Applying to Infectious Disease Epidemiology

Infectious Disease Faculty in the Department of Epidemiology often receive inquiries about how to make an application more attractive, or what we are looking for in our students. For reasons of fairness, we prefer to answer this question on a public website rather than in individual conversations with prospective applicants.

Elements of Successful Applications

Emphasis varies by principal investigator. Generally, we seek students who are motivated by a desire to solve important scientific questions and/or to create knowledge that is valuable for public health. We seek students who will take initiative to learn the techniques that are necessary to answer these important questions, even if these include unfamiliar or technically demanding approaches. Successful students are quantitatively gifted and can communicate precisely and clearly both verbally and in writing. Nearly all epidemiology involves collaboration – often across institutions and even cultures. Our students have the social and professional skills to manage this collaborative work effectively. Other elements that strengthen an application include evidence of research experience and productivity and of success in challenging coursework. We also look for a clear rationale for choosing the department, area of interest, and potential advisors.

Choosing the Right Graduate Program for you

In choosing a laboratory, department, and institution for a research degree such as the SM or SD, we recommend that prospective students read papers written by current and recent trainees. After an initial screen for which papers are most interesting, the prospective student would be wise to consider which ones s/he wishes s/he had written. Past papers from the trainees of a particular group or institution are perhaps the best indications of the sorts of opportunities that will be available in that group in the near future.

Applications that demonstrate that the candidate has thought about these issues carefully and believes a particular research group within Infectious Disease Epidemiology would be a good fit will receive positive consideration.

How we Review Applications

Applications are read by several faculty members. Applications expressing specific research interests of the candidate will be directed to faculty members judged most likely to share those interests. For an applicant to be considered for admission to a degree program, at least one faculty member must agree to be the supervisor of the candidate. This is based upon shared interests and a positive appraisal of the application. Applications that meet these criteria are considered further. Final decisions are dependent on competition with other applications for the same advisor, area of interest, and department-wide degree program. Typically, Infectious Disease Epidemiology receives many more high-quality applications than space permits. Many successful students have begun in the two-year Master of Science program and have then continued on to work with the same advisor or another advisor in the same area as a doctoral student.

A graduate program is a big commitment that can offer tremendous rewards, but also carries significant opportunity costs for the student. For these reasons, it should be chosen with care and deliberation.  Further advice from Dr. Lipsitch for choosing a graduate or postdoctoral research group can be found HERE.

The Infectious Disease Epidemiology area of interest is one of several areas of interest within the Department of Epidemiology. It includes seven faculty members and their research groups. Students who wish to study Infectious Disease Epidemiology within the Department of Epidemiology should apply to this Area of Interest.

See FAQ about Infectious Disease Epidemiology at HSPH