Before a Ph.D. student completes the Comprehensive Examination, the primary question that the departmental faculty will ask of that student is, “Do you possess the requisite skills, aptitude, and knowledge to pursue a Ph.D. dissertation research project?” Once a Ph.D. student passes his or her Comprehensive Examination, the faculty are effectively stating that “Yes, this person should advance to candidacy for the degree of Ph.D.”

After passing the Comprehensive Exam, the question is no longer “What does this student know and how do they think?” Rather, the question shifts to a very different focus of “What will this student do to address an original research question within the realm of the Molecular Biosciences?” The student will be asked many questions, which will usually require tremendous amounts of reading and thinking before satisfying answers can be obtained. For example, a student should be prepared to address the following questions about their Dissertation Project:

  • What overriding idea will be tested and what specific questions will be asked?
  • By what methods and experimental systems will these questions be addressed?
  • How will the experimental results allow you to answer these questions?
  • What do the answers to your questions tell you about the overriding idea?
  • How will the completion of this research change the way scientists look at this area of biology?

Dissertation Proposal

The Dissertation Proposal represents the student’s first attempt at seriously explaining to a group of scientists what they propose to do within the next two to four years of their graduate training. The proposal is written in cooperation with the Faculty Advisor.