Handbook for PhD Students in Statistics



Dear Students,

We have compiled this manual summarizing all the rules, requirements and deadlines governing the PhD program in the Statistics Department. We intend this manual to be the primary repository of these rules and we encourage you to refer to it periodically as you progress through our program. If you have any questions regarding the content you are welcome to contact the Department Graduate Advisor (Yali Amit) or the Student Affairs Specialist (Keisha Prowoznik).

Good luck with your studies!


  • New Graduate Student Information–UChicago Grad: Information regarding the University of Chicago campus, living in the neighborhood, security, health, and other resources for incoming graduate students can be found here: https://grad.uchicago.edu/life-at-uchicago/admitted-students-welcome/
  • Diagnostic Exam: A diagnostic exam will be emailed to all students the week before orientation to be returned to their advisor by the end of that week in order to help determine which courses to take for the upcoming year.
  • Orientation: This event will take place on the week before classes start where new students will attend meetings throughout campus and the Department to become acclimated with procedures and guidelines for the PhD program. This is also course registration week, where all students will have to meet with their advisor to determine which courses to take during Autumn quarter. Incoming students will meet with the Department Graduate Advisor (DGA) for course registration.


Course registration starts the Monday of the 8th week of every quarter when the Student Affairs Specialist sends out an email to all students with the attached registration form for each student to fill out, and gain consent from their advisor and return back to the Student Affairs Specialist. Students must register themselves and if they cannot, they can seek help from the Student Affairs Specialist. All course registration must be completed the Friday of 10th week by 12:00PM Central Standard Time in order to avoid a late fee.

Drop/add week will always take place the first week of every quarter and run for three weeks and end on the Friday of third week for all PhD students. This is a time where students are able to drop and/or add courses to their schedule if they do not wish to take the courses they registered for during course registration week. Courses can be changed upon the advisor and instructor’s approval.


The program offers four core sequences:

  • Probability (STAT 30400, 38100, 38300)
  • Mathematical statistics (STAT 30400, 30100, 30210)
  • Applied statistics (STAT 34300, 34700, 34800 and 34900)
  • Computational sequence (STAT 30900, 31015/31020, 37710).

All students must take the Applied Statistics and Mathematical Statistics sequence. In addition, it is highly recommended that students take a third core sequence based on their interests and in consultation with the Department Graduate Advisor (DGA).

Preliminary exams: At the start of their second year, several weeks before the start of the Fall quarter, the students take two preliminary examinations. The students will be informed by June 1 of the precise dates. All students must take the Applied Statistics Prelim. The prelim is a take-home exam provided online to the students during  prelim week. Student written reports are handed in two days later. A few days later, after the faculty review the reports the students have a 30 minute oral interview about their report.

For the second prelim, students can choose to take either the Theoretical Statistics or the Probability prelim. Students planning to take the Probability prelim should take the Probability sequence as their third first year course sequence and must receive approval from the DGA to take 38300 in the Spring instead of 348.

During six weeks leading up to the prelims, two advanced PhD students will assist the first year students in preparing for the exams, holding weekly meetings one for the Applied Statistics exam and one for the Theoretical Statistics exam.

Incoming first-year students may request the DGA to take one or both of their preliminary exams. This will only be considered if the students have had extensive training in statistics in their prior studies. If approved, and if the student passes one or more of these, then he/she may be excused from the requirement of taking the first-year courses in that subject.

First year summer reading courses: It is highly recommended for first year students to take a reading course with a faculty member during the summer. This does not require formal registration, only coordination with a faculty member. Such a reading course typically involves reading a number of papers recommended by the faculty member and presenting them during the meetings.

Incoming students are advised by the DGA until they find a faculty advisor for their PhD thesis work.

First year students also share responsibility for organizing lunches with faculty to hear about their research, lunches with visiting seminar speakers and weekly departmental tea time.


In their second year, PhD students typically take several advanced topics courses in statistics, probability, computation, and applications. These should be selected with the dual objective of (i) acquiring a broad overview of current research areas, and (ii) settling on a particular research topic and dissertation supervisor. It is recommended that the students take at least one regular class based course each quarter. In addition, students can ask to take reading courses with faculty to learn more in depth about their fields of research. Students have considerable latitude in selecting their second-year courses, but their programs must be approved by the Department Graduate Advisor.  Students are expected to find a dissertation/thesis advisor by the end of the second year. The thesis advisor does not need to be a faculty member of the Statistics Department, however the dissertation/thesis committee must include at least two members of the Statistics Department (see below.)

Mini-seminars: During the second half of Spring Quarter second year students are required to give a short 10-12 minute presentation on a paper/papers they have read, followed by a short Q & A period. This provides the students with their first experience giving a presentation and both faculty and other students can provide feedback. The students typically present papers they have read in one of the reading courses they have taken with a faculty member during the second year.


