Doctoral Thesis

After passing the QE, students organize a thesis committee in consultation with their thesis mentor.   This committee includes the thesis advisor and at least three additional members; one of whom should have their primary affiliation with another program.  The final Thesis Examination Committee requires at least five members, so a thesis advisory committee with only four members must be augmented by the time of the thesis defense.  The faculty of the advisory committee should be chosen for their expertise and their willingness to help guide the student's thesis research.  The chair of the thesis advisory committee must be different than the thesis advisor, but need not be a member of the PMB Program. 

Students must see the Program Director to obtain approval of the advisory committee composition; the necessary Thesis Advisory Committee Approval form is available on the DBBS web site.

The student must prepare a written thesis proposal and present this document, as well as an oral presentation of the proposal, to the advisory committee for their approval.  The thesis proposal should be written in the format of an NIH pre/postdoctoral fellowship proposal (-15 pages total).  Sections of the proposal should include the Background and Significance of the topic, Specific Aims to be accomplished, the Research Methods to be employed, Anticipated Results and their interpretation, Potential Pitfalls that might be encountered (and alternative ways to achieve the aims), and a Timetable for completion of the aims.  The written proposal must be provided to the committee at least two weeks in advance of the oral presentation.

During the oral presentation, the student will discuss his/her research progress to date, describe the experiments to be done and the anticipated outcomes, and respond constructively to concerns or alternative ideas raised by committee members.  The thesis proposal, and all subsequent meetings of the thesis advisory committee, will be chaired by a committee member other than the thesis advisor.   This chairperson will be responsible for completing a written report of the thesis proposal examination and for completing reports at subsequent thesis committee meetings.  These reports are sent to the Graduate Studies Office which, in turn, sends copies to thesis committee members and the chair of the program.  It is strongly recommended that the student e-mail a copy of a blank form to the chair prior to the meeting.

Thesis Committee Meeting Forms are available at:

The thesis proposal must be prepared and defended by June 1 of the student’s second academic year.  Failure to meet this deadline will result in immediate suspension of stipend support.

After gaining approval of the thesis project, the student should provide written and/or oral progress reports to the thesis advisory committee and must convene a meeting of this committee at least once per year.  It is customary for the student to send their committee a brief (~2 page) update summarizing their progress ~1 week prior to the advisory committee meeting.  Note that committee meetings should be scheduled during the regular academic year and not between June 1 and September 1.  This is due to the fact that many faculty have 9 month appointments at the University and have no academic duties for 3 months during the summer.  Instead, most research-active faculty members receive summer salary from their research grants and owe 100% of their time to those grants.   Note that a quorum of four committee members is required to hold a thesis update meeting.