Health Behavior Track Handbook

Table of Contents

Checklist of Key Milestones

General Program Information

Welcome to the Joint Doctoral Program (JDP) in Public Health (Health Behavior track), a collaborative effort of two academic institutions, San Diego State University (SDSU) and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). This graduate training program enrolled its first students in 2004. The California Master Plan for Higher Education limits the power of the California State University system in the area of doctoral programs and this has led to numerous joint doctoral degrees between SDSU and UCSD. However, the JDP in public health is unique as it draws on faculty from both the School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Public Health with complementary areas of expertise. The JDP in public health has two other tracks: one in Epidemiology and the other in Global Health.

Both Universities have Offices of Graduate Studies and, to graduate from this JDP program, you must meet the requirements of each University. It is your responsibility to check that you are meeting these requirements. Your faculty advisors, and this manual, can be very helpful in offering guidance. However, it is your degree and you are strongly advised to independently check all the rules at the following websites: UCSD Graduate Division and SDSU’s Division of Graduate Affairs.

As a student in the Health Behavior Track of the JDP in public health, you are required to complete residency requirements at both institutions. These include a full year of coursework at each University prior to advancement to candidacy and at least a full year at either University after advancement to candidacy. The Health Behavior Track has a Director from each University as listed below. These Directors are responsible for ensuring that you are meeting your program milestones in a timely manner. They are assisted by Graduate Coordinators within each University.

Registration Information

Currently, all students are required to be registered at San Diego State University (SDSU) throughout the program. It is only during your second year in the program, you will be enrolling at UC San Diego while completing your coursework. The only time you will enroll at UC San Diego and not registering for official coursework is due to certain financial situations. Please refer to the Policy on Placeholder Unit Enrollment at UCSD for those specific details. The UC San Diego Graduate Coordinator will contact you regarding this. At all terms in the Program, you must be enrolled in at least 6 units at SDSU during each semester of the doctoral program(excluding the summer semesters/quarters). The Graduate Coordinator will contact you every term regarding your enrollment.  Payment of fees will take place at SDSU each semester.

As each University works on a different time schedule (UCSD is on a quarter system, SDSU is on a semester system), therefore, it’s recommended to complete coursework at SDSU in the first year and coursework at UCSD in the second year of their program. The start and end dates for each quarter/semester will vary. To check the academic calendars for each institution, use the links below.

SDSU Calendar
UCSD Calendar


When admitted to SDSU, all students will receive an e-mail with the Red ID. The Red ID is theaccount username to access the SDSU WebPortal. Red IDs are available online at The new student portal account can be created and activated at: Registration and enrollment information can be found on the WEBPortal site above.


The Office of the Registrar will assign a personal identification number (PID) for registration purposes. Please use this LINK to obtain a password for registration. Enrollment information can be found online at and is accessed using your assigned
PID and password. Orientation is required and will be held at the beginning of the fall semester. The date and times will be emailed from the coordinator.

Policy on Placeholder Units

Policy on Enrollment for Placeholder Units at UC San Diego

Only enroll into the placeholder units at UC San Diego if you meet one of the following criteria:

  • You are employed at UC San Diego (i.e., as GSR or Teaching Assistant)
  • You receive a stipend from UCSD (on a fellowship, T32, F31, etc.)
  • You have received any other monetary payment from UCSD (received an award, travel stipend, etc.)

If you have answered YES to any of the above, you will need to enroll into a one-unit placeholder course at UCSD, even during your first year. This will then allow funds to be released to you.  If you are not registered, it will hold up any payments from these UCSD sources. The UCSD Graduate Coordinator, Carrie Goldsmith, will provide you with the placeholder course to enroll into each quarter via email and notice on the website.

**Note: UC San Diego Registration Deadline

**Note that this placeholder unit does not count toward your UCSD residency requirement.  Please contact Carrie Goldsmith, UCSD Graduate Coordinator, if you have any questions about the above criteria and whether you need to register for the placeholder.

Keep in mind that UC San Diego is on the quarter system and SDSU is on the semester system, so the starting and ending dates of each quarter/semester are different. Check the academic calendars for each institution at:

SDSU Academic Calendar and UC San Diego Academic Calendar


At SDSU, an orientation session will be held for first year students typically the week prior to the first week of classes (mid/late August). The date and times will be emailed to incoming students by the coordinator.  At UCSD, an orientation will be held at the beginning of the second year, during the first session of the Seminar on that campus. Global Health track materials from the orientation session will be retained on the Global Health Homeroom via Blackboard.

Helpful information on starting your studies at SDSU can also be found at the GRA website. Although geared to master’s students, this site includes information about your Red ID, registration, fees, financial aid, and some fellowship opportunities at SDSU. UCSD also holds a new grad student orientation each year which will be helpful to attend even while starting at SDSU. Please see the UCSD New Student Orientation website to register. In addition, please refer to UCSD GradLife website for more information about UCSD.

The purpose of this handbook is to guide students through their next few years and to supplement the information contained in the SDSU Graduate Bulletin under general Requirements for Doctoral Degrees and at UCSD (see Graduate Division website for details).

Establishing Residency For Non-California Residents


New incoming students that are non-California residents will most likely establish residency at SDSU. This is the case since the first year is completed at SDSU and the fees are paid on this campus. For details please go to the Office of Admissions website and please be sure to review the California Residency for Tuition Purposes. The residence determination dates are September 20 for Fall and January 25 for Spring.


Students seeking classification as a resident for tuition purposes must have established residence in California for more than one year immediately preceding the residence determination date for the term during which s/he proposes to attend the University. The student must have relinquished any previous residence. The residency deputy is the only person authorized to advise on residency matters. Additional information is available. Inquiries should be directed to the Residence Deputy at the Office of the Registrar, (858) 534-4586. For additional information refer the Graduate Division website regarding incoming graduate students.

