PhD in Public Health Sciences

The PhD degree program provides a pathway to a career in academia focused on research, teaching, and service, with the overall objective of improving the health of populations. Students who commit themselves to this challenging path are expected to become the future stewards of academic public health.

The specific aim of the PhD program is to prepare students for post-doctoral fellowships or assistant professor positions at research universities. To be competitive for these positions, successful PhD students will do more than complete coursework. Importantly, they will author or co-author multiple peer-reviewed publications, complete a rigorous dissertation process, and serve as an effective teacher. In other words, PhD students will demonstrate the ability to engage in the scholarship of discovery and the scholarship of teaching.

Students elect to complete one of the two concentrations in the PhD program: Epidemiology or Health Behavior Research. The PhD concentration in Epidemiology provides advanced training in epidemiologic methods, theory, and practice. The PhD concentration in Health Behavior Research provides a rigorous scientific approach to the study of the psychological, social and cultural factors that impact human health and health behavior.

All students admitted to the PhD program are provided a financial support package that includes a stipend, waiver of tuition and fees, and free medical insurance.

View Current Student Profiles


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About The Program

Research Faculty Career Goals. UNTHSC is committed to nurturing PhD students whose career goals are positions as research faculty members at Tier I institutions. Our program includes intensive expectations in contributing to ongoing research projects, the establishment of publications, and academic conference presenting.

Full-time. Students take 9 hours each semester. The program carries a heavy research and publication expectation as well as professional development hours. Students serve as teaching assistants at least once a year.

On-campus. UNTHSC is located in Fort Worth, Texas. A vibrant location within the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Take advantage of our excellent city centers and low cost of living.

3-5 Year Program. Students are expected to complete the program in 3 to 5 years depending on their standing upon entrance. Students with completed MS degrees aligning with Ph.D. concentration will have the quickest path to completion, MPH students will have some additional Master’s level work to complete and students entering following a Bachelor’s degree will require 5 years to complete the program.

Fall Entrance. New students begin the program each Fall semester. There are no Spring or Summer start options.

Small PhD cohort. Current admission trends indicate a small admitted class of just 2-4 students in each discipline, allowing for an intense and personalized experience.

Faculty Mentors

When considering your Ph.D. institution, it’s important to ensure a strong match with one or more mentor faculty members.

Matches at HSC are based on research topics or by research methodology. This means candidates who are interested in a research topic that isn’t currently represented in our faculty may identify a mentor based on their research methods. This will allow for a broader range of research topics on our campus, better reflecting the broad scope of public health work. Below are brief descriptions of current faculty research areas. We encourage you to review the full biographies of those most likely to serve as matches for your field.

