Practicum

BIST 917: PRACTICUM I (1 CREDIT)
&
BIST 918: Practicum II (1 credit)

WHAT IS THE RESEARCH PRACTICUM?

Research Practicum (Practicum) is a non-classroom required class (2 semesters) that provides a real life research experience for students. It encompasses the main components of a research project: understanding the problem at hand, reading and summarizing existing literature on the subject, organizing datasets, building a model (designing an experiment, devising a computational technique, etc.), programming the necessary algorithms to test hypotheses, reaching a conclusion, and formulating the answer in the context of the original problem.

The Practicum research project consists of two 1-credit courses, BIST 917 and BIST 918, offered in the Spring and the Fall, respectively; each is graded separately. It is completed under the supervision of a Department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Biomathematics (DBBB) faculty mentor, or an outside faculty member (in which case a DBBB faculty co-mentor is assigned to oversee that the requirements for successful completion are satisfied).

WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE RESEARCH PRACTICUM?

The practicum will provide students with an opportunity to implement a combination of the skills they have acquired and to extend them in a limited context. Through the practicum, students will implement the knowledge and methodologies acquired during the formal academic process, gain practical experience and new techniques, improve their communication skills (both written and oral) and develop their capability to work as a team member.  

In a few cases, the work completed in the Practicum, in the context of a bigger study, may result in a publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

How does the Practicum fit among other courses?

The Practicum runs concurrently with major courses. As students go through their courses, they update their background. However, the major work is supposed to be done over the summer, after the major courses are completed. Students are expected to be fairly converse in techniques. Many analyses require building a model, and having completed courses such as Categorical Data Analysis, Multivariate Analysis and Linear Models, and Survival Analysis should equip students sufficiently.

What are the advantages of THE Practicum for employment?

One of the most important parts of the Practicum is to expose students to techniques that are not normally covered in the regular curriculum. This is crucial, as techniques covered are fairly standard, but upon graduation and subsequent employment, students may be required to perform tasks outside their “comfort zone.” Having learned new techniques helps them learn how to approach non-standard problems in creative ways; they learn how to learn.

The composition and requirements of the Practicum result in preparation of Master’s biostatisticians that are capable of working on various projects. Not only does the research experience complement the regular course work, but also it enriches the quantitative world view of our students.
 

WHAT PROJECTS WERE PRESENTED AT A RECENT PRACTICUM DEFENSE?

Practicum projects may be of a methodological or an applied nature.  There was a diverse range of research topics and projects presented by our recent MS graduates at the  2016-2017 Practicum Defense.
 

WHAT ARE THE Guidelines for Practicum?

Overview

The Practicum research project consists of two 1-credit parts, BIST 917 and BIST 918, offered in the Spring and the Fall, respectively; each is graded separately. It is completed under the supervision of a Department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Biomathematics (DBBB) faculty mentor, or an outside faculty member (in which case a DBBB faculty co-mentor is assigned to oversee that the requirements for successful completion are satisfied).

Project Topics

Projects may be of a methodological or an applied nature. For methodological projects, the research topics will not be beyond the students’ reach. The work may involve some theoretical derivations and some simulations. The topic will typically be carved out of the mentor’s research. For applied projects, it typically consists of sophisticated data analyses requiring the implementation of state-of-the-art statistical and bioinformatics tools. The research is usually supervised by two faculty members, one in the application area and one in DBBB.

Poster Presentation & Project Report

Poster Presentation:

  • The work performed for this research project will be presented as a poster (in a poster session) at the end of the Fall semester.  Posters will typically measure 36 inches by 48 inches and will be displayed on boards provided by the Department.  Both DBBB faculty and students are expected to attend the poster session.

Project Report:

  • The format of your report should resemble the particular style of a scientific paper that you would submit to a scientific journal. We require two concrete parts of the report: a clear statement of goals in the introduction and an expanded description of methodology used (e.g., data analysis and/or statistical methods explanation).
  • While most scientific papers devote only a condensed paragraph to statistical methods or software used, this is insufficient and unacceptable.  (For instance, if you are planning to use SAS PROCGLM with repeated measures, you have to be able to understand what exactly it means in the context of your project).
Students' Responsibilities
  • Once a student are assigned a practicum mentor(s), the student must schedule an initial meeting with his/her mentor(s) to discuss the nature and scope of the practicum and to establish goals and expectations.
  • The student must meet with her/his mentor(s) weekly over the practicum period.
Mentors' Responsibilities
  • A formal document is required to explain the goals and expectations for the successful completion of the practicum. The document should specify background and objectives of the study, as well estimated time commitments.
  • Assignments and responsibilities should be in accordance with individual needs and abilities.
  • Weekly meeting with the student on a weekly basis to provide the necessary guidance.
  • Provide students with the opportunity to practice and develop professional skills in a variety of situations.
  • Responsible for the evaluation of the practicum, and the grade assignment, together with the other committee members.