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  Home > Graduate Programs and Degrees Offered > Comparative and Molecular Biosciences > CMB PhD Degree
 

CMB PhD Degree

Ph.D. Student Annual Progress Report and Timelines

The Doctor of Philosophy degree is granted not on the basis of successful completion of a definite amount of prescribed work, but chiefly as a result of recognition of the candidate’s research attainments.  This is determined by completing the required coursework, passing the required written and oral examinations covering the candidate’s thesis proposal, and successful completion of a thesis.  It is expected that the completed thesis will contain data sufficient for at least two publications in referred journals.

E.1  Credits
Students with an assistantship need to register for 6-14 credits. The minimum amount of 6 credits is considered full time. Anything less than 6 credits is part time. Assistantships allow for the registration of up to 14 credits. Registration for more than 14 credits includes an additional charge which is the responsibility of the student and/or advisor. Those students who have passed their preliminary oral exam and have completed all 24 thesis credits may register for CMB8444, which is a 1 credit, full-time equivalent course.

E.2  Graduate School Requirements
Formal coursework for the Ph.D. degree varies according to the field of study, interests, and career goals of the individual graduate students. Courses for the minor or supporting field may be taken in disciplines other than CMB. All requirements of the Ph.D. program must be completed within five calendar years of passing the oral preliminary examination. As per Graduate School requirements, at least 2/3 of course credits must be taken A-F.

Course Credit Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree Program:

  • Major course requirements: No minimum credit requirements, but students usually take 23 - 30 credits in the major field
  • Supporting course requirements: 12 credits minimum.
  • Total: Recommended total of 35 - 42 credits
  • Thesis Credits: 24, must complete preliminary oral examination before taking thesis credits, (CMB 8888). May take pre-thesis credit (CMB 8666) before the preliminary oral examination, but these credits do not count toward the required major course credits, supporting course credits or the 24 thesis credits.

Major course requirements:

CMB 8100Research Rotation in CMB4 cr/Fall and 4 cr/Spring
CMB 8134Ethical Conduct of Animal Research 3 cr/Fall
CMB 8202Mech. of Animal Health & Disease II3 cr/Fall
CMB 8303Comparative Models of Disease2 cr/Spring
CMB 8550CMB Seminar1 cr/Fall and 1 cr/Spring
(Required each semester until 24 thesis credits are completed. It is expected that students will attend the seminar throughout their program.)
CMB 8560Research and Literature Reports – section 1 1 cr/Fall and 1 cr/Spring  
(Two credits are required; a third credit in either section 1 or section 2 may also be completed)
CMB 8570Comparative Biomedical Sciences Seminar1 cr/Fall and 1 cr/Spring
(Required each semester until 24 thesis credits are completed. It is expected that students will attend the seminar throughout their program.)

Supporting course requirements:

  • A course in Biostatistics
  • 8000 level courses in the biological sciences

Certain 5000 level courses will suffice, but it is recommended that the student first consult with the DGS about course content.

Seminar and journal club courses do not qualify.

Suggested courses to meet the supporting course requirements

GCD 8131Advanced Genetics3 cr
GCD 8121Advanced Molecular Genetics3 cr
GCD 8151Cell Structure & Function 3 cr
GCD 8161Advanced Developmental Biology4 cr
GCD 8213 Selected Topics in Molecular Biology4 cr
MICa 8002Structure, Function & Genetics of Bacteria & Viruses4 cr
MICa 8003Immunity & Immunopathology4 cr
MICa 8004Cellular & Cancer Biology4 cr
CMB 5180Ecology of Infectious Diseases3 cr
CMB 5200Introductory Statistical Genetics & Genomics4 cr
CMB 8335Molecular Biology Techniques3 cr
CMB 8344Mechanisms of Hormone Action2 cr
CMB 8361Neuro-Immune Interactions3 cr
CMB 8371Mucosal Immunobiology3 cr
CMB 8481Advanced Neuropharmaceutics4 cr

In addition, many other 5000 and 8000 level courses in Microbiology, Parasitology, Virology, Immunology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, Biochemistry, Neuroscience, Physiology, Pharmacology, Genetics, Anatomy, Histology, Cytology, and Pathology can be used to meet this requirement.  Students are required to consult with their advisor and committee members to determine which courses are appropriate for the student’s program.

Recommended courses to fulfill biostatistics requirement

CMB 5200Introductory Statistical Genetics and Genomics3 cr
PUBH 6415Biostatistical Methods II3 cr
PUBH 6450Biostatistics I3 cr
STAT 5021Statistical Analysis4 cr

Statistics courses other than those recommended can be used to fulfill these elective requirements with the approval of the student’s advisor and the thesis committee.  First-year students should consult with the DGS concerning registration.