Thesis Advisor and Dissertation Committee

By the end of the third year, each PhD student, after consultation with his or her dissertation advisor, shall establish a committee of at least three members, at least two of whom should be from Statistics. The departmental form listing the committee members, with their signatures, must be filed in the Department office by the end of Spring Quarter of the third year. The composition of the committee may be changed at any time if the student or faculty so choose; however, it must always include the student's dissertation advisor and at least two of the committee members must be regular faculty members from the Department of Statistics. Any such change must be filed as a resubmitted and newly completed and signed form with the Department office. As long as a student has not found a thesis advisor the DGA will remain the student’s advisor.

Interdisciplinary Theses

Many of our students choose to pursue research combining statistics and computation with another area of scientific research, such as genetics, neuroscience, health studies, environmental science, or social science. Students who choose to write an interdisciplinary thesis can work with a thesis advisor from another department as long as the two other committee members are from the Statistics Department.


Proposal Presentation and Admission to Candidacy

By the end of Autumn Quarter of the fourth year, students should have completed a proposal presentation to their committee. This consists of a written (typically 5-10 page) report on completed and planned research with relevant references and a meeting with the committee discussing the proposed research (format is flexible, but typically a 1.5 hour meeting, with 45 minutes for student presentation and 45 minutes for questions and discussion). The proposal meeting will be scheduled by the student and his or her committee and reported to the Department office. Acceptance of the proposal by the Dissertation Committee is a formal requirement of the Department's PhD program. After a successful proposal presentation, the student will be formally admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree. By University rules, the dissertation defense cannot occur earlier than 8 months after admission to candidacy, and the student should keep this in mind when scheduling both the proposal presentation and the defense.

Following the fourth year, during each year that the student remains, the student is required to have a meeting with the committee no later than November 30th of Autumn Quarter or defend by that time.


The Department goal is for the majority of students to complete and defend their thesis by the end of their 5th year. Foreign students will have their visas extended beyond the fifth year on a yearly basis depending on the decision of the committee.

In the first 4 weeks of the Fall quarter of the 5th year students should convene their Dissertation Committee for an update on their progress. Committee members will confirm satisfactory progress on a form provided by the Department office.

Students who have not completed their thesis by the end of Fifth year must petition their committee and the Department Chair in order to continue in the program into their Sixth year and maintain their stipend. If their petition is  approved and they are not supported as RA’s they  will be required to teach every quarter.

Students who continue to their 6th year should again  convene their Dissertation Committee in the first 4 weeks of the Fall quarter  of the 6th year and Committee members will confirm satisfactory progress on a form provided by the Department office.

Students who have not completed their dissertation and defense by the end of the sixth year will no longer receive stipends or be employed by the Department. These students are required to petition their committee and the Department Chair both in order to continue in the doctoral program and for any financial support (tuition, fees). The petition is to be made before the end of Spring Quarter of the sixth year.


The PhD degree will be awarded following a successful defense and the electronic submission of the final version of the dissertation to the University's Dissertation Office. In this process, a number of University and Department deadlines have to be obeyed. Listed in reverse order, the steps are:

a) Submission of Final Version of Dissertation:
The deadline is set by the University and is generally on a Friday in the 6th or 7th week of the quarter when the degree will be awarded. See:

for this deadline as well as guidelines for the formatting of dissertations.

b) Dissertation Defense:
The thesis defense will be an open seminar announced to the Department. Following the regular question-and-answer session, the committee will remain, together with any interested faculty, and continue questioning the candidate. The decision on the thesis will then be reached in a closed meeting of the dissertation committee. The defense is to be scheduled at least two weeks before the University deadline indicated in point (a). A final draft of the dissertation must be made available to the entire faculty 8 days before the dissertation presentation.

c) Committee Approval of Scheduled Defense:
A draft of the dissertation should be distributed to the members of the dissertation committee no later than five weeks before the dissertation defense. The committee then has two weeks to approve that the student can reasonably expect to defend the thesis, and three more weeks to fully assess.

These rules delineate the minimum level of involvement of the dissertation committee. We strongly recommend that students set up their committees early and that they interact regularly with the members of their committees once they are established. We strongly recommend that those students wishing to complete all degree requirements, including their defense, by the end of Summer quarter contact their committee to schedule their Summer defense date before Summer Quarter begins. Else unanticipated committee requirements may lead to the degree being delayed to the Winter Quarter.


