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General Biostatistics FAQ

Biostatistics is the branch of statistics responsible for the proper interpretation of scientific data generated in biology, public health and other health sciences (i.e., the biomedical sciences). Biostatistics is a broad discipline encompassing the application of statistical theory to real-world problems, the practice of designing and conducting biomedical experiments and clinical trials (experiments with human subjects), the study of related computational algorithms and display of data, the reliable extraction of information from data, data mining, statistical/machine learning, and the development of mathematical statistical theory.

Biostatisticians are the specialists who translate data into scientific evidence. They separate ‘signal from noise’ in vast and complex data and use probabilistic models to generalize findings.

Yes. Biostatisticians are statistical or data scientists who work on the forefront of biomedical research. They contribute to the body of knowledge in medicine and biology through collaborations and the development of new statistical methods.

Biostatisticians identify and manage uncertainty in biomedical data. They use mathematical models to enhance science and bridge the gap between theory and practice. They design and conduct experiments, supervise the manner in which data are collected, analyze data, interpret results, and develop new methodology for exploring and interpreting data.

Biostatisticians apply their skills in interdisciplinary research collaborations that span the basic, translational, clinical, and public health sciences. Examples include clinical trials, health care policy evaluations, epidemiologic investigations, genetic epidemiology, proteomics, genomics, cellular and molecular biology, imaging sciences, and data mining of electronic health records.

Graduate Program FAQ

In a typical year, we receive about 160 applications (100 Ph.D., 60 M.S.). We aim to recruit four PhD and four Master’s students each year.

We do not have a minimum GRE score requirement for admission. We do not screen applications by GRE scores; every application is reviewed in whole. However, in our past experience, applications with GRE scores less than the 70th percentile on either the verbal and the quantitative tests are often not competitive in our applicant pool.

The TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) is required for all applicants whose native language is not English and who have not received a degree at an English-speaking university. If you have graduated from a University in the United States, the TOEFL requirement is waived. Please be sure to still self-report your TOEFL scores used to gain entry to your prior US institution.

The IELTS (International English Language Testing System) is accepted. Vanderbilt University Medical Center only accepts scores submitted electronically by the IELTS test center. No paper test report forms are accepted. An institutional code is NOT required. Please contact the test center directly where you took the IELTS test and request that your test scores be sent electronically using the IELTS system. All IELTS test centers worldwide are able to send scores electronically to our institution.

No. We consider applicants with a variety of educational backgrounds as long as they met the minimum mathematics requirements listed below: a. 3 semesters of calculus (through Multivariate) b. 1 semester of linear algebra c. 1 semester of statistics d. Familiarity with mathematical notation and reasoning Incoming students have found undergraduate courses in biology, probability, and real analysis helpful (but they are not required for admission). Previous exposure to statistical programming (e.g. R, STATA, SAS, SPSS) or coding (e.g., JAVA) or formal training in computer science is also helpful.

No, an MS is not required. Incoming students with a Master’s degree in Statistics or Biostatistics can attempt to test out of the first year of classes by passing the first year comprehensive exam. However, the option to test out is approved on a case-by-case basis during the admission process.

Yes, the admissions committee will select the degree program that they think is most appropriate for the candidate.

All Ph.D. student are accepted as full-time students. In addition, they will receive a monthly stipend for the duration of their degree program. Students will work with research teams on various projects. Therefore, due to classwork and project work, we do not accept part-time students who will be working outside of the University.

Our application deadline is January 15th. Applications received after that date are reviewed on a rolling basis if space and funding remain available.

The Admission Committee reviews applications and identifies students who are a good fit for our program. Because we only recruit 4 PhD and 4 MS students each year, the committee carefully considers each applicant’s training, potential, and motivation. Admission decisions are typically made in the second half of February or early March. Students not selected are notified by email in March. A small number of highly qualified candidates are placed on a waiting list and are offered admission if/when a slot and funding become available. Vanderbilt University is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools and supports the April 15th Resolution. This means applicants who receive an offer of admission have until April 15 to make their decision. We encourage students admitted to the program to visit us if possible. Some candidates will be invited to participate in an on-campus open house in late February to interview with faculty and meet current students.

All PhD admission offers comes with full funding, which includes a 12-month stipend, a full tuition waiver, student health insurance and activity fees. The funding mechanism is either a fellowship, research assistantship, or training grant support. All PhD candidates (i.e., PhD students who have passed their oral qualifying exam) are supported by research assistantships. Continuation of funding is dependent upon the student making good academic progress in the program (as determined by their Dissertation Committee, Advisor, and Director of Graduate Studies) and satisfactory performance on their research assistantship. When these conditions are met, funding typically lasts for at least five years. All students admitted to the Master’s program are offered an 80% tuition waiver. Continuation of waiver is dependent upon the student making good academic progress in the program (as determined by their academic performance, Advisor, and Director of Graduate Studies).

We do not pre-screen applicants. If you are interested, please apply. The Admissions Committee reviews all applications.

We do not release student statistics. Our students have a wide variety of backgrounds consisting of Physicians, PhD scientists, statistical analysts, and undergraduate majors in biology, computer science, literature, religious studies, mathematics and statistics.

Yes. We treat international applicants the same as U.S. citizens.

We do not accept applications for the spring semester.

Students may visit the campus on their own accord, but we strongly encourage students to first submit an application and get feedback from the Admission Committee before visiting. Students who are actively being considered for admission by the Admission Committee are sometimes invited to campus for an interview. In those cases, we help schedule the visit, arrange meetings with individual faculty members and current graduate students, and reimburse students for all or part of the travel costs.

The Graduate School application fee is $95. After you submit your application online, you will see instructions to pay the fee with a credit card or debit card via a secure payment portal.

1.) Fee waivers can be obtained for any student who has performed biological or biomedically-oriented research which has been supported by the NIH, the NSF, or any other agency/private foundation within the United States. 2.) Additional waivers of the application fee will be considered upon request for US citizens and permanent residents if they have a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.0 in their last program of enrollment AND meet at least on of the following criteria: Demonstrated financial need (Pell Grant eligible) Participated in a designated Vanderbilt-sponsored program/activity prior to January deadline1 Participated in a designated fellowship, research, or training program1 1Please visit the graduate school application fee website for a list of qualifying programs

1.) CV/Resume 2.) Statement of Purpose 3.) Test Scores (GRE,TOEFL,IELTS) 4.) 3 Letters of Recommendation 5.) Unofficial Transcripts Please contact Amanda Harding at with any questions.

For application review purposes, the admissions committee will accept unofficial documents. However, if you are accepted and choose to enroll, you will be required to send official documents to the University Registrar.

We do ask that international students provide WES translated and verified transcripts. If they are not verified when submitting, we do ask for you to include the US conversion equivalent of grades.