Summer Registration
Students do not register for summer sessions unless required to do so by a funding agency or government, or needed to accrue thesis credits in order to graduate by the end of fall term.  Students need to obtain permission from their advisor and CVM administration prior to registering for summer semester.

Note: The maximum number of credits covered by an assistantship is 14. Additional charges are incurred for registration of more than 14 credits. These charges are the responsibility of the student and/or advisor.

F.  RECOMMENDED PLAN FOR Ph.D. STUDENTS
The following outline is recommended for all Ph.D. students in the CMB program.  Participation as described will ensure that each student will complete all of the requirements of the program and progress through the program in an efficient and timely manner.

FIRST YEAR Ph.D. PROGRAM

Fall Semester Registration - Minimum of 6 credits

CMB 8100Research Rotation in Comparative and Molecular  Biosciences4 cr
CMB 8134Ethical Conduct of Animal Research3 cr
CMB 8202Mechanisms of Animal Health and Disease II3 cr
CMB 8550Comparative and Molecular Biosciences Seminar1 cr
CMB 8560Research and Literature Reports – section 11 cr
CMB 8570Comparative Biomedical Sciences Seminar Series1 cr
   

Spring Semester  Registration - Minimum of 6 credits

Supporting course(s) in Biological Sciences or Statistics  

CMB 8100Research Rotation in Comparative and Molecular Biosciences4 cr
CMB 8303Comparative Models of Disease2 cr
CMB 8550Comparative and Molecular Biosciences Seminar1 cr
CMB 8560Research and Literature Reports – section 11 cr
CMB 8570Comparative Biomedical Sciences Seminar Series1 cr

F. 1. Requirements for Continuance after First Year
At the end of the first year there will be an evaluation of all first year students. The evaluation will be performed by the PAC and will be required for continuation in the program. The following criteria will be used in the evaluation:

  • GPA in coursework shall be a minimum of 3.00.
  • The performance in rotations, as determined by the written evaluation by rotation advisors, must be satisfactory.

  • The performance in CMB seminars, as determined by written evaluations by the attending faculty, must be satisfactory.
  • Identification of a mutually agreeable research advisor.

Students who are not making satisfactory progress or do not identify an advisor will not be re-appointed for a second year.

F.2  Selection of an Advisor
By the end of the spring semester of the first year, students will select a thesis research advisor who will mentor the student’s research program.  It is the responsibility of the student, in consultation with the DGS, to identify a research advisor.  This must be a mutually agreeable arrangement between the student and the advisor.  The advisor and student will be responsible for obtaining financial support for the student during completion of the Ph.D. studies.

Students may participate in an additional laboratory rotation if desired to further explore opportunities for conducting their thesis project.  Students who are unable to find a mutually agreeable arrangement with an advisor will be not be re-appointed for a second year.  Students who wish to change advisors during their training must make arrangements with the advisor in due course, and to properly notify the DGS and their current advisor.  The DGS and the PAC can assist in cases where a student may need to change advisors, but the graduate program will provide no stipend support in these instances.

SECOND YEAR Ph.D. PROGRAM
Beginning in the second year of the Ph.D. program, students will initiate their research program.  This may be a continuation of a rotation project, working on an established project, or the beginning of a new project.  During the second year it is expected that the student will generate preliminary data to be used to develop and defend their thesis proposal.  In addition, it is expected that the majority of the remaining required and elective courses will be completed during the second year.

Fall Semester Registration- A minimum of 6 credits is needed

Supporting course(s) in Biological Sciences or Statistics

CMB 8550Seminar in Comparative and Molecular Biosciences1 cr
CMB 8560Research and Literature reports (optional)1 cr
CMB 8570Comparative Biomedical Sciences Seminar1 cr

Spring Semester Registration -A minimum of 6 credits is needed

Supporting course(s) in Biological Sciences or Statistics (if needed)

CMB 8550Seminar in Comparative and Molecular Biosciences1 cr
CMB 8560Research and Literature reports (optional)1 cr
CMB 8570Comparative Biomedical Sciences Seminar1 cr

F.3  Selection of Thesis Committee
By the beginning of fall semester of the second year the student and advisor will select the thesis committee to advise the student in further course selection and assist in evaluating the research activity.  The committee shall consist of the advisor, at least two faculty members from the CMB graduate program, and at least one faculty from outside of the CMB graduate program.

