Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Graduate Group

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Dissertation Status

Students are expected to carry out their thesis work under the supervision of a faculty member in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics Graduate Group. After passing the Candidacy Exam, students must  form a WorkingThesis Committee and schedule a committee meeting by the end of  the second year. Exceptions to these rules must be approved by the Graduate Group Chair.

A. Composition of Thesis Committee

Within approximately four months after passing the Candidacy Exam, the student must form a Working Thesis Committee (see Working Thesis Committee Approval Form). The Working Thesis Committee will be comprised of three faculty; at least two must be members of the BMB Graduate Group. The Chair of the Working Thesis Committe must be a member of the BMB Graduate Group. The first meeting of the committee should be held by December 31st of the second year in the program.

The Final Thesis Committee (see Final Thesis Committee Approval Form) includes all members of the Working Thesis Committee plus one internal and one external examiner. At least three of the Final Thesis Committee members must be members of the BMB Graduate Group. The thesis advisor is not a member of the committee, but should attend all committee meetings and the open part of the thesis defense. He or she may not participate in the deliberations of the thesis committee.

The external examiner is someone from outside the University and outside the BMB Graduate Group with expertise in the area of the thesis work who is brought in as an additional examiner for the thesis defense. If it is not possible for the external examiner to attend the oral defense, he or she will be asked to provide a written report to the Chair of the student's thesis committee.

The Working and Final Thesis Committees should be constituted to include breadth as well as expertise in the particular research area of thesis work. The student and his or her advisor shall jointly select the members of the thesis committees. The student should submit in writing a list of potential committee members, indicating which faculty will serve as Committee Chair, to his or her thesis advisor for approval. The Committee members must also be approved by the Graduate Group Chair. The Graduate Group Chair will adjudicate any disagreement on the composition of the thesis committee. The student must register the composition of his or her thesis committees with the Graduate Group Office after approval by the Graduate Group Chair.

A handout containing helpful hints about setting up your thesis committee, how to prepare for your meeting, and what to expect is here.

B. Evaluation of Student's Progress

The Working Thesis Committee must  meet every six months to monitor the student's progress. A one-page summary of progress and plans should be prepared by the student and submitted to the committee at least 2 days prior to the meeting. A written summary will be prepared after each meeting by the thesis committee Chair and maintained in the student's academic file (Thesis Committee Meeting Report). If the committee and/or the thesis advisor are not satisfied with the student's productivity, a written report will be prepared by the committee outlining a proposed course of action. A copy of the report will be forwarded to the Graduate Group Chair, the student and the thesis advisor. The student will have the opportunity to reply to the written report. Within 6 months an additional meeting of the thesis committee will take place to determine the progress. In the event that the student does not make sufficient progress, he or she will be placed on academic probation. If progress is not apparent by the next committee meeting, the student will be asked to petition for a terminal Master's degree.

C. Preparation of Dissertation

The thesis committee will give written approval for the student to begin to write the dissertation (Permission to Write and Defend Thesis form), but this does not  automatically mean that experimental work is completed. The student should be  prepared to continue experiments while writing and to rewrite or do additional experiments after the thesis defense if deemed necessary by the committee. If the student has not already done so, at this point he or she should, in conjunction with the thesis advisor, select the remaining two members of the committee to form the full examination committee. A draft of the dissertation must be submitted at least two weeks in advance of the defense to minimize the possibility of unexpected problems. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GAS) requires a dissertation to represent a definite contribution to scientific knowledge and to show that a student possesses "power of independent research." The Graduate Group feels that the dissertation should contain experimental information that answers a stated question and should display a logical progression of scientific thought. The main information contained in the dissertation should be of a caliber sufficient for publication in a reputable refereed scientific journal.

See the “BMB Graduation Checklist” for detailed information.

D. Thesis Seminar and Defense

At least two weeks in advance of the defense date, students must inform the Graduate Group Office of the title of the thesis, the place and time of the defense, and a figure for the monitors. The Graduate Group Office will announce the thesis defense to the University community. The thesis seminar will take the form of a public lecture. The defense of the thesis following the presentation is open only to the thesis committee and the thesis advisor. The decision on approval of the thesis will be made solely by a consensus of the thesis committee in the absence of the student and the thesis advisor. The Graduate Group Office is responsible for completing the forms indicating that the thesis has been successfully defended.

E. Graduation

The Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences oversees the review of all non-professional doctoral dissertations for the University. There are three graduation dates each year - May, August, and December- but a formal commencement ceremony is held only in May.