Curriculum

The Duke-NUS PhD program in Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics provides training in quantitative methods in biomedical sciences, covering a broad spectrum of disciplines including molecular and cell biology, genetics and genomics, and modern clinical trials and epidemiology methods. Students choose one of two concentrations and a thesis mentor:
•    Biostatistics
•    Bioinformatics

During the first semester students complete a core course entitled “Molecules to Medicines” where they learn fundamentals in biomedical research. During the first two years, students will also complete a core set of courses entitled “Core Concepts in Biostatistics” and “Core Concepts in Bioinformatics”. The degree, which will take on average 4 to 5 years to complete, culminates with the development of a written thesis and a successful oral dissertation defense. An overview of the curriculum follows.

Biostatistics Concentration

 

Semester 1

Semester 2

Year 1

·         Research Methods from Medicine to Population Health (GMS6801, 4 MC)

·         Core Concepts in Biostatistics (GMS6820, 4 MC)

·         R-Programming (non-credit)

·         Core Concepts in Bioinformatics (GMS6850, 4 MC)

·         Analysis of Complex Biomedical Data (GMS6802, 4 MC)

·         Design and Analysis of Modern Clinical Studies (GMS6803, 4 MC)

Year 2

·         Thesis Research (4 MC)

·         Elective (4 MC)*

·         Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Journal Club (GMS6800, 1 MC)**

·         Thesis Research (4 MC)

·         Biomedical Research Internship (GMS6804, 4 MC)

·         Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Journal Club (GMS6800, 1 MC)**

Year 3

·         Thesis Research (5 MC)

·         Thesis Research (5 MC)

Year 4

·         Thesis Research (5 MC)

·         Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Journal Club (GMS6800, 1 MC)**

·         Thesis Research (5 MC)

·         Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Journal Club (GMS6800, 1 MC)**

* Electives may include (non-exhaustive list and not open every year): Computer Intensive Statistical Methods and Statistical Models: Theory/Applications
** Journal Club will open in alternate years. The 2017 intakes will attend journal club in their years 2 and 4, the 2018 will attend in their years 1 and 3, etc. Total 4 MC.

 

Year 1 – Required Coursework
All PhD IBB Biostatistics Track students participate in the core course called "Research Methods from Medicine to Population Health" during their first semester of the program. This course introduces students to concepts, study designs and analytic issues that are commonly encountered in research on human subjects.

Students will also complete “Core Concepts in Biostatistics” in semester 1 and “Core Concepts in Bioinformatics”, “Analysis of Complex Biomedical Data” and “Design and Analysis of Modern Clinical Trials” in the second semester.

Year 2 – Developing a Thesis and Qualifying Exam
Students will take one elective course on advanced statistics. Some sample elective courses (non-exhaustive and may not open every year) include “Computer Intensive Statistical Methods” and “Statistical Models: Theory/Applications”. 

Collaboration and consultation is an important part of the career of biostatisticians. During the second year, the students will participate in an internship in a clinical center or biomedical research institute. This will provide the opportunities to experience and practice in real-life research and stimulate thinking for methodological development.

At the start of the second year, students will work toward developing their thesis projects. All PhD students take a qualifying examination, which includes submission and defense of a research proposal.

Years 3 & 4 – Research and Thesis
After the qualifying exam, the remainder of the PhD training consists of the execution of the thesis project. The thesis mentor will guide the student and act as the chair of the student’s Graduate Thesis Advisory Committee. Success of the thesis will be judged by the publication or anticipated publication of quality first author paper(s), with the emphasis being on quality.

In addition, all Duke-NUS PhD candidates are expected to actively participate in student research seminars and journal clubs. These activities provide students with a forum to give oral presentations, evaluate literature, analyze competitive science, and share ideas on major breakthroughs and future directions for their research field.