ID Cards and Parking



ID cards should not have an expiration date and should indicate doctoral student status. The cost for an ID card is $5.00 and must be paid during registration. For more information and to get an SDSU card click here.


The Campus ID Card office is located in the new Student Services Center, 402 University Center (Building #931 on campus maps), east of the Administration Complex and southeast of the Price Center. Student Business Services, including the Bursar’s office occupy the third floor, south wing of the building. The initial ID card is free, but replacement cards cost $15. Students must present a picture ID to have the ID picture taken.

JDP students have privileges at all of the UCSD libraries on campus, using their ID. A list of current graduate students is provided to the library each academic year to enable library privileges.



Doctoral students may purchase a student parking permit each semester, which can be used in all student lots (click here for current fees). Doctoral students who have a teaching assistant appointment at SDSU qualify to purchase a Faculty/Staff permit. If you’ve already purchased a student permit you can exchange it for a Faculty/Staff permit at the Public Safety Office (click here for location). However, the coordinator will also send a list of current doctoral students to the Public Safety Office every semester. If you’re a current student on that list, you too will be able to purchase (or trade your student parking permit for) a Faculty/Staff permit. Whether you purchase a Student or Faculty/Staff permit the fee is based on the semester rates. More parking and regulation information may be obtained from the SDSU parking website (click here).


Parking permits for UCSD can be purchased at the UC San Diego Parking Office, located on Russell Lane, in the ground level, west side of the Gilman Parking structure. Graduate student permits are available on a quarterly basis with the option of paying monthly via the students account. Graduate students may purchase permits, which allow them to park in staff parking (B) for a higher rate, as well as student parking (S). Other options are to purchase an occasional use permit, which are good for the quarter, for 10 uses (student (S) spaces only). Another option is to purchase the T/H/F or M/W/F permit, which is good for the quarter (student spaces only). If you are not on the UCSD campus every day you can buy daily permits at the information booth, or use the pre-paid machine parking in the Gilman Parking Structure.

Reciprocal Parking Privilege


Doctoral students have reciprocal parking privileges. If you have business at both institutions and you purchase a parking permit at either institution you will receive a free parking pass at the other institution. An email will go out every semester. Please fill out the survey to request this privilege.

Student Lounge & Dining, Campus Maps & Shuttles, and Email Accounts

Student Lounge & Dining


Lounge: All doctoral students are eligible for keys to the doctoral lounge in PSFA 185. There are two keys: one for the building and one for the room. The doctoral lounge has computers with Internet access and printers. To obtain keys please contact the SDSU coordinator or staff from the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) office with your key request(s). Once form is ready you’ll be notified. Please bring your SDSUcard (ID) to pick up the key request form from the GSPH office (HT-119). You will then take that form to the Public Safety Office to get your key.

Dining: The SDSU Faculty-Staff Club (FSC) offers a comfortable environment to enjoy a leisurely lunch, to grab a continental breakfast snack or just to meet a colleague or friend. The Club is governed by a board of students who are committed to providing an inviting place for the campus community. The Club is perhaps best known as a place to have lunch. All campus faculty and staff are invited to eat at the facility. However members receive a discount on their meals.

SDSU graduate doctoral students get a very good break on this so stop by and check it out (club facts including cost). The Club is located in the heart of the campus across from the library. Click here for other SDSU dining options.


Lounge: The Biomedical Library Graduate Student Lounge provides a location for current UCSD graduate and professional students to study undisturbed 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, excluding campus closures. Please follow the link above for detail and information on using the study room.

Dining: The UCSD Faculty Club is available to graduate students. There is an initiation fee plus monthly dues. All-you-can eat lunches are approximately $7.50. The Club is located west of Geisel Library and provides a nice indoor-outdoor dining experience. For more information online:

Campus Maps & Shuttles

Maps are available at the information booths, or online at the address below.


SDSU Campus Map Directory
SDSU Red & Black Shuttle


UCSD Campus Map Directory
UCSD Shuttle Map

Email Accounts


A student can create an email account via the student’s WebPortal and instructions are on the following link: ROHAN Email Accounts for Students.


Email accounts can be set up through the Academic Computing Services at  Students may also set up their own webpage at

Learning Objectives

Overall Objectives for Students in the Public Health Doctoral Program

The goal of this program is to prepare graduates for careers in public health research, practice and teaching. Upon graduation, students with a Ph.D. in Public Health will be able to:

  • Describe the distribution and determinants of health and disease in populations, and the factors that influence these distributions.
  • Describe major national and international health concerns, their established risk factors and other contributing factors for these problems.
  • Identify the ethical issues involved with studies of human populations.
  • Develop a systematic approach for planning, collecting, processing and analysis of information and data in research and practice settings.
  • Identify and apply appropriate analytic and statistical methods to data generated from a wide variety of public health research.
  • Translate public health research findings into recommendations for specific interventions, health policies, or further investigative research.
  • Communicate scientific findings clearly and concisely to other health professionals, both orally and in writing, as well as to the media and broader community.
  • Develop and write fundable research proposals and critique those of other investigators.
  • Demonstrate the ability to plan and successfully complete independent research addressing a public health problem.

