Preliminary Examination

Doctoral Preliminary Exam Procedures 
Before the first day of Spring semester classes in the third year in the Microbiology Ph.D. program, students will have completed the requirements of the preliminary exam, which is centered around a research proposal. The exam will consist of two parts, the written proposal and an oral defense by the student before the members of the Advisory Committee.

1. The Written Preliminary Examination - A Research Proposal (Part A).

The Preliminary Examination process will begin around the summer at the end of the second year the student is matriculated in the program. The student will write and submit a research proposal to the Advisory Committee. The subject matter of the proposal will be tangential to, or distinct from, the student's anticipated thesis research. The proposal topic is decided upon by the student submitting two or more pre-proposals to the Advisory Committee that include a background and significance statement and a list of specific research aims. Consultation with the thesis advisor or other committee members is encouraged at this stage. The advisory committee will select one of the pre-proposals for the full proposal; changes in aims can be made by the committee at this time. The committee has two weeks to provide a response to the pre-proposal to the student. The proposal will be prepared in the format of a National Institutes of Health research proposal, but approximately 15 single-spaced pages long including figures but not the literature cited. Guidelines for the written proposal and its format are provided on the Written Prelim Format webpage. The student should at this stage independently develop and write the proposal. At least 6 weeks prior to the anticipated oral defense, the student will submit the proposal to members of the Advisory Committee. The committee will have two weeks to evaluate the proposal. During the third week, the committee members will provide written evaluation of the proposal that is submitted to the student, to other members of the Advisory Committee and to the DGP. The status of the written preliminary examination will be determined by the committee as 1) Pass: the student has satisfactorily completed the written (Part A) examination and has authority to schedule the oral exam (within two - three weeks). 2) Conditional pass: the student provides written responses to concerns from each committee member, meeting with each member as needed (two weeks to complete); each response is distributed to all Advisory Committee members and to the DGP. Two weeks are allowed for committee member(s) to respond with pass, conditional, or fail to the DGP. 3) Fail: the DGP alerts all committee members that a fail on the written exam evaluation was submitted. The Advisory Committee convenes to determine the opportunity for the student to repeat the written or not (one week).

2. The Oral Preliminary Examination - Defense of the Proposal (Part B)

The Oral Preliminary Examination is scheduled within two - three weeks of satisfactorily passing Part A, written exam. Appropriate slides and handouts to be used by the student in the oral will be provided to the committee members two days in advance of the oral exam. The student will give a brief (20-30 min.) oral presentation describing the research proposal and then respond to questions raised by the members of the Advisory Committee. The questions will center around the research proposal, but may include any question relevant to it or to the expected proficiencies in microbiology. Following the examination, the Advisory Committee will decide whether the student (i) passes the exam unconditionally and proceeds to candidacy, (ii) passes the exam conditionally and is instructed to complete additional work to satisfy a perceived deficiency, or (iii) fails the exam.

3. Candidacy.

After the student has passed the Preliminary Examination (Part A & B), the Graduate School documents certifying candidacy for the Ph.D. will be signed by the Advisory Committee and DGP and returned to the Graduate School.

4. Procedure for Appeal.

A student who fails the Preliminary Examination may be offered a second opportunity to pass the preliminary examination or may be dismissed from the program. Appeals of a decision by the Advisory Committee must be made to the MGP within two weeks or they will be final. The MGP will make the final decision on an appeal. A student who has not satisfied the preliminary examination requirement within 36 months of entering the Ph.D. program will be dropped from the program, except by appeal in writing to the MGP, which will make the final decision.