The Epidemiology PhD program provides advanced professional training in epidemiology to develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary for leadership in epidemiologic research and methodology. The goal of the doctoral program is to educate candidates to become independent, productive, and creative research scientists in the field of epidemiology.
Upon completing the requirements for the PhD in Epidemiology, graduates are able to:
- formulate research hypotheses that can be evaluated through empirical epidemiologic investigation
- critically evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of epidemiologic study designs applied to particular etiologic associations
- analyze and interpret epidemiologic studies using appropriate methods
- explain the theoretical underpinnings of epidemiology, including new and traditional study designs
- demonstrate understanding of sources of bias and approaches to evaluating and controlling bias
- demonstrate proficiency in data collection, data analysis, and written summaries of statistical analyses
- demonstrate expertise in at least one substantive area of epidemiology and apply that expertise to preparation of the dissertation proposal
- perform all the steps of conducting a hypothesis-driven epidemiologic study, from developing hypotheses, to designing, analyzing, and interpreting results, to writing up findings in the form of a publication-quality manuscript, as demonstrated by the PhD dissertation, which requires three manuscripts judged to be suitable for publication.
Program of Study
Students complete 32 credits beyond the master’s degree. It is expected that at least 24 of these courses be from the epidemiology and biostatistics course offerings at the School of Public Health. Students may also choose from other courses offered at the School and pertinent graduate courses at Boston University. The intent of the coursework is to provide a firm foundation in epidemiologic principles and methods, biostatistic methods, and general public health knowledge.
Students must pass comprehensive written examinations in epidemiology and biostatistics, to evaluate their readiness to begin dissertation research.
Students are required to develop a written proposal outlining the nature of their dissertation research. The dissertation is prepared and written under the direction of the candidate’s dissertation committee (comprised of the dissertation chair and at least two other members). When the dissertation is completed, the candidate defends their work before the dissertation committee and other faculty.
Our PhD students have researched a wide array of dissertation topics, such as:
- Maternal Medical History, Psychosocial Stress, and Birth Outcomes
- Environmental Heat in Relation to Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes
- Substance Use Among LGB Populations: The Role of Neighborhood, School and Family
- Methods to Predict and Explain New-Onset and Ongoing Depression in National Guard Members: A Lifecourse Perspective
- Applications of Big Data Approaches to Topics in Infectious Diseases Epidemiology
- Male Risk Factors for Subfertility: A Prospective Cohort Study
- Exploration of Structural and Statistical Biases in the Application of Propensity Score Matching to Pharmacoepidemiologic Data
- Examining Outcomes Associated with a Community Intervention on Smoking Cessation in a Low-Income Population
- Pregnancy Associated Changes in Maternal Nutritional Status
- Evaluating South Africa’s Antiretroviral Treatment Guidelines
- Impact of Physical Function on Health Outcomes in Older Community-Dwelling Women, Accounting for Age, Competing Risks, and Time-Varying Exposure
- Effects of Common Pharmacologic Agents on Reproductive Outcomes Among Male and Female Pregnancy Planners
- In Vitro Fertilization: Investigating the Risk of Ischemic Placental Disease and Novel Methods for Quantifying Success
- Environmental and Psychosocial Risk Factors for Sub-Fertility
- Iron Deficiency in Blood Donors: Causes, Symptoms, and Mitigation Strategies
Seminars, Journal Clubs, Etc.
Students attend monthly doctoral seminars conducted throughout the academic year. An important purpose of the seminars is for doctoral students to present their dissertation research in progress. These presentations provide an excellent forum for sharing research with fellow student and faculty colleagues. Other topics covered in the doctoral seminars may include: professional conduct, grant writing, networking, etc.
A journal club is organized and conducted by the doctoral students.
The Epidemiology PhD program is committed to providing doctoral students with opportunities for teaching and to fostering the development of their teaching skills. Most of the students enrolled in the program serve as Teaching Assistants. After gaining experience as a TA, interested doctoral students are offered the chance to lecture in a course. Students also have access to teaching workshops sponsored by the Boston University Center for Excellence and Innovation in Teaching.
Time to Completion
Students who matriculated into the program between 2010 and 2015 have had an average length to completion of 5.1 years (range, 3.5-7.5 years), with 70% completing their training in five years or less.
View the BU Bulletin for course requirements
Students entering the program receive a full-funding package, which includes tuition, health insurance and fees, and a stipend for four years. Support for the stipend is provided via research fellowships or training grants.
Student Body Statistics
Between 2016 and 2020, 24 students matriculated into the Epidemiology Doctoral Program. During this period, the average annual acceptance rate was 7%.
- Average Undergraduate – 3.53
- Average Graduate – 3.87
Adrien N, Hyde TB, Gacic-Dobo M, et al. Differences between coverage of yellow fever vaccine and the first dose of measles-containing vaccine: A desk review of global data sources. Vaccine 2019;37(32):4511‐4517.
Barber L.E., Bertrand K.A., Rosenberg L., et al. Pre- and perinatal factors and incidence of breast cancer in the Black Women's Health Study. Cancer Causes Control 2019;30(1):87-95.
Esposito D, Titievsky L, Beachler DC, et al. Incidence of outcomes relevant to vaccine safety monitoring in a US commercially-insured population. Vaccine. 2018;36(52):8084-8093.
