Biostatistics M.S. program handbook

The following represents the program handbook for the current academic year only. For an archived version of a previous year's handbook, please contact Student Services Coordinator Melanie Flores at melanief@unr.edu.

 

Program overview

On behalf of faculty and staff at the School of Public Health (SPH), we welcome you to the Master of Science (MS) Biostatistics Program! This handbook can be used throughout your program to provide guidance for requirements, expectations, and opportunities within the SPH and the Graduate School.

Vision of the School of Public Health

Equitable, healthy, and resilient communities. We achieve this vision through these values:

    1. Promoting health equity
    2. Embracing diversity
    3. Advancing knowledge
    4. Succeeding through collaboration
    5. Developing workforce excellence

Mission of the School of Public Health

To develop, disseminate, and apply knowledge to protect and promote the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities. The school’s goals that describe strategies to accomplish the defined mission:

  1. Develop and advance knowledge for public health through research and practice
  2. Cultivate and prepare a skilled and diverse workforce that can sustain equitable and healthy communities
  3. Prepare students to become public health practitioners, researchers, educators and leaders
  4. Lead innovative approaches to improve public health and reduce health disparities
  5. Engage with diverse communities through professional, educational, and scholarly service

M.S. Biostatistics program of study

The SPH offers a Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredited Master of Science (MS) degree in Biostatistics. The M.S. biostatistics program guides students through the branch of statistics responsible for proper interpretation of health sciences data. Biostatisticians use mathematical theory to work with study data to make inferences about associations and causations seen in the study population. Students in this concentration gain expertise in public health data analysis and result interpretation.

The goal of the M.S. Biostatistics program is to educate the best-prepared leaders who have rigorous biostatistics training in the emerging research areas (i.e. bioinformatics, genetics, big data in medicine). In addition, this program will train students to solve the vital issues of our time - challenges of big data analysis in public health and biomedicine. 

Contact information

For any program or application related questions or inquiries, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Kristen Clements-Nolle, at clements@unr.edu or the Student Services Coordinator, Melanie Flores at melanief@unr.edu  or Professor, Dr. Wei Yang, at weiyang@unr.edu.   

M.S. Biostatistics competencies

  1. Assess the strengths and shortcomings of various methods in data science, machine learning, and computational statistics
  2. Select and utilize appropriate data science and machine learning methods to solve problems in a given public health context
  3. Manage and analyze large and complex health data, with a particular emphasis on “Big data”
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the basic concepts underlying the Bayesian approach to statistical thinking.
  5. Use the Bayesian computing techniques for the practical application of Bayesian models to data analysis
  6. Critically evaluate scientific journal articles using Bayesian data analysis
  7. Apply probability and statistical methods to important public health and biomedical problems.
  8. Use the properties of random sample and principal of data reduction.
  9. Perform statistical inference of point estimation, interval estimation and hypothesis testing.
  10. Apply basic probability and standard statistical methods to design experimental and observational studies in public health and biomedical research.
  11. Use the Bayesian computing techniques for the practical application of Bayesian models to data analysis
  12. Critically evaluate scientific journal articles using Bayesian data analysis

New student information

New student orientations are held after admission into the MS program to provide students with important information and to facilitate the start of their program. The orientations also allow students to be introduced to the UNR campus, faculty members, and to fellow students in the program. Additionally, the orientations will allow the students to meet their advisor and ask any prepared questions.

University of Nevada, Reno student ID and communication

  • After admission to the University, students need to obtain and set up an account with MyNevada.
    • Under “For Current Students,” “Create My Profile”, students can set up their university account, including providing an email address that will be used for all university and program communication. Use of the Nevada.edu email address is required.
  • Set up NetID and password at Net ID activation
    • This site assists students in activating their NetID and user password, which will be used to access MyNevada, WebCampus, and other university resources.
  • Log into WebCampus with your University NetID to view course content and announcements.
  • Purchase a WolfCard student ID
    • Visit the WolfCard office on the first floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union and bring a valid U.S. State or Federally issued photo ID or a passport to purchase a Wolfcard.

Class registration

After admission into the MS program, an email will be sent to each student from the Office of Admissions and Records with a fall semester enrollment date. All students need to register for fall courses after discussion with and approval from their faculty advisor or the Graduate Program Director. Students can register for classes at MyNevada.