The Department runs a consulting for training purposes, at the same time providing a service for researchers in other departments in the University. Students serve as the consultants, working as the quantitative expert in statistics alongside the researchers. Two faculty members lead the consulting program. The consulting seminar meets once a week for an hour during academic quarters. In these meetings researchers may present a problem, the students may present their projects, or some interesting applied case study may be analyzed. The students rotate weekly through consulting `office hours', which are the times when researchers can approach with their requests. Typically, four to six graduate students work together as a team under the supervision of faculty members to address these requests.  The teams share their experience by presenting their analysis to the seminar. Students are required to register for the consulting program for two quarters each of years 1 through 3. Third year students can delay one of their consulting quarters to their fourth year.


PhD students are guaranteed support for five years and in return are required to work as teaching assistants (TAs) for two quarters of each year and on one quarter they are off. Incoming first year students  are all off during the first quarter. TA assignments are determined 3-4 weeks prior to the start of the quarter, at which point the students are required to contact the faculty member teaching the course for instructions on their upcoming duties. Students may request the DGA to assign them to particular courses, or ask to have a particular quarter off. There is no guarantee that these requests will be satisfied, but the DGA does take them into account. Students are not allowed to work as TA's for any other University unit during their off quarter.

Research Assistants (RAs): Faculty members may decide to support their student  from a grant in one or more of their teaching quarters. In those quarters the students are not required to perform TA duties. Students can receive RA support from faculty advisors outside the Department.

Instructorship: Some students may be asked to be instructors in introductory Statistics courses, especially during the Spring quarter. These students receive a bonus in their summer support (at time of writing, July 2022, this is 2000 USD). The DGA determines which students are suitable for such positions.

Sixth year students and beyond: Students who have not completed their dissertation by the end of the fifth year must, by the end of Spring Quarter, obtain permission from their committee and the Department Chair to continue beyond the fifth year. If they are allowed to continue but are not hired as RA’s they will be funded by the Department, but  required to teach every quarter. Students who have not completed their dissertation and defense by the end of the sixth year will no longer receive stipends or be employed by the Department. These students are required to petition the Department both in order to continue in the doctoral program and for any financial support (tuition, fees). This petition is to be made to both their committee and the Department Chair before the end of Spring Quarter of the sixth year.

Quarterly Funding Letters: A few weeks before every quarter the Student Affairs Specialist will send out the quarterly funding letter which will list each students’ position (TA, Instructor, RA, OFF) for the upcoming quarter. This letter will also list stipend or paycheck dates depending on the students’ position and an itemized amount of costs for the quarter and who is responsible for the payment. This letter is very important in that it will tell the student if they will hold a position that quarter and what date/dates they will be paid. 


Students are provided with full 3 month summer support during their first 4 years. Support during the fifth summer is contingent on approval of the advisor and the Chair.

Internships: Students can choose to take on internships during the summer, in which case they forfeit the departmental summer support. The decision on whether to take an internship and which ones are appropriate are taken in consultation with the student's thesis advisor. It is not recommended to take internships before finding a thesis advisor.


Students in a full-time registration status are expected to focus their attention and efforts principally on their academic work and additional employment is secondary to their student status. A domestic student wanting to take off-campus employment will typically need to take a leave of absence from the program. For international PhD students, OIA recently introduced a version of CPT (CPT RCOT) that may allow them to work off-campus outside of summer. [see https://internationalaffairs.uchicago.edu/page/curricular-practical-training-cpt]. However, this requires approval by the PSD Dean of Students, and will involve careful consideration of a number of factors. Moreover, the Dean of Students views this mechanism as intended for only very short-term off-campus work (eg 1 quarter) and not for long term. Repeated enrollment in CPT RCOT will generally not be approved by the Dean of Students. Students who have questions about CPT RCOT should direct them to the PSD Dean of Students.

Note: work at Argonne national labs is excepted from usual "off-campus" regulations due to an agreement between Argonne and UChicago.


During the first week of Fall quarter the PhD students gather to elect a student representative(s), who are responsible for communicating with the DGA and the Chair regarding any issues arising among the student body. They are also asked on occasion to coordinate student social activities such as the annual picnic. The Departmental Student Affairs Specialist assists the student representatives with any administrative tasks associated with their duties.


All keys for student offices will be given during orientation week in the Student Affairs office. 1st year PhD students will always have desks in Jones 208, 2nd-4th year students will have desks in Jones 203/204, and 5th and 6th year students will have desks in Jones 209. Students will sign a key check-out form which states they will be responsible for their desk key of $20 and the office key of $30 and if they lose the key they must pay the Department either of the amounts in order to obtain a new key.


Students who wish to travel throughout the year for conferences that are sponsored on a grant or research funds from their advisor can be reimbursed by the Student Affairs Specialist with detailed receipts and confirmation that this trip has been approved and sponsored by the advisor/faculty member.

In case the advisor is unable to support the student travel but still approves it, the student may petition the Department Chair for up to $1000 of Departmental support.