By the end of the second year, students are expected to complete a qualifying exam, necessary to advance to degree candidacy.
The exam consists of a written proposal and an oral presentation and defense before an ad hoc Examination Committee.
Qualifying Examination Committee
The Examination Committee consists of the student’s thesis advisor and a minimum of two, typically three, additional faculty, one of whom must have a primary appointment in the Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics. Students consult with their thesis advisor to pick potential committee members, who must then be approved by the directors of the program.
The research proposal is in the style of an NIH F31 fellowship proposal. The subject may be in any area of science, but must be approved by the program directors, and can be directly related to the student’s thesis research. The research proposal must be written by the student, and distributed to all members of the Examination Committee at least one week prior to the oral exam.
Students deliver a succinct presentation of the written proposal and participate in a discussion with the Examination Committee. Questions may initially focus on the proposal itself, but this is a comprehensive examination in which the student is expected to demonstrate an appropriate broad scientific background and an understanding of the underlying principles.
The Examination Committee may pass the student, award a conditional pass or fail the student. The latter two outcomes entail a second examination consisting of an oral defense of the original proposal, an amended proposal, or a new proposal.