Additional Objectives for the Health Behavior Track Students

At the completion of the coursework component, Health Behavior track students should be able to:

  1. Evaluate and apply the major influential theories and models of health behavior change.
  2. Analyze best practices for measuring health behaviors and related risk factors, and apply psychometric principles to develop new reliable and valid measurement instruments.
  3. Use mixed research methods to formulate and evaluate health behavior research questions.
  4. Design effective interventions to motivate a change in population health behavior.
  5. Design studies that examine the effectiveness of theoretically based interventions in health behavior.
  6. Evaluate the effectiveness of interventions in promoting healthy behavior.
  7. Create research proposals that would be competitive at the National Institutes of Health and comparable funding organizations.

Proposed Course of Study

The course of study should take into consideration: (1) required courses; (2) required practical experience; (3) courses that would assist in passing the written qualifying examination and the formal defense of a dissertation; and (4) courses that provide expertise in public health research principles.

Incoming students not possessing a Masters degree in Public Health or in health-related behavioral science, or equivalent preparation must take additional courses to obtain the necessary pre-requisite competencies. Students who have earned a Masters Degree or have completed equivalent coursework will generally complete the first year of core coursework at SDSU and the second year of coursework at UCSD. Students must complete a one-year residency requirement (specified as completed course credits) at each institution. Additional coursework may be taken at either campus during the first two years. In the third year, students will be in residence at the campus that provides the faculty expertise for completing the dissertation. Please note: There is an additional UCSD residency requirement: students must complete at least 3 academic quarters after advancement to candidacy.

This is described in greater detail in the later section entitled Dissertation Defense and Submission.


Students who do not have an M.P.H. or M.A. in health-related behavioral science are required to take Epidemiology and other public health related courses at the discretion of the co-directors.

Course Units Title
PH 601 3 Epidemiology
PH 602 3 Biostatistics
PH 607 3 Research Methods and Proposal Writing
PH 661 3 Theoretical Foundations of Health Promotion
PH 662 3 Motivating Health Behavior
PH 663 3 Health Promotion Communications Theory and Design

Academic Sequence

The following two tables have been prepared as examples of the milestones that students need to achieve in order to graduate. There are two examples: the first is the longest available sequence in order to complete the degree (without special exemptions from the Dean of Graduate Studies at BOTH Universities); the second is the rapid progression sequence. With the longest available sequence, please keep in mind the time limits and deadlines. If you exceed these time limits and deadlines set out by the universities, you will have a hold placed on your academic record. This hold will not allow you to enroll for the required units to establish and keep track of your academic residency.

Program Timeline Chart PDF

Advisory Committee

The faculty advisor, assigned upon entry into the program, will assist the student in organizing an Advisory Committee during the first year of study. The committee will be comprised of three members: the student’s primary faculty advisor (committee chair) and two other faculty members approved by the advisor. At least one member of the committee must be from SDSU and one from UCSD. The Advisory Committee works with the student to shape the educational experience (including choice of electives) and also monitor program progress regularly to ensure that advancement to candidacy proceeds in a timely manner. The chair is also available to assist the student with problems affecting relationships with faculty, colleagues or the department as a whole. The student is responsible for seeking meetings, as needed, with his/her advisory chair. Once the student has advanced to candidacy, the Dissertation Committee assumes the above roles. Please note that no Joint Doctoral form is needed to organize your Advisory Committee. Do, however, contact both SDSU and UCSD coordinators with the names of your committee members. The Advisory Committee typically (but not always) will form the basis of the larger Dissertation Committee.

Annual Progress Evaluation


Each year you will receive a comprehensive progress review. The review for pre-candidacy students is to be conducted by the Advisory Committee and signed by the Co- Directors, and the student. The evaluation is used to track the student’s progress through the program. Use the following link to the online Annual Spring Evaluation Tool. The Spring Evaluation is due to the UCSD Graduate Coordinator by June 1.

In Candidacy

Each student in PhD candidacy is to receive an annual substantive progress review. At least three members of the student’s doctoral committee are to participate in the review. The review should cover the student’s progress to date, recommended modifications to the dissertation’s scope or methodology, and timetable for completion.

The doctoral committee chair shall write up the results of the review and discuss them with the student. All members of the doctoral committee participating in the review (at least 3 including the Chair), the student, the UCSD and SDSU directors and the Program Chair at UCSD are to sign the online progress report.

The Spring Evaluation is due to the UCSD Graduate Coordinator by June 1.

Please note: failure to complete the spring evaluation will create a hold on your UCSD account, which will prevent you from registering the following fall quarter.

The only exemptions for submitting Spring Evaluation are students who will advance to candidacy or graduate in spring quarter (when the evaluation is due). Students need to notify both Directors, via email, in either of these cases. Also, those students that are on an active Leave of Absence (LOA) are not required to submit a Spring Evaluation Letter.

Steering Committee and Student Representative

The Health Behavior track of the JDP in Public Health has a steering committee comprised of at least four members from each campus, all of whom must be involved in the program, and a student representative. The student representative is elected for a two-year term by the members of the student body in the track. It is expected that the student representative will be chosen in a student-run election at the end of each academic year from among students completing their first year in the program.


For students who have received an MPH in Health Promotion/Health Behavior or an MA in a health-related behavioral or social science, the course requirements for the PhD include a minimum of 1 year of coursework at SDSU and 1 year of coursework at UCSD. SDSU coursework is based on a semester schedule and students must complete a minimum of 24 units to complete the residency requirement. In contrast, UCSD coursework is based on a quarter schedule and students must complete a minimum of 36 units (one year equivalent). Students may take electives, as approved by the Advisory Committee, to meet the unit requirements.

Students must be enrolled in units at SDSU during each semester of the doctoral program; the details will be provided by the SDSU coordinator.

