The qualifying examination in the Experimental Pathology Graduate program requires that the student proposes, writes and orally defends an NIH-style F31 research proposal, which will be evaluated by a faculty committee. The graduate student preliminary (qualifying) examination (often referred to as “Prelim’s” or “Qualifiers”) must be successfully completed in order to pursue your graduate research and to advance to doctoral candidacy in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS)/Program according to the timeline set forth in the GSBS bylaws. The purpose of this examination is to test your understanding of the BBSC (Basic Biomedical Science Curriculum) course work, program-specific course work, general science and critical thinking, the basis of research methods and, to evaluate your aptitude for scientific research. The examination will ordinarily be completed by the end of April of the second year of study, including for those admitted through the direct admission mechanism, and is a prerequisite for admission to candidacy to the PhD program. Students who fail the examination cannot enter candidacy and are eligible to repeat the exam once in the following year. However, the following stipulations apply:
(i) the student’s mentor must agree to support the student for the extra year (that is pay for the student’s stipend and tuition fees);
(ii) the student must retake the grant-writing course. If the student fails again, s/he is subject to dismissal from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (GSBS) and s/he must be prepared to submit a Master’s thesis.
Advancement to Candidacy
Students seeking the degree of Doctor of Philosophy must submit an
application for admission to candidacy and an approved research
proposal. Each student must have an overall 3.0 grade point average or
better at the time of admission to candidacy. Admission to candidacy
requires the fulfillment of all program requirements, including passing
the qualifying examination, and must be approved by the Dean of the
graduate school. The qualifying examination will ordinarily be completed
by the end of the second year of study and is a prerequisite to
admission to candidacy.
GSBS bylaws state:
- All students are required to advance
as a doctoral candidate within 12 months following the completion of
their preliminary examinations or be subject to dismissal from the GSBS.
- Experimental Pathology Year 3 trainees are required to submit a draft
of their dissertation proposal (10-13 pages) and a list of proposed
supervisory committee members (with alternates) for approval by the
Program Director and SEAC by February 1.
- Students will then have three
months in which to defend the proposal, obtain supervisory committee
approval, and formally file an application for candidacy (no later than
- The supervisory committee is required to complete
their evaluation of the submitted dissertation proposal within one
month. Should the proposal require significant alterations, the student
will be given a maximum of one month to rewrite their proposal.
Dissertation Supervisory Committee Selection
Prior to admission to candidacy, the student (in consultation with the
mentor) shall select a dissertation supervisory committee which, after
approval by the ExPath Program Director and SEAC and, ultimately, the
GSBS Dean, will be in charge of the candidate’s doctoral dissertation.
The faculty mentor will serve as chair of the dissertation supervisory
committee and the supervisory committee will consist of four UTMB Health
GSBS faculty members and one external member. A typical committee will
consist of the following members and affiliations:
Mentor (Committee Chair; ExPath)
Two members (Dept. Pathology; ExPath)
One member (Other Dept.)
One external member (outside institution)
Dissertation Proposal Defense
Students are responsible for contacting all members of their
committee and coordinating the time and location of their proposal
defense (typically in Mary Moody Northern Pavilion Pathology Education
Conference room reserved through the Program Coordinator). Meetings,
vacations, and external commitments by faculty can make this scheduling
difficult, so students should be proactive and not leave it to the last
minute. The length of the dissertation proposal defense is variable, but
should last no more than three hours. The format can be discussed and
agreed upon by the student and committee members, but usually consists
of a one hour student presentation followed by discussion and a
question/answer session. Students should be prepared to fully explain
details and limitations of technical approaches, experimental design,
justification of animals, statistical analyses, and alternative
approaches and hypotheses.
Semi-annual Meetings with the Dissertation Supervisory Committee
Students are required to formally meet with their dissertation supervisory committees twice annually. This
process is in place to help provide oversight to the graduate process
and ensure that each student is progressing as expected, and to provide
an opportunity and forum for committee members to evaluate progress and
provide constructive input on a regular basis. This is an important
component of the graduate education process and cannot be neglected.
Normally, this translates to five committee meetings during a typical
dissertation project (1-Year 3, proposal defense; 2-Year 4; and 2-Year
5; last one being the final oral defense). After each meeting, a
written summary of the committee recommendations will be provided to
the student who must provide a written response to the committee and
Pathology Education office within 1 week following the meeting.