Master's Degree Program in Clinical Research
The Master's Degree Program in Clinical Research is a two academic year course of study (19 calendar months; 7 academic quarters) intended for scholars who desire rigorous training in the methods and conduct of clinical research, which is defined broadly as any health-related research where individual human beings or groups of human beings are the unit of observation. Clinical research is synonymously known as patient-oriented, translational, epidemiologic, comparative effectiveness, behavioral, outcomes, or health services research; it is sometimes also broadly referred to as human subjects research. Regardless of the name, epidemiologic and biostatistical methods — applied in observational or experimental study designs — are the basic science underlying the performance of this form of research and hence are the academic focus of the program. Clinical researchers spend their time working with human research participants, data from participants or other human populations, and computers. Of note, the program does not provide instruction in laboratory investigation and indeed is not intended for scholars who envision themselves primarily working in a wet laboratory.
Coursework extends beyond that which is required for the ATCR Certificate Program to include instruction in advanced epidemiologic and biostatistical methods and specialized topics such as causal inference, prediction science, molecular methods in clinical research, and decision and cost-effectiveness analysis. A focused track in implementation science is also available for students pursuing careers in the translation of evidence into practice. In addition to coursework, requirements include a comprehensive review of the literature in the scholar's field, presentation of original work at a national or international scientific meeting, and publication of a peer-reviewed manuscript. To conduct their research, scholars will work closely with mentors in their research fields and preceptors chosen from TICR Program faculty. Program graduates are poised to work in a variety of research settings, including universities, public health departments, foundations, and private industry. Regardless of setting, the Masters' Degree Program strives to train individuals who will become leaders of research efforts and teams.
The Master's Degree Program can either be taken as a stand-alone terminal educational program or as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree such as the UCSF Ph.D. Program in Epidemiology and Translational Sciences or medical, dental, pharmacy, or nursing school.
To complete the program, scholars must satisfy program objectives, which are to:
- Acquire a mastery of a broad set of clinical research methods;
- Plan and implement one or more clinical research projects;
- Present research findings at a national or international meeting;
- Write a comprehensive literature critique and publish one or more first-authored peer-reviewed original research papers; and
- Obtain experience in the instruction of clinical research methods.
- Possession of an undergraduate degree from an accredited institution with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (equal to a letter grade of "B"). Preference will be given to scholars who have demonstrated knowledge or experience in some aspect of a health-related field (e.g., clinical practice, public health, health promotion) by virtue of either possession of a graduate or professional doctoral degree (MD, DDS, PharmD, PhD or international equivalent), being currently enrolled in such a program, or relevant work experience. Although not required, this prior knowledge or experience is preferred because program scholars will be required to perform original research in an area of their choosing to fulfill graduation requirements. Prior substantive knowledge or experience in a health-related field can be very helpful in identifying a research area of interest and in maintaining motivation for the work.
- Established relationship with a research mentor at UCSF, defined as a faculty member in either of the Schools of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, or Dentistry. Scholars already at UCSF should have this established by the time of application. Those who are applying from outside UCSF should have this established by the beginning of the program. Applicants applying from outside UCSF are encouraged to identify and contact UCSF research mentors on their own or, after acceptance into the program, may request assistance from the TICR Program to help them identify a research mentor.
- For scholars who are primarily based in other training programs or positions at UCSF, supervisor's assurance that at least 70% of time will be available August through May to divide between the activities of this program and the conduct of the trainee's clinical research projects.
- Affirmation of the Professional Conduct Statement (signed during orientation).
Prospective applicants with questions about whether their background or research interests are suitable for the program are encouraged to contact the TICR Program's Research Ambassador, Dr. Michael Kohn.
The Master’s Degree Program currently has one optional track of specialized instruction in which scholars can elect to enroll and anticipates other tracks in the future. Scholars in this track will be required to take the core set of courses in epidemiologic and biostatistical methods that underlie clinical research and will use their elective courses for focused instruction in their track’s specific objectives.