At UC San Diego, students may need to be enrolled in 1.0 unit of Special Study at UC San Diego for quarters they are in the program (not enrolled in coursework) and receiving funding from a UC San Diego source. The Graduate Coordinator will contact you regarding your funding status at the institution. Details for this enrollment in Special Study units will be sent quarterly. These units act as “placeholder” or “student counting” units, to keep your funding active in UC San Diego student system. These units do not count toward the residency requirement.

Required Units – Year 1, SDSU — goal is approx. 12 units/semester

Course– Fall

PH 623


PH 820A*


Epidemiological Methods


Advanced Modern Epidemiology Methods

PH 627** 3 Advanced Statistical Methods in Public Health (or higher level class for those with appropriate background)
PH 862 3 Advanced Theoretical Foundations of Health Promotion & Behavioral Science
PH 864 3 Seminar: Research Methods
2-3 units of Computer Laboratory (SAS, SPSS, R) - Only one required for the year.
PH 629* 3 SAS for Biostatistics II
PH 700A 3 SEM:Data Analysis Using R
*Advanced Modern Epidemiology Methods course that is part of a yearlong course taken in sequence with PH 820B offered in the Spring
**Typically PH 627 & PH 629 are taken in conjunction.
Course– Spring
PH 628 3 Applications of Multivariate Statistics in Public Health
PH 861 3 Behavioral Measurement
PH 867 3 Seminar in Grant Writing in Health Behavior
Elective 3 Choose with mentor’s advice
2-3 units of Computer Laboratory (SAS, SPSS, R) - Only one required for the year.
PH 629** 3 SAS for Biostatistics II (in conjunction with PH 627)
PH 700A 3 SEM:Data Analysis Using R
**Typically PH 627 & PH 629 are taken in conjunction.

Required Core Units – Year 2, UCSD – goal is 12 units/quarter

Course– Fall
FPM 258A 2 Doctoral Seminar
FPM 276 4 Health Behavior Interventions I
FPM 278 4 Scale Development for Behavioral Health
FPM 280A 4 Practicum in Health Behavior I
Course– Winter
FPM 258B 2 Doctoral Seminar
FPM 280B 4 Practicum in Health Behavior II
FMPH 277 4 Health Policy / Technology in Public Health
Elective 2 Chose with mentor’s advice  (you may choose classes over 2 units)
Course– Spring
FPM 258C 2 Doctoral Seminar:  Research Ethics
FPM 280C 4 Practicum in Health Behavior III
FMPH 224 4 Clinical Trials and Experimental Design
Elective 2 Chose with mentor’s advice  (you may choose classes over 2 units)


Note: Units below are presented as semester units for SDSU and quarter units for UCSD.

UCSD quarter units x 2/3 = SDSU semester units.

* Paperwork to create this new course is in process.

Research Practicum

In the 2nd year of the program, students will take the Practicum in Health Behavior in all three quarters. The first quarter will with the student’s mentor, under the direction of practicum faculty, the student will undertake a) a behavioral analysis of a health behavior that is targeted for change and b) write a theory piece for how a health behavioral intervention will work to change behavior. The second quarter will involve the mentor providing the student with a data base and the student proposing research questions and undertaking analyses. The third quarter will be focused on writing and presentation skills.

For the health behavior intervention experience requirement, students will be expected to complete many of the following: have met and discussed the project with the PI; attended intervention meetings; learned how to implement the intervention; participated in or observed data collection; and met with project managers, data managers, counselors, other notables in the intervention.

The student will study the theory related to the intervention, “live the intervention,” and learn about its obstacles and procedures. As a general guide for evaluation, primary relevant items to address are described below.

  1. Summary of the intervention, its goals, and protocol.
  2. How one can apply the theory learned to the intervention? Or, how does the intervention demonstrates the theory?
  3. Activities observed and/or participated in. Describe any planning, decision making, problem solving, field sampling participated in.
  4. Meetings attended and any input the student provided.
  5. Summary of interviews with intervention investigators/staff.
  6. Any additional experience the student has been exposed to.
  7. Any obstacles encountered and possible solutions.
  8. Any improvements, additions or future development in the intervention that can be suggested.
  9. Describe important aspects that future students should be involved in/exposed to in the intervention.

These criteria can also include specific requirements or questions raised by the PI of the intervention. The open-ended questions allow elaborate answers and descriptions and should be analytical in nature to reflect a PhD candidate level and reflect the practical experience of the student.

Please refer to the syllabus of the practicum for complete details. Prior to the quarter starting, students need to email their choice for the faculty member they would like to complete the intervention and analysis with.

Elective Courses

In addition to the core courses, students will achieve their course requirements by completing electives available at each campus. Electives will generally be agreed upon with the Advisory Committee. The choice of electives should be included in the yearly plan (if done) and performance will be assessed by the Advisory Committee on the progress report.

Suggested Elective Courses – Year 1, SDSU

PH 722 3 Clinical Trials
PH 724 3 Advanced Methods in Epidemiology
PH 824 3 Cohort Studies
PH 700F 3 Seminar in Public Health, Health Promotion
PH 761 3 Programming Health Promotion
PH 866 3 Global Issues in Health Behavior Research & Application

Suggested Elective Courses – Year 2, UCSD

FPM 246 2 Occupational/Environmental Health
FPM 247 2 Clinical Epidemiology Seminar
FPM 270 4 Cultural Perceptions of Health and Disease
FPM 276 4 Health Behavior Interventions I
FPM 278 4 Scale Development
FPM 285 2 Issues & Dilemmas / Clinical Trials
FPM 288 4 Intro to Qualitative Methods
MED 231 4 Intro to Mixed Methods
FPM 291 4 Implementation and Dissemination of Public Health Research
FPM 292 4 Contemporary Issues in Women’s Health: A Public Health Perspective
FPM 500 2 Teaching Methods in Public Health

1 unit per semester x 2 semesters ** Equivalent to 1-quarter units x 3 quarters


While a teaching requirement is not mandatory in the program, students are strongly encouraged to seek such an experience if they intend to pursue careers in academia. Students interested in such an experience should contact the SDSU coordinator for possible Teaching Assistant positions or guest lecture opportunities in the Graduate School of Public Health.

