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BIOSTATS 540 - Fall 2018
Introduction to Biostatistics
Biostatistics and Epidemiology
UMass Amherst
Instructor: Carol Bigelow



For Students


This Week

Unit Lecture Notes

Unit Tests


Other Resources

Course Unit Pages

1. Summarizing Data

2. Data Visualization

3. Probability: Basics

4. Probabilities in Epidemiology

5. Populations and Samples

6. Bernoulli and Binomal Distributions

7. Normal Distribution

8. Statistical Literacy: Estimation and Hypothesis Testing

9. One Sample Inference

10. Two Sample Inference

11. Chi Square Tests

12. Simple Linear Regression and Correlation




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Download hardcopy of 2018 syllabus here


Instructor: Carol Bigelow, PhD
School of Public Health
402 Arnold House
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
tel: 413/545-1319
email: cbigelow@schoolph.umass.edu

There is NO required Text:

Instead, an optional text by Whitlock and Schluter is offered. It is quite good and comes with nice internet resources:

Resources for optional text
The Analysis of Biological Data, Second Edition
(Student resources)

Other Text Resources for Those Wishing Them (again - not required):

(1) Course content
Whitlock MC and Schluter D
The Analysis of Biological Data, Second Edition
Macmillan Learning
ISBN-10: 1-936221-48-9

(2) A very reader friendly resource, very basic, for those of you dreading this course
Triola MM and Triola MF
Biostatistics for the Biological and Health Sciences
Pearson Addison Wesley
ISBN 0-321-19436-5

(3) R for Beginners
Horton NJ, Pruim R, Kaplan DT
A Student’s Guide to R: Project Mosaic

(4) StatKey, for those of you dreading using the computer
Resources to accompany Lock, Lock, Lock, Lock & Lock:  Statistics: Unlocking the Power of Data


Statistical Software:

First and very important. This is NOT a course in programming in R. Instead, I will provide illustrations of its use. With luck, you can follow along. And, with a bit more luck, you can use these illustrations in future work. But use of any statistical software package will not be needed for any of the exams.  

We will be using statistical software in the homeworks and practice problems.  You have 3 choices, depending on your interest and comfort zone!

You do NOT need to have obtained R before the class starts.  I will provide you with complete instructions in the first weeks.

Course Description

This course is the first of a two semester sequence: BIOSTATS 540 - Introductory Biostatistics and BIOSTATS 640 - Intermediate Biostatistics. Minimal mathematical background is required. Familiarity with algebra is generally sufficient. The goal of BIOSTATS 540 is basic statistical literacy. It begins with a discussion of the ideas of variability in nature and the tools we use for its description. The distinctions between systematic versus chance variability are detailed. Concepts in simple random sampling and sampling distributions are introduced. Within this framework, you will learn selected methods of data description, estimation and hypothesis testing.

Topics include: graphical and numerical description, random sampling and selected probability models (the Bernoulli, binomial, and normal), sampling distributions, confidence interval estimation, and the basics of statistical hypothesis testing. If time permits, there will also be an introduction to simple linear regression and correlation.


Course Objectives and Outcome Competencies

Course Objectives: By the end of this course, you should be able to perform, interpret, and communicate the findings of selected simple statistical analyses of biological and health data, including description, confidence interval estimation and hypothesis testing.

Outcome Competencies:

The specific outcome competencies include, but are not limited to the following:

1. Explain why we need biostatistics;
2. Distinguish among the different measurement scales and explain why these distinctions matter;
3. Produce basic, numerical, summaries of data;
4. Produce basic, graphical, summaries of data;
5. Explain basic concepts of randomness and probability;
6. Compute and interpret basic statistics computed from 2x2 tables of epidemiological data;
7. Describe selected probability distributions: Uniform, Bernoulli, Binomial, Normal, Student-T, F, and Chi Square;
8. Computer and interpret confidence intervals and hypothesis tests in selected settings: single sample, single sample paired data, and two indpendent samples;
9. Interpret the results of statistical analyses found in selected, basic, public health studies; and
10. Interpret vital statistics and public health records.


