BIOSTATS 540 - Fall 2021
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




Download hardcopy of 2021 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

Course Description

This course his course is the first of a two semester sequence of biostatistics:  BIOSTATS 540 – Introductory Biostatistics and BIOSTATS 640 – Intermediate Biostatistics. Minimal mathematical background (algebra) is required.  No worries; logarithms and exponents will be reviewed as needed.  The goal of BIOSTATS 540 is basic statistical literacy.
We will explore the ideas of variability in nature and the tools we use for its description.  The distinctions between systematic versus chance variability will be detailed. Concepts in simple random sampling and sampling distributions will be introduced.  Within this framework, you will learn selected methods of data summarization, estimation, and hypothesis testing.

Topics include:  data summarization and visualization, chance, sampling distributions, chance and  selected probability models (the Bernoulli, binomial, and normal), confidence interval estimation, statistical significance and its limitations, and the basics of statistical hypothesis testing.  I will also provide an introduction to chi square tests, simple linear regression and correlation.

ADA Accomodation

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to making reasonable, effective and appropriate accomodations to meet the needs of students with disabilities and help create a barrier-free campus.

If you have a disability and require accommodations, please register with Disability Services to have an accomodation letter sent to me. Information on services and materials for registering are available on their website at www.umass.edu/disability.

If, because of a disability, you may require special arrangements in order to meet course requirements, please contact me as soon as possible at cbigelow@schoolph.umass.edu and we will make the necessary arrangements.

Policies on Classes and Work Missed for Extenuating Circumstances

Per University of Massachusetts Academic Regulations, “Students absent due to extenuating circumstances-including jury duty, military obligations, scheduled activities for other classes, the death of a family member, or verifiable health-related incapacity-remain responsible for meeting all class requirements and contacting the faculty member in a timely fashion about making up missed work. Faculty shall offer such students reasonable assistance in making up missed classes (i.e., making arrangements for attendance at labs or discussion sections which meet at other times; providing makeup exams or labs where feasible or offer mutually agreeable alternatives to make up work).”  If any extenuating circumstances prevent you from completing any work, please contact me as soon as possible (email:  cbigelow@schoolph.umass.edu) so that we can make alternative arrangement

Getting Started with Remote Learning

This semester I will be offering at least some Zoom meetings.  If you are new to remote learning, please be sure to familiarize yourself with these resources and technologies before the first week of class (Wednesday – Friday, September 1-3, 2021).

__1.  Public Course Website:  https://people.umass.edu/~biep540w/

__2.  UMass Amherst Blackboard Learn:  https://uma.umassonline.net/webapps/login/#
         Resource for Learning Blackboard Learn:
         (source:  Rowan University, Campbell Library)  Blackboard Tutorials for Students
__3.  UMass Amherst Zoom Login:  https://www.umass.edu/it/zoom
         Resource for Learning Zoom:
         (source:  https://support.zoom.us) Zoom Video Tutorials
         Tip:  Be sure to watch these two tutorials, here:  “Join a Meeting” and “Meeting Controls

Course Units, Objectives and Outcome Competencies

Units. 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

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.

Textbook, Software and Internet Resources

This course has NO required textbook. However, if you are looking for a reference, consider the textbook authored by Whitlock and Schluter. It's not necessary to buy it brand new at high expense; Consider gettting a used copy or an older edition.

1) Course content
Whitlock MC and Schluter D
The Analysis of Biological Data, Third Edition
Macmillan Learning
ISBN: 9781319226237

(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

We will be using R Studio and ArtofStat.  Again, you are not required to use R.

R Users:  I will provide everything you need to obtain and install R and RStudio before the course begins.  You do not need to do anything before the course starts.

ArtofStat Users:  Similarly, there is nothing you need to do prior to the course start. If you are interested in looking around, visit www.artofstat.com.  From the welcome page, click on Online Web Apps.  Scroll and explore.