Implementation Science Track
Implementation science (IS) aims to improve the adoption of evidence-based practices and policies in clinical care and public health, and the development of best evidence through community engagement. The Master's Program IS track responds to the increasing concern of the World Health Organization (WHO), U.S. National Institutes of Health and Institute of Medicine that the tremendous advances we have achieved in developing effective tests, treatments and preventive measures are not being fully translated into improved population health. IS research relates to the second arm of what is popularly known as translational research: the first arm ("T1") being the translation of knowledge from the laboratory to human subjects, and the second arm ("T2") involving the translation of clinical research (behaviors, therapies, or devices) into practice in real-world settings.
The IS Track is ideal for researchers who plan to pursue the development, implementation and/or evaluation of policies, practice-based interventions and/or community-based programs designed to: 1) improve uptake/safety/quality/access; 2) reach diverse populations; 3) reduce the overuse of diagnostic tests or treatments; or 4) provide preventative medicine or health promotion programs. Coursework in the track is guided by a conceptual framework that illustrates the different groups and organizations targeted by implementation research, and emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration and community participation for the effective translation of evidence into practice. Master's Program scholars who elect the IS track typically begin coursework in the spring quarter of their first year and typically enroll in at least one IS course per quarter during the second year. In addition to course requirements, IS Track scholars receive career mentoring and specialized feedback on their research protocols. Scholars completing this track may list "Master of Advanced Study, Clinical Research with Specialization in Implementation Science" on their curriculum vitae.
The IS Track is co-sponsored by the UCSF Implementation Science Program and is directed by Dr. Margaret Handley and Dr. Adithya Cattamanchi. One distinction of IS research is its emphasis on multidisciplinary collaboration and teamwork. The IS track increases scholars' exposure to and contact with a broad spectrum of UCSF faculty conducting IS research — an important step in developing a research network that scholars can call upon throughout their careers.
The program is designed to be completed in two academic years (seven academic quarters). Most trainees are able to complete all requirements within seven academic quarters although occasionally extra time is needed to finish the trainee's original research.
36 quarter units of courses are required. Trainees will take the majority of their coursework in the first year allowing for focus on performing independent research in the second year. Grading policy is determined by the UCSF Graduate Division. In particular, scholars should note that UCSF graduate students must maintain at least a 3.0 (B average) and that letter grades cannot be converted to "S/U" after the deadline for the respective quarter. It is the policy of the TICR Program that one "C" grade or less (or one "U" grade) will trigger a discussion between the program director and the student about the expected level of performance in the program. Two or more grades of "C" or less (or two or more "U" grades) will trigger a formal review by the program and the chair of the scholars’ Master’s Committee. This formal review will develop an individualized remediation plan to address the deficiencies. A memorandum of understanding will be generated that clearly outlines specific steps and associated timeline that the scholar must fulfill in order to return to satisfactory performance. The memorandum will be signed by the following parties: the scholar, the Master’s Committee chair, and the program director. Should a scholar be unable to fulfill the expectations according to the timeline outlined in the memorandum, the student will be subject to dismissal from the program.
TICR Policy Regarding Academic Credit for Courses Taken in the Past
Other policies and procedures governing graduate study at UCSF may be found at the Graduate Division website.
Course Registration: All students matriculated in the Master's in Clinical Research Degree program must follow the registration process established by the UCSF Office of Admissions and Registrar. Please refer to the Office of Admissions and Registrar website for further information about the registration process, deadlines for filing study lists, adding/dropping courses, and other matters.
