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The primary function of the dissertation is to support and assist the student during their graduate training, especially with the research component of their dissertation, and to serve as the University’s official examining committee for the student’s dissertation administering the oral qualifying exam and the oral dissertation defense.

Committee Structure

The committee has three basic requirements:

Committee Chair

One member of the committee who is not the student’s advisor(s), is an active training member of the CBP Curriculum, and is at associate or full professor level is appointed as Committee Chair. The chair runs all meetings including the Qualifying Examination and Final Oral Defense.

Committee Formation

Students assemble their dissertation committee in the second semester of their second year. Students are encouraged to consult with their advisor(s) as they form their committee. Committees must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) before any meetings take place. The Report of Doctoral Committee Composition form should be filled out and sent to the Student Services Manager to obtain approval.

It is recognized that dissertation projects may evolve in unanticipated ways during a student’s graduate training. Therefore, students are allowed to make changes to their dissertation committee. All changes must be approved by the DGS and reported to the chair of the committee, the Student Services Manager, and the affected committee members.

Frequency of Meetings

Students are required to have committee meetings at least once every academic year. More frequent meetings may be desirable, especially during periods of either rapid progress or unexpected difficulties.

The Oral Qualifying Examination and Final Oral Defense count as meetings.

Format of Meetings

The format of meetings is predetermined in collaboration between the student and committee chair. The goal of the regular meetings is to monitor the student’s progress and provide feedback to aid them toward a successful graduate training experience. The meetings provide a forum for the student to discuss their scientific and professional development with their committee to access the committee’s expertise. Meetings should include explicit discussion of goals for the next meeting and an estimated date for the next meeting.

Meetings start with a private discussion amongst the committee without the student, followed by a private discussion of the student with the committee but without the advisor(s). This is followed by the student’s prepared presentation to the full committee.

Documentation of Committee Meetings

Following any committee meeting (except for the oral qualifying and final defense) the student writes a written summary of the meeting. The summary should include the discussion of progress, goals, and a timetable for the next meeting. This includes the status of any work towards a publication. The summary is submitted to the Dissertation Committee Chair for approval and then distributed to all members of the Dissertation Committee and the Student Services Manager.

Submitting the summary to the Student Services Manager is required for proper record keeping and to meet the requirement of annual committee meetings. Proper graduate school forms are submitted in place of a summary for the oral qualifying exam and final dissertation defense.

Responsibilities of Student

  • Adhere to all guidelines and requirements, including:
    • committee composition,
    • timing, and
    • submission of all proper forms
  • Schedule regular committee meetings with proper notice for all committee members. This includes reserving a room and notifying the Student Services Manager.
  • Prepare any written or presentation materials requested by the committee prior to meeting.

Responsibilities of Advisor(s)

  • Ensure that the student adheres to the current Cell Biology and Physiology curriculum requirements regarding timing of committee meetings.

Responsibilities of Dissertation Committee Chair

  • Assist the advisor(s) in overseeing the scientific and professional development of the student. This includes when the student’s best interests diverge from the advisor’s best interests.
  • Run all committee meetings, including the oral qualifying exam and final dissertation defense. This includes:
    • working with the student to determine the format of meetings,
    • ensuring the student can privately discuss with the committee without their advisor(s), and
    • ensuring the committee can privately discuss the student’s progress without the student.

Responsibilities of Other Committee Members

  • Attend committee meetings.
  • Provide the student support and critical feedback to guide them through their PhD and dissertation.