Students advance to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree when they have satisfied the following three requirements: (1) successful completion of all required courses; (2) a passing grade on the preliminary (qualifying) exam; and (3) a satisfactory written dissertation proposal and oral defense of the proposal.
The Molecular Genetics and Microbiology qualifying exam is taken after the successful completion of the required courses (usually in the fourth semester) and consists of two parts: a written research proposal based upon the format of an NIH R21 proposal and an oral defense of the proposal in front of a committee of three training faculty members. The proposal is developed as part of the course HBM 693 and is in an area of molecular genetics and microbiology that is distinct from the student’s graduate research.
Dissertation Proposal Defense
Within 10 months of passing the qualifying exam, students write and orally defend a proposal that is based upon their graduate research and will form the basis of the dissertation. The format for the written proposal is that of an NIH R21 proposal. The dissertation proposal defense committee is chosen by the student in consultation with the advisor and the Graduate Program Director and consists of three members of the Program’s training faculty and one individual who is not a member of the training faculty and is preferably from another institution. The student’s advisor joins the committee after the successful defense of the dissertation proposal and this advisory committee meets with the students on an annual basis until the student graduates.