F.4 Annual Committee Meetings
The first thesis committee meeting should take place during the second year of the Ph.D. program. Students are required to meet with their thesis committee at least once each academic year.  The graduate student, in consultation with his/her advisor, is responsible for convening annual committee meetings.  Students should supply each committee member with a progress report and a plan for the following year.  These committee meetings should be viewed as an opportunity for the student and advisor to obtain valuable input concerning the direction of the research project.  Students are encouraged to meet with their committee more frequently as the need arises.  Students not making sufficient progress towards their degree requirements as determined by coursework and research milestones established by their thesis committee and also reviewed by the PAC will have one semester to meet the stipulations imposed by their thesis committee for continuance in the program.

F.5  Filing of Official Program
At least one semester prior to the preliminary exam, students must have filed their official program using the Degree Program Transmittal form (GS89a & b).  This form lists all completed and planned coursework, transfer credits, and distribution of credits between the major and minor or supporting program.  This form is also used to officially appoint the members of the student’s examination committee.  The Degree Program Transmittal form is submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator for the DGS’s approval and then filed with the Graduate School. 

F.6  Preliminary Examinations
The preliminary examinations consist of both written and oral examinations The preliminary examinations must be taken before the end of August of the second year in the program.  Only under unique circumstances will students be allowed to delay the preliminary examinations.  Any delays in taking the preliminary exams need prior approval by the PAC.  A timeline for the Preliminary Examination process can be found at the end of this document or viewed on the CMB website.

The preliminary written exam will contain two proposals:
Please refer to the CMB Thesis Submission Form (to be obtained from the DGS) for additional details and critical preparation guidelines.

  • Thesis proposal.
    This is limited to 10 pages and is to be written as a mentored exercise with the student's advisor and thesis committee. Consultation with the advisor and committee members is strongly encouraged during this phase of the written exam. The proposal is to represent a plan of research for completion of the thesis requirements.
  • Alternate (distinct) proposal.
    This is limited to 5 pages (not including references) and is to be written entirely by the student without any input from the advisor and thesis committee.  It is up to the thesis committee to approve the topic and general experimental plan of the alternate proposal.  The committee will determine if the alternate proposal and experimental plan is distinct from the thesis proposal.  The alternate proposal may be in the same general field or area, but must not overlap in hypothesis or be proposing a similar experimental plan.  The decision as to whether the alternate proposal is distinct rests solely with the thesis committee.  The committee should not discuss or suggest modifications to the proposal at this time, or during its preparation.  This committee is only to determine its appropriateness as a tool for evaluation of the student's ability to identify and experimentally address a scientific problem for which a need exists.

The alternate proposal is reviewed by all members of the thesis committee, except for the student's advisor(s).  In addition, the alternate proposal will be evaluated by one or more members of the CMB faculty whose scientific expertise is most appropriate. The written exam is passed if a majority of the reviewers find the proposal “acceptable”.  If majority approval is not obtained, the student will be allowed one chance to revise the alternate proposal based on the comments of the reviewers.  Upon the successful completion of the written exam the student is to schedule the preliminary oral exam.

The thesis proposal and alternate proposal inserted within the CMB Thesis Submission Form will be submitted to the DGS, and he/she will then provide this along with proposal evaluation forms to the thesis committee.  Committee members are to evaluate the proposals, return the proposal evaluation form to the DGS, and determine if the proposals are acceptable for defense within 3 weeks after receiving them. The thesis committee must approve the thesis proposal and alternate proposal, and the student’s advisor and DGS must sign the Preliminary Written Examination Report (form GS 17).  The Graduate School must receive this form at least one week before scheduling the preliminary oral examination.  The Graduate School requires at least one week’s notice prior to the preliminary oral examination.  This requirement is fulfilled by submitting the Doctoral Preliminary Oral Examination Scheduling (form GS 12) to the Graduate School.  The preliminary oral exam must take place at least one academic semester before the Final Oral Defense.

The preliminary oral exam will consist of two components:

  • Open seminar presented to the graduate program based on the thesis proposal.
    This public research seminar is normally scheduled immediately prior to the examination, but the seminar must take place no more than 6 weeks prior to examination by the committee.  It is anticipated that when possible, this seminar will take place as part of the CMB8550 CMB Seminar Series.  The seminar is focused on the student’s thesis proposal.  This will include an introduction to the research project, relevancy of the scientific problem, the hypothesis to be tested, an outline of the proposed studies, including preliminary results obtained to date (second year research), and anticipated results.
  • Examination by the thesis committee where the student defends the thesis proposal.
    The exam is focused on the thesis proposal and the student's coursework.  The alternate proposal is not part of the preliminary oral examination.  The exam will be conducted in accordance with Graduate School Guidelines.

