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Concurrent Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) PhD/ Epidemiology MS Program

There is increasing demand for basic scientists who are prepared to conduct interdisciplinary research that translates findings in the laboratory to the clinical and population-based settings, and vice-versa. The goal of this concurrent degree program is to train basic scientists in modern epidemiological research methods, providing them with skills and knowledge that will position them for translational science-oriented post-doctoral positions and eventually leadership roles at academic research institutions as well as in industry.

How to Apply

Students apply to this concurrent degree program by submitting separate applications to the MCB PhD and Epidemiology MS programs by December 1 of the year prior to fall quarter in which they plan to begin the PhD program. An applicant indicates his/her desire to enroll in the concurrent program by selecting the appropriate item on the Epidemiology Program Form in the online system, and by writing the words "Epi Program" in the section of the MCB PhD application that asks which faculty the applicant is interested in meeting. A student describes how the concurrent degree program will assist him or her to meet his/her career goals in the statement of purpose portion of the Epidemiology MS application. The statement should reflect an appropriate balance between basic science and population research. In addition, the Epidemiology MS program application should be accompanied by a minimum of one letter of recommendation (more preferred) that speaks to the student's interest/experience/knowledge of epidemiology (or other relevant population health discipline). Applicants need submit only one set of GRE scores (to code 4854); departmental codes are not necessary, but if included will not matter.

Please contact Professor Stephen M. Schwartz PhD (Epidemiology: mailto:stevesch@uw.edu) to discuss your interest in the concurrent degree program, ideally several months in advance of the application deadline.

The MCB PhD and Epidemiology MS applications will be reviewed by these programs' respective admissions committees, as well as by the concurrent degree program director. If a student is subsequently selected to be interviewed for the MCB PhD program, and has been favorably reviewed by the Epidemiology admissions committee, he or she will be interviewed by the concurrent degree program directors during the visit to the UW. The student will then be notified as to his or her acceptance into each program. Admission into the concurrent degree program is dependent upon the availability of funding (see below).

If a successful applicant to the MCB PhD program did not apply to the concurrent program at the time of his/her initial application, he/she may apply during the first quarter of his/her MCB PhD program if he or she obtains MCB permission. Applicants should follow the detailed Epidemiology Application Submission Instructions and those listed in under Concurrent Degree Application.


The required courses for the MCB PhD and Epidemiology MS programs are available on the respective program websites. The primary differences between the concurrent degree program curriculum and the curriculum of students who are enrolled only in the MCB PhD or the Epidemiology MS are as follows:

  • Years 2 through 5 of the typical MCB PhD coursework are shifted to Years 3 through 6, with Year 2 devoted to fulfilling the Epidemiology MS requirements.
  • The Epidemiology MS requirements are expected to be completed in 4 quarters as opposed to 7-8 quarters typically allowed.
  • Certain required MCB courses with significant public health content become unspecified (not EPI or SPH) electives for the Epidemiology MS requirements, and vice-versa.
  • The thesis and dissertation projects, respectively, for the Epidemiology MS and MCB PhD are expected to include population and basic science components.
  • The thesis and dissertation chairs, respectively, for the Epidemiology MS and MCB PhD must be approved by the Program Director: Stephen M Schwartz PhD (stevesch@uw.edu).
  • The thesis and dissertation committees, respectively, for the Epidemiology MS and MCB PhD are expected to include a faculty member from the other discipline. For example, The MCB PhD committee would include an Epidemiology faculty member with appropriate expertise.

Enrollment in the concurrent program will add approximately four additional quarters to the student's time in graduate school. This will delay General Exam for the MCB PhD program by one year.

To meet the total credit requirement for both degree programs, the student will be permitted to count 12 credits for both the Epidemiology MS and MCB PhD. The specific recommended courses to be counted towards both programs will be decided by the respective directors.

Year 1*

The first year's curriculum for a concurrent degree student is identical to the MCB PhD Year 1 schedule with the following exceptions.

Autumn Quarter
BIOST 517 (Applied Biostatistics I) - 4 credits
MCB Lab Rotation (must be with faculty associated with the concurrent degree program)

Winter Quarter
BIOST 518 (Applied Biostatistics II) - 4 credits
MCB Lab Rotation (must be with faculty associated with the concurrent degree program)

Spring Quarter
MCB Lab Rotation (must be with faculty associated with the concurrent degree program)

During the Winter and Spring Quarters, the student should identify his/her Epidemiology MS thesis topic, committee chair, and other committee member(s). He/she should also decide on his/her MCB PhD dissertation mentor. This is critical to prevent enrollment in the MS program from exceeding 4 quarters because the MS tuition is higher. If a student is admitted to the MS for his/her first year in the PhD program, the application will be deferred to the following Autumn Quarter. Admissions to the MS will not be finalized until epi@uw.edu receives the names of the thesis committee members and the thesis topic.

In the Summer Quarter, s/he may begin lab work on the MCB PhD project and one of the MCB TA requirements. He/she also should begin background work needed for his/her Epidemiology MS thesis.

Year 2*

The second year's curriculum will consist of the required Epidemiology MS coursework (other than Biostatistics 517/518, which are taken in Year 1) and thesis.

* A student who did not take BIOST 517-8 prior to entering the MS program must do so during his/her first year in the MS program

Year 3

The third year will consist of courses normally taken by MCB PhD students in their second year. The second MCB PhD TA/Outreach position requirement will be fulfilled this year. The student would work on his/her MCB PhD dissertation research during this year.

Years 4-6

These years will consist of courses normally taken by MCB PhD students in years 3-5.


Students in the MCB program receive 100% support (stipend plus tuition). During the second year of the concurrent degree program (starting with the Autumn Quarter), a concurrent degree student is supported with a stipend and partial MS degree tuition supportfor 12 months by funds from a NIH training grant focused on cancer (Interdisciplinary Training in Cancer Research, T32CA080416). Therefore, the concurrent degree student must conduct his/her thesis research on a topic that is considered cancer-related by the IDTG director, Professor Barry Stoddard (bstoddar@fhcrc.org) . As long as the student remains enrolled in the MS program, he/she will receive only partial MS tuition support. Thus, it is in the student’s interest to complete the MS program within 4 quarters and return to 100% MCB tuition support.

This page was last updated on October 28, 2015