- Preparation of a comprehensive literature critique: For this requirement, the scholar will compose a comprehensive and systematic review and critique of the literature pertinent to a specific research question (or set of related questions) in his or her research field. "Comprehensive and systematic" means a complete and unbiased search for all relevant sources with explicit description of how this search was done. Questions that have already been adequately reviewed by others should be avoided. This review should take the form of a five to ten page double-spaced report (not including tables, figures, or references) that demonstrates the scholar’s mastery of the field’s literature. In some cases, but not all, the review will provide the rationale for the scholar's primary research project (the first authored manuscript requirement). Emphasis should be placed not only on describing the nominal findings of prior work but also on providing a methodologic critique of the prior research. Importantly, the fundamental objective of this literature review requirement is for the scholar to demonstrate that he/she can evaluate a number (at least 4, but preferably more) of papers/reports regarding a particular substantive question (or set of related questions), provide high-level critique of the threats to validity in the individual papers, and then come to a conclusion about the question(s) in hand. The conclusion could be that the research question can be answered with the available literature (and state what the answer is) or that because of too many threats to validity the question cannot be answered and hence needs more research. If appropriate, a quantitative meta-analysis can be performed, but this is not required. This report should be constructed with an eye towards formal publication, but this is not required. It is expected, although not required, that this requirement be completed by the end of the first year in the program. Achievement of the requirement will be considered complete upon satisfactory review by the scholar's Master's Committee.
- First-authored oral or poster presentation at a national or international meeting: This requirement involves submission of a first-authored abstract to a nationally or internationally recognized scientific meeting/conference within the scholar's academic field and acceptance of that abstract for either poster or oral presentation. The abstract should describe a study of either a) descriptive nature within a highly relevant population using representative sampling techniques or b) comparative or analytic nature. Case reports or case series are not acceptable unless case-only analytic techniques are used. Data for this abstract must be analyzed but not necessarily collected during residence in the Master's Program. It may be acceptable in selected cases, with pre-approval by the scholar's Master's Committee, to complete work that was started prior to enrollment in the program. It is expected that the work represent a substantive contribution to the scholar's research field. The format should follow that suggested by the conference to which submission is intended. Achievement of this requirement will be considered complete upon satisfactory review by the scholar's Master's Committee and upon written confirmation indicating acceptance of the abstract by a committee-approved conference.
Submission as first author of a peer-reviewed manuscript:
Using data analyzed (but not necessarily collected) during residence
in the Master's program, the scholar will prepare and submit a
first-authored manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal
that is approved by the Master's Committee.
It may be acceptable in selected cases, upon approval of the scholar's
Committee, to submit work that was started prior to enrollment
in the program. The manuscript should describe a study of either a) descriptive nature within a highly relevant
population using representative sampling techniques or b) comparative or analytic nature. Case reports or case series are not acceptable unless case-only analytic techniques are used. The manuscript
may be a comprehensive extension of the work submitted in abstract
form to a national or international meeting. It is expected that the work represent
a substantive contribution to the scholar's research field. The
format should follow that suggested by the journal to which submission
is intended. Achievement of this requirement will be considered
complete upon satisfactory review by the scholar's Master's
Committee and upon written correspondence indicating receipt
of the manuscript by an approved peer-reviewed journal. Of note,
it is not acceptable for a scholar to present an already submitted,
accepted, or published manuscript to his/her committee and expect
automatic approval. The final arbiters of the soundness of the
work will be the Masters Committee members and not the journal
editors or its reviewers.
Before embarking on these products, scholars should have their concepts approved by each member of their Master's Committee.
Of note, these three written requirements follow the natural progression of a research project. First, thorough review of the existing literature is essential prior to embarking on any project. Second, research findings are typically first presented at scientific meetings, which give researchers an opportunity to get early feedback on their work. Finally, publishing research represents the culmination of the work. Thus, participation in the Master's Degree Program requires no extraneous capstone products; all of the required work is directly relevant to research productivity and enhancing the trainee's credibility as an emerging researcher.
All scholars will be required to serve as instructional assistants (typically in their second year) for one or more courses in the TICR Program. This experience will typically involve leading a weekly small-group discussion section of 10 to 15 students, holding office hours for students, and grading homework assignments and projects. Scholars will receive feedback on their performance both from the Course Director and from students, who are polled anonymously using the TICR Program's web-based course evaluation system. Scholars are polled regarding which courses they are interested in teachingby early May of their first year and given assignments by early June.
