Areas of Specialization

Students in an SM/PhD program in Epidemiology can select any of the twelve Areas of Specialization. Students are then required to complete elective courses and conduct thesis or dissertation research in this area. Each of the 12 areas of specialization have corresponding competencies and required coursework which can be found at the link below.

AOS Competencies and required courses

Cancer Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention

Cancer Epidemiology and Cancer Prevention Faculty
  • Introduces students to epidemiologic research methods, as well as the basic concepts and issues relating specifically to cancer epidemiology
  • Includes a breadth of courses on cancer research methodology, substantive courses on cancer epidemiology and prevention, as well as courses on genetic epidemiology and biomarkers.
  • The courses are aimed at enhancing the skills and training of cancer epidemiologists through the integration of biologic and environmental factors into a deeper understanding of disease etiology and for translation into cancer control.
  • Research covers a broad array of malignancies including breast, colorectal, lung, nasopharyngeal, hematologic, ovarian, endometrial, and prostate cancers. A major focus of the work is integrative and multidisciplinary, conducted with colleagues in biostatistics, molecular pathology, cancer biology, genetics, and immunology.

Cardiovascular Epidemiology

Cardiovascular Epidemiology Faculty 
  • To determine the etiologies of and effective preventive measures for cardiovascular disease.
  • To take advantage of complementary strengths of observational, metabolic, and clinical trial paradigms, and foster translational collaborations with animal and cellular investigations.
  • To expand understanding of cardiovascular disease determinants and prevention in both U.S. and international settings

Clinical Epidemiology

Clinical Epidemiology Faculty
  • How do we learn what we know in clinical medicine? How do we quantify disease burden, identify risk factors for a health condition, and determine whether an intervention is effective for the treatment or prevention of disease? Clinical epidemiologists use epidemiologic methods for the generation, analysis, and interpretation of data for clinical research.
  • The Department of Epidemiology with its degree programs and its close alliance to the Summer Program in Clinical Effectiveness is the training hub for Clinical Epidemiology research at Harvard and its affiliated teaching hospitals. Faculty members at the Department of Epidemiology, many of them based in Harvard-affiliated hospitals, make the department a hot spot for Clinical Epidemiology research.

Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology

Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology Faculty
  • Closely associated with the concentrations in exposure, epidemiology, and risk and in occupational health in the Department of Environmental Health
  • Students take courses in epidemiology, environmental health, occupational health, biostatistics, toxicology, genetics, and environmental exposure assessment
  • Doctoral research is focused on substantive or methodologic areas related to environmental or occupational health

Epidemiologic Methods

Epidemiologic Methods Faculty 
  • Provides training in the development and application of new methods in epidemiologic research
  • Provides training in biostatistical areas most relevant to epidemiologic research
  • Students learn to use and justify classical epidemiologic methods in study design, data analysis, and interpretation of results
  • Advanced courses and tutorials introduce recent innovations in epidemiologic methodology

Epidemiology of Aging

Epidemiology of Aging Faculty
  • Focus on diseases and conditions, as well as research methods, specific to older populations
  • Local expertise includes researchers involved in studying the epidemiology of cognitive decline, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, depression, age-related macular degeneration, musculoskeletal disorders, frailty, osteoporosis, urinary incontinence, successful aging, and others.
  • Faculty and mentors are available at Harvard Chan, as well as collaborating institutions, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Hebrew Senior Life.

Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics

Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics Faculty 
  • Genetic epidemiology studies how genetic differences contribute to disease risk and outcome, in order to better understand disease biology and inform prevention and treatment strategies
  • Statistical genetics combines the principles of molecular genetics with modern statistical methods, including tools to infer causality from observational data or analyze billions of data points
  • Core training: basic molecular biology; statistical genetics; design and analysis of studies of variation in germline DNA and other biomarkers; methods for the study of gene-environment interplay

Infectious Disease Epidemiology

Infectious Disease Epidemiology Faculty

  • Research focused on biological and dynamic features of infectious diseases
  • Emphasis on epidemiologic approaches to social, behavioral, and biological determinants of infectious disease emergence, transmission, pathogenesis, and immunity
  • Students in this area ordinarily join the interdisciplinary concentration in the epidemiology of infectious disease

Neuro-Psychiatric Epidemiology

Neuro-Psychiatric Epidemiology Faculty 

This increasingly integrated program is comprised of two areas of concentration. Students typically elect one of the two areas:


  • Provides training in research methodology and the epidemiology of neurological diseases
  • Includes research on the roles of diet, infections, and environmental exposures in the etiology of neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis integrating biomarkers and genetic factors

Psychiatric Epidemiology

  • Introduces students to concepts and methods for studying genetic and psychosocial factors related to the prevalence, incidence, and outcome of different types of psychiatric illnesses
  • Emphasis on issues of reliability and validity in studying such disorders among children, adolescents, and adults

Nutritional Epidemiology

Nutritional Epidemiology Faculty

  • Through courses in the Departments of Epidemiology and Nutrition, students in this area learn methods of nutritional assessment and their related strengths and weaknesses
  • Includes advanced training in the nutritional determinants of disease and in methods for analysis specific to research in nutritional epidemiology
  • Students can conduct research within several large prospective ongoing studies at HSPH and Harvard Medical School


Pharmacoepidemiology Faculty
  • Pharmacoepidemiology studies the determinants of both intended and unintended effects of drugs, vaccines, biologics, medical procedures, and medical devices.
  • Important secondary themes include patterns of utilization and adherence, safety signal detection, comparative effectiveness, and cost-benefit and benefit-risk analyses.
  • Training focuses on the application of pharmacoepidemiologic design and analysis methods and causal thinking to address important clinical questions in real-world data.
  • The Department serves as the major training hub for the Program in Pharmacoepidemiology with faculty and research opportunities based in and around the Harvard system.

Reproductive and Perinatal  Epidemiology

Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiology Faculty 

  • This area focuses on the determinants of health and disease in reproduction, childhood, and adolescent development
  • Many faculty have expertise in global issues of maternal health and child development
  • Strong emphasis on methodological issues pertaining to reproductive and perinatal outcomes, epigenetics, and methods for collecting information from and about children and across the lifespan