Why UAB Biostat or not?

4 minute read


These are the raw content picking out from my previous Email to incoming students ot UAB Biostat PhD program. I will be editing it more carefully soon.

  1. My perspective of PhD Biostatistics program in UAB: It is a gold mine if you plan for yourself. Tons of resources if you are aware of them. The faculty members are extremely friendly and approachable, rather than intimidating or busy all the time. So you can actually learn a lot a lot from them, analytically or soft-skill wise. There is a catch here, that if you want to be a pure theoretical biostatistician/ statistician, it is not the BEST program in the world. But I am sure that you can still learn a lot.

  2. I am waiting for the funding decision from both schools. I wanted to know if the funding application is competitive at UAB and what’s the portion of first year Biostat PhD students receiving funding. Also, what expenses will i have to pay and can I live on the stipend?

I have no idea about the funding application. But I would suggest you to contact Della about it, especially I am assuming the decision deadline is approaching. Please feel free to call Della and ask about it. She’s extremely nice, friendly, and helpful.

In terms of funding opportunities for 1-year PhD, I would say all of them have either some fellowship or research assistantship covering their tuition and stipend. Most likely 2k pre-tax, 1.8k post-tax. I would say the stipend is enough if you live a moderately frugal life style. Rent cost (internet + electricity+utility) less than 1k if you live 1b1b, lower if you find a roommate. Its definitely manageable.

  1. Regarding qualifying examination, Is it hard? How many first year Biostat PhD could pass it at one time.

If you have a stat background, it is not hard at all. Depending on your proficiency on collaboration, the applied part of the qualifying exam could be a little challenging, but should be manageable if you spend effort preparing. The qualifying exam always offers in Jan of each year. In theory, students are asked to take it after the 3rd semester into the program. A great deal of students with previous stat background pass it one time.

  1. What is the average time to complete this program? I wish to graduate in 4 years. Ave. is 5 y. But I would image 4 years is possible if you planned well. You need to find a dissertation advisor ASAP, and work hard on it. But I don’t think a lot of people/faculty would support a 4-year plan, not against it either. Its individual specific thing.

Regardless which program you go, this is a good reading for 4-year phd experience. http://raybai.net/on-finishing-a-phd-in-a-short-period-of-time

  1. Do students enjoy their study and research at UAB? What’s the work atmosphere there?

Yes, most people enjoyed it. It is a very small department, so that you have more time talking to different faculties or your advisor. (which benefit your 4-year plan). Faculties can spend more time with their students comparing to those in a big department, I came from a 100+ grad student department, so I know. It is not very cutting-throat or pushy environment, which could be a good thing or bad thing, depending on your self-motivation and self-discipline. Dissertation could be more application and less theoretical, which possibly makes graduation easier. Coutless amount of collaboration opportunities which will benefit if you want to work for big Pharma or public health. We also have a lot of connections to Pharma, since we do a lot of clinical trials, data monitoring/analysis. Would be really beneficial for your career plan.

BTW, another factor you want to consider is what research topic you want to work on for your dissertation? Is there any faculty member in either program whose research relate to that. If you want to do machine learning stuff, we have few faculty currently working on it. But if clinical trial stuff, we have a lot.

We also don’t have good advanced classes.