Pharmacology Graduate Group Handbook - Student Information and Guidelines

This handbook is intended to provide information relevant to students in the Pharmacology Graduate Group (PGG). Its primary purpose is to describe the policies and guidelines of the PGG, which have been developed by the Graduate Group Executive Committee. This handbook is also intended to describe briefly courses and other activities pertinent to the training program.

An important aspect of the overall success of our Graduate Group relies on the input of students and faculty. Therefore, modifications are often made in response to student or faculty input and subsequent agreement by the Executive Committee and/or the faculty at large. We encourage and welcome suggestions to improve the Graduate Group at any time.

Julie A. Blendy, Ph.D.
Chair, Pharmacology Graduate Group

 

Abbreviations: PGG, Pharmacology Graduate Group; GGEC, Graduate Group Executive Committee; BGS, Biomedical Graduate Studies; ARC, Academic Review Committee.

Pre-Thesis Curriculum

Coursework and Rotations   
Table 1 - Required and Recommended Courses
Academic Advising
Individual Development Plans (IDPs)          
Required Courses    
Electives  
Laboratory Rotations 
Academic Standards     
Registration
Journal Club     
Seminars        

Candidacy Examination

Written Thesis Proposal              
Examination Process
Outcomes 
Examination Committee
Timeline for Candidacy Exam            

Guidance in Preparing the Written Thesis Proposal

Thesis

Choice of Laboratory/Advisor     
Thesis Advisory Committee       
Thesis Examination      
Written Thesis Document

Graduation

         

 

Pre-Thesis Curriculum                        

Coursework and Rotations                 

The first 2 years of study are devoted to classes, laboratory rotations, and preparation for the Candidacy Exam. For most students, this period begins with the Fall semester of the first year and ends with the Spring semester of the second year (5 semesters total, including the intervening summer). Many students embark on the first rotation in the first Fall semester, however students may opt to take a laboratory rotation during the summer prior to the first semester of classes. Generally, students take a combination of didactic courses, seminar courses, and laboratory rotations.

Students work full-time in the laboratory of their thesis advisor in academic years three and beyond. Students are allowed to take courses within the BGS curriculum after entering their thesis lab however it is expected that students will enroll only in courses that relate to their PhD training. Students must complete a Request for Coursework and obtain approval of the PGG Chair of the Academic Review Committee, PGG Chair and BGS Chair prior to registering for any course. This includes any course that is part of certificate programs.

For students accepted with advanced standing, the duration and nature of pre-thesis training will depend on previous courses taken at the graduate level. Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) allows a total of 8 units to be transferred through the Transfer of Credit process. 

Table 1 - Required and Recommended Courses                 

A typical schedule for the first year of the PGG curriculum:

Year 1
Fall 1

Course Number

Course Title

BIOM 600  

Cell Biology and Biochemistry 

PHRM 623 

Fundamentals of Pharmacology 

PHRM 599 

PGG Journal Club
PHRM 699

Laboratory Rotation (or 

Elective)

Spring 1

PHRM 699

Laboratory Rotation  

BIOM 611

Biological Data Analysis

PHRM 599 

PGG Journal Club
  2 Electives

Summer 1

PHRM 699   

Laboratory Rotation /Pre-Thesis Research

A typical schedule for the second year of the PGG curriculum:

Year 2
Fall 2
Course Number Course Title

PHRM 532

Human Physiology
PHRM 624    Medical Pharmacology
PHRM 899  Pre-Dissertation Laboratory Rotation
Spring 2
PHRM 970   Candidacy Examination
PHRM 899      Pre-Dissertation Laboratory Rotation
  1 Elective

Summer 2

PHRM 995   Thesis Lab

 

Required courses, rotations, and exam

Electives are drawn from all courses offered within the PGG and other BGS graduate programs.

Coursework, rotations and Candidacy Examination are to be completed before entering thesis work.

Some exceptions may occur, as noted for coursework above, but must be approved in advance by the Academic Review Committee.