 

Bioinformatics Concentration

 

Semester 1

Semester 2

Year 1

·         Molecules to Medicines (GMS6902, 4 MC)

·         Laboratory rotations X2 (4 MC total)

·         Core Concepts in Bioinformatics (GMS6850, 4 MC)

·         Student Research Seminars (GMS6900, 0.5 MC)

Year 2

·         Core Concepts in Biostatistics (GMS6820, 4 MC)

·         Thesis Research (6 MC)

·         Student Research Seminars (GMS6900, 0.5 MC)

·         Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Journal Club (GMS6800, 1 MC)**

·         Thesis Research (6 MC)

·         Elective (4 MC)

·         Student Research Seminars (GMS6900, 0.5 MC)

·         Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Journal Club (GMS6800, 1 MC)**

Year 3

·         Thesis Research (6 MC)

·         Student Research Seminars (GMS6900, 0.5 MC)

·         Thesis Research (6 MC)

·         Student Research Seminars (GMS6900, 0.5 MC)

Year 4

·         Thesis Research (6 MC)

·         Student Research Seminars (GMS6900, 0.5 MC)

·         Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Journal Club (GMS6800, 1 MC)**

·         Thesis Research (6 MC)

·         Student Research Seminars (GMS6900, 0.5 MC)

·         Integrated Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Journal Club (GMS6800, 1 MC)**

** Journal Club will open in alternate years. The 2017 intakes will attend journal club in their years 2 and 4, the 2018 will attend in their years 1 and 3, etc. Total 4 MC.

 

Year 1 – Required Coursework
All PhD students participate in the 15-week core course called “Molecules to Medicines” during their first semester of the program. This course introduces students to biomedical research, and provides training on experimental models, methods and mechanisms that drive current investigations into human diseases. This course is taught by a range of Duke-NUS faculty and staff who introduce their expertise to the students. This is not a lecture course, but an interactive learning course that requires significant preparation and participation.

Students will also complete “Core Concepts in Biostatistics” in semester 1 and attend New Student Research Seminars in semester 2. The major landmark at the end of Year 1 is the identification of a thesis research mentor and a research area to work on.

Year 2 – Developing a Thesis and Qualifying Exam
In Year 2, students will be required to complete any remaining coursework, and pass the PhD Qualifying Examination (PQE) in the form of submission and successful defense of a research proposal, to qualify for PhD candidature. To train students in writing competitive grant proposals, the research proposal for the PQE will need to be written in the format of a grant proposal following the guidelines of the National Medical Research Council (NMRC), Singapore; however the students will not be expected to bring in grant funding at this stage to start their thesis research.

Year 3 – Research and Thesis
After the qualifying exam, the remainder of the PhD training consists of the execution of the thesis project. The thesis mentor will guide the student and act as the chair of the student’s Graduate Thesis Advisory Committee. Success of the thesis will be judged by the publication or anticipated publication of quality first author paper(s), with the emphasis being on quality.

In addition, all Duke-NUS PhD candidates are expected to actively participate in student research seminars and journal clubs. These activities provide students with a forum to give oral presentations, evaluate literature, analyze competitive science, and share ideas on major breakthroughs and future directions for their research field.

Year 4 – Research and Thesis
In Year 4, the thesis research is to be completed, written up, and defended. The thesis should demonstrate scholarship and the student’s ability to perform original, independent research, be pre-approved by the mentor and the programme director, and be evaluated by at least 3 reviewers in the field. The thesis should therefore contain published or publishable work in international peer-reviewed journals.

Elective Modules
Students in the bioinformatics concentration are required to take one elective module to fulfil their coursework requirements. In general, suitable modules offered by Duke-NUS or elsewhere in NUS can be taken as elective, subject to the thesis research mentor’s approval. In particular, students in the bioinformatics concentration can choose one of the biostatistics courses (other than the ‘Core Concepts in Biostatistics’ which they are already required to take) offered by the CQM as their elective. Some additional sample elective modules are listed below (but this list is not exhaustive).

Module Number Module Name MC Offered By:
ST 4231 Computer Intensive Statistical Methods 4 DSAP, Faculty of Science, NUS
ST 5217 Statistical Methods for Genetic Analysis 4 DSAP, Faculty of Science, NUS
CDN 5101 Fundamentals of Cancer Biology 4 Cancer Science Institute of Singapore, NUS
GMS 6904 Principles of Infectious Diseases 4 Duke-NUS