Ph.D. Degree Requirements

The following mandatory courses, in addition to an intermediate/advanced-level biostatistics course to be determined in consultation with the student's advisory committee and the Graduate Program Manager, count toward the required ten didactic credits.

  • Guided research on a topic suitable for a doctoral dissertation. Students are registered for research for fall, spring, and summer semesters.

  • Students, along with faculty members, participate in a weekly Journal Club in which they discuss a paper from the current literature. The emphasis is on critical analysis, identifying the reasons that the research is significant, and understanding how the findings extend current knowledge. Students are registered for BMS 607 in the fall and spring semesters.

  • Most elective courses are taken on Tufts’ Medford and Boston campuses, and at Boston University, Boston College, or Brandeis University through a consortium arrangement.

In addition to the above courses and research/journal club, one advanced level biostatistics course is required for a total of two Biostatistics courses.

Students enrolled in the PhD program are eligible to take selected courses taught in the veterinary professional curriculum to fulfill prerequisites of the graduate program and/or to supplement their basic scientific knowledge if deemed necessary by the student’s TAC and approved by the Course Director.

Students must complete at least thirty-two (32) total credits for the doctoral degree which is a combination of research and didactic credits. The actual number of didactic credits required depends on the academic background of the student. Students are also required to attend a weekly journal club and seminars given by faculty members or invited speakers, and to present seminars based on their research activities.

In acknowledging the importance of obtaining teaching experience as part of one's graduate education, an optional teaching experience is available to students. A teaching certificate is offered through the Center for Education and Learning Technology (CELT) as well as practical experiences.

Transfer of Credits

Graduate coursework completed elsewhere for a previous degree may not be applied toward PhD credit for the program. However, if the student has taken prior coursework in a relevant field, the student can speak with their TAC to request a waiver of similar courses in the PhD program. If the TAC agrees, the student is not required to take these courses but will be required to take other courses to fulfill the didactic credit requirements.

Time Limit and Extension of Degree Time

The minimum time requirement for the PhD program is three academic years of full-time study and a dissertation. Most students take between four and five years to complete their degree requirements, but all must complete their work within seven consecutive years.

Thesis Advisory Committee

During the first year of study, the student and mentor must propose a Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) for that student. Each committee is comprised of the student's mentor and three additional members, which should include at least one member from outside Cummings School. At least two of the proposed members must be program faculty members. Students with a professional degree are encouraged to constitute and meet with their TAC within six (6) months after matriculation, and by the end of the first year for all other PhD students.

Qualifying Exam

The Qualifying Examination is an opportunity for students to demonstrate creativity and innovation through the independent conception and preparation of a grant proposal. This exercise also provides students with experience in grant proposal preparation and writing, skills that are important to success in a scientific research career. The Exam must take place by the end of the 5th week of the first semester of the 2nd year for students holding a professional degree, and 3rd year for students with MS/BS degrees.

The Preliminary Examination consists of both a written and an oral presentation. Only students who are in good academic standing are eligible to take the Qualifying Examination.

Specific Aims

Within one month of completion of the Qualifying Examination, students must submit a one page “Specific Aims” document to their TAC for approval. This document must be developed in consultation with the mentor. The Specific Aims should outline the significance of their proposed thesis research and detail at least three aims that are expected to form chapters in the eventual PhD thesis.


A major portion of work toward the doctoral degree consists of the preparation of a doctoral thesis or dissertation. The topic of the dissertation is chosen with the approval of the mentor and TAC, and the dissertation is written under their supervision. The dissertation must demonstrate high achievement in a specific area of knowledge, the original development of an appropriate subject, and independent research. The TAC must accept the dissertation. The examination is oral and written.