Comprehensive Examination

Overview

The comprehensive examination is the exmaination process that all PhD students must overcome. It takes place during the second term of the second year. For many students, once they pass the test, the remainder of the PhD education is spent in the lab doing research and preparing for the final defense of their work. The test is difficult by design, and is paramount to a good graduate education. Comprehensive examinations in the MBET educational track have two facets: the written examination (NIH-style grant proposal); and an oral defense in front of a committee of faculty members. Read below for specific details.

Requirements

Examination Committee

The Examination Committee for Part I of the qualifying examination shall consist of faculty members knowledgeable in the different research areas of each of the students taking the qualifying examination. The Committee will elect a Chairman. The Committee will communicate the results of the examinations to the Evaluation Committee. To provide continuity between Parts I and II of the qualifying examination, each Committee member will also participate in the Oral Examination of the student for whose proposal he/she is primary reviewer.The Examination Committee for Part I of the qualifying examination shall consist of faculty members knowledgeable in the different research areas of each of the students taking the qualifying examination. The Committee will elect a Chairman. The Committee will communicate the results of the examinations to the Evaluation Committee. To provide continuity between Parts I and II of the qualifying examination, each Committee member will also participate in the Oral Examination of the student for whose proposal he/she is primary reviewer.The Examination Committee for Part I of the qualifying examination shall consist of faculty members knowledgeable in the different research areas of each of the students taking the qualifying examination. The Committee will elect a Chairman. The Committee will communicate the results of the examinations to the Evaluation Committee. To provide continuity between Parts I and II of the qualifying examination, each Committee member will also participate in the Oral Examination of the student for whose proposal he/she is primary reviewer.

Comprehensive Examinations

The examination is divided into two parts:

1. Part I of the examination will usually be scheduled during early Term II (Spring term) of the student's second year. Students with advanced placement or direct admission into the Program may schedule their examination earlier, with approval from the Evaluation Committee. Students will submit to the Examination Committee a written research proposal in the format of an abbreviated NIH R01 grant proposal (15 pages in length, not including references). Students will submit this proposal before January 22nd of the year of their qualifying examination. Within 30 days following submission, the Examination Committee will evaluate the proposal and meet with each examinee individually to critique the quality of his/her writing. The Examination Committee is charged to maintain a consistent standard in evaluating the quality of writing in all of the proposals. The committee should address questions such as:

  • Is the research hypothesis-driven?
  • Is there an identified significance/relevance to human health?
  • Is the literature review current?
  • Is the background germane to the experimental design & methods?
  • Has the student anticipated problematic areas and proposed alternative methods and approaches?

Evaluation

The Examination Committee will communicate the results of the examination to the Evaluation Committee in writing. If weaknesses are detected, the Examination Committee may recommend corrective measures to the Evaluation Committee. Upon successful completion of Part I, students are allowed 30 days to revise their written proposal before submitting it to the Oral Examination Committee for Part II of the qualifying examination.

2. Part II of the qualifying examination will be scheduled to take place within one month after the submission of the revised written proposal to the Oral Examination Committee. This Committee will be formed by the student with the help of the proposed dissertation supervisor, and approved by the Program Director. This committee should be composed of four members of the MBET Graduate Track including the proposed Supervising Professor, who may not serve as the Chairman of this committee, and a faculty member who is not a member of the MBET or BMB Graduate Program. To provide continuity between Parts I and II of the examination, one of the members of the Oral Examination Committee should be the primary reviewer of the student's proposal from Part I of the Qualifying Examination.

The student and the committee members will determine the date of the oral examination. The written proposal must be submitted to each committee member, and to any MBET faculty member who requests it, at least two weeks before the examination. At the oral examination, the student will give a formal presentation of the proposal and then will accept questions on any topic related centrally or peripherally to the proposal. The Oral Examination Committee will conduct a rigorous and in-depth examination of the scientific merits of the proposal, the student's scientific knowledge, and his/her ability to integrate scientific information. The Oral Examination Committee will communicate the results of the examination to the Evaluation Committee in writing.

Final Evaluation

The Evaluation Committee will evaluate the student's complete academic performance and will present its recommendation to the full Faculty regarding the student's advancement to Candidacy. The full Faculty will vote on the recommendation. The Program Director will inform the BMB Graduate Program Director, who will in turn inform the Dean of the Graduate School in writing once the student has performed satisfactorily and, therefore, is eligible for advancement to Candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.