The Program in Population Health Sciences offers doctoral training that builds on multiple disciplinary perspectives to understanding origins and determinants of health and disease across populations, and developing theoretical and methodological skills to conceptualizing and evaluating population-level interventions to address health inequalities.
The program is a joint collaboration between the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health to offer a PhD in population health sciences. Students in this program will belong to one of the following fields of study: Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Global Health and Population, Nutrition, or Social and Behavioral Sciences. Students will also choose an area of specialization within their field of study. In addition, the program encourages students to benefit from connections established as part of this program between public health disciplines and a broader range of academic disciplines represented across the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
It is a key priority of the program to foster students' abilities to shape new ideas in population health sciences and communicate those ideas effectively, as well as serve changing health needs in different societies and contexts. Emphasis is also be placed on providing opportunities for students to develop mentoring and teaching skills, and thereby become educators in their field. This degree is primarily intended for students likely to pursue careers in academia, or in research-related positions outside of academia.
Students in Population Health Sciences are enrolled in and receive a PhD from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, even though they may study primarily with Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health faculty.
Fields of Study
Students will choose one of the following fields of study at the point of application to the program, and a desired area of specialization within their field of study. The application for admission includes a population health sciences supplemental form, which permits students to express an interest in another field of study.
Environmental Health: Students conduct research on the pathogenesis and prevention of environmentally-produced illness. Areas of specialization include bioengineering; mechanisms of disease; environmental physiology; environmental and occupational epidemiology; environmental epidemiology; environmental molecular epidemiology; environmental/occupation molecular epidemiology; environmental exposure assessment; ergonomics and safety; occupation and environmental medicine; occupational epidemiology; occupational hygiene; risk and decision sciences.
Epidemiology: Students are trained to assess the distribution and determinants of a wide-range of diseases using advanced epidemiological methods. Areas of specialization include cancer epidemiology and cancer prevention; cardiovascular epidemiology; clinical epidemiology; environmental and occupational epidemiology; epidemiologic methods; epidemiology of aging; infectious disease epidemiology; nutritional epidemiology; genetic epidemiology and statistical genetics; pharmacoepidemiology; neuropsychiatric epidemiology; reproductive, perinatal, and pediatric epidemiology.
Global Health and Population: Students learn advanced quantitative and qualitative methods of enquiry from demography, epidemiology, economics, decision science, survey science, health systems research and political analysis to understand global health issues. Areas of specialization in this field include health systems and population and family health.
Nutrition: Students are trained in the biological basis of nutrition and the mechanisms linking diet and health, as well as in the implementation and evaluation of programs and policies that promote optimal nutrition, population health and well-being. Areas of specialization include nutritional epidemiology and public health nutrition.
Social and Behavioral Sciences: Students research illuminating social and behavioral determinants of health and identify, design, and test innovative social policy and service interventions impacting health. Areas of specialization include social determinants of health and planned social change.
A distinguished undergraduate record, as well as excellent performance in any graduate work undertaken, is required for admission to this program. Although a previous graduate degree is not required, students in any of the fields of study should have successfully completed coursework in introductory statistics or quantitative methods. In general, applicants must demonstrate strong enthusiasm and ability for rigorous pursuit of scientific knowledge in public health. Preference will be given to applicants who have either some relevant work experience or graduate work in the chosen field of study after completion of a bachelor’s degree.
All applicants to the PhD Program in Population Health Sciences are required to select a field of study in their application and indicate an area of specialization. Secondary interest in an additional field of study may also be indicated in the application and statement of purpose. Applicants must also provide a writing sample (e.g. term paper, senior thesis, master’s thesis, 1st authored report or manuscript, research report, etc.) not to exceed 10 single-spaced pages.
GRE scores have been made optional for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle, but applicants are encouraged to take the exam and submit their scores with their applications. MCAT, DAT, GMAT, and LSAT score reports may also be uploaded in the application system, but they cannot act as a substitute for GRE scores.
The program is strongly committed to increasing the diversity of its doctoral student population. Underrepresented minority candidates, including students who self-identify as Black/African-American, Puerto Rican, Mexican American, Native American, or Native Pacific Islander are especially encouraged to apply.