Combined Degree Students

The required courses for combined degree students (MD/Ph.D) in the Pharmacology Graduate Group are Cell Biology and Biochemistry (BIOM 600), Fundamentals of Pharmacology (PHRM 623), Biological Data Analysis (BIOM 611), and two electives. BIOM 600 and PHRM 623 are taught in the first semester. The elective requirement can be fulfilled in this first year in the graduate group in Fall and Spring; Spring; or semesters following. Depending where the Combined Degree student is in their lab rotation cycle they are to start or continue Lab Rotation #2 in the Fall semester of their first year and conduct Lab Rotation #3 in the Spring semester.

By following the timeline above a PGG combined degree student should be able to participate in our Candidacy Exam workshop the Spring of their first year in the PGG.

The time line to Candidacy Exam is determined based on the student’s lab rotation schedule and in consultation with the Student Affairs Committee Chair who ensures that students have met all requirements prior to taking the qualifying exam.

Typical Course Program for Combined Degree Students

 

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

Summer

Year 3

BIOM 600

PHRM 623

Elective

Lab Rotation # 2, # 3 or

Pre-Dissertation Lab Rotation

Lab Rotation #3 or

Pre-Dissertation Rotation

Candidacy Exam Wkshp.

Elective

BIOM 611

Pre-Dissertation Rotation (Candidacy Exam)

or

Dissertation Research

Year 4+

Dissertation Research

(Candidacy Exam)

Dissertation Research

Dissertation Research

Academic Advising                                                  

Incoming students are assigned individual advisors who are members of the Academic Review Committee (ARC) for academic advising for both the fall/spring semesters. The Graduate Group Coordinator is responsible for registering students for coursework and lab rotations. Therefore registration information should be communicated by the student to the PGG Coordinator in a timely fashion. Students are encouraged to contact the Chair of the ARC whenever a problem arises relating to coursework or rotations.

 

Individual Development Plans (IDPs)     

BGS requires an annual IDP for all predoctoral students (PhD, MD-PhD, and VMD-PhD). The goals of the IDP are to make sure students and mentors are communicating openly and that students are working proactively toward developing the skills they will need to succeed. Separate forms are to be used by pre-thesis and thesis level students.

First-year students should discuss their IDP with their Academic Advisor in Spring of Year 1. Part A, Skills and Motivations, is private. Its purpose is to guide discussion, and no written answers are needed. Part B, Plans/Goals for the Coming Year, will become part of the student’s academic record. It too should be discussed with the Academic Advisor or PGG Chair, and the completed form should be submitted to BGS via their submission guidelines. A copy should also be provide to the Graduate Group Office – and also, in the case of MD-PhD students, to the Combined Degree Office. 

BGS Predoctoral Student IDP – First Year

Second-year students who have identified a thesis advisor should discuss the IDP with the faculty member in the Spring 2.

BGS Predoctoral Student IDP - Second Year 

BGS Ph.D. Thesis Student IDP

Thesis level students should discuss their IDP with their Thesis Advisor on at least an annual basis. Part A, Skills and Motivations and Career Planning, is private. Its purpose is to guide discussion, and no written answers are needed. Parts B, Achievements and Plans/Goals, and C, Skills to Improve, will become part of the student’s academic record and should be shared with the thesis committee and the completed form should be submitted to BGS via their submission guidelines. A copy should also be provide to the Graduate Group Office – and also, in the case of MD-PhD students, to the Combined Degree Office. 

BGS Combined Degree Student IDP - Third Year

BGS Combined Degree Student IDP - Thesis  Student

 

Required Courses               

Six courses are currently required by the PGG for all students in Pharmacology: Cell Biology and Biochemistry (BIOM 600), Fundamentals of Pharmacology (PHRM 623), Biological Data Analysis (BIOM 611), PGG Journal Club (PHRM 599), Medical Pharmacology (PHRM 624), Human Physiology (PHRM 532), and the requisite three elective courses. In addition, three laboratory rotations are required. Required courses may be waived, depending upon prior courses taken at the graduate level and with permission of the ARC.