The UCSF Graduate Division's Completion of Degree Requirements form should be used to document the completion of the required number of course units and the three required products of clinical research. Scholars should use this form to have their Master's Committee members mark their signatures attesting to the satisfactory completion of each written requirement. Scholars must be registered for the quarter during which they complete the last of their requirements, whether it is coursework or any of the written products. The Completion of Degree Requirements form must be completed and submitted to the TICR_Coordinator@psg.ucsf.edu along with electronic files of all these required products by the end of the quarter during which the scholar plans to graduate.
The Completion of Degree Requirements form is available in a ready-to-use Microsoft Word format. Make sure to save a copy of the file on your computer before attempting to use the file.
If you are not able to access the application in the Microsoft Word format, please download the .pdf version of the form by clicking on the pdf button above.
The following serves as the Master’s Degree Program Policy on Student Progress. Each scholar will be asked to form a Master's Committee, which will consist of three faculty members:
- A representative from the scholar's academic field of interest (e.g., cardiology). This individual should be conducting primary research in the scholar's chosen field and will typically be a faculty member at UCSF. Upon approval from the TICR Master's Degree Program Director, individuals from outside of UCSF (e.g., UC, Berkeley; Stanford; or Biotechnology/Pharmaceutical Industry) may serve in this capacity. To request to include an individual outside of UCSF, scholars should provide the Master's Program Director with the individual's curriculum vitae and a letter of justification.
- An epidemiologist/clinical researcher faculty member (primary or secondary/affiliated appointment) from the UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. If possible, a faculty member with working knowledge of the scholar's substantive interests should be chosen.
- A biostatistician faculty member (primary or secondary/affiliated appointment) from the UCSF Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. A biostatistician will be assigned to you according to your substantive interests and methodologic needs.
The purpose of this committee is both to provide mentorship and to evaluate the achievement of the requirements for graduation. With the exception of the biostatistician (who will be assigned by the program), scholars should select and submit committee members to the Master's Program Director by the end of the Winter Quarter in the first year. One committee member should be selected as the Chairperson, whose role is to arbitrate when there is significant disagreement among committee members or to advocate for the scholar if he/she is experiencing difficulties gaining access to other committee members or scheduling meetings of the committee. The Chairperson must hold either a primary or secondary/affiliated faculty appointment in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. It is expected that scholars will meet with their committees at least quarterly to review progress and set future objectives.
By the end of their first year, scholars will be required to complete the "Initial Committee Review" form indicating: 1) that they have had at least one meeting with all 3 members of their Master's Committee present and, 2) that the committee members and scholar agree that the scholar is making satisfactory progress toward meeting the program requirements (i.e., the comprehensive literature review, first-authored presentation and manuscript). The completed form should be sent to TICR_Coordinator@psg.ucsf.edu by June 30 of the first year in the program. Scholars must complete this form in order to be eligible to register for subsequent quarters.
At no less than 6 months prior to the date that scholars anticipate completing the last of their original research research products (i.e., the comprehensive literature review, first-authored presentation and manuscript), scholars are required to complete the "Pre-Graduation Review" form indicating that they have had at least one meeting with all 3 members of their Master's Committee present where the content and timeline were agreed upon regarding the completion of the three research products. For example, if the scholar plans to graduate at the end of the Spring quarter of the second year (the minimum length of stay in the program), then he/she will need to file for graduation by approximately June 5 and thus should complete the "Pre-Graduation Review" form by no later than December 5. The purpose of this "Pre-Graduation Review" meeting is to ensure that the Committee is well aware of the exact projects the scholars have chosen to fulfill their requirements. The completed form should be sent to TICR_Coordinator@psg.ucsf.edu.