Harlow AF, Willis SK, Smith ML, & Rothman EF. Bystander prevention for sexual violence: #HowIWillChange and gaps in Twitter discourse. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2018.
Jiang T, Farkas DK, Ahern TP, et al. Posttraumatic stress disorder and incident fractures in the Danish population. Osteoporosis International 2018;29(11):2487-2493.
Petersen JM, Parker SE, Tinker S, et al. One-carbon cofactor intake and neural tube defect risk among women meeting folic acid recommendations: a multi-center case-control study. Am J Epidemiol 2019.
Rader B*, Astley CM*, Sy KTL, et al. Geographic access to United States SARS-CoV-2 testing sites highlights healthcare disparities and may bias transmission estimates. Journal of Travel Medicine, in press.
Ranker LR, Petersen JM, Fox MP. Awareness of and potential for dependent error in the observational epidemiologic literature: A review. Annals of Epidemiology 2019.
Rodriguez CA, Milstein MB, Guglielmetti L, et al. Barriers and facilitators to early access of bedaquiline and delamanid for drug resistant tuberculosis: a mixed methods study. Public Health Action. 2019;9(1):32-41.
Smith ML, Heeren TC, Ranker LR & Fredman L. Assessing the role of selection bias in the protective relationship between caregiving and mortality: the Caregiver-Study of Osteoporotic Fractures. American Journal of Public Health 2019.
Stanley TL*, Fourman LT*, Feldpausch MN, et al. Effects of Tesamorelin on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in HIV: a randomized, double-blind, multicenter trial. Lancet HIV. 2019;6(12):e821-e830.
Willis S., Hatch E., Wesselink A., et al. Female sleep patterns, shift work, and fecundability in a North American preconception cohort. Fertility and Sterility 2019.
Student Presentations and Awards
Crowe HM, Wise LA, Wesselink AK, et al. Preconception Use of Asthma Medication and Fecundability: A Prospective Cohort Study. 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Perinatal Epidemiologic Research. . Minneapolis.
Esposito DB, Russo L, Lamy FX, et al. Development of Predictive Models to Identify Advanced-Stage Cancer Patients in a US Administrative Claims Database. 34th International Conference on Pharmacoepidemiology & Therapeutic Risk Management (ICPE). Prague, Czech Republic, August 22-26, 2018.
Gopalakrishnan C, Desai RJ, Franklin JM, et al. Predicting Persistent High-Dose Opioid Use After Total Knee Replacement. European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) 2020 E-Congress, Frankfurt, Germany.
Harlow A.F., Hatch E., Rothman K., Wise LA. Electronic Cigarette Use and Fecundability among Female Pregnancy Planners. 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research. Minneapolis.
Jiang T, Lee DJ, Rosellini AJ, et al. Machine Learning Models for Prediction of Suicide Attempts Among Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Anxiety and Depression Conference. Chicago, March 2019.
Petersen JM. Depicting the Relationship Between Short Birth Spacing and Preterm Birth Using Causal Graphs: Challenges and Opportunities. 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research. Minneapolis.
Ranker LR, Smith ML, Strunin L, et al. Caregiving Intensity and Functional Decline in Older Women, Accounting for Time-Varying Caregiver Status: The Caregiver Study of Osteoporotic Fractures. 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research. Minneapolis.
Schrager NL, Adrien N, Werler M, et al. Trends in First Trimester Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy and Use of Select Treatments: Findings from the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research. Minneapolis.
Smith ML, Kormendine Farkas D, Lash TL, & Gradus JL. Subsyndromal Stress Disorders and Risk of Arterial and Venous Cardiovascular Events. 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research. Minneapolis.
Willis S., Harlow A.F., Rodriguez, C., Fox, M. Misclassification of a Collider: A Simulation Study. 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Epidemiologic Research. Minneapolis.
Tammy Jiang – Society for Epidemiologic Research Travel Award 2018
Marlon Joseph – Faculty Member of the Year, 2018, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY
Julie Petersen – SERDigital Fall 2018 Student Winner Presentation “Application of Machine Learning to Identify Potential Risk Factors for Gastroschisis”
Rebecca Song – First Prize Poster Winner. Society for Epidemiologic Research 2018
Sydney Willis – American Society of Reproductive Medicine 2018 Nutrition Special Interest Group Prize Paper
Upon graduation, students work in a wide range of positions. Below is a list of places where recent graduates have been employed.
- Academia (40%) – faculty, post-doctoral fellowships, research associates
- BU School of Public Health, BU Medical School, Cornell University, Emory University, University of Washington, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health
- Research Institutions (20%)
- BU Slone Epidemiology Center, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, American Red Cross Blood Services
- Private Companies (30%)
- Ironwood Pharma, Abt, TriNetX Inc, Vertex, Edwards Lifesciences, IQVIA
- Government Agencies (10%)
- Veteran’s Administration, MA Department of Health, Department of Defense
PhD in Epidemiology Admissions Requirements
Learn more about the PhD in Epidemiology's full admissions requirements and application deadlines.
For inquiries regarding the PhD program, please contact Sherri O. Stuver, ScD, Director of the doctoral program in Epidemiology.