Electives                                           

Electives are chosen from among the courses offered through BGS. Courses are structured around formal lectures and literature-based presentations. For the most up to date information on PGG electives along with those electives offered by other Biomedical Graduate Studies groups, refer to Course Information which is updated every semester. Assigned advisors or member of the ARC can provide additional input on elective coursework.

 

Laboratory Rotations 

Three laboratory rotations (PHRM 699) are required for all students. All Laboratory Rotations must be with a faculty who is a member of the PGG and must be approved in advance by an academic advisor. Students are expected to spend about half of their time in their laboratory rotation during the Fall and Spring semesters, while summer rotations are full-time and extend for a full 12 weeks over the months of June-August. Rotations begin and end with the semester – in no instance may a rotation extend into the subsequent semester without prior approval of the Graduate Group Chair, the current rotation advisor and the future rotation advisor. Students may not take multiple rotations with the same advisor.  Students entering the program who have previously been affiliated in some way with a PGG lab (e.g. as an undergraduate student, visiting scholar, or employed technician) must initially undertake two lab rotations in PGG labs with which they have no prior affiliation.  If a student seeks to do their thesis in the lab where they previously worked, they should do their third rotation in that lab.

The student’s performance in the lab rotation is graded by the PI using a Post Rotation Evaluation Form using the standard academic grading scale.

To give students experience in making formal presentations, post-rotation talks are given to members of the PGG at the end of each rotation and are posted on the graduate group calendar. The post-rotation talk should summarize the background for the project, data obtained and possible future directions. The talk should be no longer than 12 minutes, leaving 3 additional minutes for discussion and questions. Students will get written feedback from students and 1 or more faculty assigned to critique the presentation. Talks will coincide with the semester’s end. These talks are scheduled by the Graduate Group Coordinator. 

Rotations may be taken at various times starting as early as the summer before students matriculate.

Summer 0

Fall 1

Spring 1

Spring 2

Summer

Fall 2

Spring 2
 

Rotation

Rotation

Rotation

Pre-Dissertation Rotation

Pre-Dissertation Rotation

Candidacy Exam

Rotation

 

Rotation

Rotation

Pre-Dissertation Rotation

Pre-Dissertation Rotation

Candidacy Exam

Academic Standards      

University guidelines state that the minimum standard for satisfactory work for graduate students is a B average in each academic year as outlined in the Expectations of Students in Biomedical Graduate Studies. BGS reviews the records of students each semester. The record of any student who receives a grade of B- or lower is reviewed by the Biomedical Curriculum Committee, with the possible outcome of academic probation. PGG students must obtain a grade of B or better in all required courses or take the course, or an equivalent course, again.

 

Registration               

In registering for courses or laboratory rotations, students must first consult and receive approval of the ARC. A student who is at Thesis Level and interested in taking extra courses or Non-BGS courses must first get permission from both the PGG and BGS with a Request for Enrollment form. The list of courses is then given to the PGG Coordinator, who registers the student directly through the student enrollment system. A student must register for a minimum of 3 course units to be recognized by the University as a full-time student. Almost always, a student takes the equivalent of 4 course units. Because courses may be added or dropped freely within the first two weeks of the semester, the student may wish to audit several courses before formalizing his or her choices.           

 

Journal Club

PGG Journal Club is held weekly on Thursdays at noon.  The major goals of journal club are 1) to gain experience presenting recent original research articles from the primary scientific literature, and 2) to learn to critically evaluate the research contained in these articles with respect to their context, documentation, authentication, presentation, scientific rigor, reproducibility, inferences, and any other factors that contribute to the quality of the research and its communication. Grades are based on attendance (30%, 1 excused absence per semester is permitted), written evaluation (Canvas) and oral discussion (in class) of the assigned papers (30%), and one paper presentation (40%).  Failing to pass (2 or more absences, or 2 or more inadequate critiques, or an inadequate presentation) will add a semester of required journal club attendance in the fourth semester.

1.    First-year students will be registered for 0.5 credits per semester and are required to attend.

2.    Faculty from various thematic areas will identify the papers to be presented,  will be available to discuss their paper with the presenters beforehand, and will attend the presentation, where they provide expertise and insight as needed.

