The Mysterious Capstone Project: What is it and Why is it Important?


One of the key ingredients to obtaining your Master’s Degree in Public Health at Michigan is completing a capstone project.  You may hear phrases like “independent research project”, “data analysis”, “summer internship”, or “stressed and confused” when talking about the capstone project. But basically, writing your capstone is a chance to show off all you’ve learned during your time at Michigan.  And even though it may seem overwhelming to even begin such a large project when you might not know anything about data analysis before entering the program, relax.  Learning that is what you’re here for!

Steps to completing your capstone:

  • Choose a faculty to work with or an internship position to apply for. How? Faculty are very approachable, and you can find their research areas online to see if you share similar interests.  As for internships, there are tons of links on the SPH webpage as well as opportunities emailed to students almost daily.
  • Summer internship! Have fun, learn a lot, and potentially get an idea for a good question to investigate in your capstone.
  • Poster Session. In your second year, you get the opportunity to create a poster outlining the work you completed during your summer internship (a picture of mine is at the end of this post!)
  • Choose a capstone adviser. This may be the faculty or staff who helped you set up your summer internship, or if there’s a new field of study you are interested in, this is your opportunity to explore working with another faculty.
  • Choosing a dataset. Often a student can obtain a dataset from their summer internship, which is great because you will be most familiar with this.  If not, often your capstone adviser can provide you with a dataset to use for analysis.
  • Identifying your question. What are you hoping to learn from your data? For example, are there certain risk factors that this data helps identify for a certain disease?
  • Data analysis. You may form a love/hate relationship with your statistical computer programs, but you will definitely learn the ins and outs of turning numbers into relationships and useful information.
  • Writing. Finally, the actual capstone itself.  The paper typically takes the form of introduction, materials and methods, results, and discussion.  This is the part where you present your findings and evaluate what your results really mean to the public health world.

I hope that this answers some of the questions that any of you prospective students may have!  Keep in mind that this is a dynamic process and you will have people to guide you throughout your capstone work.  Are there other questions you have about the capstone project? And for current students, do you have advice to give prospective students on this topic? I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

My poster from my summer internship:

Epid poster pic

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