Doctor of Philosophy Program (2018-2019 Catalog)

Ph.D. in Statistical Science
Prof. Guoqing Diao, Coordinator (

Catalog Entry

The PhD in Statistical Science represents the highest academic attainment for a statistician and, as such, requires in-depth knowledge of modern statistical theory and practice. The degree program is a hybrid of mathematical theory, computation, and data analysis; and students are expected to be proficient in all three. Current research areas of key department faculty in the program include biometric identification, biostatistics, statistical genetics, statistical graphics, data confidentiality, networking analysis, and data exploration.

Admission Requirements:

Students should have a master’s degree in a mathematically-intensive discipline with a minimum 3.50 GPA. Students entering with a master’s degree are expected to have completed coursework equivalent to STAT 544, STAT 554, STAT 652, and STAT 656 with exceptional performance. The program also requires a course in advanced calculus, MATH 315 or equivalent, with a B or better. In exceptional circumstances, talented students with a mathematically-intensive undergraduate degree may be admitted. The GRE Exam is required for admission.

Application is made through the central Volgenau School Graduate Admissions Office website. The admissions deadlines are strict and are clearly stated here. Students are strongly encouraged to submit a complete package to the admissions office to avoid delays in processing separate mailings. International students must have minimal English Proficiency exam scores, which are found here. (This is University policy and cannot be waived by the Department.)

Reduction of Credit:

Students must complete a minimum of 72 graduate credits, which may be reduced by a maximum of 24 credits with a master’s degree in statistics, mathematics, or similar discipline. Reduction of credit requires the approval of the program director or designee and the dean or designee of the school. They determine whether the credits are eligible for reduction of credit and applicable to the degree program and the number of credits to be reduced. Students with an MS from GMU must complete a minimum of 72 credits from their combined MS and PhD programs.

Degree Requirements:

The 72 hours of required doctoral-level credits typically consist of 48 credits of regular coursework and 24 credits of dissertation research. The following degree plan is based on a student who receives a full 24 credit reduction. Students who do not receive a full credit reduction should choose additional credits in consultation with their advisor.

Doctoral Course Work (24 credits)

The remaining four courses are selected and approved by the doctoral supervisory committee and the PhD Program Director and should be numbered 600 or above. STAT 652 and STAT 656 do not count toward the degree.

Qualifying Exam

Written qualifying exams will be taken in the following areas:

Qualifying exams are offered in August and January. Students are required to take the qualifying exams within one year of admission. Supported students entering with a Master’s degree are required to take the qualifying exams within one semester of admission. Students who do not pass all three exams in two consecutive exam periods are terminated from the program.

Dissertation Research (24 credits)

In order to advance to candidacy, students must complete all coursework, pass the qualifying and comprehensive examinations, and defend a dissertation proposal.

Doctoral Committee Selection:

Following successfully passing the qualifying exams, students should select a dissertation director and a doctoral studies committee. The chair of the doctoral studies committee must be a member of the graduate faculty with a regular appointment in the Department of Statistics, and will typically be the dissertation director. The doctoral studies committee consists of a chair, two members of the graduate faculty who hold regular appointments in the Department of Statistics, and an external member. The doctoral studies committee must be approved by the director of the doctoral program in statistical science.

Advancement to Candidacy:

Admission to candidacy is acquired on completion of an oral comprehensive exam administered by the doctoral supervisory committee, covering the four core courses and four advanced emphasis courses, and a dissertation proposal. A student who fails the oral comprehensive exam may take it a second time, within six months. If the student fails a second time, the student is terminated from the program. A student must wait at least six weeks after passing the oral comprehensive exam before the dissertation proposal. A student who fails the dissertation proposal may take it a second time, within six months. If the student fails a second time, the student is terminated from the program.

Doctoral Defense

The dissertation defense serves as the student’s final examination and is conducted by the doctoral supervisory committee. Both the comprehensive exam and final exam are scheduled on approval of a written request to the department chair.

For more information, e-mail specific questions to