Tuition and fee information

Academic calendar and deadlines

 

Advisement and degree requirements

Required forms

All students will have an academic advisor beginning their first semester in the program. Students will meet regularly with their academic advisor to ensure that they are completing the appropriate degree requirements. Each student must complete a Declaration of Advisor/Major Advisor/Committee Chair form and submit it to the Graduate School no later than the end of the second semester of coursework. This form is available online at Declaration of Advisor. Students will also meet with their academic advisor to discuss and complete a planned Program of Study (POS), a written plan of the courses required to complete their MS degree. This plan must be approved by the student’s advisor, and the Director of Graduate Studies, and should be completed no later than the end of the third semester. Finally, students will work with their academic adviser to complete the Notice of Completion form in order to graduate.  The Notice of Completion form should be submitted by the deadline listed in the academic calendar of their final semester: Notice of Completion.

An up-to-date list of forms and requirements can be found here: Graduate School forms

Although uncommon, circumstances may arise that require the change of advisor. The SPH will consider the request for an advisor change for a legitimate, professional reason. All conversations and documents relevant to an advisor change are confidential, will be added to the student’s file, and will not be disclosed to unrelated parties. Either the student or the faculty advisor may initiate a change. In the event that a student wishes to initiate the change, please communicate directly with the Director of Graduate Studies about your intention to change advisors and they will go over the required procedure and documentation.

Required prerequisite coursework

Completion of an undergraduate or graduate course in Calculus I & II is required prior to admission into the M.S. Biostatistics program.

In addition, students who did not graduate from an undergraduate program accredited by the Council on Education in Public Health must complete the Basics of Public Health course that covers the 12 Foundational Public Health Knowledge learning objectives. The Basics of Public Health course is completed for no academic credit and the student pays no fees or tuition for completing the course. This course should be completed before the start of the program.

Degree requirements

All MS Biostatistics students must complete a minimum of 36 graduate level credits and can choose a thesis (plan A) or professional paper option (plan B).

Plan A - Thesis

The following represents a suggested course progression for Plan A - Thesis. Students should consider this an example only, consult their advisor and check the current course catalog. 

View the course catalog for Plan A - Thesis

Year 1: Fall semester - 9 credits

  • CHS 753: Health Informatics (3)
  • CHS 780: Biostatistics in PH (3)
  • CHS 789: Biostatistics Theory (3)

Year 1: Spring semester - 9 credits

  • CHS 703R: Health Data Analysis (3)
  • CHS 788: Data Science and Statistical Computation in Public Health (3)
  • Elective (3)

Year 2: Fall semester - 9 credits

  • CHS 712: Epidemiology in Public Health (3)
  • CHS 765: Survival Analysis for Public Health (3)
  • CHS 782: Analysis of Categorical Data (3)

Year 2: Spring semester - 9 credits

  • CHS 717: Applied Bayesian Statistics (3)
  • CHS 797: Thesis (6)

Plan B - Non-thesis

View the course catalog for Plan B - Non-Thesis

The following represents a suggested course progression for Plan B - Non-thesis. Students should consider this an example only, consult their advisor and check the current course catalog. 

Year 1: Fall Semester - 9 credits

  • CHS 753: Health Informatics (3)
  • CHS 780: Biostatistics in PH (3)
  • CHS 789: Biostatistics Theory (3)

Year 1: Spring semester - 9 credits

  • CHS 703R: Health Data Analysis (3)
  • CHS 788: Data Science and Statistical Computation in Public Health (3)
  • Elective (3)

Year 2: Fall semester - 9 credits

  • CHS 712: Epidemiology in Public Health (3)
  • CHS 765: Survival Analysis for Public Health (3)
  • CHS 782: Analysis of Categorical Data (3)

Year 2: Spring semester - 9 credits

  • CHS 717: Applied Bayesian Statistics (3)
  • CHS 794: Professional Paper (3)
  • Elective (3)

Master of Science, Biostatistics thesis

The requirements of the these include the following:

  1. Formulate a research question or identify an area of inquiry in biostatistics that is significant and timely
  2. Analyze and synthesize a body of literature to address a question or area of inquiry
  3. Unravel the research question through developing, modifying or approving biostatistical methodologies
  4. Prepare a written document that effectively articulates the results and implications of scholarly literature
  5. Effectively present and defend the findings of the thesis

Before beginning the thesis, students must have their thesis proposal form and their program of study, Program of Study (POS), approved by their academic advisor and committee members. Program of Study forms are due the fall semester preceding enrollment in the thesis course.

Once all requirements have been met (an approved M.S. Biostatistics thesis and successful presentation), students need to submit a Notice of Completion form in order to graduate. Notice of Completion.

Part-time students should consult their Faculty Advisor and the Internship Coordinator to determine thesis timing.

