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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Program Goals and Expectations

The Department of Mental Health engages in population-based research on the etiology, occurrence, prevention and control of mental, alcohol-, and drug-dependence disorders. Its mission is to advance understanding of causes and consequences of these disorders in populations; to develop, implement and evaluate methods to prevent and control these disorders, and to promote mental health in the population. To achieve this mission, faculty and students study a wide range of disorders and apply public health research and practice-based methodologies to study these problems across the lifespan and across the globe.

The PhD degree is generally completed in four to five academic years. In the first two years, students take core courses in the Department of Mental Health, Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Ethics (550.860). All doctoral students must complete and register for four full-time terms of a regular academic year, in succession, starting with Term 1 registration in August-September of the academic year and continuing through Term 4 ending in May of that same academic year. Full-time registration entails a minimum of 16 credits of registration each term and a maximum of 22 credits per term. Full-time residence means more than registration. It means active participation in department seminars and lectures, research work group meetings, and other socializing experiences within our academic community.

After completing the course requirements, doctoral students sit for a 1-day written comprehensive exam (usually in January of the 2nd year) that allows for evaluation of a students comprehension of the general subject matter related to public mental health. Following successful passing of the comprehensive exam, students develop a dissertation proposal under the mentorship of their academic advisor. During the students 3rd year it is expected that doctoral students will complete their dissertation proposal and sit for an oral exam with a committee comprised of faculty from at least 3 different departments across the School of Public Health. The purpose of the oral exam is to determine whether the student has both the ability and knowledge to undertake significant research in the student’s general area of research.

Once the student has passed the oral exam, they move on to their dissertation research. All doctoral students must complete an original investigation presented in the form of a dissertation thesis. The thesis must be based on original research, worthy of publication, and acceptable to the Department of Mental Health and a committee of thesis readers. The dissertation can take one of two forms: the traditional dissertation monograph model or the three-manuscript dissertation model.

We encourage all doctoral students to participate in at least one research group of the major research programs in the department:

  • The Center for Prevention and Early Intervention (CPEI)
  • The Center for Prevention of Youth Violence
  • Substance Use and Substance Use Disorders
  • Cognitive Health and Aging
  • Global Mental Health
  • The Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities
  • The Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse
  • Psychiatric Genetics
  • Statistical Methods for Mental Health