Qualifying Examination

UPDATES – Please read below for new updates

These updates include detailed instructions and more guidance on the review process. If there are questions regarding the new process, please contact the track directors and graduate coordinators.

The qualifying (qual) exam has two components: one is a grant proposal at the end of the second year of coursework, and the second is the oral defense of the dissertation proposal. Both components can be completed by the student at any time after completion of the required coursework. However, it is expected that the quals would be completed no earlier than the end of the second year of study.

Part I: Written

Process and Content

  1. The goal of the written qual exam is to have the student produce an original proposal in response to an RFA/PA. Specifically, over a 2-week period, students are required to write an NIH-style proposal (12 pages single-spaced in addition to a specific aims page). The student will pick three to five NIH PAs or RFAs on a topic that is of interest to the student. The PAs or RFAs must propose a behavioral intervention. The chair and the committee will select one of the three announcements (with modification of the topic as deemed appropriate by the committee). The scope of the proposal topic could be within the R21 or R01 mechanism.

    It is important that the topic and approach not overlap completely with the area of training/expertise of the student. The student may request the general research area (e.g., physical activity) of the qualifying exam, but the committee will determine the parameters of the research approach. For example, the student may be knowledgeable about promoting physical activity in a group using a specific approach (e.g., tailored print). The committee may choose the topic of physical activity but require the student to propose a different approach to promote physical activity.

    It is the responsibility of the chair to send the following documents to the student at the start of his/her exam: 1) Selected RFA/PA, 2) sample excel budget sheet, and 3) budget planning sheet. The chair will also send the NIH review criteria sheet to the rest of the committee and a core competencies sheet (attached sheet). The chair is also responsible for informing the student and the committee of the timelines for completion of these activities.

  2. Factors to consider in the proposal: These guidelines are to be used by the students and committee members.

    1. There should be multiple aims.
    2. The background literature and rationale, while important, are not the focal point of this exam (limit to 3 pages).
    3. The following sections are required: aims, significance, innovation, approach.
    4. A preliminary data section is not required.
    5. Students are strongly encouraged to include an overall study design figure.
    6. Students should be clear on the elements of the proposed health behavior change model on which they plan to intervene.
    7. Students should describe the target population, the proposed setting, and if applicable (organization, community), how the population will be recruited.
    8. A justification for the use of measures (e.g., validity, reliability) to address the aims should be included. The student is strongly encouraged to use the best possible “state of the science”       measures appropriate to address the aims.
    9. A detailed data analyses section is required that outlines how each of the aims will be addressed.
    10. The analyses section should include a power calculation (although statistical consultation is allowed, a statistician cannot write or edit this section).
    11. A human subjects section (and DSMB) should be included.
    12. A study timeline diagram and description should be included.
    13. A detailed budget and budget justification should be included (use sample excel sheet).
    14. References should be included (formatted using AMA or APA manual style).
  3. The proposal must be an original document that is written independently without the assistance of fellow students, consultants, editors, other researchers or project managers. Note that the student is not allowed to use text from previous grants that he/she was involved in or any text that was written or prepared by someone else.

  4. This proposal will be reviewed by the three members of the Advisory Committee as if it were a formal NIH peer review, paying particular attention to the required core competencies (see attached scoring sheet). The committee chair will address discrepancies in feedback provided by the committee. A written critique will be provided to the student within 1 month of the completion of the proposal. The committee members may choose to give feedback in track changes, in addition to the written NIH critique form.

    Written Qualifying Exam Scoring Sheet Word doc

  5. The student will respond to the reviewers’ critique in a written, point-by-point NIH-style (Introduction to Revised Application), not to exceed three pages. The student will also revise the proposal (bolding the text that involves the changes). The student will submit both documents to the full committee no later than 1 month after the student receives the initial review. If necessary, the student may meet with a member of the committee to help clarify a point/critique.

  6. The student will pass the written qualifying exam if the Advisory Committee agrees that the student has adequately responded to the critiques and met the 7 core competencies (see below) in the proposal. In the event the student does not pass, the student may appeal to the JDP Health Behavior Steering Committee who will then determine the outcome.

    Core Competencies that will be assessed on the written qualifying exam are as follows:

    1. Ability to critically review research in an area
    2. Skill/knowledge of research design
    3. Knowledge of appropriate measurement techniques, including quantitative and qualitative
    4. Knowledge of appropriate statistical analysis techniques
    5. Ability to ground the proposal in an appropriate theory
    6. Ability to design an appropriate health behavior intervention
    7. Knowledge of appropriate research ethics

 Sample Time Line –Start July 5th

Student picks RFA/PA 1-2 weeks prior to start date
Advisory Committee selects one RFA/PA and adjusts the topic as desired START DATE
Student writes proposal 2 weeks (14 days) to complete
Advisory Committee members prepare NIH style review and assessment of competencies
(if there are discrepancies, need to discuss and come to agreement)
1 month from submission (6 weeks from start date)
Student responds and revises proposal 1 month + advisory committee discretion (10 weeks from start date)
Advisory Committee reviews revisions and responses to critiques (use form/rating scale against core competencies) 2 weeks from resubmission (at least 12 weeks from start date)

Part II: Advancement to Candidacy - Oral Proposal Defense

Upon successfully completing the written qualifying examination, the student will begin the process of Advancement of Candidacy. This will involve the following steps:

  • Identifying a dissertation topic area.
  • Meeting with the Advisory Committee to determine the additional members of the Dissertation Committee; it is expected that the chair of the Advisory Committee will be either the chair or a member of the Dissertation Committee.
  • Writing the dissertation proposal with guidance and oversight from the chair of the committee.
  • Orally defending the dissertation proposal in front of the Dissertation Committee (i.e., the oral qualifying exam).

