M.S. in Biostatistics, Genomic Biostatistics Concentration

Program Overview

In the past decade, bioinformatics has emerged as a primary source of challenges for methodological researchers in biostatistics. The enormity of the size of the data that results from research in this field — specifically in DNA sequencing, microarrays and proteomic studies — has required statisticians to rethink their analytical strategies. The VCU Department of Biostatistics has established an area of concentration in the analysis of genomic data within the existing M.S. program in biostatistics. This concentration, genomic biostatistics, provides in-depth training in statistical theory and methods. In addition, the traditional M.S. course work is complemented by the requirement of course work pertaining to the recent developments in microarray data analysis, data mining/machine learning and sequence analysis, and requires out-of-track electives in biochemistry, molecular biology or genetics. The program is designed to be completed in 18 months.

Admissions Requirements

Applicants must submit an application form, undergraduate and graduate (if applicable) transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and test scores from the verbal, quantitative and analytical writing sections of the Graduate Record Exam. Priority is given to applications received by January 15 prior to the fall semester of enrollment. All applicants are expected to hold at least a B.S. or B.A. degree.

The following four mathematics/statistics courses or their equivalents are required for admission:

  • MATH 200 and 201 Calculus with Analytic Geometry
  • MATH 309 Introduction to Probability Theory
  • MATH 310 Linear Algebra
  • STAT 210 Basic Practice of Statistics or STAT 212 Concepts of Statistics

The first-year graduate work builds upon the material covered in these math courses. Students are advised to retake these specific courses if several years have elapsed since these courses were completed. Although not required, prior course work in additional mathematics (particularly multivariate calculus), statistics or computer science is helpful.

The departmental admissions committee evaluates all applicants for graduate work in biostatistics and arranges personal interviews when possible. The committee then recommends the most qualified candidates for admission.

For more information regarding the application process, please visit the VCU application page or the Graduate Bulletin.

Course Work

M.S. students must complete at least 35 semester credit hours of courses worth three or more credits.  In addition to the first-year sequence, each student is required to take BIOS 567 and BIOL 540 (or equivalent) from the advanced-years sequence, and at least two other elective 500- or 600-level courses.  M.S. students must take four semesters of BIOS 516 Biostatistical Consulting and three semesters of BIOS 690 Biostatistical Research Seminar.

First Fall Semester

BIOS 512 Basic Mathematical Statistics 3
BIOS 513 Mathematical Statistics I 3
BIOS 524 Biostatistical Computing 3
BIOS 553 Biostatistical Methods I 4
BIOS 572 Analysis of Biomedical Data I 3
BIOS 516 Biostatistical Consulting 1
BIOS 690 Seminar 1

Spring Semester

BIOS 554 Biostatistical Methods I 4
BIOS 571 Clinical Trials 3
BIOS 573 Analysis of Biomedical Data II 3
Elective 500- or 600-Level BIOS Course 3
BIOS 516 Biostatistical Consulting 1
BIOS 690 Seminar 1

Second Fall Semester

BIOS 567 Statistical Methods for High-Throughput Genomic Data 3
2 Elective 500- or 600-Level BIOS Courses 6
BIOS 516 Biostatistical Consulting 1
BIOS 690 Seminar 1

For a list of potential elective courses offered by the Department of Biostatistics, please see the biostatistics courses in the online courses database.


Applied Qualifying Examination

All M.S. students must pass an Applied Qualifying Examination after completing all required first-year courses, the purpose of which is to gauge each student’s readiness for conducting in-depth statistical analyses and clearly reporting statistical results and evidence. This examination is a take-home, open-book test that covers material from the “applied” first year courses (BIOS 524, 571, 572 and 573) and is graded as pass/fail. A student who does not pass the Applied Qualifying Examination can petition the Examination Committee to retake the exam. Students may only retake the Qualifying Exam one time.

No Thesis

There is no thesis requirement for the M.S. program.

Training in Biostatistical Consulting and Collaboration

Biostatistical Consulting Laboratory

In addition to extensive course work, our M.S. students receive thorough training in collaborating with health sciences researchers. Thus our students will enroll in 1 credit of BIOS 516 (Biostatistical Consulting Laboratory) each semester. In this course students will be matched with appropriate research projects, where they will gain experience in designing studies, creating and maintaining research databases, conducting data analyses, and reporting statistical evidence.

Additional Information

For more information about the M.S. program in Genomic Biostatistics, contact:

Roy T. Sabo, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Graduate Program Director
Department of Biostatistics
Phone: (804) 828-3047
Email: roy.sabo@vcuhealth.org