Ph.D. Program

Overview of the Program

Please click here to visit our prospective student page for an overview of our program.

Qualifying Exams

Student knowledge is assessed via two sets of qualifying exams: written and oral. The written qualifying exam, which is explained in more detail below, occurs on the same date for all students after the first academic year, traditionally in early June. The oral qualifying exam encompasses the written Thesis Proposal and oral defense to the student’s Thesis Committee.

Written Qualifying Exams:

The written qualifying exams are designed to assess the student’s knowledge of and ability to integrate material drawn from two or more of the core subjects taken during the first year. Thus, the Biological Engineering track and Applied Biosciences track take slightly different exams. Each exam consists of three questions that are answered with open notes and books with an hour and a half designated for each question. In addition to the written exams, the Graduate Program Committee takes into account overall class performance and research progress when determining whether to pass a student.

Oral Qualifying Exam:

Presentation and defense of the Thesis Proposal serves as the departmental oral qualifying exam. As of the 2012-2013 academic year, the timing of the oral qualifying exam has changed slightly from previous years. Students are required to complete the oral qualifying exams by December 1st of the 3rd academic year. Additionally, in order to assure that all students are on track to finish their thesis proposal by this date, they must schedule the specific time/date before the beginning of the Fall semester of the 3rd year. If the student and advisor believe that delaying the thesis proposal is in the best interests of the student, they must petition the Graduate Committee by August 1st in the summer prior to the beginning of the 3rd year. If the proposal is not completed by December 1st and a petition is not approved, the student will be considered to have “unsatisfactory progress with respect to the subsequent enrollment and funding support. Under these circumstances the student will not be able to register for the Spring semester of their 3rd year” (Dept. of Biological Engineering: Graduate Student Handbook, 2012-2013).

The student is responsible for arranging the Thesis Proposal time and location to accommodate the Thesis Committee. More detail on the Thesis Committee and layout of the Thesis Proposal can be found in the Graduate Student Handbook.

Time Until Graduation

The length until graduation with your PhD can often be variable depending on your lab and project. Below is a histogram of all students that have graduated from our department through August of 2013.

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