional advanced biostatistics course

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 is an intensive course intended for students who want to learn SAS programming for data management. The course will focus on writing SAS programs to manipulate data. Material will include loading various kinds of data into SAS, working with numeric and character functions, merging datasets and creating report output. Advanced techniques in programming will be explored. During the last day of the course, students will have an opportunity to present interesting SAS applications to their own work. Students are expected to complete in-class exercises. Students will earn a certificate of completion upon full attendance and completion of all exercises. 

Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) Course
This course is an introduction to important ethical and professional codes for the proper conduct in research. It is a requirement for graduation and for all individuals participating in research funded by the NIH and the NSF. Participation in the RCR Course is mandatory for 1st year students. 

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

PHP 2240 – Methods in Environmental Epidemiology
PHP 2030 - Clinical Trials Methodology
PHP 2601 - Linear and Generalized Linear Models
PHP 2602 - Analysis of Lifetime Data
PHP 2603 - Analysis of Longitudinal Data
PHP 2410C - Pharmacoepidemiology
PHP 2430 - Analysis of Population Based Datasets
PHP 2610 - Causal Inference and Missing Data 

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

PHP 2920A - Introduction to Environmental Health
PHP 2220B - Nutritional Epidemiology*
PHP 2210A - Epidemiology of Chronic Disease
PHP 2220C - Perinatal Epidemiology
PHP 2220A - Topics in Applied Epidemiology (pending approval for Spring 2013)
PHP 2220H - Methodological Issues in the Epidemiology, Treatment and Prevention of HIV (pending approval for Spring 2013)
PHP2230 - Infectious Disease Epidemiology
PHP 2410C - Pharmacoepidemiology*
PHP 1920 - Social Determinants of Health 

NOTE: One of these courses(*) may be used instead of one of the Methodological Electives, but not both courses.  However, both of these courses may be used for Substantive Elective credit.

In addition to the above lists of approved methods and 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 be allowed to count any of the following towards the methods or substantive elective course requirements:

PHP 2350: Decision Analysis Public Health Policy and Practice
BIOL 2860: Molecular Mechanisms of Disease
BIOL 1290: Cancer Biology
BIOL 2320: Current Topics in Developmental Biology
NEUR 1670: Neuropharmacology and Synaptic Transmission
ECON 1630: Econometrics I
ECON 1370: Race and Inequality in the United States 

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.

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.