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Doctoral Student Researchers


The Department of Epidemiology, within UC Irvine's School of Medicine, offers a course of study and academic research leading to the PhD degree in Epidemiology.


Doctor of Philosophy in Epidemiology

Students seeking the PhD degree in Epidemiology are usually interested in an research career, often in academia but possibly in industry or government.  Conferral of the doctoral degree results from demonstrations of mastery of core training, familiarity with the current state of the science in one or more areas, and capability to make important contributions to knowledge in one or more areas of Epidemiology. Nominal time to degree in our program is four to five years.


Students pursuing the PhD are guided throughout their training and development by faculty members.  Progress of all students is overseen by the Department Graduate Faculty Advisor.  However, each student is guided at a more detailed and personal level by an individual faculty member called the Faculty Mentor.  Students are assigned to Mentors based on shared areas of interest, and the mentor can and often does change as the student’s interests develop.  Once settled, the Faculty Mentor becomes the Chair of the student’s thesis committee.


The course of study toward the PhD degree is initially fairly structured.  The first year is largely devoted to required courses in epidemiologic and biostatistics methods.  As students advance there is more opportunity to take elective courses, and to arrange for directed or independent study with specific faculty members.  Students must carry a minimum of twelve (12) credit units per quarter.

Qualifying Exams and Advancement to Candidacy

Doctoral students take a comprehensive exam between their first and second years of study, to demonstrate mastery of the material covered in the first year.  In and beyond the second year, students are encouraged to make presentations of research in the department seminar and other forums.  When the student, with guidance and consent of the faculty mentor, has acquired sufficient knowledge in an area of research and developed a feasible, high-quality dissertation plan, then the student applies to advance to candidacy for the PhD degree.  Here the student makes a formal presentation to their dissertation committee.  This presentation is open to the public.  On approval, the student is advanced to candidacy and proceeds to execute the dissertation plan.


The dissertation is often the  cornerstone on which the student builds a career.  A successful dissertation is primarily a demonstration that the student can make, on their own, important contributions to the field.  Acceptance of the dissertation implies that the student is able to identify research questions that are both important and feasible to answer.  The ability to formulate such questions, and answer them, is fundamental to a career as an independent researcher.       


Why chose UCI?

The Department of Epidemiology at UC Irvine ranks among the top epidemiology departments in the nation and is among the most respected academic units at UC Irvine. The evolution of our academic unit over the past 25 years has included the development of California's first cancer epidemiology program focused on a population-based cancer registry. This cancer registry has facilitated a steady growth of large cancer epidemiology research projects making UC Irvine a leader in this  field. As a result, the Department of Epidemiology has been successful in recruiting superb faculty members who are leaders in their respective research areas, as well as an exceptional group of graduate students who are partners with us in our research and teaching.