Planning for Graduate Studies in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Western

The following information is intended as general advice, not a set of rules that must be followed.

Plan ahead

  • In a perfect world, start two years prior to your program start date.
  • More realistically, you should be making progress one year prior to starting your graduate program.
  • Develop and refine your research interests. Read widely and critically. Talk to professors you have taken courses with.

Get to know some professors

  • Visit department websites to see the research interests of faculty members.
  • Review the information on areas of substantive expertise in research and commonly employed methodological approaches and disciplines for our department listed on our Research Clusters page.
  • Review our Research Opportunities for Applicants page for current student position postings.
  • Do a Google Scholar or PubMed search on professors whose work sounds interesting, to learn more.
  • Read some abstracts and full papers by these professors.
  • Send a brief, professional email to a few professors who you think you would like to work with.  This email should:
    • Briefly introduce yourself (your educational background, your job history if you have been in the workforce after your last degree, etc.);
    • Indicate research areas you have been reading about;
    • Confirm whether the professor is taking graduate students for the year you are interested in starting (check here first).

Build a working relationship with a potential supervisor

  • If a professor indicates s/he may be taking a student, you can communicate more about how your research interests could fit with the professor’s program of research. You should be prepared to be flexible about your specific topic, because the professor might not have the expertise or interest to support your specific project.
  • A professor who may be interested in supervising you will ask you to send transcripts from your most recent educational program. You might also send a Curriculum Vitae including any previous research experience.

Try to find sources of financial support

  • You should be researching opportunities for scholarships.  
  • Carefully note the application deadlines and give yourself plenty of time to prepare a strong application.
  • Work with your potential supervisor (if you have one) on writing up your Plan of Research for your scholarship application. Your proposed project topic is not a ‘contract’, and it’s fine if you don’t know exactly what your project will end up looking like. Your project should be doable and worth doing, be a good fit with your proposed supervisor’s research program, and it should be written clearly and without spelling mistakes!

Come for a visit

  • If you are able to come to London, please consider a visit to our campus, where you can tour our facilities and meet some people including current graduate students. Another way to get to know us is for you to come to our Friday research seminar series which you can find on our department website.

Cultivate references or 'referees'

  • Often you need letters from ‘referees’ for scholarship applications. You also need two letters of reference for your application to our graduate program. Some applicants choose non-academics such as previous managers, family doctors, clergy, etc. One limitation non-academic referees face is in evaluating you on criteria like 'academic preparation', 'creativity/originality', 'writing ability' and 'critical thinking'. For this reason, you should think of asking professors you had in the past whose courses you did well in, hopefully professors who got to know you a bit through your volunteering or in a seminar-type course. If you are going to ask previous professors to write you a reference for a scholarship, give them plenty of notice before the deadline, and provide as much information as you can about the criteria about which they will have to comment.
Although it is an important step to start to build a working relationship with a potential supervisor, please understand that the decision to offer you admission to our graduate program is made by a committee, and must be approved by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. We have many more applicants each year than we can match with supervisors.