Nov 17, 2018  
USC Catalogue 2018-2019 
    
USC Catalogue 2018-2019

Epidemiology (PhD)


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The department offers a degree leading to the PhD in epidemiology. This program may be an extension of the applied biostatistics and epidemiology MS program and is especially aimed at persons with a strong background in medicine: in particular, students enrolled in the MD program of the Keck School of Medicine who wish to interrupt their MD studies after two years to complete a PhD degree. This program is designed to produce an epidemiologist with in-depth statistical skills. The program requires a solid core of courses in methodological aspects of statistics and in statistical thinking as applied to medicine, as well as a solid grounding in epidemiological methods and in certain medical disciplines.

Course Requirements

A minimum of 60 course units with a maximum of 20 units of research and dissertation; passing of screening and qualifying examinations; and completion of dissertation and final oral are required. In preparation for the screening examination the student must take the required core course and elective 33 units of master's level applied biostatistics and epidemiology courses. A student failing the screening examination will either terminate or terminate with the MS degree upon satisfactory completion of a master's thesis. In preparation for the qualifying examination, the student is required to join an on-going research project under the direction of the chair of the qualifying exam committee and directly participate in the conduct of that project. Credit will be given as PM 790  (4 units, two semesters). In addition, it is recommended that the student take PM 610  (at least two semesters). Electives may be selected with the approval of the chair of the qualifying exam committee from courses in the biological sciences or from the medical school. For students in the MD/PhD program in epidemiology, satisfactory completion of the first two years of the MD program will be considered to provide 20 units toward the PhD degree.

Qualifying Exam Committee

The student, in consultation with his/her mentor, will nominate five faculty members to serve on the Qualifying Examination Committee.  Three of the faculty must be from the Epidemiology Program and one from another department (the "External Member"). The Committee should reflect a diversity of expertise and typically will include one member from a different division of the Department of Preventive Medicine (e.g., one with subject-matter expertise in the proposed application portion of the dissertation). The role of the Qualifying Examination Committee is to guide the student on development of an appropriate dissertation project, both in content and time commitment, and to evaluate the student's knowledge of the topic, epidemiologic and biostatistical methodology, and readiness for completing the dissertation research.

Qualifying Examination

A written and oral qualifying examination will be completed after the student has completed all general and track-specific course requirements and passed the written screening examination. The written portion of the qualifying examination requires the submission of a qualifying examination document written by the student that summarizes the current state of knowledge of the research topic, the epidemiologic questions addressed by the work, the work completed to date, and student's proposed plan and timeline to complete the research. The oral portion will be a seminar-style presentation to the Qualifying Exam Committee, focusing on the dissertation proposal, followed by questions from the Committee on both the proposal and the student's general mastery of the field. This exam is open to other interested students and faculty. 

In case of failure, the student will have 60 days in which to reschedule and successfully pass the oral exam. A second failure will be grounds for dismissal from the Program.

Annual Research Appraisal and Program Activities

After advancing to candidacy, progress on dissertation research is evaluated annually with an Annual Research Appraisal (ARA) by the Annual Dissertation Committee. A key element is participation in PM 610 : Graduate Seminar in Epidemiology and Biostatistics for at least two semesters after passing the Screening Exam. It is recommended that students take PM 610  to gain presentation experience and feedback before completing the qualifying examination and again before completing the final dissertation defense. Students give seminars and research updates that encompass both a global view of their area of investigation and a focus on the problem they are addressing. Having both epidemiology and biostatistics students in the seminar provides valuable experience in communicating their work to a diverse audience. All students provide feedback by filling in a feedback form and by active discussion.

Dissertation

Upon passing the qualifying examination, the PhD candidate and his or her chair will recommend a three-member dissertation committee. The dissertation should be completed within two years and should be oriented toward a methodological application to a problem area in the biological or health sciences.

The Oral Defense

This examination is based on a draft or final version of the dissertation and will be administered by the dissertation committee with other faculty invited to attend.

Language and Other Requirements

Proficiency in the English language is essential.

Course Requirements

Students must complete a minimum of 60 units, with a maximum of 20 units of research and dissertation; pass screening and qualifying examinations; complete the dissertation and the dissertation defense examination. In addition the student is required to join a research project under the direction of one or both of the chairs of the qualifying exam committee and directly participate in the conduct of that project. Credit will be given by the department (DPT) conducting the research project DPT 790 Research (4 units, 2 semesters). In addition, at least two semesters of PM 610  is recommended.

Prerequisites:


 As a condition of admission, students must hold a Masters' degree in a related discipline (e.g., mathematics, statistics, epidemiology, public health) and have completed a Masters' thesis. Students entering the program with a relevant Masters' degree that does not require a thesis (e.g. Masters of Public Health) will be assigned an administrative or research mentor upon entering the program who will evaluate their quantitative and writing skills before the student takes the screening exam. All students are required to pass the program screening examination before being fully admitted as a doctoral student in the program. It is preferred that all students admitted to the program have successfully completed a minimum of one class in epidemiology and one class in biostatistics before entering the doctoral program. Some students may be admitted to the program without meeting the Masters' program requirements (e.g., if they have strong research background and clear evidence of ability in the health research field or were admitted through PIBBS), but will be expected to complete PM 510L  and PM 512  and pass the screening examination prior to being considered fully admitted as a doctoral student in the program.

Suggested Electives (at least 11 units)


Additional Requirements


Preparation for Screening Examination

The screening examination will be taken after two years in the program. Prior to the screening examination a mentor who will serve on the qualifying exam committee must be identified. The screening examination will consist of a written component and an oral component. The written component will be drawn from the core courses. A student failing the screening examination may be given a second opportunity to retake either one or both portions. Students failing the examination for the second time will terminate with the MS degree upon satisfactory completion of 37 units and an acceptable master's thesis.

Annual Research Appraisal (ARA)

After advancing to candidacy, progress on dissertation research is evaluated annually with an Annual Research Appraisal (ARA) by the Annual Dissertation Committee. A key element is participation in PM 610 : Graduate Seminar in Epidemiology and Biostatistics for at least two semesters after passing the Screening Exam.  It is recommended that students take PM 610  to gain presentation experience and feedback before completing the qualifying examination and again before completing the final dissertation defense.  Students give seminars and research updates that encompass both a global view of their area of investigation and a focus on the problem they are addressing. The oral portion of the screening examination as well as the qualifying examination and the defense examination will count as ARAs.

EPIDEMIOLOGY TRACKS


Please choose one track: Cancer Epidemiology, Genetic Epidemiology, Environmental Epidemiology, Clinical Trials, or General Epidemiology and Methods

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