Epidemiology and Translational Science (PhD)

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Degree Offered: PhD
Program Leadership:
Catie Oldenburg, ScD, MPH, Program Director
David Glidden, PhD, Associate Director
Admissions Inquiries:
Eva Wong-Moy, Program Manager

Program Description

The Epidemiology and Translational Science PhD program is a four to five year course of study for individuals wishing to pursue independent research careers. Incoming students have typically completed training at the master’s level in epidemiology, public health, or related quantitative research fields prior to entering the program. Students are trained in the most advanced methods for studying disease etiology and prevention; for evaluating diagnostic tests and treatment efficacy in clinical settings; and for implementing evidence-based approaches in clinical practice and population health.

The Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at UCSF is the largest of its kind in the ten-campus UC system in terms of full-time primary faculty and number of affiliated faculty. Epidemiology serves as a key discipline — an “epicenter” in team science and in problem-based learning, bridging basic and population sciences. It serves translational science with a critical perspective on population health and provides instruction on research methods that move basic scientific discoveries to practical clinical applications.


The program has about 70 primary faculty members in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and an additional 60 affiliated faculty from other UCSF departments as well as from other institutions and organizations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and the around the country. Affiliated faculty are associated with departments including general and internal medicine, cardiovascular medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, obstetrics and gynecology, neurology, nursing, clinical pharmacy, biopharmaceutical sciences, radiology, and dentistry.

Areas of Concentration

  • Aging (including cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disease, and dementia/brain aging)
  • Bioinformatics
  • Biostatistics
  • Cancer epidemiology
  • Clinical epidemiology and methods
  • Environmental and occupational epidemiology
  • Epidemiology of cardiovascular and neurological disorders
  • Genetic epidemiology
  • Global health
  • Implementation Science
  • Infectious disease epidemiology
  • Lifecourse
  • Machine learning
  • Precision public health and computational epidemiology
  • Reproductive, perinatal and neonatal epidemiology
  • Social epidemiology

The Epidemiology and Translational Science Program is based at UCSF's Mission Bay campus. The doctoral program is housed in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (DEB) in the School of Medicine and is a joint effort with the University’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI).

The Epidemiology and Translational Science program is offered by the UCSF Graduate Division, administered by the UCSF School of Medicine, and delivered by faculty members in the UCSF School of Medicine.

Admission Requirements

  • A prior master’s degree in a field relevant to health research, such as epidemiology, public health, clinical research or a related technical field such as statistics or computer science with at least a 3.0 GPA; the following exemptions may apply:
    • Applicants with exceptional research backgrounds may be accepted without a master’s degree. These students may be required, however, to complete additional coursework.
    • Applicants with terminal clinical degrees (MD, PharmD, RN, NP) but no master’s will be evaluated based on their prior research experience and potential to be a leader in population health research, with the admissions committee recommending one of the following outcomes:
      • Denial of admission
      • Deferral of decision regarding admission to the PhD program with recommendation that the applicant pursue a master’s in the UCSF Training in Clinical Research (TICR) program, with reevaluation of the applicant at the conclusion of year 1 in the TICR program
      • Direct admission to the PhD program, based on the assessment that the applicant’s prior work manifests experience and training on par with a research master’s degree
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE): Submission of GRE scores was not required for the Fall 2023 application cycle. Check the admissions webpage for updates regarding future admissions cycles.

Learning Outcomes

We aim to train top-tier researchers and population health leaders, prepared to pursue academic careers at highly ranked, research-intensive universities or careers within health-focused non-profit, industry, or government sectors. Our incoming students include a mix of clinicians who aim to develop expertise as clinician-scientists and non-clinicians, typically with a background in public health or epidemiology. We envision our role as both providing both theoretical frameworks to identify important health research questions and technical research skills to address these questions. The PhD program aims to prepare students to lead research on both classical epidemiologic topics, i.e., the determinants of incidence and prognosis of disease, and applied problems addressing the translation from discovery science to application, implementation, and dissemination. We view the use of epidemiologic methods and perspectives, such as rigorous quantitative analyses and multilevel determinants of health and behavior, as critical for translational science intended to move basic scientific discoveries to practical clinical applications and dissemination of new basic and clinical knowledge to population health settings.

The program is grounded in the technical skills of epidemiology, emphasizing quantitative research methods such as study design, data science, statistical analyses, and interpretation. All students also adopt a substantive emphasis related to the topic of their dissertations and are expected to pursue deeper content area training in this domain to develop scientifically relevant research questions. These areas are generally aligned with recognized subdomains of epidemiology and intended to match faculty expertise so students can receive the highest degree of topic-related mentoring.

The following competencies are covered in the core section of the qualifying examination:

  1. Modern causal inference frameworks
  2. Study design
  3. Sampling and data sources
  4. Measurement development and validation
  5. Sources of bias and contemporary tools to remediate bias e.g., confounding, selection bias, and information bias
  6. Statistical analyses and interpretation
  7. Surveillance, outcomes, and measuring public health impact

Additional Information

Program Core Faculty

Career Outcomes