Ph.D. in Statistics

Our doctoral program in statistics gives future researchers preparation to teach and lead in academic and industry careers.

Program Description

degree type



approximately 5 years

The relatively new Ph.D. in Statistics strives to be an exemplar of graduate training in statistics. Students are exposed to cutting edge statistical methodology through the modern curriculum and have the opportunity to work with multiple faculty members to take a deeper dive into special topics, gain experience in working in interdisciplinary teams and learn research skills through flexible research electives. Graduates of our program are prepared to be leaders in statistics and machine learning in both academia and industry.

The Ph.D. in Statistics is expected to take approximately five years to complete, and students participate as full-time graduate students.  Some students are able to finish the program in four years, but all admitted students are guaranteed five years of financial support.  

Within our program, students learn from global leaders in statistics and data sciences and have:

Year 1

20 credits of required courses in statistical theory and methods, computation, and applications


Year 2

18 credits of research electives working with two or more faculty members, elective coursework (optional), and a guided reading course


Year 3+

Dissertation research

Coursework Timeline

Year 1: Focus on Core Learning

The first year consists of the core courses:

In addition to the core courses, students of the first year are expected to participate in SDS 190 Readings in Statistics. This class focuses on learning how to read scientific papers and how to grasp the main ideas, as well as on practicing presentations and getting familiar with important statistics literature.

At the end of the first year, students are expected to take a written preliminary exam. The examination has two purposes: to assess the student’s strengths and weaknesses and to determine whether the student should continue in the Ph.D. program. The exam covers the core material covered in the core courses and it consists of two parts: a 3-hour closed book in-class portion and a take-home applied statistics component. The in-class portion is scheduled at the end of the Spring Semester after final exams (usually late May). The take-home problem is distributed at the end of the in-class exam, with a due-time 24 hours later. 


Year 2: Transitioning from Student to Researcher

In the second year of the program, students take the following courses totaling 9 credit hours each semester:

  1. Required: SDS 190 Readings in Statistics (1 credit hour)
  2. Required: SDS 389/489 Research Elective* (3 or 4 credit hours) in which the student engages in independent research under the guidance of a member of the Statistics Graduate Studies Committee
  3. Required: Approved Electives and/or additional Research Electives
    • One or more elective courses selected from approved electives; and/or
    • One or more sections of SDS 289/389/489 Research Elective* (2 to 4 credit hours) in which the student engages in independent research with a member(s) of the Statistics Graduate Studies Committee OR guided readings/self-study in an area of statistics or machine learning. 
  4. Optional: Internship or Teaching Preparation
    • Internship course (0 or 1 credit hour; for international students to obtain Curricular Practical Training; contact Graduate Coordinator for appropriate course options)
    • GRS 097 Teaching Assistant Fundamentals or NSC 088L Introduction to Evidence-Based Teaching (0 credit hours; for TA and AI preparation)

* Research electives allow students to explore different advising possibilities by working for a semester with a particular professor. These projects can also serve as the beginning of a dissertation research path. No more than six credit hours of research electives can be taken with a single faculty member in a semester.

Year 3: Advance to Candidacy

Students are encouraged to attend conferences, give presentations, as well as to develop their dissertation research. At the end of the second year or during their third year, students are expected to present their plan of study for the dissertation in an Oral candidacy exam. During this exam, students should demonstrate their research proficiency to their Ph.D. committee members. Students who successfully complete the candidacy exam can apply for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. once they have completed their required coursework and satisfied departmental requirements. The steps to advance to candidacy are:

  1. Discuss potential candidacy exam topics with advisor
  2. Propose Ph.D. committee: the proposed committee must follow the Graduate School and departmental regulations on committee membership for what will become the Ph.D. Dissertation Committee
  3. Take the candidacy exam in the form of a 45-minute long talk. Many students take the candidacy exam in the fall session of the third year. However, the candidacy can be deferred until the end of the third year with the approval of the Graduate Advisor.


Year 4+: Dissertation Completion and Defense

Students are encouraged to attend conferences, give presentations, as well as to develop their dissertation research. Moreover, they are expected to present part of their work in the framework of the department's Ph.D. poster session.

Students who are admitted to candidacy will be expected to complete and defend their Ph.D. thesis before their Ph.D. committee to be awarded the degree. The final examination, which is oral, is administered only after all coursework, research and dissertation requirements have been fulfilled. It is expected that students will be prepared to defend by the end of their fifth year in the doctoral program.

General Information and Expectations for All Ph.D. students

Attending Conferences 

Students are encouraged to attend conferences to share their work. All research-related travel while in student status require prior authorization.