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Biostatistics PhD Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin

Our Biostatistics PhD program is a highly collaborative unit that is integral in the design of numerous research projects within MCW and its affiliates, which include the MCW Cancer Center, Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research and The Center for Patient Care and Outcomes Research. In this program, you will receive in-depth training on the use of state-of-the-art software and consulting opportunities. Additionally, you will benefit from an expansive network of faculty, both during your tenure and as you seek a career upon completing your course of study.

Why Join the Biostatistics PhD Program at MCW?

In modern clinical and basic science, investigators face challenges in the design of experiments, data collection, data analysis, and interpretation of data. Division of Biostatistics at MCW trains students to meet/solve such challenges. Our division has ideal research environments for Biostatistics through numerous collaborations with Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research (CIBMTR), Center for Advancing Population Science (CAPS), Human and Molecular Genetics Center, among others. Many of our methodological works are motivated by these collaborations. All of our PhD students successfully found a position in industry and academia upon graduation. Our division is one of the fast growing divisions at MCW. However, we still keep family-oriented atmosphere that all of our division members truly appreciate. We welcome applications from students who want to be prepared as a balanced biostatistician in theory and application with our family.

About the Program

The Division of Biostatistics offers a PhD degree program designed for students with strong undergraduate preparation in mathematics and trains students in biostatistical methodology, theory, and practice.

Emphasis is placed on sound theoretical understanding of statistical principles, research in the development of applied methodology, and collaborative research with biomedical scientists and clinicians. In addition, students gain substantial training and experience in statistical computing and in the use of software packages.

Courses in the program are offered in collaboration with the Department of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, with several required courses taught on the UWM campus. Students can also take courses at Marquette University. The degree requirements, including dissertation research, are typically completed in five years beyond a bachelor’s degree that includes strong mathematical preparation.

Class sizes are small. Usually student to faculty ratios are better than 1:1.

Important Dates

January 15th: Priority application deadline
However, the MCW Graduate School operates on a rolling admissions basis. Applications accepted by the priority application deadline will receive first priority for admission the following Fall.

Biostatistics PhD Program

Admissions Requirements

Admissions Requirements

Applicants to the Biostatistics PhD program will have ideally have…

  • Completed an undergraduate degree in mathematics or closely related field
  • Completed courses in advanced calculus, matrix/linear algebra and scientific programming with a minimum grade of B in each. Those who have not done so may be considered for admission and, if admitted, must complete these requirements during the first year of study.
  • A strong interest in Biostatistics and biomedical applications
  • An overall grade point average of 3.0 or better
  • A 3.0 grade point average or better in mathematics and science
  • Scores in the 80th percentile or higher on the Quantitative component of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is preferred. Our Institution Code is 1519.
  • Applicants who studied overseas or via an online U.S.-based institution are required to take a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and make arrangement for an official score report to be sent directly from ETS to the MCW School of Graduate Studies. A TOEFL score is 100 or higher or a band score of 6.0 or higher on the IELTS is ideal. Our Institution Code is 1519.

Each year we will select 2-3 highly qualified students interested in furthering knowledge and research skills in Biostatistics.

How To Apply
The MCW Graduate School operates on a rolling admissions basis. However, applications accepted by the priority application deadline of January 15th will receive first priority for admission the following Fall. Students are admitted once per year. Part time students may be admitted in any semester. However, financial support from the Medical College of Wisconsin is not available for part time students.



Biostatistics PhD Program Sample Plan (PDF)

Graduate Programs in Biostatistics Student Handbook (PDF)

Preliminary Examination
Upon completion of the first year of the study, the student will be given a written preliminary examination in August of the first academic year. This examination will be organized and administered by the graduate studies committee. The exam will consist of two parts - Applied Statistics and Theory of Statistics. The applied part will cover Statistical Models and Methods I, II and III, Clinical Trials, and Biostatistical Computing and Data Management and possibly Applied Survival Analysis or Applied Bayesian Analysis. The theory part will cover the materials from Statistical Inference I & II. This will be a standard divisional exam, and evaluation will be done by the whole faculty. The criteria for evaluation will be based on student's understanding and competency in basic principles and foundations of biostatistics, and his/her potential for conducting independent research in statistical methods and applications. If a student does not pass this exam, he/she will have a second opportunity to take it in January of the second academic year. The preliminary examination will be offered every January and August by the Division. The student must pass this examination to continue in the PhD program.