 

Seminars

A fundamental aspect in our students’ education is the attendance of seminars. First year students must attend the Department of Systems Pharmacology and Translational Therapeutics (SPATT) Seminar Series (normally held on Mondays at noon) as they provide an integral and broad view of the pharmacological sciences as well as its relationship with other disciplines. Students have a unique opportunity to meet with speakers immediately following their seminar. 

 

Candidacy Examination             

The Candidacy Exam Guidelines are outlined in the Candidacy Exam Workshop (non-credit bearing) conducted for the 2nd Year students in the Fall semester before students go through the Candidacy Exam process in the Spring.  

Written Thesis Proposal

Proposal Format

In addition to being hypothesis driven, key features of a successful proposal include:  1) a clear definition of the problem, 2) a concise summary of specific aims, 3) a clear statement of why the work is important, and 4) evidence from the literature that the experiments are feasible.  It should not include a broad background of a field, but it is important to demonstrate awareness of critical work by other investigators.  It is useful to identify limitations of the proposed research and to indicate the possible significance of anticipated results; this is typically done in the Approach Section.  The following guidelines are based on instructions for pre-doctoral National Research Service Award applications.  The proposal should be no more than 14 double-spaced pages (excluding the Title Page and References) with at least 1-inch margins and no smaller than 12 point font (11 point Arial is acceptable).  Proposals that do not meet these requirements will be returned to the student.

Specific Aims (and hypothesis to be tested).  Define the research area of the project.  Include a statement of the general objective, hypothesis being tested and a list of Specific Aims.  Specific Aims should be numbered.  Limit: 2 double spaced pages.

  1. Explain the importance of the problem or critical barrier to progress in the field that proposal addresses.  Explain how the proposed project will improve scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice in one or more fields.  Suggested limit:  0.5-1 page. 
  2. This section is the heart of the proposal and should probably be divided into separate subsections for each aim.  In each of these subsections, describe the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses to be used to accomplish the specific aims of the project.  Include how data will be collected, analyzed and interpreted.  Discuss potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success anticipated to achieve the aims.

It is important to propose alternatives when a given approach may be unsuccessful.  It is dangerous to have a Specific Aim completely dependent on the outcome of previous Specific Aims.  At the end of each Specific Aim have a 1-2 paragraph section dealing with "Anticipated Results and Potential Problems."  Routine procedures are those that are in standard usage and require only brief explanation.  In many instances, routine procedures can be simply referenced, while in others a brief summary of the protocol may be included.  In all instances, the student is responsible for a thorough understanding of the techniques cited. If there is unpublished data (e.g. graphs or tables) that need to be provided to show that specific studies are feasible then it should be included in the Experimental Plan section.  Suggested limit:  ~11 pages.

For additional information, see NIH SF424 Instructions Aims- Approach (see separate PDF). 

Literature Cited/references.  This section does not count towards the 14-page limit.  List all literature cited in the text.  Include authors, title of article, name of journal or book, inclusive pagination, and year of publication.  For book references, include also the name and city of publisher.  Use a standard format for bibliographical references such as that found in scientific journals.

Examination Process

Defense of the thesis proposal The second part of the Candidacy Examination is an oral defense of the written proposal.  The defense will be attended by the 4 faculty members representing the examination committee. The thesis advisor is strongly encouraged to attend the exam but is not an active participant in the exam.

The format of the defense consists of a 5-minute Executive Session in which the committee meets without the student to discuss the academic record of the student  and any major concerns with the written proposal.

The candidate will then give a presentation on the scientific literature that pertains to the student’s thesis problem.  The student will present background literature that formed the basis of the thesis proposal, and elaborate on the scientific premise which should include a discussion of the strengths and weakness of previously performed work upon which the proposal is built upon. The seminar should then discuss specific hypotheses to be tested in the  thesis research. The seminar should then provide an outline of the specific aims (1-2 slides; i.e. abbreviated Specific Aims) and the seminar will then go into detail with specific information on the approaches to be taken along with expected outcomes. 