The preliminary oral exam is to be completed prior to the beginning of the Fall semester of the third year of the program (i.e. by the end of August of the second year.)

To change an examining committee member you must have the approval of your Advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies.  Substitutions for a preliminary oral examination that are necessitated by emergency situations must also be approved in advance.  In such cases, the advisor should consult with the Graduate School Student Service Office (625-3014) before the start of the examination.

Upon completion of the preliminary oral examination, students will be advised of their performance in accordance with Graduate School Guidelines, which will include a vote by their thesis committee. 

Outcome of the committee vote will be; Pass, Pass With Reservations, or Fail

Step 1. Determine Pass or Fail:

Pass and Pass With Reservations count as a Pass.  The voting proportions necessary to Pass are:

  • 4 member committee - 3 Pass/1 Fail
  • 5 member committee - 4 Pass/1 Fail
  • 6 member committee - 4 Pass/2 Fail.

Step 2. For a Pass, determine whether there are reservations:

The voting proportions necessary to Pass without any reservations are:

  • 4 member committee - 3 Pass/1 Pass With Reservations
  • 5 member committee - 4 Pass/1 Pass With Reservations
  • 6 member committee - 4 Pass/2 Pass With Reservations.

If in Step 1, a fail vote occurs but the student passes, it is recommended that the committee member changes his/her Fail vote to a Pass With Reservations vote for which the student may then be required to address particular issues.

Pass:  Students who pass the preliminary exam will continue with their graduate studies.

Pass with reservations:  Students who pass with reservations will be given a letter outlining the necessary requirements to have the reservations removed.  The letter will contain a completion date, as determined by the thesis committee, for the requested stipulations.  After successfully addressing the reservations to the satisfaction of the thesis committee the student will continue with their graduate studies.

Fail:  Students who fail the preliminary examination may have the opportunity to retake the preliminary examination in accordance with the guidelines of the Graduate School.

Within 24 hours of completing the preliminary oral exam, the student must submit the signed Preliminary Oral Examination Report form to the Graduate School. For a Pass With Reservations, the committee is permitted one week to submit the signed Preliminary Oral Examination Report form to the Graduate School along with a letter detailing the conditions of the reservation.

The semester after passing the Preliminary Oral Examination, the student will submit the Thesis/Project Proposal (form GS63 a, b, c).

Students may be eligible for a $1,000 increase in stipend support after passing the preliminary exams.  Students must initiate this increase by communicating directly with the Graduate Program Coordinator.  After officially passing their exams students must send an e-mail to the graduate program coordinator  in order for the increase in stipend support to be initiated.

THIRD YEAR Ph.D. PROGRAM – Post-Preliminary Examinations

Students will continue to conduct their research project and complete any remaining required courses.

Until students complete the required Doctoral Thesis Credits (CMB 8888; minimum of 24 semester credits), they are required to register for:

Fall Semester Registration – A minimum of 6 credits is needed

CMB 8550Comparative and Molecular Biosciences Seminar1 cr
CMB 8570Comparative Biomedical Seminar Series1 cr
CMB 8888Thesis Credit: Doctoral1-12 cr

Spring Semester Registration – A minimum of 6 credits is needed

CMB 8550Comparative and Molecular Biosciences Seminar1 cr
CMB 8570Comparative Biomedical Seminar Series1 cr
CMB 8888Thesis Credit: Doctoral1-12 cr

F.7  Instructional Experience
Students are required to obtain a formal teaching experience prior to graduating from the CMB graduate program. The student will meet this requirement via serving as a Teaching Assistant for one semester, typically in their third year of the program.  The Teaching Assistantship is most often fulfilled by participation in the laboratory section of VBS2032: General Microbiology.  The DGS or Program Coordinator will arrange with the student the Teaching Assistantship for Fall or Spring semester.

Though not intended to serve in place of the Teaching Assistantship, The Center for Teaching and Learning offers training workshops that may be of interest. These include:

GRAD 8101Teaching in Higher Education3 cr
GRAD 8102Practicum for Future Faculty3 cr
GRAD 8200Teaching and Learning Topics in Higher Ed1 cr

F.8  Thesis/Project Proposal Transmittal
No later than the first semester following passage of the preliminary oral examination
, students must file the official Graduate School Thesis/Project Proposal Transmittal (form GS63a, b & c).  Forms are available from the Graduate School and via the CMB website.  The statement, approximately 250 words in length, must describe the research to be undertaken and the methods to be employed in conducting the proposed experiments.  After submitting the completed form to the DGS for approval and assignment of the Final Examining Committee, chair, and thesis reviewers, the student submits a copy of the form to the Graduate Program Coordinator and then submits the original to the Graduate School.

