The PhD programme in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine
Coordination of PhD programme
The Convener of the Postgraduate Research Student Programme, Professor Rob McGee (firstname.lastname@example.org) provides assistance with the academic administration of PhD students in our Department. The Convener chairs the Department’s Research Advisory Committee (RAC) which reviews and approves all postgraduate research projects in the Department. The Convenor also organises the Research Student Seminar series, which is run throughout the year at which PhD and master's students present their work.
Nicola Casey provides administrative support, and can also help students with their enquiries (email@example.com).
Early development of PhD research projects
If you wish to explore the possibilities for a PhD in the Department, you should meet with the Research Student Convener early in the process. This applies to all students, even if you are already involved with one of the research groups or involved in an existing project. Prospective supervisors should advise the student to make contact with the convener.
If you are an overseas student wishing to enrol in a PhD in the Department you should first contact the International Office for advice about studying at the University of Otago.
The topics listed here are PhD projects for supervision in the Department:
- How much do people pay for their medicines? (PDF)
- Case-control study of risk factors for melanoma in NZ. Results to inform the melanoma risk assessment tool
- A cohort study to assess risk factors for colorectal cancer in New Zealand
- Outcomes following injury for Pasifika peoples
There is a range of other research areas and topics in the Department.
List of staff research interests
References from previous supervisors
Students seeking admission to PhD study in the Department will usually be asked to arrange for their master's or appropriate other supervisor to send a confidential reference to the Research Student Convener. The referee will be asked for an outline of their experiences with supervising the student and opinion on suitability for PhD study. The Research Student Convener or HOD may request the reference if the student is not comfortable doing so.
PhD scholarships and other financial support
Applications can be made to the University of Otago for a PhD scholarship at any time of the year.
Once a student is enrolled in a PhD, the Department is able to offer financial support for students to attend a scientific conference each year, and some supplementary funding may also be available to support the student’s PhD research. Requests for support need to be endorsed by the supervisors.
Request for research student funding (Microsoft Word)
The Division of Health Sciences' conference travel funding for PhD students
Every enrolled PhD student at the University of Otago is offered $2,000 funding towards the costs of presenting their research at a relevant international conference.
The Division of Health Sciences will accept applications for this scheme at any time of the year. Applications must be received at least three months prior to the date of travel.
More information about the Division of Health Sciences' conference travel funding
Research Advisory Committee review of PhD proposals
The RAC is a committee of experienced researchers from our department, which meets once a month, from February to November. The RAC is responsible for the Department’s policy on postgraduate research students, including their admission and supervision. This is a positive process, designed to ensure that the proposed research is feasible and properly planned, and the process provides a further safeguard for the student’s best interests.
A PhD student based in our department needs to submit a research proposal to the RAC, which meets on a Thursday.
Template outlining the format of the proposal, together with dates for RAC meetings (PDF)
This information is also available from Rob McGee or Nicola Casey.
The proposal is to be submitted by the student to the Research Student Convener by email, and copied to Nicola Casey. It must arrive by the Monday morning preceding the Thursday meeting.
Submission of a proposal would normally take place after the student has enrolled. However, in some instances a student may be able to to prepare and submit a proposal prior to enrolment.
The proposal that is submitted to the RAC must be endorsed by all named supervisors. This can be confirmed by signing a hard copy or by an email to the convener. Feedback from the committee meeting will be provided by letter to the supervisors and/or verbally within a week of the meeting. This can then be discussed with the student.
Biostatistics: Biostatistical advice should be sought early in the planning phase of quantitative research projects. Depending on the nature of the project, it may be appropriate to have a biostatistician named as a supervisor or advisor on the proposal and to include a data analysis plan in the proposal for the RAC.
Coursework: The benefits of further coursework as part of the research degree should always be considered. In some instances, the RAC may recommend that students take an epidemiology, biostatistics or other relevant paper as part of their overall degree. This would particularly apply in cases where it is felt that the student had insufficient skills or background in an important aspect of their project, or where there is an opportunity to enrich the public health training of the student. There is an added benefit, in that if the student completes two Diploma in Public Health papers, this fulfils the requirement for a Postgraduate Certificate in Public Health as an additional qualification. If coursework is recommended as part of the PhD, the PhD fees will cover enrolling in the recommended paper(s).
Review of proposals for PhD students external to the Department: Students who are based in other departments, schools or universities but are co-supervised by staff of our department, also have their projects reviewed by the Research Advisory Committee but using a different process. The supervisor from our department is responsible for submitting the proposal to the RAC and the feedback goes to the research team via this person. In this instance, the RAC review is aimed at offering constructive feedback on the project.
Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for PhD Supervision
The Department expects an MoU for supervision to be completed between each new research student and his or her supervisors.
Template for the Department's PhD MoU (PDF)
A copy of the MoU form is also available from Rob McGee or Nicola Casey.
These templates include information about the expectations that the Department has of students and supervisors, and the Department MoU should be used in preference to the University MoU. Students and supervisors should look at the MoU independently before coming together to complete the MoU at a meeting.
A PhD represents a significant investment in time and other resources from both student and supervisors. While the production of a good quality thesis and subsequent degree is the prime focus for the student, the publication of research papers is also expected. There is also an ethical imperative to make the findings of publicly funded research available. The need to plan for publication should be discussed early in the supervisory arrangements.
University Website for Prospective PhD Students
The University of Otago website has further information about studying for a PhD in the Department of Preventive and Social Medicine. This website has detailed information on regulations, scholarships, PhD handbooks, etc.
For further information, please contact the Doctoral and Scholarships Office: