Department of Preventive Medicine

Division of Biostatistics

Ph.D. in Statistical Genetics & Genetic Epidemiology

The program gives students a solid background in the methodological aspects of biostatistics, statistical genetics as well as in solid grounding in molecular/laboratory science. The objective of the PhD program is to produce a statistical geneticist or genetic epidemiologist with in-depth statistical and analytic skills in biostatistics, computational methods and the molecular biosciences. The Doctor of Philosophy program in Statistical Genetics and Genetic Epidemiology is a joint effort to combine biostatistics, epidemiology, statistical and molecular genetics and computational methods in order to develop new and cutting-edge statistical methodology appropriate for human genomic studies.

Preparation for the Screening Examination

The Screening Examination will be taken after 2 years in the program. Prior to the Screening Examination a mentor who will serve on the Guidance Committee must be identified. The Screening Examination will consist of a written component and an oral component. The written component is a two-day examination that tests the student’s knowledge of both Theory and Applications, and will be drawn from the Core courses. The oral portion will comprise a one-hour presentation of a research plan that encompasses the student’s own ideas and will constitute the Annual Research Appraisal. A student failing the Screening Examination may be given a second opportunity to retake either one or both portions of the Screening Examination. Students failing the examination for the second time will terminate with the MS degree in Applied Biostatistics and Epidemiology (ABEP) upon satisfactory completion of 37 units (= 33 course units + 4 units of MS thesis, PM594ab) and an acceptable Master’s thesis.

Preparation for the Qualifying Examination

A formal Guidance Committee will be formed, consisting of five faculty members; a) at least one member from the Department of Preventive Medicine designated as Chairman, and b) one from an outside department offering a PhD degree. The Guidance Committee will recommend courses in preparation for the Qualifying Examination based on the student’s research and dissertation topic.

Prior to the Qualifying Examination, a written draft of the dissertation proposal must be submitted to the Guidance Committee. The dissertation topic should be both population-based and functional-based. The dissertation for the statistical genetics track will typically consist of (a) a “review” paper on current statistical genetic methods, (b) a proposal for a new methodological approach, (c) evaluation of the new methodological approach from a theoretical and/or computational perspective, and (d) application to real data arising from genetic research. Typically, the dissertation proposal should contain a near-completed draft of (a) and (b), preliminary results from (c) and (d).

The dissertation for the genetic epidemiology track will typically consists of: (a) a “review” paper on an area of genetic epidemiological research, (b) an independent and complete data analysis arising from an on-going genetic epidemiological study, and (c) a grant application for a new genetic epidemiological study. The review paper in (a) typically will provide the rationale and context for the data analyses in (b). Typically, the dissertation proposal should contain a near-completed draft of (a), preliminary results from (b) and preliminary plans for (c).

Dissertation and Oral Defense

Upon passing the Qualifying Examination, the Ph.D. candidate and his/her chair will recommend a Dissertation Committee (typically all 5 members of the Guidance Committee; however, the University requires only 3 members. (A 3-member Dissertation Committee must consist of the Chair and the outside member). The dissertation should be completed within two years of the Qualifying Examination. The oral Defense Examination is based on the final version of the dissertation and will be administered by the Dissertation Committee and other invited faculty and students.

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University of Southern California University of Southern California