Readings & Research
The student is required to take BIOST 295 Readings & Research for 3 credit hours each with two different members of the faculty. Typically, this is done in the first two summers and in the process of selecting a dissertation topic and advisor.

Qualifying Examination
Upon successful completion of the preliminary exam and the required biostatistics courses (usually at the end of the third year), the student will be given a qualifying examination. This examination is tailor-made for each student, and it is organized, administered and evaluated by his/her advisory committee. The evaluations will be based on student's in-depth understanding and competency in advanced topics in biostatistics, and his/her ability and maturity to apply the knowledge earned from the course-work in doing meaningful research. The exam consists of two parts. The first part will be an oral examination testing the student's general statistical knowledge at the advanced level. The second part consists of writing a dissertation proposal and presenting it to the division. This proposal must be approved by his/her advisory committee. A student not passing either part of the exam may be given another chance to retake that part within three months of the first attempt. Students passing this exam will be admitted to PhD candidacy.

Paper Submission

The student is required to submit at least one methodology paper to peer reviewed journals. The paper must address statistical methodology and be from the thesis. The student mist provide a proof of paper submission for the thesis committee before the final examination.

Final Examination
The PhD candidate must submit a dissertation representing an original research contribution. It must show high attainment and clear ability to carry out independent biostatistics research of publishable quality. The final oral examination will be administered by his/her advisory committee after the student has completed all other formal requirements for the PhD degree. It will be a public defense of the dissertation. The student also will be expected to demonstrate a good understanding of materials relevant to the general field in which the dissertation is written. The student's advisory committee will evaluate the performance of the student in the dissertation defense.

Dissertation Research Requirements
The student begins his/her dissertation research during the third year. The initial step consists of identifying a topic that is of mutual interest to the student and a member of the faculty who serves as the dissertation advisor. Courses, talks and presentations by the faculty assist the student in this process. After a literature survey and a clearer definition of the scope of the research under the direction of the advisor, the student submits a written proposal and presents it orally to the advisory committee. During the conduct of the dissertation research the advisory committee meets periodically to monitor the student's progress. Upon completion of the proposed research the student submits the dissertation and defends it in a public presentation.

The dissertation must be an original contribution to scientific knowledge. It can involve development of new statistical methodologies, evaluation of existing methodologies and study of their properties, innovative application of existing methodologies, or any combination of the above. The dissertation should be of publishable quality in peer reviewed journals in biostatistics or statistics.

Required Courses

  • BIOE 10222 Ethics and Integrity in Science (1 credit)
  • BIOE 10444 Research Ethics Discussion Series (1 credit)
  • BIOS 04214 Design and Analysis of Clinical Trials (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04220 Research Seminar (1 credit)
  • BIOS 04221 Biomedical Applications and Consulting (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04222 Statistical Consulting (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04224 Biostatistical Computing (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04231 Statistical Models and Methods I (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04232 Statistical Models and Methods II (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04233 Introduction to Statistical and Machine Learning (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04275 Applied Survival Analysis (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04285 Introduction to Bayesian Analysis (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04295 Reading and Research (1-9 credits)
  • BIOS 04313 Advanced Statistical Computing (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04363 Advanced Statistics I  (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04365 Linear Models I  (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04384 Statistical Genetics (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04385 Advanced Bayesian Analysis (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04386 Theory of Survival Analysis (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04399 Doctoral Dissertation (1-9 credits)
  • BIOS 04231/MTHSTAT 761* Mathematical Statistics I (3 credits)
  • BIOS 04232/MTHSTAT 762* Mathematical Statistics II (3 credits)
  • BIOS 24150 Bioinformatics in Omics Analysis (3 credits)

                                *Courses taken at UW-Milwaukee


Elective Courses (graduate-level non-biostatistical courses)

