VCU Bulletins

Biostatistics, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Graduate program director
Roy T. Sabo, Ph.D.
Associate professor, Department of Biostatistics
(804) 828-3047

Additional contact
Russell M. Boyle
Associate director, graduate programs in biostatistics
(804) 827-2049

Program website:

Refer to the program search function of the online VCU Bulletins for a complete listing of all programs, concentrations and related curricular options.

Biostatistics, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) with a concentration in genomic biostatistics

Apply online at

Admission requirements

Biostatistics, Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

of entry:

Fall preferred

Applications received prior to Jan 15 given priority consideration


In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, applicants must complete the verbal, quantitative and analytical writing sections of the Graduate Record Exam. The following mathematics courses or their equivalents are required for admission: MATH 307 Multivariate Calculus, MATH 309 Introduction to Probability Theory, MATH 310 Linear Algebra and STAT 212 Concepts in Statistics. MATH 507 Measure and Integration Theory and MATH 508 Analysis II are recommended for students interested in completing the Ph.D. program.

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university.  These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

General academic regulations for
all graduate students in all graduate programs at VCU

Program goal

The mission of the VCU Department of Biostatistics is to improve human health through methodological research, the education of graduate students and health science researchers in biostatistical methods and applications, and collaborative health sciences research. Faculty members conduct methodological research motivated by collaborative alliances, which in turn contributes to and enhances the department’s educational mission. By focusing on the integration of methodological and collaborative research, students develop strong biostatistical and communication skills, enabling them to assume leadership positions in academia, government and industry.

The program is designed to provide students with the skills required to advance to positions as bioscience researchers/trainers in a broad spectrum of positions. The structure of the program provides a framework for the progressive development of a mastery of the current state of the subject matter of bioscience and an ability to synthesize this information and apply this foundation to the identification of key areas of investigation/experimentation in bioscience. The program relates the above framework to the development of the ability to design, implement and interpret experimental approaches which address the questions identified. In addition, students will develop skills in the various means of communicating both the core of bioscience knowledge and the expression of experimental design, results and interpretation to a variety of potential audiences.

Student learning outcomes

  1. Experimental design: The candidate will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of competence in the ability to appraise, modify and/or create, and implement experimental protocols and to design and develop experiments as measured by rubric.
  2. Integrated knowledge of mathematics and bioscience: The candidate will demonstrate an appropriate level of knowledge of the current elements of mathematics as related to bioscience and a more detailed understanding of the individual area of scholarship, including an appropriate familiarity with the research literature and the ability to evaluate and critique publications as measured by rubric.
  3. Oral communication skills: The candidate will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of oral communication skills with respect to the content, organization, logical flow, presentation and appropriate use of language incorporating the use of visual aids, as measured by rubric.
  4. Problem-solving skills: The candidate will demonstrate an appropriate level of skill in the identification and selection of meaningful problems to be addressed in bioscience research, including the ability to defend said identifications and to design and develop appropriate methods to solve said problems as measured by rubric.
  5. Written communication skills: The candidate will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of written communication skill with respect to grammar, syntax, spelling and use of vocabulary to effectively present information including the use of figures, tables and citations as measured by rubric.

Degree requirements

In addition to the general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, Ph.D. students must complete a minimum total of 78 credit hours (59 didactic hours, plus eight hours each of seminar and consulting, and at least three credit hours of research). More specifically, required courses include BIOS/STAT 513 and 514, BIOS 524, BIOS 546, BIOS 553, BIOS 554, BIOS 571, BIOS 572, BIOS 615 and 616, BIOS 625, BIOS 631, BIOS 647, and OVPR 601, 602 or 603. In addition, students must take two 600-level BIOS/STAT courses from the list provided; two additional 600-level BIOS, STAT or MATH courses or BIOS 567 or STAT; and one graduate-level non-BIOS, STAT or MATH course. Ph.D. students must also take eight semesters of BIOS 516 Biostatistical Consulting and BIOS 690 Biostatistical Research Seminar. In addition, Ph.D. students will participate in the summer student research program at least twice and present at the Biostatistics Student Research Symposium each fall.

Qualifying exam

Students pursuing the Ph.D. must pass a qualifying examination administered at the end of May or the beginning of June after completion of the first year of course work. The examination is an in-class, closed-book exam given over a period of two days and covers material from the following first-year courses:

Part A: Applied covers BIOS 553, 554, 571 and 572.
Part B: Theoretical covers BIOS/STAT 513, BIOS/STAT 514 and BIOS 546.