Internet Resources

Fall 2021 Biostatistics Site


Whitlock and Schluter R Labs
Whitlock MC and Schluter D
The Analysis of Biological Data, Third Edition

Important Dates to Remember

First week of class Wednesday-Friday September 1-2, 2021
Last Day to Drop with No Record Monday September 15, 2021
Last Day to Drop with "DR" Thursday October 28, 2021
Last Week of Class Monday-Wednesday December 6-8, 2021
Final Exam Due Thursday December 16, 2021





Course Schedule (Units, Homeworks, and Exams)

Units and Homeworks (13 weeks). Please note. Sorry, I do not post materials ahead of schedule

Week Dates Unit Homework Posting and Due Dates
1 Wednesday - Tuesday
September 1-7, 2021
Course Introduction No homework this week
- Wednesday - Tuesday
September 8-14, 2021
Up and Running with ArtofStat or R Studio (your choice) Monday schedule will be followed Wednesday September 8, 2021
2 Wednesday - Tuesday
September 15-21, 2021
1 - Summarizing Data Posted Wednesday September 15, 2021
Due Friday September 24, 2021
3 Wednesday - Tuesday
September 22-28, 2021
2 - Data Visualization Posted Wednesday September 22, 2021
Due Friday October 1, 2021
4 Wednesday - Tuesday
September 29-October 5, 2021
3 - Basic Probability Posted Wednesday September 29, 2021
Due Friday October 8, 2021
5 Wednesday - Tuesday
October 6-12, 2021
4 - Probabilities in Epidemiology Posted Wednesday October 6, 2021
Due Friday October 15, 2021
6 Wednesday - Tuesday
October 13-19, 2021
5 - Populations & Samples Posted Wednesday October 13, 2021
Due Friday October 22, 2021
7 Wednesday - Tuesday
October 20-26, 2021
6 - Bernoulli & Binomial Posted Wednesday October 20, 2021
Due Friday October 29, 2021
8 Wednesday - Tuesday
October 27-November 2, 2021
7 - Normal Distribution Posted Wednesday October 27, 2021
Due Friday November 5, 2021
9 Wednesday - Tuesday
November 3-9, 2021
8 - Statistical Literacy:
Estimation and Testing
Posted Wednesday November 3, 2021
Due Friday November 12, 2021
10 Wednesday - Tuesday
November 10-16, 2021
9 - One Sample Inference Posted Wednesday November 10, 2021
Due Friday November 19, 2021
11 Wednesday - Tuesday
November 17-23, 2021
10 - Two Sample Inference Posted Wednesday November 17, 2021
Due Friday December 3, 2021
  Wednesday - Tuesday
November 24-30, 2021
  Happy Thanksgiving
12 Wednesday - Tuesday
December 1-7, 2021
11 - Chi Square Tests There is no homework for unit 11
13 Wednesday
December 8, 2021
12 - Simple Linear Regression There is no homework for unit 12
  Final Exam Due   Friday December 17, 2021
Exam 3 (Final) due























Exams. Again, sorry. I do not exams ahead of schedule

Exam Units Tested Posting Date Due Date

1 - Summarizing Data
2 - Data Visualization

You will not be tested on Unit 3.

September 29, 2021

Friday October 15, 2021

Late submission, with -10 points
Monday October 18, 2021

Last day for submission (-20 points)
Friday October 22, 2021

2 4 - Probabilities in Epidemiology
5 - Populations & Samples
6 - Bernoulli & Binomial
7 - Normal Distribution
November 3, 2021

Friday November 19, 2021

Late submission, with -10 points
Monday November 22, 2021

Last day for submission (-20 pointts)
Friday November 26, 2021


8 - Statistical Literacy
9 - One Sample Inference
10 - Two Sample Inference

You will not be tested on Unit 11 or 12

December 1, 2021
Friday December 17, 2021

Last day for submission (-10 points)
Monday December 20, 2021














Course Expectations (Instructor, Teaching Assistants, and Students)

I will respond to emails and Blackboard messages and discusions every day, except Saturdays
I will provide a regularly scheduled Zoom meeting office hour to be determined
I will also be available for office hours by appointment, as appropriate.

