Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences, PhD

The applied mathematics for the life and social sciences doctoral degree is specially designed for students who want to make innovative and far-reaching scientific contributions to the global challenges of our time.

Designed to move beyond conventional disciplinary boundaries in the life and social sciences, this program was founded by a "dream team" of acclaimed scholars and rising stars, with a faculty body composed of mathematicians, statisticians, theoretical biologists and social scientists from five different schools at Arizona State University.

The curriculum — with dynamic and statistical approaches as critical and unifying components — is aimed at producing first-rate scientists whose skills will always be in high demand both within and outside of academia.

Students learn a way of thinking that builds upon foundations established in

  • mathematical epidemiology,
  • genomics,
  • population dynamics,
  • bioinformatics,
  • ecology,
  • computational sciences,
  • mathematical analysis and
  • the social science fields.

The program interweaves theory, applications and analytical approaches with cross-disciplinary and international collaboration. Students with strong and potentially diverse scientific and cultural backgrounds will find a natural home in this field.

Since our school also offers PhD programs in anthropology, environmental social science, global health and museum studies, we are able to offer world-class training in these areas of the social sciences, as well.

Is your dream to use your math skills and social or environmental dynamics savvy to find solutions to complex, real-world problems? Want to be part of the scientific movement that revolutionizes the ways we manage natural resources, respond to epidemics or educate the next generation of scientists? Explore with us this new and exciting frontier at the intersection of the environmental, health, life, social, mathematical, physical and computational sciences – and prepare to make a difference.

Applicants for the PhD in applied mathematics for the life and social sciences should also be aware of the PhD in applied mathematics.

For more information, please contact shesc.grad@asu.edu or 480-965-6215.

 

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.

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.

We are very interested in students who wish to work in two or more of these areas, in which we provide particularly strong graduate-level training:

  • biostatistics
  • complex adaptive systems
  • disease evolution
  • epidemiology
  • human ecology
  • human-environment interaction
  • institutional analysis
  • modeling + simulation
  • mathematical + theoretical biology
  • quantitative methods

The PhD in applied mathematics for the life and social sciences requires a total of 84 credit hours. A previously awarded master’s degree in a related area can be used to satisfy 30 hours of this requirement. An additional 30 hours of coursework are required.

Students entering the program do so with diverse backgrounds and with varied career goals, so we recognize the need to be flexible in planning the most appropriate path for each student. Thus, curricular tracks will tend to be individualized, and final determination of the most appropriate course of study or how each requirement should most appropriately be met is made by a student’s advisory committee in consideration of the research and career goals of the student.

Required Core Courses (18 credits) 
AML 610 Topics in AMLSS (3 credits) 
AML 611 Research Design and Proposal Writing (3 credits)
AML 612 AMLSS Modeling Seminar (3 credits) 
AML 613 Probability & Stochastic Modeling for LSS (3 credits)
One course in Bio-Statistics (3 credits) 
One course in Numerical Analysis (3 credits)

Elective Courses (12-30 credits) 
Elective hours in consultation with faculty advisor or chair (students may take “Reading and Conference” to fulfill these credits) 
At least 6 credits must be in the Life Sciences, and 
At least 6 credits from the Social Sciences

Dissertation and Research Credits (24 credits) 
AML 792 Research (12 credits) 
AML 799 Dissertation (12 credits)

Photo of Carlos Castillo-Chavez

Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences Program Director
Carlos Castillo-Chavez, Regents' Professor
Joaquin Bustoz Jr. Professor of Mathematical Biology, School of Life Sciences
Director, Simon A. Levin Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center
Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

Photo of John Anderies

John (Marty) Anderies, Professor
Professor & Graduate Director, School of Sustainability
Senior Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
Associate Director, Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment

Photo of Daniel Hruschka

Daniel HruschkaAssociate Professor
Associate Director

Photo of Adam Lampert

Adam Lampert, Assistant Professor

Photo of Anuj Mubayi

Anuj Mubayi, Assistant Professor

Photo of Alexandra Brewis Slade

Alexandra Brewis SladePresident's Professor
Co-Director, Mayo Clinic-ASU Obesity Solutions
Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

Photo of Sander Van Der Leeuw

Sander van der LeeuwFoundation Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change & School of Sustainability
Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Institute of Sustainability
Director, Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, ASU-Santa Fe Institute
Co-Chair, Complex Adaptive Systems @ASU

For a list of affiliated faculty, please see the Graduate Faculty page and select the appropriate degree from the drop-down menu.

 

The applied mathematics for the life and social sciences program offers a concentration in complex adaptive systems science.

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 http://graduate.asu.edu/graduate_faculty 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, GRE scores in all areas, 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: What is the average GRE score for admitted students?
A: There is no established minimum GRE score, as students are evaluated by the entirety of their application. Currently, our scores for admitted students in this program are in the 70th percentile or above.

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's Graduate Education'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 shesc.grad@asu.edu.

Degree Offered

Applied Mathematics for the Life and Social Sciences, PhD
Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of

Location
Tempe

Plan of Study

The Plan of Study is the required curriculum to complete the program.

View Plan of Study