-    Keep in mind while there is no strict slide limit, students should prepare a 25 min presentation. The thesis committee will be instructed to give the student uninterrupted time to present background information at the beginning of the  exam (approx. 5-10 min) but the  student should expect to be regularly interrupted during the exam with questions. Thus, it may happen that students do not get a chance to complete their presentation. This is not a factor that will be considered in the overall evaluation of the students performance.

As in the written portion the oral exam will assess if the student has:

-    Clearly defined the central biological question and significance? 
-    Clearly stated hypotheses? 
-    Proposed  aims  that effectively test the hypotheses? 
-    Discussed pitfalls and alternatives?
-    Demonstrated depth and breadth of knowledge (conceptual and technical)? 
-    Exhibited  independence of thought?

Questions pertaining to feasibility, background information, and extrapolation of results are likely to be asked.  Questions testing the ability of a student to integrate the proposal with information obtained from the literature, classes, seminars, and Journal Club are also appropriate.  The total examination, including the presentation should last 1-2 hours. 

Immediately after the examination, the committee meets in closed session to evaluate the student's performance.  The prospective thesis advisor remains for about 5 minutes to answer any questions the committee may have and then the thesis advisor leaves to allow the committee to discuss the defense.

Examination Committee

The Chair of the Academic Review Committee will appoint the chair of the Examination Committee; Once a chair is assigned, the student in consultation with their thesis advisor should identify 3 additional faculty who would be appropriate for reading the proposal and serving on the qualifying examination committee.  At least two members of the Committee must be from the PGG.   All  faculty  must be  approved by the Chair of the committee, and the names of the committee should be sent to the PGG coordinator.  Once a committee is approved, the student will be notified and should then contact the 3 faculty members with requests to serve on the committee. 

Timeline for Candidacy Exam

The following are general deadlines, with specific dates assigned on a yearly basis; it is fine to meet all deadlines in advance.

February 4 –Abstract submission (e-mail to PGG Coordinator) - Abstracts should include your name, thesis advisor, and title. Abstracts should be about a half-page in length and include the following information: 1) the general topic of the proposal or question being addressed, 2) the rationale for the study, 3) statement of hypothesis, 4) a general description/approach of the planned research (or Specific Aims), and 5) the significance of the research.

February 18 – Students should send final list of faculty that make up the Examination Committee to PGG Coordinator. Students and the Chair of the Committee are encouraged to meet to discuss any potential concerns as early as possible.

March 9 – Students should arrange a time with their committee members for an exam date. To avoid conflicts, dates for all exams should be finalized and sent to Sarah as soon as possible (no later than March 9).  At this time, the student should also send the committee members a copy of the current guidelines; this is important because many faculty are also members of other graduate groups that may use a different examination process.

April 13- May 22 – All preliminary examinations should take place during this period. The completed proposal must be given to members of the Examination Committee at least 14 days prior to the defense.

Outcomes

Potential outcomes of the defense are the following:

1) Unconditional pass – permission to begin thesis research

2) Conditional pass – may begin thesis research, but with conditions such as additional coursework which is monitored by the thesis advisor and thesis committee

3) Revise without reexamination – may begin thesis research, but revisions to the written proposal must be submitted to the examination committee for approval before a passing grade is given

4) Revise with reexamination – If reexamination is required, a member of the Academic Review Committee or Executive committee will be added as an extra member to the Examination Committee

                 if Unconditional pass the student may begin thesis research,

                 if Conditional pass the student may begin thesis research, but with conditions such as additional coursework which is monitored by the thesis advisor and thesis committee

                 if Fail then the case will be referred to the Graduate Group Executive Committee with the possible outcome of granting a terminal Masters degree.

5) Fail- the case will be referred to the Graduate Group Executive Committee with the possible outcome of granting a terminal Masters degree.

Revisions of the proposal and/or a second oral defense must be completed by a deadline set by the committee within 4-6 weeks.  Exceptions to the 4-6 week timeline may be granted upon consultation with the academic review committee.

The chair of the committee is also asked to prepare a brief written report for the student describing strengthes and opportunities for improvement.  This can be provided in bullet format.