Teaching Assistants (TAs)
TAs will respond to emails and Blackboard messages and discussions every day, except Saturdays
TAs will record homework submissions within one week of their due date
TAs will respond to questions in homework submissions within one week of their due date
Attendance is not required
Students will abide by the University policy on academic dishonesty
Students will abide by the course policy on late submissions
To earn full credit on the homeworks, students must submit 8 homework assignments









Grade Determination

Course Score Determination
Your course grade will be determined from completion of 8 sets of homework (pass/fail) together with your scores
on 3 tests, as follows.

  Percent of Grade


Your course lecture notes have embedded homework questions. To hear full credit for your homeworks, you must complete eight (8) homeworks. Please note. I provide you with the solutions. Thus, the "homeworks" are a participation activity, rather than an evaluation. Full credit (score of 100) will be given for attempting each question and submitting your work on time. Late submissions (score of 90 or 80) will also be accepted, according to the late policy described below.

25%, sub-total

Exams (all open book)

Exam 1 


Exam 2


Exam 3


75%, sub-total

as follows:


Best test – 40%
2nd best  – 20%

3rd Best  – 15%










Course Letter Grade Determination

95 and over
A MINUS 90-94
B MINUS 80-82
C PLUS 77-79
C 70-76
C MINUS Below 70


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.
This corresponds to a course score of 80 or better .

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.

Policy on Late Submissions
This course has a policy on late submissions that aims to be fair to both those who do meet the course deadlines
and to those who, for whatever reason, need an extension.

On Time
Full Credit for points scored
1-2 Days Late Points scored - 10 points
3-7 Days Late
Points scored - 20 points
8+ Days Late
0 points (no credit)


Valuing, Recognizing, and Encouraging Diversity

I believe that promoting and valuing diversity in the classrom enriches learning and broadens everyone's
perspectives. I also believe in inclusion, tolerance, and respect for others as essential values. Where possible,
I will strive to create a sense of community and promote excellence inthe learning environment. WIth respect
to diversity, I will seek out and honor (1) the variety of life experiences you have had, and (2) the factors
that define your "diversity of presence", including: age, economic circumstances, ethnic identification,
disability, gender, geographic origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, social position.

Names and Pronouns

If you have not already indicated your chosen first name and pronouns in SPIRE, please let me know what
name and pronouns we should use for you. Email me at cbigelow@schoolph.umass.edu.

Title IX Statement

The University of Massachusetts/Amherst is committed to fostering a safe, productive learning environment.
Title IX and our School policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Sexual misconduct - including
harrassment, domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking - is also prohibited at our School.
UMass Amherst encourages anyone experiencing sexual misconduct to talk to someone about what happened,
so they can get the support they need and our School can respond appropriately. If you wish to speak
confidentially about an incident of sexual misconduct, want more information about filing a report, or have
questions about our School policies and procedures, please contact our Title IX Coordinator,
Debora D. Ferreira, Equal Opportunity Office (E), 413-545-3464 or by email to

Please be aware. UMass Amherst is legally oblibgated to investigate reports of sexual misconduct, and therefore,
it cannot guarantee the confidentiality of a report, but it will consider a request for confidentiality and respect
it to the extent possible. If you want to talk with someone who is not a mandated reporter, you can contact the
Center for Women and Community at https://www.umass.edu/cwc, by telephone at 413-545-0883, or call the
24-hour hotline at 413-545-0800, the Center for Counseling and Psychological Help
(https://www.umass.edu/uhs/services/sane), tel 413-577-5000.

Please also be aware that I am also required by our School to report incidents of sexual misconduct and thus cannot
guarantee confidentiality. I must provide our Title IX Coordinator with relevant details such as the names of those
involved in the incident.



Copyright Protection

Many of the materials created for this course are my own intellectual property. This includes, but is not limited to the syllabus,
lectures, and course notes. Except to the extent not protected by copyright law, any use, distribution, or sale of such materials
requires my permission. Please be aware that it is a violation of University policy to reproduce, for distribuiton or sale,
class lectures or class notes, unless the faculty member has explicitly waived copyright.





Copyright 2021 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 18, 2021