Office Hours:
This class has two sections: 1) Online using Blackboard Learn; and 2) Face-to-face at the UMass/Medical School campus, Worcester MA.

Online section:
We will respond to Blackboard messages within 24 hours every day except Saturday. I encourage you to take the day off on Saturday, too! You are also welcome to email me directly at cbigelow@schoolph.umass.edu. Or telephone me at 413-545-1319 (Note - I may not answer on Mondays as this is the day that I am at the Worcester campus, so please leave a message)

Worcester, in-class, section: Mondays 4:00 - 5:00 UMass/Medical School Cafeteria, or by appointment.

This course has 12 units
1, Summarizing Data
2. Data Visualization
3. Probability: Basics
4. Probabilities in Epidemiology
5. Populations and Samples
6. Bernoulli and Binomial Distributions
7. Normal Distribution
8. Statistical Literacy - Introduction to Estimation and Hypothesis Testing
9. One Sample Inference
10. Two Sample Inference
11. Chi Square Tests
12. Simple Linear Regression and Correlation


Grade Determination:

Your course grade will be determined from completion of 10 sets of homework (pass/fail) together with your scores on 3 tests, as follows.


Percent of Grade


Ten (10) of the course lecture notes will have embedded homework questions.  You are to work these as you read along.  Note – I will provide instructions for submission.


25%, sub-total

Exams (all open book)

Test 1 


Test 2


Test 3



75%, sub-total

as follows:


Best test – 40%
2nd best  – 20%

3rd Best  – 15%








All exams are "take home" exam, open book. You are allowed to used whatever resources you like. But you are NOT allowed to consult with any person except the course instructor.

Policy on Late Submissions

I will accept late submissions upt o one week, with a 20 point penalty. If you know you will be submitting your work late, I encourage you to use the full one weekgrace period, as the point deduction is the same!


On Time
Full Credit for points scored
1-7 Days Late
Points scored - 20 points
8+ Days Late
0 points (no credit)


Letter Grade Determination:

95 and over
A -
90 - 94
B +
B -
C +
Below 70

Exam Posting Dates and Due Dates:



Posting Date

Due Date

Test 1 

Unit 1 - Summarizing Data

Unit 2 - Data Visualization




September 26, 2018




October 10, 2018


Last Date for Submission

 (-20 points)


October 17, 2018



Test 2

Unit 4 – Probabilities in Epidemiology

Unit 5 – Populations and Samples

Unit 6 – Bernoulli and Binomial Distributions

Unit 7 – Normal Distribution




October 31, 2018




November 14, 2018


Last Date for Submission

 (-20 points)


November 21, 2018



Test 3

Unit 8 – Statistical Literacy – Estimation and Hypothesis Testing

Unit 9 – One Sample Estimation and Hypothesis Testing

Unit 10 – Two Sample Estimation and Hypothesis Testing




November 28, 2018




December 14, 2018


Last Date for Submission

 (-20 points)


December 21, 2018















For PHP Online Students - Policy on GPA and Course Repeat:
If you are an MPH or PHP online student, you must earn a grade of "B MINUS" or better in this course.

All students must maintain a 3.0 GPA during their time as students in the program.  In addition, all MPH and PHP studens must receive a final grade of “B –“ or better in each of the following courses:

BIOSTATS 540 – Intrroductory  Biostatistics
EHS 565 – Environmental Health Practices
COM-HLTH 601 – Applications of Social and Behavioral Theory
HPP 620 – Introduction to the US Health Care System
EPI 630 – Principles of Epidemiology
HPP 624 – Research Methods

If a student fails to receive a B- or better in these courses, they will have to repeat the course.

If a student’s overall GPA falls below the 3.0 level, the student will be subject to academic measures pursuant to Section I.4 of the Graduate Student Handbook, including academic probation and/or academic dismissal.

