PhD Epidemiology


Epidemiology is the study of factors affecting health and illness in communities and populations. Epidemiologic research methods form the cornerstone of public health and epidemiological researchers seek to improve health and reduce risk factors for disease and illness.

Our research training program in epidemiology aims to provide doctoral students with the skills required to conceptualize, design, conduct, analyze and interpret observational (descriptive and analytic) and experimental studies that are used to identify risk, prognostic factors and course of communicable and non-communicable diseases; and to evaluate strategies designed to promote health, prevent disease and provide health care.

Core Courses*

SPH 602 - Engaged Scholarship for Health (*2)
SPH 603 - Scientific Communication in Public Health (*2)
SPH 604 - Advanced Theory and Research Methods in Public Health (*2)

*Students should plan to take the core courses in the timing outlined in the PhD Program Sequence document.

Specialization Courses

SPH 719 - Biostatistics III (*3)
SPH 766 - Advanced Epidemiology Methods (*3)

Candidacy Examination

The candidacy examination occurs once all coursework is successfully completed, a research proposal has been developed and within three years of the start of the PhD program. The candidacy examination is an oral examination, which is primarily intended to assess the student's ability to conduct independent research.

The following forms include information about the examination format, recommended timelines, roles and responsibilities of student, supervisor, supervisory committee and examination committee.

PhD Candidacy Examination Procedure and Timeline

Thesis Research Proposal

Doctoral thesis research should be based on a well-formulated research proposal. At the time of admission, students should have a clear statement of purpose for their research area, but it is not expected that the full methodological details will have been considered.

It is expected that the thesis research proposal will be developed by the student in consultation with their supervisory committee. The candidacy examination is the mechanism to evaluate the quality of the research proposal and the ability of the student to conduct the proposed research. As such, the evaluation of the research proposal by the arms-length examiners is an important quality assurance mechanism to enhance the quality of thesis research and doctoral training provided within the School of Public Health.


Students are required to present the results of their thesis at a student seminar prior to the defence.

PhD students will successfully complete and defend a thesis on a research topic in an area defined in consultation with the student's supervisory committee. The scope and quality of the doctoral thesis should form the basis for a unique contribution to the student's discipline. This may be represented by a number of scholarly contributions, such as multiple peer-reviewed publications describing the methodology and results of the research.

An increasingly common format for doctoral research training is a "papers-based" thesis, consisting of three or four research papers, suitable for submission for peer review, each addressing a distinct research question, but addressing a common research theme. In such cases, introductory and culminating final chapters are also prepared, establishing the purpose and rationale for the research theme and tying together findings across the conducted studies.

Final Oral Examination

A Final Oral Examination Committee consists of a chair, members of the supervisory committee and at least two other examiners, including one from outside the University of Alberta. The Supervisory and Examination Committee Membership Checklist is available from the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. The Examination Committee reads the thesis and conducts the final oral examination.

The Examination Committee chair will be a faculty member from the School of Public Health who is not a member of the student's supervisory committee. The role of the chair is to ensure the final oral examination is conducted in accordance with the guidelines of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

The Doctoral Final Oral Examinations Procedures document includes essential information to help you prepare.

Length of Program

Doctoral students have six years from their first term of registration to complete all degree requirements, with an expected four-year minimum duration for full-time students from the bachelor's level.

Approximately one to two years of course work is followed by two to three years of full-time thesis research.



Educational Programs Contact

Phone: 780-492-8211
Fax: 780-492-0364