Requirements Needed to Graduate from the PhD Program

Academic Standing

The faculty will review each student's progress at the end of every semester to determine whether he/she will be permitted to continue.

To remain in the Ph.D. program, a student must maintain a grade-point average of at least 2.5, unless an exemption is granted by the faculty. Students who have completed the Preliminary examination must maintain grades of Satisfactory in research. Students who receive two sequential grades of Unsatisfactory will be recommended for dismissal from the Program.

Choice of Faculty Advisor and Advisory Committee

The student will be assigned an advisor before the end of the second semester of the first year. This assignment will be based on a ranking of choices submitted by the student to the Graduate Program Director. All full faculty members in the program are eligible to be the thesis advisor if adequate time and resources are available to devote to the student.

These criteria will be determined by consultation between the student, the proposed advisor, the Graduate Program Director and the Department Chair.

After choosing a faculty advisor, an advisory committee will be appointed by consultation between the advisor, the student, and the Graduate Program Director. The advisory committee should consist of the advisor, two other members of the department, a member of the graduate faculty from outside the department, and a fifth member, from within or outside the department, representing a related area of research.

The committee should be appointed by the beginning of the student's third semester and will subsequently meet with the student once a year to assess his/her progress.

Students are required to complete and submit the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Graduate Student Development Plan prior to the initial meeting.

Preliminary Examination

The Ph.D. preliminary examination must be completed by August 1 of the second year, after the student has passed required courses. If agreed upon by the student and committee, it may be completed as early as the Spring semester of the second year. The Ph.D. examination consists of:

  • passing all the required courses with a final grade of B or better
  • ·oral defense of a written research proposal

If a student does not pass a required course with a grade of B or better, the faculty may decide to allow him/her to retake the course to make up the deficiency and remain in the Ph.D. program. A failure to pass the retake with a grade of B or better disqualifies a student from continuing in the Ph.D. program

Research Proposal

Each student will submit a proposal of the research that will be performed for the Ph.D. thesis. The proposal will be in the form of a NIH research grant. For more information about this style, students should contact the Department of Biochemistry administrative staff at 336-716-4689.

Students are encouraged to seek assistance from their advisor, the advisory committee, and other faculty during the preparation of the proposal.

Examination Committee

The examination committee for the preliminary examination will consist of the members of the student's advisory committee. The function of the committee is to determine acceptability of the student for advancement to degree candidacy by critically evaluating the scientific quality of the project, the clarity of the written proposal, the completeness of the literature survey, and the student's originality and understanding of relevant biochemical concepts.

Outline Meeting

Nine weeks before the date of the oral exam, the student will submit an outline of the proposal. One week later, the examining committee will meet briefly with the student to discuss the acceptability of the outline and to make suggestion.

Students are expected to be able to provide some broader context for their proposal, explain the logic and rationale for the experiments they have outlined, and in general terms explain the experimental approaches that will be used. The purpose of this meeting is to guide the student in preparing for the oral examination.

Written and Oral Preliminary Exam

Two weeks before the oral exam, the student will submit the completed written proposal. Within one week, the examining committee will inform the student if the written proposal is acceptable for oral defense.

If the proposal is judged acceptable, the oral exam will proceed as scheduled. The exam will begin with a brief (approximately 20 minute) presentation by the student, followed by questioning by the committee. Following the exam, a decision on acceptability of the student for admission to degree candidacy will be made by the committee.

In the event that a student does not pass the oral exam, the examining committee can recommend that the student be refused admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. program or that reexamination be allowed no earlier than six months from the date of the first exam.

Dissertation and Defense

When a student and advisor agree that the student is approaching the completion of his/her studies, a committee meeting will be called. At that meeting, the student will outline his/her trajectory for completion of experimental work and writing of the thesis. This will include an outline of experiments to be completed and a tentative timetable.

When the student and committee have agreed to a plan, the student will proceed to execute that plan.

When the student is ready to write the dissertation, a final committee meeting may be called to discuss this decision. With the approval of the advisor and committee, the student will set a date for the final thesis seminar. This final seminar is required of all students, and is intended to serve as the final thesis defense. Students should read the Instructions for the Preparation of Thesis and Dissertations document complied by the Wake Forest University Graduate School.

Four weeks prior to the date set for the final thesis seminar, the student will submit the written dissertation to the Dean of the Graduate School. Three weeks prior to the date set for the final thesis seminar, the student will distribute copies of the written dissertation to members of the committee. Ten days prior to the date set for the final thesis seminar, the committee chair will poll the committee to determine the acceptability of the thesis for the defense.

If agreement is reached that the thesis is ready to defend and if the written document is approved by the committee, then the oral defense will consist of a final seminar.

Criteria for a successful defense will be:

  • Approval of the written thesis by the committee, pending minor revisions, prior to the oral seminar/defense
  • Satisfactory presentation of his/her research by the student and satisfactory responses to questions during the seminar.

A decision concerning whether the student has met these criteria will be rendered by the committee at a brief meeting following the seminar and will be communicated to the student immediately.