Step 1: Identifying a Dissertation Topic Area

The first step is to identify a dissertation topic. The usual process is to prepare a brief (one page) description of the proposed dissertation project and consult with JDP faculty to refine ideas.

Step 2: Identifying a Dissertation Committee (complete JDP Form – 2)  

The Dissertation Committee will consist of a minimum of five members, including the Chair. Four members (including the Chair) will be internal members, and one will be an external (outside) member. Internal members will have their primary affiliation with SDSU or UCSD; there must be one external member from either campus. These affiliations may be, but do not need to be, with the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH)—SDSU or the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine (FPM)—UCSD. The external member may not have their primary affiliation with GSPH or FPM, but must be tenured at either SDSU or UCSD.

The table on the Doctoral Committee Membership Rules shows the titles of faculty that UCSD will allow to be involved in the Dissertation Committee – PLEASE NOTE THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.  At SDSU, in general, any tenured/tenure track faculty could be eligible to serve on a JDP – Health Behavior Dissertation Committee if this is approved by SDSU’s Graduate Division. Adjunct faculty with academic files that are reviewed by the campus committee on academic promotions are eligible to be one of the key five member committee, others can be a sixth, non-voting committee member. If a particular faculty person at SDSU is not currently on the approved to serve list, a student (and their Advisor), along with the SDSU coordinator, should work with the Graduate Division to seek the formal approval. The appendix lists faculty members from UCSD and SDSU who are currently eligible to serve on JDP – Health Behavior dissertations as internal members. The student should begin selecting the committee as soon as appropriate and check with the Co-Directors of the Health Behavior concentration to ensure that the committee composition complies with all rules.

After identifying the possible committee, the student must complete JDP Form 2 to formalize the nomination of the Dissertation Committee. After the Dissertation Committee has been nominated and approved by the graduate deans of both universities, the student will meet with all committee members to discuss a dissertation topic.

This requires a written document presented to the dissertation committee 10 days before a scheduled oral presentation. Feedback from the Dissertation Committee will be verbal at the meeting but may include written comments that need to be addressed. The student should then present the revised written proposal to the committee for approval (this can be done by mail).

If dissertation committee members have major problems with the written proposal then they should share these with the chair and the planned proposal defense should be postponed.

Please note: Students must fill out the JDP Form 2  to nominate their committee and have it approved by all parties—JDP Co-Directors and both graduate deans—before proceeding with their dissertation. Allow 2-3 weeks for the approval process.

Step 3: Write the Dissertation Proposal

The PhD dissertation should consist of original health behavior science research that adds significantly to the existing state of knowledge. The project should include original data collection, although the Dissertation Committee may waive this requirement provided that the student has had significant experience with original data collection through other projects.

At the discretion of the Dissertation Committee, each student has the option of submitting a traditional dissertation or a dissertation consisting of three peer-reviewed manuscripts. Students should present their choice of method as part of the presentation of the dissertation proposal. If the committee agrees to this peer-reviewed manuscript option, students must also present a discussion of each of the proposed manuscripts as part of the oral exam. Any changes in papers that have been successfully defended (even those requested by peer-reviewers) must be approved by the chair of the committee.  If it is a major change, including a change in paper topic, the full committee needs to approve it.

For both options, all students must conduct a formal defense of the completed dissertation.

Option 1: The traditional dissertation typically includes the following sections or chapters: introduction, literature review, methods, results, and discussion. Appropriate appendices, i.e. data collection instruments and informed consent forms, should be included.

Option 2: The alternative dissertation includes: 3 or more published or submitted empirical manuscripts accompanied by a short introduction and discussion as well as a comprehensive set of appendices. All manuscripts should relate to the central theme of the dissertation. The role of the Dissertation Committee is to review these manuscripts for evidence that the research in the dissertation proposal had been satisfactorily completed. The student must be first author on these manuscripts and co-authorship will be subject to the rules now standard in the field. It could be expected that Dissertation Committee members may provide reviewer comments to the manuscript if they are concerned that the manuscript is not of publishable quality. In such cases, the student, the committee chair, and the concerned committee member will meet to discuss changes that need to be made to the manuscript to improve its chances of publication. This will not occur if the manuscript has been accepted for publication in a reputable journal in the health behavior area. Appropriate appendices are data collection instruments, informed consent forms, etc.

If choosing Option 2, prior to scheduling the final defense, students need to send a letter to the Dean of Graduate Studies at UCSD which outlines the proposed papers and provides evidence of co-authors permission to submit the manuscript/paper as evidence of independent work for the purposes of a dissertation.

Step 4: Orally Defend the Dissertation Proposal (Successful defense leads to advancement to candidacy) (complete JDP Form 3)

Once the dissertation proposal is completed, the student can schedule an oral defense of the proposed research. After selecting a date when all of your committee members can be present, make sure to circulate your written proposal at least two (2) weeks prior to the oral exam date. At the oral defense, the student will present the dissertation proposal and answer questions from committee members. Typically, a PowerPoint presentation is prepared to highlight key elements of the proposed research. The presentation should not last longer than 30-45 minutes to allow sufficient time for questions. Successful completion of the proposal defense will allow advancement to candidacy. If the committee feels that the student is not adequately prepared to conduct the proposed project, he/she will be advised of committee concerns and may be asked to re-defend the proposal at a later time. Unanimous agreement among Dissertation Committee members is required for passing.

