Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences PhD

Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences PhD


For information on the application process, deadlines and funding, please see our Graduate Admission FAQs.


Q: What is the applied mathematics for the life and social sciences PhD degree?
A: The world is becoming more interconnected, interdependent and complex, requiring scholars with comprehensive talent for analyzing and resolving complex problems. Contemporary inquiry and discovery are making previously specialized fields symbiotic and interdisciplinary in nature. This degree program is designed to move beyond conventional disciplinary boundaries in the life and social sciences so you will gain the knowledge and skills for independent research on essential scientific questions we will continue to face.

Q: What makes AMLSS different?
A: In an applied degree like this, we challenge our students to address complex societal issues by drawing on environmental, health, life, social, mathematical, physical and computational sciences. Our social sciences base provides access not only to mathematicians but also faculty and graduate students immersed in studies ranging from the management of natural resources and how science can inform global responses to epidemics, to the way we educate the next generation of scientists.

Q: Who is the ideal applied mathematics for the life and social sciences PhD student?
A: Our successful students in this program are intellectually gifted, enthusiastic and motivated to teach and learn. Willingness to work independently and collaboratively is key. You will be coached constantly and need to be able to be resilient, hard-working and able to apply constructive mentoring and input without becoming discouraged. You will succeed if you remain accountable, focused and responsive, working in alignment with faculty guidance. The program can be completed in a timely manner and with distinction if you remain committed and take advantage of the assistance offered.

Q: What type of graduate-level training will I receive within the applied mathematics for the life and social sciences degree?
A: A few areas of faculty expertise where we provide particularly strong graduate-level training include:

  • Biostatistics
  • Complex adaptive systems
  • Disease evolution
  • Epidemiology
  • Human ecology
  • Human-environment interaction
  • Institutional analysis
  • Modeling and simulation
  • Mathematical and theoretical biology
  • Quantitative methods

We are very interested in graduate students who wish to work in two or more of these areas. Since our school also offers PhD programs in anthropology, environmental social science, global health and museum studies, we are also able to offer world-class training in these areas of the social sciences.

Q: Which faculty members will I work with?
A: We offer more than 50 graduate faculty program members to choose from as mentors and members of your committee, including mathematicians, statisticians, theoretical biologists and social scientists from multiple academic units. Select the degree from the drop-down menu at for a complete list and make direct contact with faculty of interest to you.

Q: Which careers is this applied mathematics for the life and social sciences PhD suited for?
A: Many of our students are pursuing academic careers in research universities with similar transdisciplinary programs, where they may start as postdoctoral research associates, or in tenure or non-tenure track positions. A number of our graduates also work in the private sector, including financial institutions and healthcare research facilities. We can connect you with alumni on an individual basis, upon request.

Q: What degree will I graduate with?
A: A PhD in applied mathematics for the life and social sciences.

Q: Do I need a master’s degree before beginning a PhD program?
A: The majority of our students in this program are admitted directly from undergraduate degree programs, but we also admit students transferring graduate credits and master’s degrees.

Q: Can I earn a terminal master’s degree?
A: Although you are eligible to receive a master’s-in-passing after successful completion of 30 hours of coursework and appropriate academic output in this program, we do not offer a terminal MA en route to the PhD. A master’s-in-passing can be awarded if necessary, but the program is not designed as a terminal master’s.

Q: What qualifies me for acceptance into the applied mathematics for the life and social sciences PhD program?
A: Our admissions committee is focused on identifying outstanding applicants who will become important researchers and leaders in the field. Students with a strong academic background in a relevant field and a statement of purpose that clearly identifies a research trajectory are preferred. We strive to admit students with similar research interests to one or more of our current faculty since this helps ensure that we have the resources and expertise to meet your needs. So, in advance of applying, please make sure to review the online list of faculty and correspond directly with those who have similar research interests. They may refer you to other faculty as well, and this step helps both parties evaluate whether the program is suitable for you and how to tailor your statement of purpose on your application.

Q: What are some of the baccalaureate degrees of current applied mathematics for the life and social sciences PhD students?
A: Computer science, physics, information systems, mathematics, engineering and chemistry are some of the undergraduate program areas of current applied mathematics for the life and social sciences PhD students, but please do not feel limited by this list.

Q: What will increase my chance of being accepted?
A: Overall, we are looking for clear evidence that you can succeed in graduate school and beyond, and that your goals can be achieved through our program. Those who write a compelling expression statement of purpose describing how this specific program suits your interests, talents and goals will have an advantage in the process. Our committee also carefully considers prior academic performance (GPA) at the undergraduate and/or graduate level, any prior background in applied mathematics and/or the social sciences, evidence of scholarly success (e.g., publications, awards, engagement in environmental organizations and movements) and the identification of specific faculty in our program whose interests intersect with yours. Please submit your strongest letters of recommendation from prior professors familiar with your capabilities.

Q: Do you require the GRE or other test scores?
A: No. Applicants for the fall 2021 semester and beyond are not required to take or report scores from any standardized test, including the GRE. International students must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language or an acceptable alternative to establish their English language proficiency

Q: I have a full-time job and want to work while I am doing the degree. Is that ok? 
A: Generally speaking, it is very difficult to work full time and complete this degree. All our courses are seminars and require your presence in the classroom for each session. The program is demanding, and to make the most of the myriad opportunities we offer, you need available time. We recommend people commit to full-time graduate school or work as half-time research or teaching assistants where their work directly supports their academic career building.

Q: How long does it take to complete the applied mathematics for the life and social sciences PhD program?
A: Generally speaking, it can be completed within 3–5 years of full-time study.

Q: May I take coursework prior to applying?
A: Yes, you can take up to 12 hours of pre-admission coursework to partly fulfill the requirements of the PhD in accordance with ASU Graduate College policy.

Q: Is there funding available?
A: We offer a limited number of part-time research and teaching assistantships on a competitive basis, which include tuition waivers, a stipend and student health insurance. This type of funding is contingent on satisfactory academic progress, including time to degree and the recommendations of the program director and the student's dissertation chair. We encourage applicants to investigate assistantships and graduate fellowships in the mathematical sciences, the National Science Foundation and the ASU Graduate College's financial support services.

Q: How many students apply each year and how many are accepted?
A: It varies from year to year, but the program is very competitive, and we select the best applicants.

Q: What application materials are required by the School of Human Evolution and Social Change? 
A: The required forms are found on the ASU Graduate College Graduate Degree Applicants page.

International students have additional requirements. These requirements can be found on the ASU Graduate Education Web page for international applicants.

Q: What are ASU Graduate College's policies and procedures? 
A: You will want to make sure you are very familiar with this information throughout your graduate student career. The Graduate College policies and procedures can be found online.

Q: Where do I go to find admission material? 
A: Visit the admission section of the ASU Graduate College website.

Q: When should I apply?
A: The application deadline is March 1 for admission in the following fall. We do not offer spring admissions. It is recommended that you have your application, transcripts, test scores and application fee to the ASU Graduate College admission office by mid-February or earlier if you are an international student.

Q: When will I be notified of admissions? 
A: You can track your admissions status via the My ASU Web site. Typically, we will notify all students before the end of March.

Q: Can I talk to someone about the program? 
A: Yes, we have a full-time academic success specialist dedicated to our graduate programs. She can guide you through the process, refer you to others on campus as needed and answer or further research all of your questions. She can be reached at