  • BIOETH 201 – Medical Ethics (2 credits)
  • BIOETH 222 – Ethics and Integrity in Science (2 credits)
  • BIOETH 232 – Ethics, Policy and Genetic Technology (2 credits)
  • BIOPHYSICS 215 – Medical Physics (1 credit)
  • CELLBIO 150 – Introduction to Cell Biology (1 credit)
  • CELLBIO 152 – Human Development (1 credit)
  • CELLBIO 207 – Introduction to Neuroscience (2 credits)
  • EPI 201 – Clinical Epidemiology (3 credits)
  • EPI 256 – Research Methods in Epidemiology (3 credits)
  • EPI 272 – Epidemiology of Cardiovascular Disease (1 credit)
  • EPI 274 – Cancer Epidemiology
  • PHARM 202 – Survey of Pharmacology (3 credits)
  • PHY 202 – General Human Physiology (6 credits)
  • PHY 285 – Mathematical Biology (3 credits)

Additional elective courses from MCW, Marquette University, and UW-Milwaukee are available for students


Tuition and Fees

Tuition and Fees

If you have questions regarding tuition or your account, please contact the Office of Student Accounts, at (414) 955-8172 or Please refer to the All Student Handbook (PDF) for tuition payment policies and information.

PhD Students
All full-time PhD degree-seeking students in good academic and professional standing receive the following financial support package:

  • Full tuition coverage
  • Yearly stipend $32,633/year (2022-2023 academic year)
  • Complimentary health insurance

There is no additional process to secure this package aside from accepting an offer of admission. Further, this package is guaranteed from the time of enrollment through completion of degree requirements.

Current MCW Employees
Tuition Course Approval Form - Human Resources (PDF)

Late Fees
There is a $250 late payment fee for tuition not paid on time according to the Tuition Payments policy in the All Student Handbook (PDF).

Learn More


Visit the Biostatistics PhD Program Faculty page to learn more about our faculty members



Graduate School Forms

Please refer to the Graduate School webpage for more information
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Frequently Asked Questions for the Biostatistics PhD Program

Students Classroom
What are the class sizes for the Biostatistics Program?
Class sizes are small. Usually student to faculty ratios are better than 1:1.
What are some Biostatistics career possibilities after graduation?
  • Pharmaceutical & Consultant Industries
  • Government & Non-Profit Agencies
  • Academic Institutions
Specifically, some Alumni have been employed at MCW, Wake Forest University, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, EMMES, SAS Business Analytics and Business Intelligence Software, Novartis, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals following graduation.
Where can I learn about the students of the Biostatistics Program?

Meet our current class of Biostatistics students

View class list

Alumni Information

PhD Alumni:

Xi Fang, PhD 2023
Advisors: Soyoung Kim, PhD and Kwang Woo Ahn, PhD
Thesis: Statistical Methods to improve estimation efficiency for right-censored data under observational studies and clinical trials
Employment: Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Biostatistics, Yale University

Xiao Li, PhD 2022
Advisor: Brent Logan, PhD
Thesis: Contributions to Bayesian machine learning for complex models
Employment: Abbvie 

Manoj Khanal, PhD 2022
Advisor: Kwang Woo Ahn, PhD
Thesis: Semiparametric regression models for clustered right-censored data under clinical trials and observational studies
Employment: Eli Lilly

Xinran QiPhD 2021
Advisors: Prakash Laud, PhD and Aniko Szabo, PhD
Thesis: Inference with complex-structured data: controlled group-wise variable selection using a Generative Adversarial Network knockoff filter, unconditional reproducibility probability filter, and semi-parametric inference
Employment: Post-doc at Stanford, Neurology and Neurological Sciences

Yizeng (Molly) He, PhD 2021
Advisor: Kwang Woo Ahn, PhD
Thesis: Robust estimation for competing risks data analysis
Employment: Abbvie

Tucker Keuter, PhD 2020
Advisor: Anjishnu Banerjee, PhD
Thesis: Bayesian Learning In a Nearest-neighbor Gaussian process (BLING): a model for high-dimensional, spatially correlated, categorical outcomes in prostate cancer imaging
Employment: Charter Steel