Each part of the exam is graded as pass/fail. A student who fails Part A or Part B of the exam at the Ph.D. level must retake that part of the qualifying exam. Such a student may petition the examination committee of the Department of Biostatistics for a winter administration of the qualifying exam.

Comprehensive exam

Students pursuing the Ph.D. degree who have passed the qualifying exam must pass a comprehensive exam consisting of two parts.

Part A: Written comprehensive exam

This comprehensive exam is an in-class, closed-book exam administered in June after completion of the advanced years’ course work (usually at the end of the third year for full-time students). The exam covers the following material: BIOS 615 and BIOS 616 Advanced Inference, BIOS 625 Categorical Data Analysis and Generalized Linear Models, BIOS 631 Multivariate Analysis I and BIOS 647 Survival Analysis.

Part B: Oral examination: data/analytic/consulting

This exam tests for problem-solving abilities and draws from material presented in BIOS 516 and advanced required and elective courses. Students have two weeks to complete a statistical analysis of a data set and submit a written report describing the analysis. Students will present an oral report defending the analysis a week later. The exam will be written and evaluated by the Ph.D. student’s dissertation committee.

The data/analytic/consulting oral exam may not be taken until the student has passed the written comprehensive exam.


A comprehensive dissertation reporting the results of original research is required for the Ph.D. degree.

Final examination

All Ph.D. candidates must defend their dissertations at a final oral examination. A public presentation will precede a Ph.D. defense closed to all but the student’s committee. Questions are restricted to the topic of the dissertation for the Ph.D. candidate.

Curriculum requirements

Courses Credit hours
Required core courses 44
BIOS/STAT 513 Mathematical Statistics I 3
BIOS/STAT 514 Mathematical Statistics II 3
BIOS 524 Biostatistical Computing 3
BIOS 546 Theory of Linear Models 3
BIOS 553 Linear Regression 3
BIOS 554 Analysis of Variance 3
BIOS 571 Clinical Trials 3
BIOS 572 Statistical Analysis of Biomedical Data 3
BIOS 615 Advanced Inference 4
BIOS 616 Advanced Inference 4
BIOS 625 Categorical Data Analysis and Generalized Linear Models 4
BIOS 631 Multivariate Analysis I 4
BIOS 647 Survival Analysis 3
OVPR 601 Scientific Integrity, OVPR 602 Responsible Scientific Conduct or OVPR 603 Responsible Conduct of Research 1
Four of the courses listed below (at least two must be BIOS courses; at least two must be at the 600-level) or others selected with approval of program director 12
BIOS 567 Statistical Methods for High-throughput Genomic Data I 3
BIOS 632 Multivariate Analysis II 3
BIOS 638 Statistical Design and Analysis in Toxicology 3
BIOS 639 Statistical Design and Analysis in Toxicology 3
BIOS 667 Statistical Learning and Data Mining 3
BIOS 671 Nonlinear Models 3
BIOS 668 Statistical Methods for High-throughput Genomic Data II 3
BIOS 688 Applied Bayesian Biostatistics 3
BIOS 691 Special Topics in Biostatistics 3
MATH 603 Advanced Probability Theory 3
MATH 640 Mathematical Biology I 3
STAT 503 Introduction to Stochastic Processes 3
STAT 613 Stochastic Processes 3
STAT 614 Stochastic Processes 3
STAT/OPER 636 Machine Learning Algorithms 3
STAT 642 Design and Analysis of Experiments I 3
STAT 645 Bayesian Decision Theory 3
STAT 675 Time Series Analysis I 3
One additional course (non-BIOS, non-STAT or non-MATH) with approval or program director 3
Suggested courses include any three-credit 600-level course in epidemiology and community health (EPID), social and behavioral health (SBHD), health care policy and research (HCPR) or bioinformatics (BNFO)  
Consulting and seminar courses 16
BIOS 516 Biostatistical Consulting (one-credit course taken eight semesters) 8
BIOS 690 Biostatistical Research Seminar (one-credit course taken eight semesters) 8
Dissertation research 3 (minimum)
BIOS 697 Directed Research in Biostatistics (minimum of three credit hours) variable
Total graduate credit hours required (minimum) 78

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Degree candidacy requirements

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Graduation requirements

Other information

School of Medicine graduate program policies

The School of Medicine provides policies applicable to all programs administratively housed in the school. Information on doctoral programs is available in the Graduate Bulletin at



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