Please give the following excerpt from the Student Handbook to your thesis mentor once you start planning your Aims and experiments for your proposal

Guidance in preparing the written thesis proposal

The thesis proposal should reflect the work of the student and should not be identical to sections of funded or unfunded grants from the thesis laboratory.  Students are encouraged to read grants or other documents written by members of the group, but should be sure to comply with the University Policies regarding plagiarism.  Students are also encouraged to interact with faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and other students in developing their ideas and approaches for the written proposal.  The thesis advisor is encouraged to help the student develop her/his ideas and to critique the written document with regard to content and style.  The thesis advisor, however, should refrain from re-writing any portion of the proposal.  The thesis advisor should view this as a valuable learning experience for the student and help her/him develop skills to write a successful grant proposal.  Ideally, the advisor will help the student refine her/his critical thinking skills during this process and help train the student in the art of successful grant writing.

The completed proposal must be given to members of the Examination Committee at least 14 days in advance of the defense. 

The Qualifying Examination proposal should be hypothesis-driven.  In rare cases, a proposal may not have a central hypothesis or major hypotheses for individual specific aims; however, in these rare cases the student must clearly articulate the innovative aspects and significance of the project, the nature of the intellectual challenges, and the manner in which the work can be integrated with hypothesis-driven research. Justification for the approaches to be employed, which will cover these points, should be presented on the Specific Aims page of the proposal as well as discussed in detail elsewhere in the proposal.

 

Thesis

Choice of a Laboratory/Advisor

Students are encouraged to begin finalizing plans for the choice of a thesis laboratory by the end of the first year or early in the second year.  This process includes discussions with the prospective advisor, who should be a member of the PGG. The PGG students rotate and do pre-thesis and thesis research exclusively in the PGG laboratories. In some cases, written permission to pursue a rotation outside the PGG may or may not be granted based on specific circumstances. In the event a student decides to complete thesis work outside a PGG faculty member’s laboratory a recommendation to switch to the graduate group in which that faculty is a member may evolve as an alternative resolution in such rare situations. It is important to keep in mind this may result in additional coursework that is required of that particular graduate group.

No more than two students from the same class will be permitted to do thesis research in the same lab without a special permission by the Academic Review Committee or the PGG Chair.

Thesis Advisory Committee

No more than 6-9 months after initiation of a research project in the Thesis Lab, a Thesis Advisory Committee is appointed by the student in consultation with the thesis advisor.  To this end, the student submits the names of prospective committee members to the Chair of the Academic Review Committee together with a short paragraph describing the topic of the thesis research.  Appointment is based on expertise in areas relating to the research project.  The chair of the committee is chosen at the first meeting by the committee in consultation with the advisor and student and must be a member of the PGG. The advisory committee consists of a minimum of 3 faculty members (not including the thesis advisor), two of which must be PGG members. As the thesis evolves additional faculty expertise may be required on the committee. The thesis advisor is not an official member of the committee, although he or she will provide important input at all meetings. The student and advisor may additionally invite others (e.g., collaborators) to attend advisory committee meetings on an informal basis.

The purpose of the advisory committee is to provide constructive input to the thesis project and to ensure that reasonable progress is maintained.  The committee achieves this through regular semi-annual meetings with the student and advisor at which experimental data are presented and future directions are outlined.  The student prepares a short (1-2 pages) written outline listing the goals and main hypotheses of the work, the experimental data obtained, the experiments proposed for the next 6 months, and the papers published, in press, or submitted. It is useful to provide graphs of experimental results to the committee, but extensive written descriptions are not necessary.  THIS OUTLINE SHOULD BE SENT TO THE COMMITTEE PRIOR TO THE MEETING. 

Meetings must take place every 6-8 months.  At the start of each thesis committee meeting, the committee should meet with the advisor for 5 minutes without the student present and then 5 minutes with the student without the advisor present.  This allows both the student and the advisor to speak candidly to the committee about progress toward the thesis goals.  Meetings must take place every 6-8 months. At the start of each thesis committee meeting, the committee should meet with the advisor for 5 minutes without the student present and then 5 minutes with the student without the advisor present.  

