Qualifying Exam

In preparation for Qualifying Exams, the Thesis Committee should be selected well in advance of the Abstract Submission date of March 15 for Qualifying Exam Abstracts. Then the student must submit the LGS Dissertation Committee form no later than March 15 to formalize their committee selection.

The Qualifying Examination Committee consists of the Thesis Committee plus the Director of Graduate Studies. For students in the lab of the DGS, the alternate DGS will serve on the committee.

Written Proposal: By the end of May in the second year (G1 Year for MD-PhDs), students are expected to have passed an examination based on a research proposal which might serve for their thesis work. The research proposal should follow the NIH proposal guidelines. The primary purpose of this examination is to give the students the opportunity to develop an original and significant scientific proposal and to defend it before a group of scientists who have relevant expertise. The examination is used as a teaching device and is one of the methods used to follow a student's academic progress. Recommendations for improving a student's progress are expected to result from each examination. In preparation for this milestone:

  1. By March 15 of the second year (G1 Year for MD-PhDs), the student must organize their thesis committee composed of five faculty members, of which at least three are associated with the MMG program, and submit to them a 200-300 word written abstract that concisely states the problem, an original testable hypothesis, and an outline of experiments to test the hypothesis. A specific goal of this exercise is to train students to think concisely and to write meaningful short abstracts.

  2. The student is responsible for organizing the examination date with the committee and the DGS (generally late April or early May). The full research proposal (see the section below regarding developing your proposal) should be submitted to the examining committee and DGS at least 2 weeks prior the oral examination. Please contact the Program Administrator for assistance in obtaining a room for the exam. At the exam, the student should supply each committee member with a copy of the first page of the Qualifying Exam Form.

  3. The Examining Committee will question the student on the proposal during the oral examination with three rounds of discussion. The first round of questions is aimed at the technical details of the student's proposed research. The second round pursues more fundamental and quantitative areas concerned with the proposition and is oriented toward challenging the student's intellect. The third round concerns more peripheral areas that test the student's overall background. The student is expected to use the blackboard effectively to present a hypothetical working model; PowerPoint presentations are not permitted.

  4. Immediately after the oral exam, the committee evaluates the student's performance, determines whether a need exists to retake an additional exam and makes written recommendations pertaining to future training on their copy of the first page of the Qualifying Exam form. Students are also encouraged to speak with the faculty examiners after receiving their written comments.

  5. The final step in the qualifying exam process is for the student to write a summary of specific action items and committee feedback in conjunction with his/her advisor. This summary statement of the feedback is then approved by signatures from each committee member on the second page of the Qualifying Exam form. Students must submit all pages of the Qualifying Exam Form to the Program Administrator within one week of the exam to document this program milestone.