Master of Science, Biostatistics professional paper

The requirements of the professional paper include the folowing:

  1. Formulate a research question or identify an area of inquiry in biostatistics that is significant and timely
  2. Analyze and synthesize a body of literature to address a question or area of inquiry
  3. Unravel the research question through applying and implementing biostatistical methodologies
  4. Pprepare a written document that effectively articulates the results and implications of scholarly literature
  5. Effectively present and defend the findings of the professional paper

Before beginning the professional paper, students must have their professional paper proposal form and their program of study, Program of Study (POS), approved by their academic advisor and committee members. Program of Study forms are due the fall semester preceding enrollment in the professional paper course.

Once all requirements have been met (an approved M.S. Biostatistics professional paper and successful presentation), students need to submit a Notice of Completion form in order to graduate.

You can find these forms on the Graduate School Forms page.

Graduation process

Students have a total of 6 years to complete all degree requirements. All candidates for graduation should communicate with their advisor to confirm expectations for the final semester.

The student should purchase a graduation application before the posted deadline. The Graduate School will review each application and email the students within 3-8 weeks with the result of their graduation review. Important dates, deadlines, and milestones are located on Graduate School’s website: Graduation and deadlines.

The MS Hooding Ceremony is the highlight of the Graduation Process – all family and friends are invited. The timing of this allows for MS students to attend the Graduate Student Commencement as well.

 

Academic and professional standards and policies

Academic standards

The University Academic Standards Policy defines academic dishonesty, and mandates specific sanctions for violations. See the University Academic Standards policy: UAM 6,502. Sanctions for violations of University academic standards for academic dishonesty may include academic and/or disciplinary sanctions. Academic sanctions for both undergraduate and graduate students may include: filing a final grade of "F", reducing the student's final course grade one or two full grade points; giving a reduced grade or zero on the coursework; or requiring the student to retake or resubmit the coursework. Before beginning the program, all students must review the University Academic Standards Policy.

Good standing

All graduate students must maintain a cumulative graduate GPA of 3.0. If their GPA drops below 3.0, they are either placed on probation or dismissed from the program. Undergraduate courses will not count towards graduate GPA.

To be counted toward the MS degree, each graduate course must be completed with a grade of “C” or better. To remain in good standing in the program, students are required to maintain a 3.0 “B” grade point average in both the core and the specialization, individually.

Probation and dismissal

View the Graduate student dismissal policy

Master's degree timeline

All course work must be completed within six (6) years preceding the awarding of the degree.

Transfer credits

Transfer credits are credits transferred from another institution. Credits completed at UNR in another program do not need to be transferred. Transfer credit is requested by using the Graduate Credit Transfer Evaluation Request form available on the Graduate School forms page and must be signed by the student, advisor, and Director of Graduate Studies. Up to nine (9) transfer graduate credits are permitted, however, with the approval of the faculty advisor and the graduate director, and under special circumstances, a student can petition the Graduate School to accept additional transfer credits.

Graduate courses

Only graduate courses (numbered 600 or higher at the University) are applicable toward the MS degree and can include web-based courses, however graduate credit may not be obtained through Professional Development, Extension or Correspondence courses.

Student unit loads

A full-time graduate student may not register for more than sixteen (16) graduate units in any semester, or more than six (6) graduate units in any six-week summer session. Audited or undergraduate courses will not be counted toward the 6-credit minimum requirement. Graduate assistants may not register for more than twelve (12) graduate units per semester.

Students who register for nine (9) graduate units or more in a semester are considered full-time. For graduate assistants on a 20-hour (half-time) contract, six (6) graduate units or more constitute full-time. To be considered full-time for financial aid purposes, all graduate students, including those on assistantships, must be enrolled in nine (9) graduate units; to be considered part-time for financial aid reporting purposes, graduate students must be enrolled in five (5) graduate units. For those graduate students who are required to take Intensive English Language Center Bridge Courses, these courses can be considered part of full registration upon approval by the Dean of the Graduate School.

Continuous enrollment

To maintain in “good standing” all graduate students are required to enroll in a minimum of three (3) graduate credits each fall and spring semester until they graduate. International students may be required to enroll in nine (9) graduate credits each fall and spring semester depending on the requirements of their visa. All students holding assistantships (whether teaching or research assistantships) are required to enroll in a minimum of six (6) graduate credits each fall and spring semester they hold the assistantship.

Leave of absence

Students in good standing may request a leave of absence by completing a leave of absence form available on the Graduate School forms page during which time they are not required to maintain continuous registration. Usually, a leave of absence is approved for one or two semesters. The leave of absence request may be extended by the student filing an additional leave of absence form. Students applying for a leave of absence should not have any “incomplete” grades which could be changed to “F” and have a detrimental impact on their cumulative GPA. Requests for leave of absences must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester the leave is to begin.