The Thesis Committee examines the quality of the student lab notebook at every meeting. If a student maintains an electronic notebook in addition or instead of a written notebook, the student will present that information at each committee meeting in whatever form best represents the nature, content, and quantity of the records being kept.

At the end of the thesis committee meeting the chair in consultation with the committee must complete a Thesis Committee Meeting Report and provide this to the PGG coordinator in a timely manner. When the thesis committee feels that the student has made a substantial intellectual contribution to the field of their research and sufficient data has been gathered to constitute a thesis, the committee chair must indicate on the Thesis Committee Meeting Report that the student has been given permission to defend. 

Thesis Examination Committees will include an additional faculty member. Appointments are made by the Chair of the Academic Review Committee based on suggestions of the student, advisor, and committee chair. The added members, at the discretion of the student and advisor, may attend the last advisory committee meeting. The outline of the dissertation, usually in chapter form, is discussed at this meeting.

Once a student has been given permission to defend they should be in communication with the PGG Coordinator regarding the scheduling of their Thesis Examination. The PGG Coordinator will provide the student with the PGG Graduation Checklist which outlines the deadlines a student must begin meeting in order to graduate within a given semester (Fall; Spring; Summer). 

Thesis Examination

At least two weeks prior to the thesis examination, the written dissertation should be submitted to each member of the Thesis Examination Committee.  The document must comply with the guidelines set forth in Ph.D. Dissertation Manual.

Written Thesis Document

1. The introduction should provide a concise but scholarly review of the most pertinent literature providing a background for the research project, and state the goals and specific aims of the work. 

2. Each chapter should represent Contributions that the student has made towards their research project. 

3. The general discussion/Future Directions should focus on the work as a whole.  The reference list should provide citations to references used in the document.  An appendix may include additional information, for example general methods of procedures not reported or described in detail in chapters. It is understood that the examination committee may request modification of the text or figures or any part of the document, whether it has been previously published or not. 

On the day of the examination, the student gives a one-hour seminar open to the scientific community.  The examination follows immediately thereafter, and attendance is limited to the student, advisor, close collaborators (at the discretion of the chair), and examination committee members.  Members of the examination committee may ask the student to defend any or all aspects of the thesis project.  Questions are not limited by topics covered in previous advisory meetings.  Members of the examination committee may also seek clarification of statements, tables, or figures presented in the written document.  When all questions or issues have been addressed to the extent possible, the committee meets in closed session to formulate a recommendation.  If the defense is successful, the student may be asked to make corrections in the written dissertation commensurate with issues raised during the defense.  The amended dissertation must be approved by the chair of the examination committee prior to its submission to the University.

Graduation

After informing the PGG Coordinator of their plans to defend their thesis and intention to graduate, the following information is needed from the student regarding their doctoral dissertation defense:  1) Date and desired location of the dissertation; 2) Two Page Abstract with title; 3) Proper names of the members of the dissertation committee and the name of the Thesis Committee Chair. The PGG Coordinator can assist in the booking of a location for the doctoral dissertation defense.

After receiving permission to defend and scheduling their defense, a student should apply for graduation through the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences –

Once a student applies for graduation they will begin receiving the Graduation calendar deadlines from BGS.

DEPOSITION OF DISSERTATIONS: Timely deposition of the final dissertation is required for the graduation. Dissertation deposition represents its exposure to the public domain. In order to avoid inadvertent exposure of unprotected potentially patentable intellectual property and unpublished results, student and advisor may: i) Request for embargo of publication for a negotiable period of time; ii) sequester unprotected information in an Appendix to present to the Thesis Committee. 

 

Teaching

Although teaching is not required in the program, students are given the opportunity to assist in some undergraduate and graduate courses.

Fellowships and Grants

We strongly encourage our students to compete for fellowships and grants offered by government agencies or private sources.  Applications are made with the support of one or more faculty members of the PGG, often at the request of the GGEC.  Funding agencies include the National Institutes of Health (in the guise of various training grants already existing at the University), the National Science Foundation, the Howard Hughes Foundation, the American Heart Association and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association.