Proposal Writing Workshop

Prior to preparing the research proposal for the oral examination, students participate in a workshop to learn how to propose a research plan and prepare a written proposal.

Qualifying Exam

Students take an oral exam in December of their second year to determine their readiness to undertake a Ph.D. thesis project.  The goals of the exam are to test  the (1) depth and breadth of knowledge acquired during the 15 months, (2) the ability to synthesize the material covered in the coursework, and (3) the ability to formulate and interpret experiments to test specific hypotheses.

Preparation for the exam occurs in two stages: students first prepare a research proposal on their thesis topic, followed by in-depth study of their coursework in the context of their specific proposal.  During the exam, the student is tested on specifics of their proposal as well as broader areas.

Thesis Proposal

After passing the oral exam, each student chooses a thesis committee consisting of their advisor and three other faculty members. At the initial meeting, the student presents a thesis proposal in the format of an NIH Fellowship application. Subsequent meetings with the thesis committee are convened at least once a year to review research progress and discuss plans for the next year.​​​