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Pharmacology and Neuroscience

Department of Pharmacology Courses » PH.D.Program

Description of Required Examinations for the Ph.D. & M.D./Ph.D. Degrees.

  1. Qualifying Examination
    • Students will be expected to prepare a National Institutes of Health (NRSA type) grant proposal on a subject of interest to them. The subject may be in the area of a student's dissertation. The student will not be allowed to utilize any portion of a proposal prepared by the mentor or any other individual. This examination must be completed before the end of the first semester of the student's third year. The student's performance on this exam will be evaluated by a Qualifying Examination Committee that is comprised of at least each member of the students Advisory/Dissertation Committee and the Pharmacology and Neuroscience faculty.
    • Each student will submit to their Qualifying Examination Committee an abstract and outline no greater than two (2) pages in length. This outline will contain a statement of the proposed problem(s)/hypothesis(es) to be addressed and a listing of the specific aims of the grant proposal. The Qualifying Examination Committee will either approve the outline or request that it be modified. Following approval of the outline, the student will have three months to complete the proposal. The proposal will be for a two year project and should follow the guidelines given below. The proposal should be typed in a 12 pt or equivalent font, single spaced (60 lines per page) and no more than 10 pages (excluding Abstract and Literature Cited). The proposal should include a title, Abstract (1/2 page recommended), Specific Aims (1/2 to 1 page recommended), Background and Significance (2 pages recommended), Preliminary Studies (optional, if included, 1 to 2 pages recommended), Research Design and Methods (5 to 7.5 pages recommended), and Literature Cited (give complete references; maximum of 3 pages). The NIH 398 Forms packet (obtainable from Sponsored Programs) should be used for a description of the information needed for each of those sections. The student is not required to fill out the "NIH form pages" (budget, etc.) of the 398 forms.
    • The intent is to assess the student's ability to use current knowledge in an area of research, to propose a testable hypothesis and then to design a research program to test that hypothesis. Upon completion and submission, the Qualifying Examination Committee will review the students proposal and critique it. The Committee will meet to discuss the merits of the proposal and then invite the student to defend the proposal in an oral examination. Following the defense, the Committee will approve or disapprove the proposal. In the event that the proposal is disapproved, the student will have one opportunity to submit and defend an amended proposal within the next three months. Approval will be considered as passing the qualifying examination and the student will be admitted to candidacy.
    • Examples of past Qualifying Examinations are held in the Pharmacology and Neuroscience office and may be viewed by students at any time.
  2. Qualifying Examination/Dissertation Committee
    • General Statement: The Pharmacology and Neuroscience graduate program has recently revamped its Qualifying examination process. Our intent was to streamline the process and to provide a more rapid and smoother transition from Qualifying to Dissertation
      1. For this reason we ask that the student choose a Qualifying Examination Committee (QEC) that will also serve as the Dissertation Committee. (Committee: 5 graduate faculty members including at least 1 member outside the department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience)
      2. The Qualifying Examination will follow the NIH NRSA format and the research topic may be directly related to the applicant’s research, in fact we strongly encourage that it be so. That way if the student is a domestic applicant they can potentially submit the NRSA to the NIH and because it provides a smoother transition to the dissertation document.
      3. The applicant will submit the NRSA proposal to both the QEC and to the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience graduate faculty.
      4. No more than 3 weeks later the applicant will present and defend the proposal to the QEC and faculty.
      5. The QEC and faculty will then vote on the acceptability of the (a) written and (b) oral presentation/defense.
      6. If by majority vote (majority of faculty that vote) the applicant does not pass either the written or oral presentation/defense, they are afforded 1 opportunity to repeat either or both sections within 3 months.
    • Timeline:
      1. Student forms Qualfying Exam Committee and presents open seminar in which he/she reviews the research he/she has done so far and outlines his/her research proposal (i.e Qualifying Examination topic). Following general question and answer session, QEC will meet and determine if student should proceed with writing research proposal.
      2. 1-3 months later: Student will submit written proposal to QEC and Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience faculty.
      3. No more than 3 weeks later: Open oral presentation/defense of research proposal, followed by vote of faculty and QEC.

Click for Qualifying Examination/Dissertation Committee document

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