Reinstatement

When a student has been absent for one semester or more without an approved leave of absence, he or she may request reinstatement via the Reinstatement Form available at the Graduate School forms page. This form allows the program the option to recommend the student be re-admitted to their graduate program based on their previous admission OR require the student to re-apply for admission which would require students to submit a new application for admission and pay the application fee. The Notice of Reinstatement to Gradate Standing must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester the reinstatement is to begin. 

Managing student complaints in the School of Public Health

  1. The University of Nevada, Reno has clear policies either through the Administrative Manual (UAM) or other sources for policies and procedures for handling grade complaints (final grades) and those related to Title IX (discrimination based on sex).  The following policies and procedures are designed to address complaints from students and from faculty not covered by these policies. Such complaints may involve grades, course management, faculty and/or student interactions, curriculum issues, and professionalism issues.
  1. Complaints made by a student should follow these steps whenever possible:
    1. Always start with the instructor to see if the issue can be resolved at the class level. This is an important skill for students to learn as they progress through their studies and is highly encouraged as a first step. If the complaint is related to your advisor, it is best to start at this level.
    2. If the student feels uncomfortable bringing the issue to the instructor/advisor or if the issue remains unresolved, the complaint may be submitted to the SPH Associate Dean who will work with the Dean, appropriate Division Leads and/or Program Director to resolve the issue. A student’s name will not be disclosed during this process.
    3. If the complaint is not resolved at level b, it will then go to the SPH Dean for resolution/action.
      1. Important Notes: There is no wrong door for submitting complaints. Students can skip any of the steps described above.  While it is best to work directly with the instructor first, certain complaints that deal with professionalism or other sensitive concerns may be best handled by the Associate Dean or Dean as a first step.
      2. Students may file a complaint using the SPH complaint form on the School of Public Health website. These complaints will be forwarded directly to the SPH Associate Dean, unless the student requests that the complaint be submitted directly to the SPH Dean. Complaints can be submitted with your contact information or anonymously. While anonymous complaints may be more comfortable, it can make resolution more difficult if additional information is needed.
      3. Students who choose to share their contact information will receive an individual response within one week for individual complaints. Students who submit a complaint anonymously will only receive acknowledgement that the complaint was received.
      4. The Concierge service through the Provost’s office is also available for all students if that is more comfortable. Complaints submitted through the Concierge service will typically be forwarded to the SPH Associate Dean and Dean.
 

Graduate assistantships

Graduate assistantships (GAs) may be available for full-time and part-time students who qualify. Graduate Special students and students on probation are ineligible for an assistantship. To apply for a GA position, complete the Graduate Assistant application that was sent to you with your notice of acceptance into the program.

GAs may be for 10 or 20 hours of work per week. Typically, graduate assistantship work is teaching, or research related. In addition, state-funded GAs are expected to serve in leadership positions, be on search committees, assist in recruitment of new MS students, assist with new MS student orientation, and serve as mentors to newer students. All GAs must maintain satisfactory work performance during the duration of the assistantship.

All graduate students holding a GA position are considered Nevada residents for tuition purposes. GA positions include a monthly stipend, health insurance, and a partial tuition waiver. To be eligible for a GA student must be admitted to a degree-granting program and be in good academic standing. The student must have an overall GPA of at least 3.0 and must be continuously enrolled in at least 6 graduate level credits (600-700) during Fall and Spring for the duration of the assistantship. Federal financial aid is based on FULL TIME enrollment (9 credits) of graduate-level courses (600-700 level). An enrollment of less than 9 credits of graduate-level courses (600-700 level) will proportionately reduce federal financial aid.

State-funded assistantships (GTA/GRA) may be held for a maximum of three (3) years for master’s degree students.

 

Health insurance

All domestic degree seeking graduate students, who are enrolled in six or more credits (regardless of the course level) in a semester, will be automatically enrolled and billed for the University sponsored health insurance for each term they are eligible (fall & spring/summer). If a student has other comparable coverage and would like to waive out of the student health insurance, it is the student’s responsibility to complete the University online waiver form prior to the deadline. If approved, a health insurance waiver is good for the current academic year only. A new waiver must be submitted each academic year. All international graduate students are required to carry student health insurance, and the cost will be automatically added to your student account. Any international graduate students with insurance questions must contact the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) directly.

Additional information about health insurance for graduate students.

 

Graduate Student Association

The Graduate Student Association (GSA) represents all graduate students and promotes the welfare and interests of the graduate students at the University of Nevada, Reno. The GSA works closely with appropriate university administrative offices, including the Graduate School and Student Services and reports to the President of the University. The GSA government functions through the Council of Representatives, Executive Council, and established committees.