Qualifying Examination. The purpose of the Qualifying Examination is to ensure students have mastered the
fundamentals in a major area of interest and are prepared to begin working full-time
on their doctoral project. After satisfactory completion of the didactic hours but
before completion of the third year, each doctoral student must pass a Qualifying
Examination that consists of two parts:
- A written portion prepared in such a manner as to show the student's comprehension of some field of
study related to Microbiology and Immunology, ability to develop hypotheses, and competence
in the design and conduct of promising and significant experiments.The written portion
will be in the form of an NIH grant application that can be related to the student's
research interest, but should not deal with the student's dissertation problem itself.The
format will be in a R01 style in the current 12 page format.
- An oral portion conducted by the Doctoral Committee and Department of Microbiology and Immunology
faculty. The examination will be primarily concerned with the grant proposal and the
student's understanding of fundamental concepts and principles of Microbiology and
Immunology that relate to the written proposal.
The process for the examination is the same for both options:
Written Portion of the Qualifying Examination: (to be completed during the summer of the second year
- Prepare a grant proposal in an area that is not directly related to their research.
Up to three abstracts will be prepared and the topic selected in conjunction with
the student’s dissertation committee.
- The student prepares a two-page description of the project. This includes Summary,
Hypothesis, Specific Aims, a brief description of the experimental design, anticipated
results, and potential problems or pitfalls according to the NIH R01 format guidelines.
(This should be completed by June 1st of the second year.)
- The student’s Ph.D. committee reviews the project description and votes on it.
- Once approved, the student has 2 months to write a 3-year proposal on their subject
in the NIH R01 12 page format using Microsoft Word®. (See the attached NIH R01 12
- In certain cases, a list of outside reviewers (expert in the area covered by the proposal)
is selected in consultation with the mentors and the student’s committee and can be
used in the evaluation process.
- To potentially reduce the effort of the student and the reviewers, a preliminary review
of the proposal will be conducted by a faculty member who may also be a member of
the dissertation committee. This review may be in stages during the writing of the
grant, or all at once when the grant is finished.
- The reviewers are sent a copy of the exam grant, and asked to take into consideration
that it is the first attempt by the student. They are allowed up to 3 weeks to finish
the review. THE REVIEW IS COMPLETED FOLLOWING NIH GUIDELINES.
- Upon receiving the reviews, the mentor makes copies of them and gives them to the
student; the mentor also gives a copy of the grant proposal and the reviews to each
- The student has a month to respond to the reviews (i.e., modify the proposal and provide
answers for the critique).
- The student’s response to the reviews will be reviewed by the student’s committee.
- A final oral exam will then be scheduled to defend the proposal (this will include
- The student is graded on two separate areas: the written proposal and the oral exam.
Based on the critique and the general opinion of the faculty, the student may be required
to re-write all or part of the exam. At the discretion of the student’s mentor and
advisory committee, the student may be required to defend the rewritten proposal.
The students may be guided (but not told what to do or write) throughout the process.
The student may meet with the mentor and any member of the committee throughout the
process. The group may advise the student that such an approach is wrong or a dead-end,
but would not advise a specific course of action. The group may also advise the student
to re-write certain section(s) for clarity.
Oral Portion of the Qualifying Examination: (To be completed by the end of August in the second year
- After receiving the completed research proposal, the student's major advisor will
schedule the oral portion of the examination. The oral examination will be given by
the Doctoral Advisory Committee. The student will present a 30-minute summary of the
research proposal after which time he/she will defend it and answer questions about
- The Doctoral Advisory Committee and will determine whether or not the student has
passed the Qualifying Examination on the basis of his/her performance on the written
and oral portions of the examination. The outcome will be determined by a vote of
the individual members of the Doctoral Advisory Committee. A majority must find the
student's overall performance to be acceptable in order for the student to pass the
examination. After satisfactory completion of the student’s qualifying examination,
the department graduate coordinator will prepare the Admission to Candidacy form to
be turned in to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. The student will be notified
by GSBS when the Admission to Candidacy has been approved.
Procedure When the Examination is Satisfactory
If the Qualifying Examination is considered satisfactory, the chairperson of the advisory
committee will submit an Admission to Candidacy form to the department graduate coordinator
for submission to the graduate school.
Procedure When the Examination is Not Satisfactory
An applicant who does not pass the Qualifying Examination may be permitted to repeat
it once. The repeated examination shall be conducted by the Doctoral Advisory Committee
and Immunology and Infectious Diseases graduate faculty and may cover all or parts
of the oral of written portions of the examination or, in extreme circumstances, may
even require a completely new research proposal, followed by an oral examination.
Re-examination of the student must be completed within 8 weeks of the initial oral
examination. Failure to pass the Qualifying Examination a second time will result
in dismissal from the Ph.D. program irrespective of the student's performance in other
aspects of the doctoral program of study. The student who fails a second time may
be permitted to apply for admission to the Master of Science Program (adopted 09/22/92).