Important Dates to Remember


First Week of Class                                                                   

Wednesday - Tuesday September 5-11, 2018

First Worcester Section Face-to-Face Class

Monday September 10, 2018

Last Day to Drop with no Record

Monday September 17, 2018

Columbus Day Observance

Monday October 8, 2018

Last Day to Drop with “DR”

Tuesday October 30, 2018

Fall Semester Break – NO CLASS

Monday-Friday November 19-23, 2018

Last Week of Class                                                                   

Monday-Wednesday December 10-12, 2018

Last Worcester Section Face-to-Face Class

Monday December 10, 2018

Test 3 (Units 8-10) Due

Friday December 14, 2018










Course Schedule with Dates of Postings
I am sorry but I do NOT post course materials ahead of schedule.





Unit - Lecture

Latest Posting Date


Wednesday – Tuesday

September 5-11, 2018

1 – Summarizing Data

Wednesday September 5, 2018


Wednesday – Tuesday

September 12-18, 2018

Up and Running with R!

Wednesday September 12, 2018


Wednesday – Tuesday

September 19-25, 2018

2 – Data Visualization

Wednesday September 19, 2018


Wednesday – Tuesday

September 26-October 2, 2018

3 – Basic Probability

Wednesday September 26, 2018

EXAM 1 Posted Today


Wednesday – Tuesday

October 3-9, 2018

4 – Probabilities in Epidemiology

Wednesday October 3, 2018


Wednesday – Tuesday

October 10-16, 2018

5 – Populations & Samples

Wednesday October 10, 2018 EXAM 1 DUE Today


Wednesday – Tuesday

October 17-23, 2018

6 – Bernoulli & Binomial

Wednesday October 17, 2018


Wednesday – Tuesday

October 24-30, 2018

7 – Normal Distribution

Wednesday October 24, 2018


Wednesday – Tuesday

October 31 – November 6, 2018

8 – Estimation & Testing

Wednesday October 31, 2018

EXAM 2 Posted Today


Wednesday – Tuesday

November 7-13, 2018

9 – 1 Sample Estimation & Tests

Wednesday November 7, 2018


November 19-23, 2018




Wednesday – Tuesday

November 14-27, 2018

10 – 2 Sample Estimation & Tests

Wednesday November 14, 2018

EXAM 2 DUE Today


Wednesday – Tuesday

November 28 - December 4, 2018

11 – Chi Square Tests

Wednesday November 28, 2018 EXAM 3 Posted Today


Wednesday – Tuesday

December 5-11, 2018

12 – Simple Linear Regression

Wednesday December 5, 2018




Friday December 14, 2018

EXAM 3 DUE Today










































Policy on Late Submissions (duplicated from above)

On Time
Full Credit for points scored
1-7 Days Late
Points scored - 20 points
8+ Days Late
0 points (no credit)



ADA Accommodation Policy

Any student who, because of a disability, may require special arrangements in order to meet course requirements should contact me as soon as possible to make necessary arrangements.

Carol Bigelow, PhD
tel: 413/545-1319
fax: 413/545-1645
email: cbigelow@schoolph.umass.edu

Policy on Academic Dishonesty:
The University of Massachusetts/Amherst Senate Document 89-026 defines academic dishonesty as including but not limited to:

a) Cheating – intentional deceit, trickery, or breach of confidence, used to gain some unfair or dishonest advantage in one’s academic work.
b) Fabrication – intentional falsification or invention of any information or citation in any academic exercise.
c) Facilitating dishonesty – knowingly helping or attempting to help someone else commit an act of academic dishonesty.
d) Plagiarism – knowingly representing the words or ideas of another as one’s own work in any academic exercise.
e) Submitting in whole or in part, without citation, prewritten term papers of another or the research of another (including but not limited to such materials sold or distributed commercially).


Visit the University of Massachusetts Website
Policy on Academic Dishonesty






University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Copyright 2018 University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
This is the course web site for BIOSTATS 540W, Biostatistics and Epidemiology.
Produced and maintained by the School of Public Health and Health Sciences.
Send comments or questions about this web site to cbigelow@schoolph.umass.edu.
Page updated: August 28, 2018