UPDATE OF FIRST YEAR

by Dr. Stuart Lipsitz and Beow Yeap

The entering class consisted of six students enrolled in the doctoral program, and three in the master's program. Their diverse academic backgrounds included economics, atmospheric science and engineering. Three students had experience in applied biostatistical research. One student is enrolled part-time, while juggling full-time work and family life with a newborn.

Most of the students have fairly strong mathematical backgrounds and felt this was essential in first-year courses. Consequently, the less prepared students found probability theory especially challenging. However, the course instructor, Dr. Zelen, commended the class as one of the best he has ever taught. Three entering students, including two with recent Master's degrees in Statistics, and one transfer from the Health Policy and Management Dept., passed the doctoral qualifying examination this year.

From our informal survey, the students rated highly the first-year sequence of courses, including probability theory and data analysis in the fall semester, and statistical inference and discrete data analysis in the spring semester. One of the biggest complaints was that the instructors need to tell better jokes. Some students did feel that there was sufficient homework to keep them busy and off the streets at night. The students also felt that most of the faculty were helpful when they sought advice.

Most new students felt highly pressured and intimidated by the departmental and schoolwide environment. The high expectations along with the constant flurry of school activity was stressful. Although the department often encourages well-prepared students to sit for the qualifying examination in their first year, the students who did so would not advise it for others. If it were not for their financial constraints, they would have chosen to delay the exam until their second year. However, it is not clear that the second year students felt any less stress about taking the exam.

Despite the pressures, one new student said that she was just thrilled to be part of such a exciting department. Note, the student volunteered this information; the comment was not made under duress.

Last modified $Date: 1994/12/01 20:23:33 $ by Evelyn Ophir, ophir@hsph.harvard.edu