Ph.D. Requirements

Please refer to the Guide to Graduate Studies for comprehensive information about receiving your Ph.D. degree in Microbiology and Immunology.



After year 1 with the BBSP, if you commit to a Faculty member of our Department, please contact the Student Services Manager or the Director of Graduate Studies, Bob Bourret.


A. Required by the Graduate School:

  1. Full Semesters of Credit (9 hrs each)
  2. Written Preliminary Examination
  3. Oral Preliminary Examination
  4. Submit a progress report of your research to each member of the committee at least once a year.
  5. Dissertation and public presentation of research results at a seminar

B. Additional Requirements Imposed by this Department:

  1. Six Courses including at least two seminar/tutorial courses
    One of the seminar tutorials may be outside the department but requires:
    -it must be a 700 level course or higher on a relevant topic.
    -it holds discussions on primary journal-based literature.
    -approval by the Director of Graduate Studies after reviewing a course syllabus. (The student is responsible      
    for obtaining the class syllabus)
  2. Two semesters of TAship assigned by our Department.
  3. Participation in Department seminars and student seminars (MCRO 701).
  4. Publication Requirement


A. During the First Year – BBSP will advise you

-Meet with the BBSP Graduate Student Advisor (GSA) to choose courses.
-Recommend no more than 2 didactic or seminar courses per semester.
-Three Laboratory Rotations: Choose labs of your interest and contact the Faculty.
-Choose Research Preceptor later in the year (who can support you and your research).
-Complete training in Scientific Ethics

B. During the Second Year

  1. Departmental Courses: No more than 2 didactic or seminar courses per semester. These courses are chosen in consultation with your research advisor or with the departmental Director of Graduate Studies. In addition, students are required to attend two-thirds of the Departmental seminars and student seminars (MCRO 701). 
  2. Once during the year act as a T.A. for a departmentally approved course. (Microbiology 251 or Microbiology 515)
  3. Take the qualifying (prelim) written examination.
    The exam format will change in 2015.  Our departmental qualifying exam format is a research proposal patterned in the format of an NIH grant proposal. Specific guidelines will be discussed in detail when the students meet as a group with the Prelim Exam Advisor during the Spring semester. A specific list of DO's and DON'Ts will be distributed at that time. The exam is understood to be an expression of each student's independent ability to formulate an experimental approach and adequately express it on paper. The exam is scheduled once each year -- it immediately follows the end of the second semester with 5 weeks given to complete the document.
  4. With your preceptor's assistance, select a research topic and begin your dissertation research.

C. During the Third Year

  1. Oral ExaminationThe exam format will change in 2015.You should take the oral prelim exam as soon as possible but not later than 3 months after receiving notification that you have passed the written exam. The oral exam centers on the topic of the written prelim, and provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate your ability to discuss the fields of science related to your proposal, as well as your ability to analyze problems and design experiments.
  2. Departmental Course Requirements: Required to attend two-thirds of the Departmental seminars and student seminars (MCRO 701).
    Appropriate seminar tutorial courses may be taken in consultation with your research advisor.
  3. Once during the year act as a T.A. for a departmentally approved course (Microbiology 251 or Microbiology 515)
  4. Student Seminars: Graduate students are expected to participate and attend student presentations held weekly during the academic year. Students are required to attend two-thirds of the presentations. All graduate students who are Year 3 and above will be scheduled to give a formal presentation of their research (typically in PowerPoint). Year 3 students are expected to provide a short presentation approximately 30 minutes in length.
  5. Form a Dissertation Committee and choose a thesis committee chair:
    Committee Members: According to Graduate School rules the dissertation committee must consist of at least five persons: the dissertation advisor and at least 4 members of the Graduate faculty. One must be chosen as your thesis chair. Our department requires that the four members of the dissertation committee be faculty (primary or joint appointees) in our department. The names of the Faculty should be listed on the ‘Report of Doctoral Committee Composition’ form. Please see the Student Service Manager, Dixie Flannery. The committee and chair must be selected by the end of the Fall semester.
  6. Dissertation Research Project and Topic Approval: Each student should have developed a dissertation research project with his or her research advisor during year 2 or 3. The proposed dissertation project must be approved by your dissertation research committee. The committee must meet to consider approval of your proposed dissertation project by March 31 of the third year. Prior to your project approval meeting, please obtain the ‘Report of Approved Dissertation Project’ form from departmental Student Services Manager. You will present to the committee members a written prospectus of the dissertation research problem and methodology, at least one week in advance of the committee meeting. The prospectus should be two pages or less and describe hypotheses, specific aims and a brief overview of research design, including which parts of the project have been completed. You will then present (orally) at the meeting, the dissertation research proposal to the committee and any experimental data. The committee determines the soundness of the problem and its feasibility. If a topic requires additional experimentation to determine feasibility, then topic approval may be deferred to subsequent meetings within the year. When your topic is approved, the Graduate School will be notified in writing that the dissertation project has been approved and that you are advised to proceed. You must meet at least once every year with your dissertation committee to review your progress on your dissertation research project. A form that records each meeting should be signed and returned to the department office. This meeting is typically held in conjunction with the annual Student Seminar.

D. Fourth and Fifth Years

  1. Register for three credit hours of MCRO 994 (dissertation in progress) and MCRO 701.
  2. Provide a full (30 minute) presentation at the Student Seminars annually
  3. Conduct Research and hold committee meetings.  Provide committee with a progress report at least one week
    prior to each meeting. The report consists of a Specific Aims page followed by a description of progress to date organized by Aim. The progress report should include any changes in Aims, a summary of key results, and plans for future experiments. The report should also communicate the student's vision for how results could be organized into publications, and the current status of progress toward publications.
    Monitor your research progress, work hard, tabulate results, publish papers, write your dissertation. Dissertations are largely a collection of your manuscripts unified with a comprehensive Introduction and an overall Discussion.
  4. Dissertation: The decision of when to write the dissertation is a collective one made by you, your advisor and your committee. When you’re ready to begin writing your dissertation, you must consult with your committee advisor and committee members regarding content and format of the document.
  5. The expectation of the Department of Microbiology & Immunology continues to be that all Ph.D. students will conduct sufficient research to result in at least two first-author publications describing original results in high quality, peer reviewed journals. As a minimum standard, to earn the Ph.D. degree we require that (i) a student must make meaningful contributions to and be an author on at least two manuscripts intended for publication in respected, high-quality professional journals or books, (ii) at least one of the two manuscripts must be accepted for publication, and (iii) prior to the private Ph.D. defense, a student must have peer reviews returned for at least one first (or co-first) author primary research manuscript. Parts ii and iii cannot be satisfied with the same manuscript. If a manuscript used to meet part iii is not accepted for publication by the time of the doctoral defense, then the peer reviews will be submitted to the dissertation committee for discussion at the defense along with the dissertation.  The student will submit to the dissertation committee a brief description of their specific contributions to the two manuscripts used to fulfill the publication requirement. Prior to the Ph.D. defense, the dissertation committee will decide (in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies if necessary) whether the two manuscripts meet the part i standards of "meaningful contribution" and "respected, high-quality professional journals or books". The dissertation committee chair will inform the Director of Graduate Studies and the Student Services Manager when the publication requirement is met, as well as the basis for the committee's decision. Each chapter in the dissertation other than the Introduction and Conclusion must list all actual or planned authors involved in the described research and include  a statement specifying the contributions of the student to the project.

Please refer to the Guide to Graduate Studies for comprehensive information about receiving your Ph.D. degree in Microbiology and Immunology.