Overview of the Doctoral Program in Genetics
The length of time necessary to complete the requirements of the Ph.D. degree is markedly influenced by the student's preparation, particular research interest, and prior experience in the field selected. Four to five years of study beyond the bachelor's degree or three to four beyond the master's degree are commonly expected.
Courses and Subject Matter Required
The Ph.D. degree is awarded principally on demonstrated ability to conduct significant and original scientific research. Each doctoral student is required to take and obtain a grade of B or higher in three of four core courses, otherwise there are no additional formal course requirements (other than completion of the prescribed minimum number of 96 credit hours and research for students entering the program with a bachelor's degree and 64 credit hours for those with a master's degree). The core courses include the following: GENE 603 (4-0), Principles of Genetics; GENE 606 (3-0), Biochemical Genetics; GENE 612 (3-0), Population Genetics; and GENE 613 (3-0), Quantitative Genetics. Most students complete the didactic coursework during their first five semesters of enrollment to acquire the fundamental knowledge of genetics and supporting fields that Ph.D. candidates in genetics are required to possess. Each doctoral student in genetics must demonstrate mastery of the area selected for research specialization as well as general proficiency in the broad field of genetics by satisfactorily completing written and oral preliminary examinations prior to being admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.
The Advisory Committee
Before the end of the first year of study, each doctoral student is expected to identify a major professor and to assemble an Advisory Committee. The student's Advisory Committee consists of the student's major professor, serving as chair, and three or more members of the graduate faculty, representative of the student's several fields of study and research. At least one member of the Advisory Committee must be from outside of the student's administrative department. Two members of the Advisory Committee, including the major professor, must be full members of the Faculty of Genetics. The members of the Advisory Committee should be chosen with consideration given to the specialized subject areas in genetics and supporting fields relevant to the student's research interest. The student will meet with the Advisory Committee to discuss aims and background, and to establish a proposed degree program which will be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies prior to the third semester of registration.
In addition to the student's Advisory Committee, the proposed degree program must be approved by the Chair of the Faculty of Genetics, the Head of the student's administrative department, and the Office of Graduate Studies.
During his or her tenure, each student is expected to gain experience in University-level teaching. This will generally involve assisting in undergraduate genetics in one or more courses, for a minimum of one semester.
The Research Program
The student should begin planning a suitable project for dissertation research during his or her first year of graduate study. A proposal describing the planned research should be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies for approval no later than the end of the third year of enrollment. It is desirable that the research program be started during the early semesters; however, the student should balance the time and effort on the special field of dissertation research with the larger areas of knowledge covered by the preliminary examination. The proposal must be approved by the student's Advisory Committee, the Chair of the Faculty of Genetics, the Head of the student's academic department, and the Office of Graduate Studies.
Written and Oral Examinations/Admission to Candidacy
The student's Advisory Committee shall administer these examinations as prescribed by the Office of Graduate Studies. Normally, the students should expect to take written examinations from each committee member and an oral examination from the committee as a whole. However, with the approval of the committee Chair and the representative from the Office of Graduate Studies, a student may also be required to take written departmental examinations in fields other than genetics if the student's degree plan and research area indicate that this would be appropriate
Before taking the preliminary examination, the student should devote considerable time to the study of technical literature in the broad field of genetics and related subjects in order to obtain an integrated grasp of the science as a whole. The examination is oriented toward evaluating the student's ability to correlate facts, observations, and experimental results in order to make appropriate inferences. The student will be expected to know the principles of genetics as well as the factual material usually taught in the courses in his or her specialized subject areas. In addition, a student should demonstrate a broader understanding of basic principles and a greater ability to synthesize than is ordinarily required in individual courses.
The members of the Advisory Committee are usually unanimous in their recommendations regarding a student's preliminary examination performance and the recommendations of Advisory Committees are usually accepted by the Office of Graduate Studies. Upon successful completion of the preliminary examination, a student who has filed an approved dissertation proposal and has completed his or her formal coursework becomes a 'candidate' for the Ph.D. degree.
The Ph.D. Dissertation
The major requirement for the Ph.D. degree is the completion of a dissertation that meets the approval of each member of the student's Advisory Committee. Such approval implies that an organized investigation which provides research of significance has been completed and demonstrates the ability of the candidate to execute independent investigations in an effective manner. Each student is expected to present a formal seminar on his or her dissertation research and must successfully defend the dissertation before the Advisory Committee.