Charley Spanbauer, PhD 2020
Advisors: Purushottam Laud, PhD and Rodney Sparapani, PhD
Thesis: Machine-Learning Extensions to Bayesian Additive Regression Tress for Precision Medicine in Clinical Trials
Employment: University of Minnesota Division of Biostatistics

Yayun (Alice) Xu
PhD 2020
Advisors: Soyoung Kim, PhD and Mei-Jie Zhang, PhD
Thesis: Statistical Methods for Competing Risks Data under the Case-cohort Study Design
Employment: Merck

Bonifride (Frida) Tuyishimire, PhD 2019
Advisor: Brent Logan, PhD and Purushottam Laud, PhD
Thesis: Additivity Assessment in Nonparametric Regression Models
Employment: EMMES Corporation

Nicolas DeVogel, PhD 201
AdvisorTao Wang, PhD
Thesis: Adjustment of familial relatedness and population structure in linear mixed models
Employment: EMMES Corporation

Natasha Sahr, PhD 2018
Advisor: Kwang Woo Ahn, PhD
Thesis: Variable Screening and Selection for Survival and Competing Risks Data with Grouped Covariates
Employment: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Yushu Shi, PhD 2017
Advisor: Prakash Laud, PhD
Thesis: Weibull Mixture Models for Regression in the Context of Time-to-Event Data
Employment: MD Anderson Cancer Center

Michael Martens, PhD 2017
Advisor: Brent Logan, PhD
Thesis: Group Sequential Design and Sample Size Calculations for Covariate Adjusted Competing Risks and Survival Analysis
Employment: EMMES Corporation

Ying Zhang, PhD 2016
Advisor: Mei-Jie Zhang, PhD
Thesis: Inference of Transition Probabilities in Multi-state Models Adaptive Inverse Probability Censoring Weighting Technique
Employment after graduation: Merck

Jianing Li, PhD 2015
Advisor: Mei-Jie Zhang, PhD
Thesis: Treatment Effect Adjustment and Model Diagnosis for Competing Risks Data
Employment after graduation: Merck

Yanzhi Wang, PhD 2014
Advisor: Brent Logan, PhD
Thesis: Generalized Linear Mixed Models for Correlated Time to Event Data Using Pseudo-Values

Peng He, PhD, 2014
Advisor: Mei-Jie Zhang, PhD
Thesis: Bias reduction by using covariate-adjusted censoring weights for survival and competing risks data
Employment after graduation: Amgen (Thousand Oaks, CA)

Kristin Ellis, PhD, 2013
Advisor: Aniko Szabo, PhD
Thesis: Developing Methods to Categorize Survival Data
Employment after graduation: Procter & Gamble

Franco Mendolia, PhD, 2013
Advisor: Tao Wang, PhD
Thesis: Pseudo-Observation Regression in the Presence of Left Truncation
Employment after graduation: German Aerospace Center (DLR)

Shuyuan Mo, PhD 2011
Advisor: Brent Logan, PhD
Thesis: Inference in the Presence of Crossing Survival Curves
Employment after graduation: Novartis

Changbin Guo, PhD 2011
Advisor: John Klein, PhD
Thesis: Regression Models for Association in Clustered Survival Data Based on Pseudo-Observations
Employment after graduation: SAS

Rodney Sparapani, PhD 2011
Advisor: Prakash Laud, PhD
Thesis: Generalized Linear Mixed Models in health Services Research with Large Data Banks: A Bayesian Implementation
Employment after graduation: The Medical College of Wisconsin

Xiaolin Fan, PhD 2008
Advisor: Prakash Laud, PhD
Thesis: Bayesian Nonparametric Inference for Competing Risks Data
Employment after graduation: Novartis

Nicholas Pajewski, PhD 2008
Advisor: Prakash Laud, PhD
Thesis: Bayesian Semiparametric Hierarchical Models for Genetic Association Studies in the Presence of Population Structure and Multiplicity

Yinghua Zhang, PhD 2007
Advisor: John P. Klein, PhD
Thesis: Selecting Between the Cox and Aalen Model for Censored Survival Data