Students should take the JDP Form 3 “Report of the Qualifying Exam and Advancement to Candidacy” (see Forms) to the proposal defense. All committee members will sign this form indicating that the student has passed this milestone. When this form has been completed and processed, the doctoral student is considered a doctoral candidate.

Doctoral Committee Membership Rules — UCSD

Dissertation Research

After advancing to candidacy, students will register at SDSU for 6 units of Research (PH-897) each semester they are working on their dissertation. When the student plans to defend his/her dissertation, they will then register for 6 units of Dissertation (PH-899) for that semester only.

The Ph.D. dissertation should consist of original research that adds significantly to the existing state of knowledge of health behavioral science. The student is ultimately responsible for the conduct of his/her research project and should consult with committee members as needed. If the project deviates from the written proposal, it is his/her responsibility to get approval from committee members; substantive changes from the research proposal require committee discussion and approval prior to undertaking the work. Details of all substantive changes, the rationale for each, and a clear description of how these changes sustain the methodological rigor of the study must be provided to the Dissertation Committee.The committee may require an oral defense of these changes and/or additional modifications in procedures.

During the time that the student is conducting research, he/she must update the entire committee on dissertation progress at a minimum of every three months until the dissertation defense. This update may be as short as one paragraph and may be general in nature. In addition, the student will meet at least annually with the Chair and a minimum of one other committee member to review progress to date and plans for the upcoming period. The committee will also complete the formal progress review form.

The student is responsible for circulating dissertation drafts to committee members. How drafts are circulated will often vary by committee but the committee should agree on this process before writing begins. (Students may choose to work closely with one or two committee members and then circulate later drafts to the entire committee, or circulate all drafts to each committee member.) Students should recognize that the writing process takes time and should expect that numerous drafts will be circulated prior to defense. When the Chair of the Dissertation Committee feels the student is ready to defend, the student will be notified that he/she can proceed with setting a defense date.

Dissertation Options

The PhD dissertation should consist of original epidemiologic research that adds significantly to the existing state of knowledge. The project should include original data collection, although the student’s dissertation committee may waive this requirement provided that the student has had significant experience with original data collection through another project.

At the discretion of her/his dissertation committee, students have the option of submitting a traditional dissertation or a dissertation consisting of manuscripts. The student should present her/his choice of method as part of the oral qualifying exam. If the student chooses the alternative method, she/he must also present a discussion of each of the proposed manuscripts as part of the oral exam.  Any subsequent changes in method or manuscript topics must be approved by the entire committee.

For both options, the student must conduct a formal defense of the completed dissertation.

Option 1: The traditional dissertation typically includes the following sections or chapters: introduction, literature review, methods, results, and discussion. Appropriate appendices, i.e. data collection instruments and informed consent forms, should be included.

Option 2: The alternative dissertation includes: an introduction, 3 or more published or submitted manuscripts, and a discussion. All manuscripts should relate to the central theme of the dissertation.  Manuscripts must receive approval of the entire committee prior to submission. Student must be first author of at least 3 of the manuscripts. Published manuscripts can be submitted as reprints.  A separate literature review is optional. Appropriate appendices, i.e. data collection instruments and informed consent forms, should be included.

If a student chooses option 2 they should complete a letter to the Dean, Office of Graduate Studies at UCSD, prior to scheduling their defense, which outlines their proposed papers, and acknowledges co-author’s permission. An example of this letter can be found in Appendix E.

Dissertation Defense and Submission


After advancing, students will need to be registered for 3 (UCSD) quarters of academic residency. The quarter of advancement to candidacy counts as one of the three quarters, and the quarter of the dissertation defense counts as one of the three. The summer quarters do NOT count.

Once a student has advanced to candidacy, he/she will be sent a letter with a link to the instruction manual for formatting the dissertation and scheduling your final appointments with UCSD’s OGS. This LINK that will appear on the letter from OGS.

When you are ready to defend you will need to schedule 2 appointments with OGS: a preliminary one where you review a complete draft of the dissertation (formatted according to the guidelines) and go over the necessary paperwork for your final appointment (JDP5, degree and diploma application); and a final appointment where you will turn in their final dissertation and paperwork before taking a copy of the dissertation to SDSU (which is your last step). The preliminary appointment is generally a couple weeks before the defense but can be sooner if you have a complete formatted dissertation draft. The final appointment can be anytime after the defense when you have all paperwork and a final version of the dissertation.

Schedule Appointment with Graduate Division

To satisfy SDSU requirements, students must print out an additional copy of the dissertation on 100% cotton rag paper, and submit it to the Graduate Division at SDSU. Since students will have already had the dissertation accepted by UCSD, SDSU will not need to check it over, but will simply verify that it was accepted by the Graduate Division at UCSD. It may be advisable to submit the dissertation in unbound form, since SDSU has certain binding specifications. Two bond copies of the dissertation should be provided to the coordinators for the Joint Doctoral Program in Public Health offices (one for each campus). Additional copies are usually given to each member of the Dissertation Committee.

A formal public defense must be conducted prior to filing the dissertation. Students must coordinate a date for the defense with all committee members. UCSD Graduate Council has, permitted any absent member to examine the candidate in advance of the exam date and to then sign off on the Final Report and the Signature Page. If the absent member has questions for the committee to consider at the exam, these should be forwarded to the committee chair and the committee chair should then withhold signature until those questions are resolved. This procedure should not be undertaken without the Doctoral Directors and committee chair’s advance approval. The committee chair and the tenured external (outside) member must always be present at a defense exam.

