Our PhD program

The PhD program is designed to train students in advanced research in health sciences, and to provide them with the skills, content area expertise, analytical and critical-thinking capabilities required to pursue original research relevant to health.

Consistent with the mandate and objectives of the FHS mission, the PhD program will introduce students to interdisciplinary approaches to research that will encourage them to develop cross-disciplinary research skills. Areas of disciplinary emphasis in the Faculty include: social science, epidemiology, biostatistics, policy analysis, ethics and laboratory-based biomedical science.

Interdisciplinary research areas include: Global Health; Environmental Health and Toxicology; Maternal and Child Health, Epidemiology and Disease Prevention; Chronic and Infectious Diseases; Population and Public Health; Mental Health & Addiction; Social inequities and Health Outcomes; Adolescent and Child Development, Reproductive Health; and Health policy.



All PhD candidates complete a minimum of 6 units of graduate coursework, complete a comprehensive exam, and thesis proposal, as well as write and defend their PhD thesis.

We offer a range of electives to our PhD candidates, which you will need to select in consultation with your senior supervisor. Additional courses may be taken at SFU or, in select cases, at other universities that participate in the Western Dean’s Agreement.

See our six term course plan for course offerings.

Comprehensive exam and thesis proposal

The PhD program requires completion of a comprehensive exam and thesis proposal that have both a written component and oral defence.  In FHS, the comprehensive exam and thesis proposal are usually completed by the end of the fourth term. In some cases, the comprehensive examination and the thesis proposal presentation and defence may be combined. 

Comprehensive exam

In collaboration with your supervisory committee you will choose a research question or topic that will encompass your proposed research topic. The comprehensive paper may include a critical review of the literature relevant to the research question, discussion of the theoretical frameworks used to understand or frame the research question, or an in-depth analysis of the specific content area.

Thesis proposal

You will prepare a written research proposal that integrates theory, current research, and methods in fields related to the selected research problem. Normally, the proposal will reviews the relevant research literature, reflect original work and describe methodology appropriate to the principal research question(s).

The thesis

A written thesis is based on the candidate's original contribution to research in the field of his/her expertise, and is the final requirement for completion of the PhD program. The thesis will typically include a background/introduction section, research materials and/or methods, results and analyses, and discussion. Students must note in the thesis that the appropriate ethics, bio-safety, and animal care and use approvals were obtained prior to conducting their research work.

All PhD candidates must pass the formal thesis defence which is conducted in accordance with SFU's Graduate General Regulations 1.9.2 and 1.10.1. The candidate will be recommended for the award of an PhD degree in Health Sciences upon successful defence of the thesis.

Some of our students and their work

Cecilia is a current PhD candidate researching the potential links between climate change, aero-allergens and the development of asthma and allergies in early-life.

You can view a recent publication she wrote here.

Stefanie is a post-doctoral fellow. Her research focuses on improving pharmacotherapies for people living with co-occuring mental and substance use disorders.

You can view her thesis abstract here.

Allie will graduate with her PhD in Fall 2018. Her research focused on contemporary issues in sexuality, health and human rights.

You can view a poster she created on body dissatisfaction here.

Tuition, fees and funding

Tuition and fees are subject to change, provincial legislation, and Board of Governor's approval.  Normally, tuition rates will increase by 2% each academic year and are assessed on the same basis for graduate domestic and international students.  The rates provided above are based on the 2018-2019 academic year.

All graduate students are required to maintain basic medical insurance coverage, and are automatically enrolled in graduate extended health and dental benefits plan.  Learn more about the medical insurance requirement.

Funding and costs

All new PhD admissions in FHS are covered by the funding policy, with a minimum stipend of $21,000 for the first three years of the program to help support your tuition, research and/or living expenses. See this breakdown of the typical costs per term for graduate domestic and international students, and try the cost of living calculator. You can see what funding and scholarships are available for incoming students on the funding your graduate experience page.

Sound like you?

If our PhD program sounds like a good fit for you, and you would like to apply you can find more information about our admission requirements, and our application procedure, and then apply to become a member of our next PhD cohort.

Admission for the Fall 2019 cohort will be open from October 1, 2018 and will close on January 15, 2019.