Jingxia Liu, PhD 2007
Advisor: Mei-Jie Zhang, PhD
Thesis: Utilizing Propensity Scores to Test Treatment Effects in Survival Data

Xu Zhang, PhD 2005
Advisor: Mei-Jie Zhang, PhD
Thesis: Inference for Cumulative Incidence Function with Right Censored and/or Left Truncated Competing Risks Data

Leiyan Lu, PhD 2005
Advisor: John P. Klein, PhD
Thesis: Explained Variation in Survival Analysis and Hypothesis Testing for Current Leukemia Free Survival

Hong Wang, PhD 2004
Advisor: John P. Klein, PhD
Thesis: Inference for the Shared Power Variance Function Frailty Model and the Correlated Inverse Gaussion Frailty Model

Ruta Bajorunaite, PhD 2003
Advisor: John P. Klein, PhD
Thesis: Comparison of Failure Probabilities in the Presence of Competing Risks

Matthew Hayat, PhD 2002
Advisor: Prakash Laud, PhD
Thesis: Bayesian Methods for Longitudinal Data

Youyi Shu, PhD 2001
Advisor: John P. Klein, PhD
Thesis: Multistate Survival Models Theory And Applications

Jingtao Wu, PhD 2001,
Advisor: John P. Klein, PhD
Thesis: Statistical Methods For Discretizing A Continuous Covariate In A Censored Data Regression Model


MS Alumni:

Jong Won Lee, MS 2022
Advisor: Sergey Tarima, PhD

Dexuan Zhang, MS 2023
Advisor: Sergey Tarima, PhD

Maggie Westerland, MA 2023
Employment: Boston University School of Medicine

Ryan Gallagher, MA 2023
Employment: Medical College of Wisconsin

Donggwan Lee, MS 2022

Junmin Shi, MS 2012

Aaron Katch, MS 2012

Mikesh Shivakoti, MS 2012

Leann Watts, MS 2011

Victoria Rajamanickam, MS 2007

Manoj Thakur, MS 2006

Alain DeClaux Tallasouop, MS 2006

Lauren Cerull, MS 2005
Thesis: Assessing Discharge Location for Geriatric Fall Patients

Christopher Meller, MS 2004
Thesis: Modeling fMRI Series Using a Nonlinear Method

Youyi Shu, MS 2001
Thesis: A SAS Macro for the Positive Frailty Model

Huajian Tang, MS 2000
Thesis: A Regression-Based Transmission / Disequilibrium Test For Binary Traits Using A Logit Link Function

Zhiyuan Xu, MS 1998
Thesis: A SAS Macro for the Score Test of Homogeneity for Survival Data

Philip Rowlings, MS 1997
Thesis: A Revised Severity Index For Acute Graft-Versus-Host Disease Following HLA-Identical Sibling Bone Marrow Transplants For Leukemia

Thomas Chelius, MS 1997
Thesis: Analysis Of Variance With Structural Zeroes

Jian Chen, MS 1997
Thesis: A SAS Module For The Inverse Gaussian Frailty Model

Jeff Gudmonson, MS 1997
Thesis: A SAS Macro For The GAMMA Frailty Model

James Gapinski, MS 1996
Thesis: The Evaluation And Application Of Methods For Detecting Unnecessary Hospital Stay In Patients With Congestive Heart Failure

Alicia Howell, MS 1996
Thesis: A SAS Macro For The Additive Hazards Regression Model

Geraldine Brown, MS, 1996
Thesis: Effects of Prognostic Factors on Cataract in Family Data From The Beaver Dam Eye Study

Astrid Müller, MS 1995
Thesis: Evaluation Of Efficacy Of Endoscopy In Reducing Mortality And Morbidity Of Colorectal Cancer Using

Corey Pelz, MS 1995
Thesis: Analysis Of Survival Data: A Comparison Of Three Major Statistical Packages (SAS, SPSS, BMDP)

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Contact Us

If you have any questions or would like to know if the Biostatistics program is the right fit for you, please feel free to contact us to learn more about what it is like being a student in our program.

Kwang Woo Ahn, PhD
Professor of Biostatistics
Director, Graduate Program in Biostatistics
(414) 955-7387
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