Qualifying Exams

For all students

  • The written exam is a proposal based on the student’s thesis research.
    • The one exception is if your thesis project has already been written up in your PI’s grant-in that case, you will need to select a different project on which to write your proposal.
  • The format for the proposal is similar to an NIH fellowship proposal
    • 1-page Specific Aims/6-page research design (title page and references not included in page limits).
  • The proposal is developed in the Grant Writing course (PHCO 732), which spans the fall semester of the student’s 2ndyear in graduate school.
    • Each student, with the help of the three faculty teaching the course, develops their specific aims page, the background and significance sections, and the experimental design of the first aim
  • Once the instructors and the student are satisfied with the state of the proposal, the student is given a minimum of 6 weeks to write the full proposal
  • Each proposal is assigned a unique committee of four faculty members whose expertise match the subject matter of the proposal.
  • Proposal evaluations are done similar to a study section, where all faculty meet at one time and discuss the proposals
    • There are four outcomes of the proposal evaluation:
      • Pass
      • Minor Rewrite (minor issues to address)
      • Major Rewrite (more substantive issues to address)
      • Fail (very poor proposal or no proposal turned in)
  • The oral exam is a 2-hour oral defense of the written proposal administered by the same faculty who evaluated the written exam. This is a Pass/Fail exam
  • Upon successful completion of both the written and oral exams, the student spends full time in the laboratory on their thesis project.