A complete draft of the dissertation must be delivered to each committee member no less than 30 days before the defense date. The defense announcement including date, location, and dissertation title must be submitted to the JDP Coordinators on both campuses no less than 14 days prior to the defense date and publicly announced by the program in accordance with the university rules (see LINK). Students must bring to the defense the JDP Form 5 “Report of the Final Examination and Filing of the Dissertation” (see Appendix A) and two copies of the signature page of the dissertation. At the completion of the defense, all all members of the committee must have signed the JDP Form 5 and both copies of the signature page.

In terms of the graduation ceremony, students are encouraged to discuss with their chair which ceremony they prefer to participate in; the SDSU ceremony occurs in May and the UCSD ceremony is held in June. According to the UCSD Graduate Division, students may participate in the ceremony only if the dissertation has been completed and a final copy submitted.

Policy on PHD Time Limits

The goal of this policy is to encourage students to complete their Ph.D. in a timely manner. The following time limits have been set for this program:

  1. Pre-Candidacy limit:     4 Years      Maximum registered time in which a student must advance to Ph.D. candidacy.
  2. Support limit:                6 Years     Maximum registered time during which a doctoral student is eligible for support.
  3. Total time limit:             7 Years      Maximum registered time in which a student must complete all Ph.D. requirements.

In addition, each program has a “normative time”, the period within which students, under normal circumstances, are expected to complete requirements for the Ph.D. The normative time for students entering the program with a Masters degree is 4 years.

Policy on Leave of Absence (LOA) and Withdrawal

Up to two semesters (SDSU) and three quarters (UCSD) of time spent on leave from the program will not count towards the normative time limits. Additionally, any unexpired time limits will get move forward equivalent to the number of semester(s)/quarters(s) taken off.  Time spent on an approved leave of absence in excess of two semesters (SDSU) and three quarters (UCSD) will count toward the normative and support time limits.


Students must request a leave of absence for each semester they wish to be absent. First, an informal meeting of the Chair of the Advisory/Dissertation Committee should take place to discuss options available. To request a Leave of Absence, please get written approval from both JDP track directors (E-mail is preferred) and copy the SDSU coordinator. Once approved, the coordinator will forward this request to the appropriate personnel in the Graduate office.  A leave of absence cannot be granted if the student has a registration hold  or are still enrolled in classes. If the student is requesting a LOA in the middle of the semester, the student will need to withdraw from the classes prior to going on a LOA.


To request a leave of absence from UCSD, please contact the UCSD Graduate Coordinator, who will provide and process the form.  At the time of the request, you will need to indicate if you are registered or not registered for classes.  When the form is processed and approved by the Office of Graduate Studies and the Registrars Office, they will remove you from classes if needed.  Do not remove yourself from classes.  This process is different from what is required by SDSU, please make sure to read the above instructions carefully.

Form must be filed no later than the end of the second week of instruction of the quarter in which the leave is to begin.

Students are not permitted to continue in doctoral status if they have not advanced to candidacy before the expiration of the pre-candidacy time limit (four years), or if they have not completed the program before the expiration of the total time limit (seven years). Students will not be permitted to receive SDSU- or UCSD-administered financial support after the expiration of the support limits (6 years).

If a student withdraws and subsequently returns with a completed dissertation, the student may petition the department for readmission. To be eligible for readmission, the student must have been in good academic standing at the time he/she left the program and must satisfy departmental requirements for readmission. Upon leaving the program, the department may provide a letter specifying the conditions under which the student can be readmitted.

Ph.D. candidacy lapses when a student withdraws from the Ph.D. program. If a previously-advanced student withdraws and is later readmitted, the doctoral committee members are asked if they will continue serving on the doctoral committee; if they will not, the doctoral committee must be reconstituted. Students will be re-advanced to candidacy upon the recommendation of the doctoral committee (who may require the student to retake the oral qualifying examination) and upon payment of the candidacy fee, after which the student can defend his/her dissertation.

Further Details from UCSD Graduate Division Policy on Leave of Absence and Withdrawals

Procedures: Extension of a Leave

To extend an approved leave of absence, a student must notify the major department or group graduate coordinator at least two weeks prior to the end of the quarter in which the leave terminates.  An extension requires approval of the department. The International Center must approve a Leave of Absence for all international students.

Procedures: Returning from a Leave

When planning on returning from a Leave of Absence, a student must notify the graduate coordinator of the quarter in which s/he intends to register. The coordinator notifies OGS who then reinstates the student. The student cannot register until this is done. Notification of return from a leave can only be given to OGS by the department.

Employment While Conducting Research

The doctoral candidate is a full time student prior to the successful defense of the student’s dissertation. Normally, employment up to 50% time is permitted for graduate students. It is expected that the remainder of their time is devoted to their studies or research. Therefore, the student should not secure full-time employment until the student’s dissertation is successfully defended. The doctoral candidate should consult his/her Dissertation Chair to determine the optimal time to start applying to jobs and postdoctoral opportunities.

Graduation Deadlines

There are three deadlines to take into consideration when preparing for graduation.

  1. Applying for graduation from SDSU Graduate Division. For fall graduation the deadline is mid- September; for spring it is mid-February.
  2. Submitting the dissertation to SDSU Graduate Division, This must be done by the last day of the relevant semester.
  3. Submitting the dissertation to the UCSD Office of Graduate Studies. This date is always one day before the last day of the quarter in which the students intends to graduate.

Please note: Students should choose the earlier of the two deadlines in every case to qualify on both campuses.