SUCCEEDING YEARS  Ph.D. PROGRAM

Upon completion of the required Doctoral Thesis Credits (CMB 8888; 24 semester credits) students should register only for CMB 8444 (1 cr.) to decrease tuition costs.  Students are still expected to attend CMB 8550 and CMB 8570 each semester, but not enroll for credit.  Students are required to present a minimum of one seminar/yr in CMB 8550 throughout the duration of their graduate studies whether or not they are enrolled for credit.

It is expected that granting of the Ph.D. degree should be within 5 years of the beginning of the program.  The DGS and Program Advisory Committee will evaluate the progress of all students taking longer than 5 years to graduate, every 6 months.

F.9  Graduation Packet
Request a graduation packet from the Graduate School anytime after your thesis proposal is approved.  The graduation packet is requested online at   http://www.grad.umn.edu/current_students/forms/grad_packet/doctoral/confirm.html.  This packet will include several forms; the Thesis Reviewer’s Report Form and the Final Oral Defense/Examination Scheduling Form.  Both of these forms must be completed and returned to the Graduate School at least one week prior to the final defense date.

F.10  Doctoral Thesis
Students nearing completion of their thesis research should discuss the timeframe for completing their program with their thesis committee at their annual committee meeting.  The thesis committee must sign the CMB Dissertation Approval Form (available from the DGS) to indicate their notification and approval that the student is to begin writing his/her thesis (this should be done at an annual committee meeting). The form is submitted to the DGS.  The student then begins writing the thesis.  Students should refer to the Formatting Guidelines for the Doctoral Dissertation document which is located at http://www.grad.umn.edu/current_students/forms/gs16.pdf on the Graduate School website. 

After the thesis is completed and the adviser is satisfied with the draft, the student submits a typed and legible copy to the thesis committee.  The committee members must be given a minimum of three weeks to confer with the candidate on the content of the thesis.  After this draft has been tentatively approved, the student prepares the final thesis and resubmits a copy to all members of the thesis committee.  Acceptance of the thesis indicates that the student has addressed the comments of the committee members and the thesis has been corrected.  The appropriate committee members must sign the Thesis Reviewer’s Report Form (sent to the student in the graduation packet) certifying that the thesis is ready for the oral defense.  The Thesis Reviewer’s Report Form must be submitted, to the Graduate School, at least one week prior to the final defense date. 

F.11  Final Oral Exam
Only when the thesis committee agrees that sufficient research accomplishments have been achieved by the student, the final oral exam may be scheduled.  Committee approval is demonstrated by signature on the Thesis Reviewer’s Report Form.  The student must also complete the Final Oral Defense/Examination Scheduling Form and submit it to the Graduate School a minimum of one week prior to the final exam.  This form is sent to the student in the graduation packet.

Announcements to the CMB students and faculty need to be sent out a minimum of two weeks prior to the exam.  The student should contact the Graduate Program Coordinator with the date, time, location of the final defense as well as the title of the thesis and the advisor’s name.  The program coordinator will send out an announcement for the final oral defense to the CMB students and graduate faculty.  The candidate will then present his/her thesis in a public seminar with the examining committee present.  The seminar constitutes the final oral exam, and is followed by a short meeting with the examining committee.  After this meeting the committee members sign the Final Oral Examination Report Form, (which was sent directly to the committee chair by the Graduate School).  The student then returns this form to the Graduate School.  A member of the examining committee other than the advisor serves as the chair.  All faculty and students are encouraged to attend the final oral exam. 

F.12  Thesis Submission
The Graduate School requires all students to submit two copies of the final completed thesis.  These copies must be printed on 100% cotton rag paper and should follow the format outlined in Formatting Guidelines for the Doctoral Dissertation which is located at http://www.grad.umn.edu/current_students/forms/gs16.pdf  The Graduate School will not award the official degree until these copies have been received. Thesis binding is the responsibility of the student.  Most students will need at least five copies of the thesis: 

  • two on the special paper for the Graduate School
  • one for the Graduate Program Coordinator’s office
  • one for the advisor,
  • one for each committee member (optional), and
  • one or more for themselves

F.13  Exit Interview
Upon completing the Ph.D. degree, the DGS or Graduate Program Coordinator will solicit an evaluation of the student’s experience in the CMB graduate program and meet with the student to discuss the evaluation.  These evaluations will be used to assess the quality of the Ph.D. program and faculty, and to provide guidance for improving graduate education.


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