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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Basics

Doctoral qualifying exams and masters exams

Courses

  • What does it mean to be a doctoral "candidate"? After no more than four semesters, you should take your qualifying exam. Once you've passed that, you have "advanced to candidacy" and are considered a "doctoral candidate." If you don't know what's entailed in the qualifying exam, I strongly urge you to re-read the doctoral program guidelines posted here. (Because you've already read them at least once, right? You really, really should.)
  • Where can I find more information on my program? I'm so glad you asked. Everybody --- and I mean everybody --- should read the rules for their program, posted here. Julia Brown and the Committee on Graduate Affairs will be ever so much more happy to help you if it's clear you've done your homework first.
  • Help, I'm approaching my qualifying exam! What needs to get done when?
    • At least 2 months before the exam: email the chair of the CGA with the names of your proposed committee members, the area of biology you'll be examined in (so that the CGA knows if those committee members are appropriate), and three proposal abstracts.
    • At least 1 month before the exam: give your committee members a detailed outline of your proposal to approve.
    • Once the CGA has approved your abstracts and committee and assigned you a CGA representative, schedule a meeting with your committee and the CGA rep. to discuss the scope of the exam. Be sure to tell Julia Brown that you've had this meeting. Also tell her your exam date.
    • Sometime before the exam, give a talk on your proposal to your committee members and anyone else who wishes to attend.
    • At least 10 days before the exam, send your proposal to your committee members.
    • The day of the exam: remember to bring all paperwork to the exam. Julia Brown can tell you what you'll need.
  • What's expected in the meeting with my committee before I advance to candidacy/take my master's exam? The meeting should only take about half an hour. Unless your committee has no idea what you're doing (and you can fill them in before the meeting, can't you?), you should not give a presentation on your research. Instead, each of your committee members will let you know the scope of their questions for the comprehensive portion of the exam and may say something about what aspects of the proposal/thesis they will question you about. Take notes and email your committee members and CGA representative with your understanding of the scope of the exam. This is also an excellent time to schedule the exam itself! Ask your committee members to bring their calendars.
  • Could I see some examples of appropriate proposal abstracts? You bet. Sample 1, sample 2.
  • Can I take my exam during winter/spring/summer break or does it need to be during the semester? In theory it can be during a break, but since many faculty are out of town during breaks, it's not wise to count on being able to do this.
  • What is the difference between BIOL 599, BIOL 601, BIOL 651, and BIOL 701?
    • BIOL 599: Independent study. If we don't offer a class on what you need to learn, you can design a 599 course. Masters students can take up to 3 cr. of 599.
    • BIOL 601: This gives you credit for doing research. Doctoral students: you can use up to 6 cr. of 601 toward your required 36 cr. if you don't yet have a master's degree. If you do have a master's degree, you only need 18 cr. and can count up to 3 cr. of 601. A good time to take BIOL 601 is in the semester leading up to your advancement to candidacy exam, so that you have time to prepare. Plan A masters students: you are required to register for 3 cr. of 601.
    • BIOL 651: Masters thesis research. Masters students can take up to 9 credits of BIOL 651, for a total of 12 research credits. Note that once you start taking BIOL 651, you must register for it each semester.
    • BIOL 701: Dissertation research. Normally students take 701 after they've advanced to candidacy; however "in certain cases, students who have not advanced to candidacy may begin registering for up to 6 credit hours of course 701 at the discretion of the department and upon written notification to the Dean of Graduate Studies. Pre-Candidacy 701 hour(s) can only be taken concurrently with coursework." WARNING: once you've taken your first semester of 701, you have 5 years to graduate, though it is possible to petition Graduate Studies for an extension. Note also that once you register for 701, you need to keep registering for 701 every semester until you graduate. Doctoral students must take at least 18 cr. of 701.
  • How many credits should I take? If you haven't advanced to candidacy yet, nine credits is considered a full load by the Biology Dept. Note that tuition wavers cover only nine credits, so if you want to take more than that, you will need to cover the difference yourself. If you have advanced to candidacy, you should take two semesters of 9 credits each of BIOL 701. This will fulfill your 701 requirement, ensuring that whenever you're ready to graduate, you have enough 701 credits. After that, just take 1 credit of BIOL 701 per semester to remain a full time student. (Please don't sign up for more than 1 credit, as the department does get charged tuition for BIOL 701.)
  • Can I continue to take courses after I've advanced to candidacy? Once you've advanced to candidacy, the department expects you to take two semesters of 9 credits each of BIOL 701, then 1 credit of BIOL 701 per semester. If you want to take other coursework after candidacy, you'll need to find some way to pay for the tuition. Talk to your advisor.
 
 
 

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