At no less than 3 months prior to the date that scholars anticipate completing the last of their original research products (i.e., the comprehensive literature review, first-authored presentation and manuscript), scholars are also required to complete the "Final Graduation Review" form indicating that they have had at least one meeting with all 3 members of their Master's Committee present where a final plan and timeline were agreed upon regarding the content and completion of the three research products. For example, if the scholar plans to graduate at the end of the Spring quarter of the second year (the minimum length of stay in the program), then he/she will need to file for graduation by approximately June 5 and thus should complete the "Final Graduation Review" form by no later than March 5. The purpose of this "Final Graduation Review" meeting is to ensure that the Committee is well aware of and agrees with the final plans the scholar has made to fulfill the program's research product requirements. The objective is to avoid last minute submissions to Committee members, which defeat the purpose of obtaining the members' well-reasoned advice. It is, however, anticipated that the scholar will continue to meet with Committee members, either together or individually, after this required "Final Graduation Review" meeting for further mentoring and review of the scholar's work. When planning for final approval of products by Master's Committee members, scholars should expect that Committee members may require as long as three weeks to return comments to the scholar. Therefore, Committee members should be presented with drafts of the required products well before the scholars' anticipated graduation. The completed form and electronic files of all three required products should be sent to TICR_Coordinator@psg.ucsf.edu.
At all required Committee meetings (and any other meetings held with the full committee), the scholar should take the responsibility for setting the agenda for the meeting, including sending out the agenda and accompanying materials (e.g., drafts of products) by e-mail at least one week prior to the meeting.
At the end of the academic year, the UCSF Graduate Division invites all Master's Program scholars who anticipate graduating in the calendar year to participate in university-wide graduation ceremonies. Information about the ceremony is distributed in approximately March of each year.
To apply for the Master's program starting in Summer 2020, you should first complete the online UCSF Graduate Division application, and pay the nonrefundable processing fee.
In addition to the Graduate Division application, you need to next complete our separate detailed Master's Degree Program application. The Master's application is available in a ready-to-use Microsoft Word format. Make sure to save a copy of the file on your computer before attempting to use the file.
If you are not able to access the application in the Microsoft Word format, please download the .pdf version of the application by clicking on the pdf button below. This can then be printed out and completed by typing where indicated.
Scholars either currently in or graduated from the ATCR
Credit-bearing Certificate Program may submit updated versions of their
original applications to the ATCR Program. Note that such scholars must still provide
one new or updated letter of recommendation for the Master's Degree Program application.
Scholars who graduated from the ATCR Credit-bearing Certificate Program longer ago than 2 academic years will require a discussion with Program officials about which courses might have to be re-taken (because they have evolved substantially since the scholar took them). Such scholars will also be subject to a $500 re-entry fee.
Completed Master's applications in MS Word or .pdf format should be sent by email to TICR Admissions (TICR_Admissions@psg.ucsf.edu). Any materials which cannot be sent electronically should be sent to:
Training in Clinical Research (TICR) Program
University of California, San Francisco
Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Mission Hall (UCSF Box 0560)
550 16th Street, 2nd floor
San Francisco, CA 94143
(For FedEx only, use 94158)
For any questions, please contact Clair Dunne, Program Coordinator at TICR_Coordinator@psg.ucsf.edu.
Standardized tests: No standardized tests or examinations (e.g., the GRE or MCAT) are required in the application process. However, if applicants have taken these tests for other reasons, our program would be happy to receive and review the scores. If you desire, please send a copy of your scores along with your application.
International Applicants: The Master's in Clinical Research program welcomes applications from international scholars who meet the prerequisites, but the program does not directly provide any financial aid. International applicants from non-English speaking countries must also demonstrate proficiency in English by a) completing one year of study with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 at an accredited college or university in the United States, or b) by obtaining the following minimum scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) — administered by Educational Testing Services (ETS): paper-based TOEFL – 550; computer based TOEFL – 213; internet-based TOEFL – 80; or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS): IELTS – 7. For TOEFL, please use recipient code 4840 in order to route to UCSF. Transcripts from institutions outside of the U.S. or Canada need to be evaluated by an accredited evaluation service, such as World Education Service (WES) (strongly preferred to speed up the review of your application) or Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE).
Once an international applicant has been accepted into the Master's program, the scholar is expected to work with UCSF's International Students and Scholars Office (ISSO) to obtain the appropriate visa. Note that the program begins on July 27, 2020 so travel arrangements should be made to arrive in San Francisco by July 26, 2020.
