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University of Rochester: Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology

The Department of Biostatistics and Computational Biology at the University of Rochester has a long record of excellence in methodological and collaborative research and in the education of professionals and users of statistics. The Department currently has 17 faculty who are eligible to advise students with research interests spanning traditional biostatistics, stochastic modeling, bioinformatics, and computational biology.

The Department offers masters and doctoral degrees and has an active postdoctoral program supported by research and training grants. We have strong collaborative relationships with Anesthesiology, Biomedical Genetics, the Cancer Center, Cardiology, Environmental Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, Neurology, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Public Health Sciences, and many other departments, centers, and units throughout the School. We are also an important contributor to the Clinical and Translational Science Institute of the University of Rochester.

The University of Rochester and our department are committed to diversity at all levels. Our small student: faculty ratio allows our department to give individual attention to each student through intensive advising, extensive small-group seminars, and research collaboration, as well as to assist our students when they need help. As a result of these interactions, our graduate program has a high retention rate.


Programs offered

Programs for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD):

We offer a PhD degree in Statistics (Traditional), and a PhD degree in Statistics with a concentration in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology (BCB). Our department interprets the term “statistics” very broadly. The traditional Statistics program permits specialization in probability, statistical theory and analysis, biostatistics, and interdisciplinary areas of application. The BCB concentration is designed to equip students with the quantitative and computational skills necessary to both develop and use methodologies and tools to manage, analyze and integrate massive amounts of complex biomedical data.

Beginning students usually spend all of their first year, most of their second year, and some of their third year taking formal courses. The balance of time is spent on reading and research. Coursework in statistics is concentrated in three areas – probability, inference, and data analysis. Students in the BCB concentration take courses that reflect its focus on bioinformatics and computational biology. All PhD students take a comprehensive (basic) examination at the beginning of the second year and another written (advanced) examination at the beginning of the third year.

Eligibility for the PhD degree in Statistics (Traditional): A candidate for admission to the PhD program should have a background in college mathematics, including a year of advanced calculus or mathematical analysis, a course in linear and/or matrix algebra, and a year of probability and mathematical statistics.

Eligibility for the PhD degree in Statistics with a Concentration in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology: Entering PhD students need undergraduate preparation in mathematics, including mathematical analysis and linear algebra, a year of probability and mathematical statistics, along with either basic computer science or biology.

Programs for Master’s degrees:

We offer a Master of Arts (MA) in Statistics and a Master of Science (MS) in Biostatistics. The MA degree places more emphasis on theory and requires satisfactory completion of at least 32 credits and a written comprehensive examination; no thesis is required. A typical program for the MA is very similar to the first three semesters of the PhD program. Students can choose to complete the coursework in 1.5 years (more common) or in 1 year.

The MS program in Biostatistics emphasizes statistical applications and is primarily intended for students who seek a career in health-related professions, such as the pharmaceutical industry or biomedical or clinical research organizations. The program consists of two semesters of coursework as well as a capstone project, which is usually undertaken in the summer after coursework is completed. A written report, oral presentation, and examination on the capstone project are required. Part-time study is possible for the MS program.

Eligibility for the Master’s degrees:

The requirements for entry into the MA program in Statistics are similar to those for entry into the traditional PhD program. For entry into the MS program, three semesters of univariate and multivariate calculus, a course in linear algebra, a course in probability, and a course in mathematical statistics are required. A course in applied statistics is recommended.

Student body profile

The Department typically has between 20 and 25 PhD students and a smaller number of Master’s students. Our small student: faculty ratio allows faculty members to give individual attention to each student through intensive advising, extensive small-group seminars, and research collaboration. Students have opportunities for supervised teaching and statistical consulting experience. Prior to completing their degrees, most doctoral students have several publications underway including some work related to their dissertation, and others based on research done in collaboration with faculty members in biostatistics/statistics and in various medical departments.

PhD program graduates have found employment at Georgetown University, State University of New York at Buffalo, Case Western Reserve University, Harvard University, Emory University, University of Florida, University of Illinois—Chicago, Johns Hopkins University, Lehigh University, Medical University of South Carolina, University of Rochester, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Pittsburgh, Southern Methodist University, other state universities, numerous companies such as Merck, Novartis, AbbVie, DuPont, and Bell Laboratories, and governmental agencies. MA and MS graduates are in various academic programs and in industrial, government, research, and consulting positions.

Funding opportunities

Fellowships and scholarships are awarded for full-time graduate study at the PhD level. All full-time PhD students receive a full tuition scholarship, single health insurance, and a generous 10-month stipend ($2,513.10 per month in the academic year 2020-21). While not guaranteed, students may be eligible for summer support (July-August) depending on funding availability from their advisors or from other sources. PhD students are expected to assist with teaching duties and consulting projects. A training grant in Environmental Health Biostatistics funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at NIH supports three PhD students each year; trainees must be US citizens or permanent residents.

Masters students generally rely on need-based financial aid. The School’s Financial Aid Office website provides information about the aid programs that students use most frequently. Using the 2020-21 tuition and mandatory fee rates for full-time students, the cost associated with the MA in Statistics degree is $58,078 and the cost associated with the MS in Biostatistics degree is $57,748.

The University of Rochester’s estimated cost of living is $1,600/month ($750 housing + $350 food + $200 personal expenses + $250 transportation + $50 medical expenses). On-campus graduate housing starts at $670/month for a furnished, studio apartment. In addition, all full‐time students must have health insurance coverage. Students may enroll in the University’s Aetna plan ($2,676 per year) or remain on their own policies.

More information

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Contact for more information:

  • Karin Gasaway