Pathway to a Ph.D.

The average time to complete the Ph.D. degree in our graduate program is 5.3 years. The basic steps are as follows.

Summer Before First Year

Research opportunity supported by the department

First Year

Fall/Winter: Take two courses per semester and perform research rotations in two different labs.
Spring/Summer: Identify lab for full-time Ph.D. research.

Second Year

Fall/Winter: Complete remaining courses, perform research in Ph.D. lab, present 2 credit student seminar (timing and details of seminar requirement vary slightly between clusters).

Fall/Winter: Assemble candidacy committee, prepare for and pass the candidacy exam.

Spring/Summer: Full-time research.

Third and Fourth Years

Continue full-time dissertation research.

Fourth and Fifth Years

With the dissertation committee have the Data Meeting (8th/9th Semester Meeting).
Write and defend thesis.

Note: Students in the Organic program are required to pass five cumulative exams before advancing to candidacy. These exams are offered once per month, and students begin writing them during the first fall semester. Students in the Organic program are also required to submit and defend an original research proposal during years 3–4. Other programs may have slightly different requirements for presentations.

Candidacy Exam

Students become Ph.D. candidates once they have successfully passed this exam which consists of a brief presentation on the research they plan to accomplish during their Ph.D. During and after the presentation students will be asked questions related to, but possibly beyond the scope of the specific research. The goal of this exam is to ensure that students have the necessary formal background to successfully implement their proposed Ph.D. research project(s).

The degree Doctor of Philosophy is the highest degree conferred by the University. It is a research degree. It is never conferred solely as a result of study, no matter how faithful, extending over any prescribed time period or for any amount of course work or research accumulated. The degree represents more than merely the sum of semesters in residence and of credits for courses taken. The amount of residence and the plan of study are of secondary importance. The degree is granted solely upon evidence of general proficiency and of distinctive attainment in the special field of the candidate. The degree is granted particularly upon a recognized ability for independent and insightful investigation as demonstrated in a thesis based upon original research combined with creative scholarship and presented with a high degree of literary skill. (Adapted from a statement of the Graduate Program.)