Ph.D. Program in Statistics - Biostatistics Track

Degree Requirements

The Graduate Program in Statistics offers the program Ph.D. in Statistics: Biostatistics Track as a subspecialty. Biostatistics may be understood as the application of statistical methods in the biological, medical, agricultural and environmental sciences, as well as the study of statistical methodology concerning problems and statistical areas originating from such scientific fields.

This subspecialty builds on the strong, diverse Statistics program and the UC Davis environment of highly regarded programs in Biological Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, as well as the School of Medicine. The collective research interests of the GPS faculty include a broad range of topics in Biostatistics. Students who wish to enroll in the Biostatistics track are encouraged to do so as early as possible. Enrollment may be declared anytime prior to the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam. On the Ph.D. diploma, transcripts and the first title page of the Ph.D. thesis, the program will still be denoted as “Statistics”. Completion of this program will be recognized by a letter from the GPS Chair, stating that the student has completed all requirements of the Biostatistics track.  

IMPORTANT NOTE: You do not need to apply separately for this Track when applying for the Statistics Ph.D. degree. Please note also that, while similar in coursework, this Track is separate from the Biostatistics Ph.D. program offered by the Graduate Group in Biostatistics, which requires a separate admissions application.

Admission Requirements

An undergraduate major in mathematics or statistics is typical for statistics graduate students, but is not required. However, because of the mathematical nature of some of the graduate coursework, students should be able to demonstrate good mathematical ability. The minimal background for entrance into the graduate program is: a bachelor's degree with 3.0 overall grade-point average; facility with a programming language; and upper division work in mathematics and/or statistics; at least one semester or two quarters of advanced calculus at a level equivalent to Mathematics 25 and Mathematics 125A; and a quarter of linear algebra at a level equivalent to Mathematics 67. The program does not accept part-time students.

For more information on admissions requirements, please see our Admissions Section.

Program of Study

This is a Plan A program with final oral examination (defense of the dissertation). A Ph.D. student will select an area of specialization within Biostatistics and will choose a major dissertation adviser from GPS faculty working in Biostatistics, usually in the second or third year of study. The student's program of study will be developed by the student jointly with the Graduate Adviser.

Course Requirements for the Ph.D. in statistics (Biostatistics Track):

Required Courses (46 units total):

  • Biostatistics - Survival Analysis: Statistics 222 (4 units)
  • Biostatistics - Generalized Linear Models: Statistics 223 (4 units)
  • Biostatistics - Clinical Trials and Advanced Topics: Statistics 224 (4 units)
  • Mathematical Statistics: Statistics 231A-231B-231C (4 units each)
  • Applied Statistics: Statistics 232A-232B-232C (4 units each)
  • Statistical Programming: Statistics 242 or Computational Statistics: Statistics 243 (4 units)
  • Seminar in Statistics: Statistics 290 (1 unit, three quarters, graded S/U)
  • Methods in Teaching Statistics: Statistics 390 (2 units, once, at the first offering of the course during residence, graded S/U)
  • Methods in Statistical Consulting: Statistics 260 (3 units, twice during program)

In addition, one life sciences course (non-quantitative biology course) at the upper division or graduate level (4 units)and one elective graduate level course from Statistics or Biostatistics (at least 3 units).


All coursework (a total of at least 53 units) and the program of study must be approved by the Graduate Adviser.

Ph.D. Pre-Qualifying Written Examination

The Ph.D. Pre-qualifying Written Examination will be given at the beginning of each Spring Quarter and also at the beginning of each Fall Quarter. Students in the Ph.D. program must attempt the exam in the Spring Quarter immediately after they complete both the STA 231AB and STA 232AB core course series. If a student does not attempt the examination at this time, it will be recorded as a ‘no pass’. Every Ph.D. student needs to pass the examination in a maximum of two attempts. In case of not pass at the first attempt, the second attempt must take place at the next time the examination is offered, and if a student does not attempt the exam at that time, it will be counted as a failure. Two ‘not passes’ of the examination will result in a recommendation to the Dean of Graduate Studies for discontinuation of the student in the Ph.D. program.

The Ph.D. Pre-qualifying Written Examination is a written exam with two parts: a theoretical part and an applied part. The duration of each part is about 3-4 hours. The applied part may be administered in a computer lab and may include the use of statistical software. Although the examination consists of two parts, it is considered one exam which must be passed in its entirety. The Chair of the Graduate Program in Statistics (GPS) will appoint an examination committee that will be responsible for preparing, administering and grading the examination. This committee will forward its recommendation to the GPS, which will make the final decision on each student.

Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination is an oral exam. The exam will be attempted as soon as the Ph.D. Pre-qualifying Written Examination has been passed and all required coursework for the Ph.D. degree in Statistics has been completed. In accordance with university rules, students are requested to take their qualifying examination before the end of the third year to remain eligible for academic appointments such as TA. The preparation for the exam will be done by working closely with a faculty mentor (independent study). The Ph.D. Qualifying Examination covers a special research topic assigned by an examining committee consisting of five faculty members. A forty-five minute presentation given by the student is followed by a question period which covers the special research topic as well as coursework in general. The examining committee will be appointed by Graduate Council at the recommendation of the graduate adviser who consults with the student prior to making the recommendation. The major professor is not eligible to serve as chair of the examining committee.

Graduate Studies guidelines for Ph.D. Qualifying Examinations apply. These can be obtained from the Graduate Studies Website.

Title and abstract of the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam presentation will be distributed to all faculty and students of the Graduate Program in Statistics, who are invited to attend the presentation. A student who passes the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination is eligible for Advancement to Candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. The student must file the Plan A Candidacy form with the Office of Graduate Studies and pay the candidacy fee at the Cashier’s Office, to be promoted to Candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.


The doctoral dissertation is an essential part of this program. A topic will be selected by the student, under the advice and guidance of a major professor (thesis adviser) and a dissertation committee chaired by the major professor. Students are encouraged to begin some research activity as early as possible during the second year of their graduate studies. The dissertation must contain an original contribution of publishable quality to the knowledge of statistics that may expand the theory or methodology of statistics, or expand or modify statistical methods to solve a critical problem in applied disciplines. Acceptance of the dissertation by three designated members of the dissertation committee follows Graduate Studies guidelines (Plan A with defense). The dissertation must be completed and submitted to the dissertation committee prior to taking the final examination.

Final Examination

Defense of the dissertation before the five-member dissertation committee (three faculty who read the committee, plus two for the exam only) will constitute the final examination for the Ph.D. degree. The final examination must be passed within four years after promotion to Candidacy, unless a special exception is granted. Pass or no pass is determined by a vote of the dissertation committee. Title and abstract of the Ph.D. Defense presentation will be distributed to all faculty and students of the Graduate Program in Statistics, who are invited to attend the presentation portion of the examination. The subsequent question period is a closed session between the student and the committee.

Title and abstract of the Ph.D. Defense presentation will be distributed to all faculty and students of the Graduate Program in Statistics, who are invited to attend the presentation.

Normative Time to Degree

The Normative time to Degree is four to five years.


For the pdf of our official requirements, please refer to the Statistics graduate student handbook.

Degree Requirements approved by Graduate Council August 14, 2014