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PhD Overview

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 is 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 17 credits of core classes and 9 credits of elective courses across 3 competency areas. For students entering the program with a bachelor’s degree, 96 credit hours of coursework and research credits are required to earn a PhD but 64 credit hours are required for those that have earned a master’s degree. Based on the typical curriculum, most students complete the didactic coursework during their first three semesters of enrollment to acquire the fundamental knowledge of genetics and genomics, and supporting fields that Ph.D. candidates in genetics and genomics are required to possess. Each doctoral student in genetics and genomics must demonstrate mastery of the area selected for research specialization as well as general proficiency in the broad field of genetics and genomics by satisfactorily completing written and oral preliminary examinations prior to being admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

The Thesis Committee

A Thesis Committee supervises a student’s coursework and research, examines a student’s progress, and approves all documents required for the PhD degree.  The Thesis Committee, chaired by the Major Professor, is the primary source of direction and support for a student’s research and academic program.  The Thesis Committee should be constituted soon after the choice of Major Professor to provide the student with maximum input on course choices. The Thesis Committee must have at least three members in addition to the Major Professor. At least one member must come from a department outside your “home” department. Your Major Professor MUST be a FULL member of the Faculty of Genetics and Genomics. Students should familiarize themselves with the members of their Thesis Committee as soon as possible.  This Thesis Committee will approve the degree plan, read and critique the proposal and thesis/dissertation, and administer the preliminary exam and oral defense.  Committee selection must therefore be completed before the degree plan is filed.

Teaching Experience

All students are required to participate as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for two semesters, typically during the second and third semesters. All students regardless of source of funding must complete this requirement, as it is an important aspect of professional training. All incoming graduate students must complete TA training. Texas A&M University provides a mandatory TA training called Teaching Assistant Training and Evaluation Program (TATEP). All new graduate students will be registered during orientation and must attend. Additionally, Genetics TA’s must register for two credits of GENE 697 (Teaching Genetics Labs) every semester they TA.

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 fifth semester 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 Genetics and Genomics Advisory Office, the Thesis Committee, the Chair of the Faculty of Genetics and Genomics, and the Office of Graduate Studies.

The Preliminary Examination /Admission to Candidacy

The preliminary examination includes a written proposal, a written exam, and an oral examination in which a Ph.D. student’s mastery of his or her field of specialization is tested by the student’s Thesis Committee.  Students should schedule their preliminary examinations before the end of their fifth full semester of graduate study. You must have current cumulative and degree plan GPR’s of AT LEAST 3.00 to be eligible for the exam.

The exam is given no earlier than a date when you are within approximately six credit hours of completion of the formal course work (i.e., all course work on the degree plan except 681, 682, 685, 691 courses) or no later than the semester following the completion of the formal course work on the degree plan.  The preliminary examination checklist can be found on the Grad School website.

The written proposal must be given to the student’s Thesis Committee no later than 2 weeks prior to the oral exam.  The student is responsible for scheduling written exams with each member of their Thesis Committee.  Individual members of the Thesis Committee may elect to waive their written exam.

Once all portions of the examination are completed, the Major Professor will report the results of the examination in writing using the proper form within ten working days of the scheduled examination date to The Grad School.   Note that this form requires the signatures of all Thesis Committee members.  Upon receiving the form The Grad School will verify that all eligibility requirements were met and, if so, record the results of the preliminary exam.  If post-review of the exam by The Grad School reveals that eligibility requirements were not met, then the student and the Major Professor will be notified of necessary actions (such as repeating the exam) required to rectify any deficiencies.  Upon acceptance of a passing preliminary exam by The Grad School you will be considered a candidate for the PhD degree (advanced to candidacy).  After passing the required preliminary examination, the student must complete all remaining requirements for the degree within four calendar years.  Otherwise, you must repeat the examination.

If the student fails the preliminary examination, there is no obligation for a re-examination.  At their discretion, the Thesis Committee (with no more than one member dissenting) may allow one re-examination when adequate time has passed to allow you to address inadequacies emerging from the first examination (normally six months).

Eligibility Requirements that Cannot be Waived:

  1. You must be registered for the semester during which you plan to take either the preliminary or the final examination (or in which any portion of the exam may fall).
  2. You must have an approved degree plan on file with The Grad School.
  3. You must have cumulative GPR of 3.00 or above.
  4. You must have a degree plan GPR of 3.00 or above.
  5. You must have satisfied English language proficiency requirements (non-native English speakers).
  6. You must have given your Thesis Committee a copy of your written proposal no later than 2 weeks prior to the oral exam.
  7. All committee members must have scheduled or waived the written portion and agreed to attend the oral portion of the exam or have found a substitute. Only one substitute is allowed and it cannot be the Major Professor.

The Final Exam

Students must have at least one first-author peer-reviewed publication accepted before scheduling the Final Defense.

The final defense provides the student’s Thesis Committee with the opportunity to evaluate a student’s understanding of his or her research. The final defense consists of a formal public seminar of results presented by the student announced two weeks in advance. The presentation is followed by a private oral examination of the candidate by the Thesis Committee. Final changes to the Dissertation are discussed at this time. The final defense must be held within four years of advancement to candidacy. For all students, the defense should be scheduled at least four weeks prior to the Grad School deadline for submission of dissertations to the Thesis and Dissertation Services. This will allow adequate time for revisions and two weeks for the Chair of the Faculty of Genetics Genomics signature.

The Written Dissertation

  1. Graduate studies culminate with the dissertation, which describes a student’s research and outlines the unique contribution a student has made to expanding the frontiers of knowledge.
  2. The dissertation describes the research undertaken by a student during graduate study.
  3. The content of the dissertation is established by the student in consultation with the Thesis committee.
  4. The dissertation should be submitted to the student’s Thesis Committee for review at least two weeks prior to the Final Defense.
  5. The student’s Thesis Committee approves the dissertation, and the Thesis Committee may request changes/edits before approving the dissertation.
  6. The format of the dissertation is very precisely controlled by The Grad School.
  7. Students must refer to the Thesis Manual and follow it exactly, or risk having their manuscript rejected by the Thesis Clerk.
  8. The dissertation requirements can be found at the Thesis and Dissertation Services site: https://grad.tamu.edu/knowledge-center/grad-student-resources/pre-submittal-requirements
  9. After the committee approves the dissertation, the student submits the dissertation as a single pdf online to Vireo (Thesis and Dissertation Submission System), which will check for format errors and may require several edits.
  10. It is important NOT WAITING until the last minute to submit your dissertation to Vireo.
  11. If you are an international student, it can take around 1 month for your thesis to be cleared by the Thesis and Dissertation Services, which must happen BEFORE International Student Services (ISS) can write any letters needed to begin a postdoc/job in the United States.