Graduation Requirements

Requirements to graduate from the Cancer Biology Program with a PhD are as follows:

Grading System 

Minimum grade requirements for Cancer Biology are governed by the guidelines and the policies of the graduate school as stated in the Bulletin of the Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Cancer Biology graduate students must maintain an average grade point of 3.0 or better (using the 4.0 scale) in each semester.

If a student achieves a “C” or worse in any Cancer Biology core course, the student will need to repeat the course in the following year and must obtain a “B” or better. Any student failing these requirements may be subject for dismissal from the program. 

Advisory Committee 

During the fall semester of the second year, the student, together with the faculty research advisor, select an Advisory Committee. The committee is composed of:

  • Faculty advisor
  • Two additional members who are primary Cancer Biology faculty
  • Faculty member with research interests that closely overlap the dissertation proposal (either within or outside the department)
  • One member from outside the Cancer Biology Department who will serve as the chair of the committee

Students should obtain prior approval from the Graduate Program Director on their selection of committee members before formally asking faculty to serve on the committee

The functions of the committee are to:

  • Advise the student on the course of their research
  • Administer the Candidacy Examination
  • Form the nucleus of the Dissertation Defense Committee 

The committee shares responsibility with the primary dissertation advisor for informing the students of the expectations concerning the progress of their research and of the student’s performance in meeting those expectations. The committee, in concert with the dissertation advisor, will be responsible for assuring that the proposed dissertation research has goals that are achievable within an appropriate timeframe for receiving the PhD degree. 

Intent to Graduate: Qualifying Exam

Each student must fulfill the following requirements for admission to candidacy in the PhD program in Cancer Biology: 

  • Pass their required courses with final grades of B or better
  • Pass an oral defense of a written research proposal

The Advisory Committee determines 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 concepts. 

For the full process, please email

PhD Defense 

The defense of the dissertation begins with a formal seminar to the entire University community.

The audience will be advised that the seminar is part of the examination and that they are encouraged to participate with questioning the candidate.

After the question-and-answer session, the examining committee will meet in a closed room to determine if the student’s performance during the seminar part was sufficient for passing the PhD defense requirements. If this should not be the case, the seminar will be followed by a formal examination with the committee.

The overall guidelines for the dissertation follow the graduation requirements of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

For the Proposal Format, please email

Academic Probation and Dismissal

Any noncompliance with the Cancer Biology or Graduate School regulations and guidelines can be cause for dismissal from the program.

The admissions committee together with the curriculum committee and invited ad hoc members will discuss individual cases and make recommendations to the Program Director. The Program Director will consult with the Dean of the Graduate School and a decision on academic probation for a semester or dismissal will be made.

During academic probation, the student is required to fulfill minimal requirements during the next semester. If those requirements are not met, the student will be dismissed from the program.