  • Dr. Ashenafi Cherkos: Dr. Cherkos’ primary research interests encompass a wide range of critical topics, including fetal origins, perinatal outcomes, maternal and infant nutrition, childhood obesity, growth and development, maternal and child health services utilization, family planning, reproductive health, and the effects of HIV infection, antiretroviral therapy (ART), and tuberculosis (TB) preventive therapy on the long-term growth and development of children. He has applied causal inference principles, surveys, and longitudinal analyses employing both secondary and primary data.
  • Dr. Stacey Griner: Dr. Griner’s work focuses broadly on maternal and child health, sexual health, oral health, and evidence-based guidelines. She utilizes mixed methods, which includes survey-based research, secondary data analyses, interviews, and focus groups. Her work is guided by health behavior theories and implementation science frameworks to translate research into practice.
  • Dr. Gregory Knell: Dr. Knell’s work centers around physical activity epidemiology. This includes understanding secular trends and disparities in physical activity, determinants of physical activity, interventions to increase physical activity, and health outcomes related to physical activity. This includes studying physical activity and sport related injuries such as concussions and musculoskeletal injuries. He employs secondary data analysis, primary data collection in schools and community-based settings, and observational and interventional work in clinical settings (randomized trials).
  • Dr. Dana Litt: Dr. Litt studies the etiology and prevention of adolescent and young adult risk behavior, including substance use. Her research utilizes a variety of research methods including cross-sectional, longitudinal, experimental, and mixed-methods designs.  She also develops and tests brief interactive online and text-messaging interventions seeking to reduce risk-taking among adolescents and young adults.
  • Dr. Melissa Lewis: Dr. Lewis’ theory-driven research focuses on the etiology and prevention of health-risk behaviors. Across her portfolio of research, she has incorporated complex study designs using web-based surveys via phones to assess behavior and cognitions multiple times a day, and behavior change interventions testing web-conferencing and text message content.
  • Dr. Justin Luningham:Dr. Luningham’s research focuses on developing quantitative methods that make sense of complex behavioral data. His recent work utilizes computational statistics, machine learning approaches, and latent variable models to study the genetics of mental health disorders. He also has extensive experience modeling and evaluating multivariate survey/questionnaire data, analyzing longitudinal data, and synthesizing data across multiple datasets. Substantively, he is interested in mental and behavioral health outcomes across the lifespan.”
  • Dr. Matthew Rossheim: Dr. Rossheim studies substances frequently used by adolescents and young adults such as supersized alcopops (alcohol), e-cigarettes (tobacco), and delta-8 THC (cannabis), including their marketing and laws curbing use. His research aims to help prevent underage and excessive drinking, associated harms, and tobacco and cannabis use initiation, as well as exposure to secondhand smoke/aerosol.
  • Dr. Eun-Young Mun: Dr. Mun meta-analyzes and synthesizes data from clinical trials to examine the comparative effectiveness of competing treatment strategies and delineate mechanisms of behavior change. She utilizes latent variable modeling, generalized linear mixed-effects modeling, Bayesian modeling, and statistical machine learning for data integration, classification and prediction, estimation, and causal inference to advance alcohol clinical trials, mHealth interventions, and clinical neuroscience.
  • Dr. Rajesh Nandy: Dr. Nandy studies the use of novel statistical methods and machine learning techniques to solve complex problems in the clinical diagnosis of neurological disorders. Specifically, his research methods focus on the use of neuroimaging data and various blood biomarkers towards the early diagnosis of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
  • Dr. Malinee Neelamegam: Dr. Neelamegam studies aging and its related comorbidities, with a focus on neuropsychological outcomes. Her research focuses on vulnerable populations impacted by health disparities. She utilizes numerous study designs and quantitative research methods. Her work is guided by global health principles and implementation science frameworks.
  • Dr. Uyen-sa Nguyen: Dr. Nguyen’s research ranges from perinatal to geriatric epidemiology and seeks to understand factors associated with socioeconomic and racial disparities in health and healthcare utilization. She applies a variety of study designs and analytic methods to assess and control for confounding and selection bias such as collider-stratification bias and includes matching, risk-set sampling, propensity score methods, and the use of marginal structural models for causal mediation analysis.
  • Dr. Scott Walters: Dr. Walters’ research focuses on designing and evaluating behavioral health interventions, most notably those that combine human and technological approaches. His current projects are testing ways to improve cancer risk screening, employment success, alcohol and drug interventions, and health advocacy. He also serves as the Steering Committee Chair for the HEALing Communities Study, which is developing a national model to address the opioid crisis.
  • Dr. Andrew Yockey: Dr. Yockey examines and implements the use of unique statistical methods and survey procedures to study substance use prevention and child/adolescent health risk behaviors. He also utilizes meta-analytic, longitudinal, and multi-level techniques to improve statistical modeling and functional analysis. His latest research has investigated the use of geospatial approaches for improving our understanding of substance use in at-risk communities.
  • Dr. Zhengyang Zhou :Dr. Zhou’s primary research goal is to understand the epidemiology and risk factors of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia (ADRD), employing advanced statistical and machine learning/artificial intelligence (ML/AI) methodologies. His research focuses on social determinants of health, health disparities, genetic factors, and gene-environment interactions that are related to ADRD and cognitive functions. Dr. Zhou’s research also involves statistical methods development and applications in the areas of human genetics/genomics, substance use, and clinical trials.

Funding & Expectations

Students admitted to this highly selective program are offered a generous package from the university. This package includes:

  • Four fully funded years of tuition & fees
  • A living stipend currently valued at $32,000 annually
  • Health insurance

Ph.D. candidates are expected to spend 20 hours a week providing research support for SPH Faculty and complete at least 1 teaching assistant assignment each academic year. Ph.D. candidates are also expected to complete 7 publications and 1 dissertation over the course of study. Ph.D. candidates should be pursuing a career as a research faculty member at a Tier 1 University. 

Early application is recommended for this competitive program. Priority deadline is December 1st. Final deadline is January 15th. Offers will be made until seats are filled. Seat count changes year to year based on currently active students.

Financial Aid is available to support additional living expenses. Contact Financial Aid for specific questions and counseling

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)

We’re glad you have questions. Graduate school is a big step and requires careful consideration. You’re always welcome to email or call us for answers, but for your convenience, we’ve curated our responses to the most common questions from our applicants. You may view our “Frequently Asked Questions” page by following this link: