Procedures for evaluation of graduate student progress, preparation and defense of the PhD dissertation.
Passing the preliminary doctoral qualifying examination deems the student qualified to proceed with their thesis research project under the guidance of their Major Professor in conjunction with their Ph.D. Thesis Advisory Committee. This document presents the responsibilities of the student, the Major Professor, and the Advisory Committee in the process leading up to the conclusion of the research project, their responsibilities in preparing and evaluating the dissertation document, as well as evaluating the ensuing oral examination and the public defense.
After the student passes the preliminary doctoral qualifying examination, a Ph.D. Thesis Advisory Committee (henceforth referred to as Advisory Committee) will be proposed. The Advisory Committee consists of the Major Professor, and at least three additional UB Graduate Faculty members (preferentially those who served as committee member for the preliminary doctoral qualifying exam, although this is not a requirement). Two of these individuals must be have primary faculty appointments in the Microbiology and Immunology Department and one may be from another Department at UB. Of the two faculty members with primary appointments in Microbiology and Immunology, one will act as the Chair of the Advisory Committee, and serve to moderate the discussion. The Chair will be determined by seniority and/or Advisory Committee consensus at the first committee meeting. The Advisory Committee members are selected by the Major Professor and student and their names are submitted using the appropriate form available in the Graduate Studies Office to the Graduate Affairs Committee for approval.
The student is expected to have Advisory Committee meetings within 6 month intervals beginning in the Fall Semester after successful completion of the preliminary doctoral qualifying examination. It is expected that the first meeting will be held within 6 months of the completion of the doctoral qualifying examination. The student must prepare a Committee Meeting Progress Report that contains an updated Specific Aims page clearly indicating any changes to the Specific Aims of the thesis project from the Doctoral Qualifying Examination Document and any new data acquired since the completion of the Doctoral Qualifying Examination. This document must be distributed to the Advisory Committee at least one week prior to its first meeting for discussion at the meeting. A completed Advisory Committee Meeting Report form must be filed in the Graduate Studies Office within three days of each meeting.
All subsequent meetings of the Advisory Committee should be devoted to a review of the student's progress in research. An updated Committee Meeting Progress Report (as described above) in which it is clearly indicated what progress has been made since the previous meeting must be distributed to the advisory committee at least one week prior to a meeting.
It is incumbent upon the student and the Major Professor to hold these meetings on schedule, report them in writing using the Advisory Committee Meeting Report form, and timely submit the report form to the Department Graduate Studies Office. Students will not be permitted to register for courses or laboratory research when a committee meeting was not held during the previous six months or if documentation of this meeting is not submitted to the Department Graduate Studies Office. If an extension is required, the student should contact the Director of Graduate Studies.
The decision concerning completion of the research project and the material to be included in the dissertation is the responsibility of the entire Advisory Committee. If the Advisory Committee cannot resolve disagreements internally, as indicated by any of its members or the student, the Director of Graduate Studies will appoint an ad hoc committee, which will advise the student and Major Professor in resolving the problem.
Once the Advisory Committee has determined that the student should begin preparation of their dissertation:
The student should prepare the document based on the decision reached by the Advisory Committee at the committee meeting where permission to write was given. The format of the thesis is described in the document entitled "Possible thesis formats”. Preparation of the document should be performed with the assistance of the Major Professor. It should be stressed that the student and Major Professor have the highest level of responsibility for the quality of the Ph.D. dissertation.
Before the dissertation is distributed to the Advisory Committee for evaluation, an Outside Reader must be chosen by the student and Major Professor. The Major Professor contacts the Department Graduate Studies Staff Assistant, preferably by email, to provide the name and department. The Staff Assistant polls the Department Graduate Affairs Committee by e-mail for approval/disapproval. Confirmation of the decision is by e-mail to the Major Professor and student.
The Outside Reader must be an expert in the field addressed by the student’s dissertation project and may be a faculty member at UB, or an individual from another institution (if the latter, a CV or faculty webpage should be provided when seeking approval). It is expected that the outside reader will be present for the Oral Examination, and therefore proximity and availability should factor into the choice of outside reader. Electronic presence (via teleconference, Skype, etc.) at the defense may be used in place of physical presence. The Outside Reader cannot hold a primary appointment in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology or be an individual associated in any significant way with the research project.
The Advisory Committee members and the Outside Reader must have at least three weeks (21 days) to read the dissertation before an oral examination is scheduled. Together with the thesis document the Dissertation Response Form that addresses completeness of the dissertation document and whether it is satisfactory with respect to scientific content, as well as consistency of form, style and language will be distributed. This form should be filled out by each Advisory Committee member and the Outside Reader and brought to the oral examination.
The Outside Reader is expected to attend and participate in the Oral Examination Committee Meeting. In the event that the Outside Reader cannot attend due to distance or other circumstances, the student is responsible to inform the Director of Graduate Studies and the Staff Assistant as soon as possible. In this case the Outside Reader must submit the Dissertation Response Form to the Department Graduate Studies Office before the oral examination date can be confirmed.
The student is responsible for arranging a tentative oral examination date with the Advisory Committee members, the Outside Reader, and the Director of Graduate Studies who conducts the defense. The student should notify the Director of Graduate Studies of the tentative oral examination dates to determine a final date, inform the Graduate Studies Staff Assistant of the final date, and ask for help with arrangements of a room and audio-visual equipment.
The oral examination will be performed by the Oral Examination Committee, which will consist of the Advisory Committee, the Outside Reader, and chaired by the Director of Graduate Studies or designee. The outside reader must be present for the Oral Examination. In cases where physical presence is precluded by distance or other extenuating circumstances, an electronic presence via teleconference or a web-assisted conferencing application (e.g., Skype) may be used.
After the oral examination period the student will be excused. The Oral Examination Committee with the exclusion of the Director of Graduate Studies or designee, who has no voting right, will evaluate the students oral examination and thesis document by voting with a show of hands for “Pass”/”Conditional Pass”/”Fail”. All members must vote.
If the final decision is “Pass”, the Dissertation Examination Form is signed by the Major Professor, Advisory Committee, and Outside Reader if present, to indicate approval of the written document and passing the oral examination. The form is submitted to the Graduate Studies Office and the student can proceed to arrange the public dissertation defense.
A “Conditional Pass” will be given if members of the Oral Examination Committee decide the oral examination and/or dissertation document is not complete or entirely satisfactory. The specific remediation required should be documented on the Dissertation Examination Form.
Should improvements to the document be required, students are responsible to work with the Major Professor to incorporate into the document all comments/suggestions, changes and typographical errors identified by the Oral Examination Committee, and presented on the Dissertation Response Form, within a time frame approved by the Committee, but no longer than one month. The student must provide the Committee members, who have requested to see the document after revision, with a fully corrected version of the thesis document. Should the oral examination be deemed partially unsatisfactory, a reexamination on the whole dissertation or areas associated with the dissertation topic will be scheduled with the Committee members.
Once the Committee members are satisfied with the student’s performance, the Dissertation Examination Form is signed by the Committee members to indicate approval of the written document and passing the examination. The form is submitted to the Department Graduate Studies Office and the student can then proceed to arrange the public dissertation defense.
If the decision is “Fail”, the Oral Examination Committee will clearly outline the reason(s) for the failure to the student. The Director of Graduate Studies or designee will document in writing, using the Dissertation Examination Form, the reason(s) and will make recommendations to the Graduate Affairs Committee for appropriate action.
Faculty must be given at least one week notice prior to the public dissertation defense date. An electronic copy of the abstract and an unbound hard copy of the dissertation should be provided to the Department Graduate Studies Office. Since the Department supplies cookies and hot beverages, the student should notify the Department Office staff if the student wants to bring in their own refreshments.
A seminar on the research work of approximately 50 minutes duration will be presented to the public. The unbound hard copy of the dissertation submitted to the Graduate Studies Office should be available at the seminar. The seminar will be followed by an open question/answer period, chaired by the Director of Graduate Studies or designee. Upon completion of the public dissertation defense, the Advisory Committee will vote to determine whether the defense was satisfactory. A majority vote will be sufficient for approval. The Graduate School (Multi-purpose) M-Form will be signed by all members of the Advisory Committee and either the Director of Graduate Studies or Department Chair to conclude the approval of the dissertation. If the decision is “unsatisfactory” the committee can decide on any remedial action in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and the Department Chair.
The student should see the Graduate School website for a checklist of Graduate School requirements. Those include: