Program Report: Graduate Program

by Zhou Zhou

Professor Nancy Reid in conversation with three graduate students

The last two years have witnessed a significant growth of our PhD program. The average number of incoming PhD students per year has increased from approximately 7 to 15. This increase is partly due to the exponential growth of our faculty size and partly due to changes in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences’ tuition and funding policies. In particular, the Faculty has doubled our international PhD intake.

A bigger PhD body will bring more energy and diversity to the department’s research, and we are looking forward to seeing more PhD student participation in activities such as Student Research Day and our departmental seminar series.
Funding Efforts in Graduate Admissions
In order to increase the quality of our PhD program, we have tried a new funding effort in PhD admissions this year, which aims to recruit our top-ranked PhD applicants by providing them extra awards or research assistantships for a period of at least three years.

I would like to thank Nancy Reid, Don Fraser, Sebastian Jaimungal, Jamie Stafford, Patrick Brown, Yuchong Zhang and Leonard Wong for their generous support in this funding effort. The extra funding played a critical role in making some of our top candidates decide to choose our department. I would like to add that this is still a developing effort we will optimize in the future.
Debates on Changes of Comprehensive Exams
The “big data fever” has brought a lot of positive changes to the statistics discipline. Our department has recruited many interdisciplinary statisticians over the last five years.

Our new faculty members in those interdisciplinary fields demand different skills from our PhD students than those required by classic statistics. To accommodate this fast changing research environment, this year the graduate committee had two very fruitful debates on changes to the PhD comprehensive exams. We have agreed to give the first year PhD students more freedom to choose various required courses based on their research interests. And students now have more flexibility in choosing comprehensive exams, according to their targeted research areas.

The committee also agrees that first year PhD students should have exposure to small research projects or research readings. I look forward to seeing the final details of those changes being decided, and I am very positive that detailed new policies on our PhD comprehensive exams will be implemented soon.