Minor in Epidemiology

Director of Graduate Studies, Graduate Field of Epidemiology:

Patricia A. Cassano, Ph.D.
Division of Nutritional Sciences
209 Savage Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853


Epidemiology Minor: Information for Prospective and Current Graduate Students

For students interested in studying epidemiology at Cornell, the interdepartmental Minor Field of Epidemiology offers graduate students the opportunity to declare a minor in epidemiology within any major area of study (including Nutrition, Animal Science, Food Science, Biometry, Environmental Toxicology, International Development, Sociology, Statistics, and Veterinary Medicine). Comprehensive course offerings in major disciplines related to epidemiology are available. Epidemiology is a graduate major area of concentration within the Field of Veterinary Medicine, and this major is administered through the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Modern epidemiology requires the use of big data methods, new approaches to causal inference, collaborative studies and translational research. Now more than ever, training in epidemiology is relevant to many disciplines. In 2023, Cornell was awarded a National Institutes of Health institutional training grant to train the next generation of scientists with expertise in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) methods to tackle complex biomedical research challenges in nutrition and health using high dimensional data. At the same time, the infodemic, which the World Health Organization defines as an overabundance of information, some accurate and some not, underscores the need for training in evidence synthesis, which draws heavily on epidemiology methods. Cornell has two other NIH-funded institutional training grants: one focuses on translation in nutrition and evidence synthesis and the second focuses on maternal and child nutrition with epidemiology as one of its cornerstones. All three training grants are led by epidemiology faculty and exemplify the cutting-edge opportunities for training in epidemiology at Cornell.

Epidemiology is the study of the distribution, determinants, and consequences of disease in populations. The goal of epidemiology is to elucidate and quantify the relation between potential risk factors or exposures and disease to prevent the onset and/or the progression of illness. Those wishing to enter the minor should have at least a B.S. or M.S. degree (or the equivalent) in a discipline related to (or offering preparation for) the proposed graduate studies in epidemiology. Applicants should have a sound background in mathematics and the sciences, with additional preparation consistent with the requirements of their proposed major fields of interest.

Students should have taken coursework that deals with physiological or psychological behaviors of individuals. In the social sciences, suitable courses would be medical sociology or psychology. In the zoologic sciences, suitable courses would be physiology, pathology or nutrition. Other biologically- and socially-oriented courses or background experiences would be appropriate depending on the goals of training for each student.

Graduate students enrolled in the minor will conduct their research in the departments of their major advisors. Participating faculty are drawn from the Division of Nutritional Sciences, the Department of Computational Biology, the Department of Statistics and Data Science, the Department of Population Medicine & Diagnostic Sciences, and the Department of Population Health Sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine. Areas of research interest among the faculty can be found on each faculty webpage; interests are broad and include infectious disease epidemiology, nutritional epidemiology, genetic epidemiology, epidemology and data sciences, artificial intelligence and machine learning in epidemilogy, social epidemiology, veterinary epidemiology, and statistical aspects of epidemiology.

Faculty and Specialization

Visit the Cornell University Graduate School website

Epidemiology is an academic discipline that requires training in the specific principles of the design and analysis of epidemiologic studies, statistical methods appropriate for such studies, and an area of substantive specialization (such as genetics/genomics, animal science, demography, environmental sciences, nutrition, toxicology, or veterinary medicine).

In accordance with the general guidelines for graduate education at Cornell University, the Field of Epidemiology has no specific course requirements beyond the residence units required by the Graduate School. There is one concentration available in Epidemiology, namely 'human and animal epidemiology'. However, all students will be expected to be familiar with the subject matter covered in three areas:

  1. Basic Statistical Methods, as covered in:

    BTRY 6020, Statistical Methods II

    • Biometry (BTRY) 6010, Statistical Methods I

  2. Epidemiology Methods to the intermediate level, as covered in the following 2 course sequences:

    • Nutritional Sciences (NS) 6520 Epidemiology Foundations and NS6580 Advanced Epidemiology: Theory and Practice


    • Veterinary Medicine: Population Med & Diagnostic Svc (VTPMD) 6640 and VETPMD 6650: Introduction to Epidemiology, and Epidemiologic Study Design and Advanced Methods of Epidemiologic Research.

  3. A further quantitative methods course, appropriate to student interest:

    • BTRY 6030 (Statistical Methods III)

    • VTPMD 6660 (Advanced Methods in Epidemiology)

    • a course appropriate to your interests and with permission of your Epidemiology minor advisor in consultation with the DGS.

These courses will provide a broad overview of epidemiology and the knowledge essential for the design and analysis of epidemiologic research. Additional courses related to the student's area of intended specialization may also be necessary. In particular, students should be aware that there may be additional course requirements if a statistician represents the Minor Field of Epidemiology on the student's committee. In this case, there usually will be the presumption of a highly statistical thesis, and the student usually will be expected to take BTRY 4080 & BTRY 4090 in addition to the courses listed above.

Curriculum: Specifics

BTRY 6010- Statistical Methods I

BTRY 6020 - Statistical Methods II

BTRY 6030 - Statistical Methods III: Categorical Data

NS 6520 - The Foundations of Epidemiology

NS 6580 - Advanced Epidemiology: Theory and Practice

VTPMD 6650 - Study Designs (Graduate)

VTPMD 6660 - Advanced Methods

1. Society for Epidemiologic Research

The Society for Epidemiologic Research (SER) was established in 1968 as a forum for sharing the latest in epidemiologic research. The SER is committed to keeping epidemiologists at the vanguard of scientific developments. To this end, the Society sponsors the American Journal of Epidemiology and Epidemiologic Reviews , as well as the annual SER meeting which includes the John C. Cassel Memorial Lecture and contributed papers, symposia, and posters on a wide range of epidemiologic issues.

2. American College of Epidemiology

Over the past three decades, epidemiology, has matured into a field of its own, as both an academic discipline and a field of practice in a large variety of health agencies, hospitals, and research institutions. The past twenty years have been marked by a significant increase in the number of individuals who have chosen epidemiology as a career or who have entered epidemiology from such disciplines as medicine, statistics, sociology, genetics, and biology.

The American College of Epidemiology was incorporated in 1979 to develop criteria for professional recognition of epidemiologists and to address their professional concerns. The College has benefited from the leadership of the leading epidemiologists in the world.

3. World Congress of Epidemiology

The Congress theme is reflected in the title: "Changing populations, changing diseases: Epidemiology for Tomorrow's World." Within this future-orientated theme we will discuss the full span of research across the many disciplines contributing to our science and practice."

4. International Society of Environmental Epidemiology

The International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE) provides a forum for the discussion of problems unique to the study of health and the environment. With membership open to environmental epidemiologists and other scientists worldwide, ISEE provides a variety of forums for discussions, critical reviews, collaborations and education on issues of environmental exposures and their human health effects. These include annual meetings, newsletters, workshops and liaisons with academic, governmental, inter-governmental, non-profit and business institutions.

5. American Society for Nutrition, Nutritional Epidemiology Research Interest Section (RIS)