Deadline: Applications are due by March 16, 2020 Deadline: Applications are due by March 16, 2020 for admission in Summer 2020, but, beginning on January 1, all completed applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and applicants will be notified of the admission decision typically within 4 to 6 weeks of our receipt of the completed application. Early application is particularly encouraged for applicants originating outside of the San Francisco Bay Area who may require finding housing or travel visas. If any portion of the application is not received by the final due date, the application will be considered incomplete and will not be further considered without petition, explanation, and payment of $150 late fee. Additional late fees may apply for exceptionally late transactions.
Costs: The Master's Program is a minimum two-year course of study, requiring registration for seven quarters (Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring in the first year and Fall, Winter, Spring in the second year). Fees for 2019-20 are $28,088. Fees are subject to change in future years and do not include books, supplies, or software. Withdrawal after enrollment into the program will be subject to a $150 non-refundable fee. Selected applicants will be eligible to have their fees offset by a Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics Scholarship of up to $7,603 the first year. Based on the current fee structure, we anticipate that in the second year, selected applicants will have their fees offset by up to an additional $2,500 to compensate for teaching assistance required in the second year (for a total offset of up to $10,103, although this is subject to change). Students who require additional time in the program (more than 7 quarters) are charged on a per quarter basis. Those applicants who meet the following criteria will be eligible for the fee offset:
- Demonstrated excellence in the performance of academic work and clinical care, based on prior transcripts, publications, and letters of recommendation. This criterion will be evaluated by the Master's Degree Program Admissions Committee.
- Concurrent enrollment in a UCSF/UCB-sponsored residency or post-doctoral fellowship program that is recognized by the UCSF Office of Graduate Medical Education; or a registered student in one of the professional schools or graduate programs at UCSF/UCB (in a program other than the TICR Program); or individuals who hold full-time salaried UCSF/UCB faculty, academic or staff positions. Individuals will be asked to provide proof of UCSF/UCB status.
Financial Assistance: Prospective students in need of financial assistance should contact the financial support office of the UCSF Graduate Division.
Health Insurance: Please note the student service fee included as part of the tuition for the Master's Program DOES NOT include student health insurance. If you do not have health insurance coverage, you will need to arrange and pay for this yourself. As a graduate student at UCSF, you are eligible for coverage through the Scholars and Researchers Health Plan. Please contact Student Health and Counseling Services (SHCS).
Activities Outside the Classroom: Success in graduate school requires care and attention to all aspects of your life: health and wellness, community, career development, personal and professional relationships, and security and safety. UCSF is committed to providing a full range of resources and services to help you succeed.
Housing: Enrollment in the Master's Degree Program does give students access to UCSF student housing. UCSF housing is both conveniently located to our teaching facilities and less expensive than the private sector. Housing, however, is limited, and, therefore, interested students are encouraged to apply as soon as they are accepted into the program. Students may be eligible for the cost of living supplement program to offset housing costs.
Late Payments: Please note that when you are accepted to the Master's Program, you will receive a payment form with a deadline for fee payment. If you miss this deadline, we reserve the right to charge you a late fee of $150. This is in addition to the fee that may be charged by the Office of Admission and Registrar.
Scholars are also strongly encouraged to own a wireless-capable laptop computer for use in computer labs in various courses and to take advantage of the wireless internet network at the TICR Program's facility at Mission Hall in the UCSF Mission Bay Campus.
The statistical software package Stata (Stata Corporation, College Station, Texas) is used in the program. The TICR Program has arranged for a sizeable discount for UCSF-affiliated personnel via the Stata GradPlan program.
Interviews: Selected applicants will be interviewed by the admissions committee or its designate.
Changing Degree Objective to ATCR Certificate: If you decide after enrolling in the program that you do not want to continue in the Master's degree program and instead wish to stop your training after the first year and earn the Advanced Training in Clinical Research Certificate, you will need to obtain the approval of the TICR Program Director, and officially change your degree objective with the Office of Admission and Registrar. You will then be charged the fee for the year-long Credit-bearing ATCR Program.