Skip to main content

Cancer Biology Comprehensive Examination Guidelines

The Comprehensive Examination in Cancer Biology is comprised of two components, a written examination/proposal and a comprehensive oral examination. The written component/proposal must be successfully completed before taking the oral exam.

  • PhD students in the Cancer Biology Graduate Program will take the Comprehensive Examination by August 30th of their second year.

exam timeline

Timeline for the written proposal submission and oral examination.

  1. Choose Comprehensive Examination Committee: April 1st
  2. Select topic for Written Proposal: May 1st
  3. Submission of Written Proposal to the committee and Graduate Program Director: June 15th
  4. Approval of written proposal: July 15th
  5. Deadline for Comprehensive Oral Exam: Aug 30th
  6. If you do not pass your exam the first time around, the deadline to complete the second exam will be Nov 1

Guidelines for Comprehensive Oral Exam Proposal:

  • The topic for your written proposal will be determined by you and your mentor and it will follow the NIH R21 format (6 pages research strategy, 1 page for specific aims, single space, Ariel font 11). The topic can be related to your thesis work or is up to you and your mentor to decide. You should limit your proposal to two Aims. The NIH R21 format consists of the following sections: Background, Significance, Innovation, Preliminary data, and Approach. Scientific Premise and Rigor should also be included on a separate page (use bullet points instead of paragraph style). References will be on a separate page. Preliminary data is not mandatory for your proposal but if you have data to support your hypothesis please feel free to include. The deadline for submitting your proposal to your committee (and the graduate director) is June 15th.

Comprehensive Oral Examination Format

  1. The Comprehensive Examination Committee will comprise of 2 CB primary faculty (excluding mentor) and 3 faculty members from the student's thesis committee (including 1 outside faculty member). The 2 CB faculty members will be assigned by the Graduate Program Director (Dr. Lewis- Wambi) and will be consistent for all examinations given that year. Please note that your mentor Will Not be present in the room during the oral examination. Also, the Chair of the Comprehensive Examination committee must be a primary member in the CB department!

  2. The duration of the examination will be 2 hours. The format of the presentation will consist of: Background (5-10 slides), Preliminary data (if any), Hypothesis (1 slide), Aims (1 slide), Experimental design/Approach (10 slides/Aim). Subject material for the oral examination is centered around the written proposal and may also cover broader aspects of cell biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology (topics covered in the IGPBScourses). For your examination, you will be expected to have in-depth knowledge of your proposal- especially the experimental approach/design and rationale for the proposed experiments. Pathophysiology is important; hence, you are expected to have some knowledge of the disease you are studying.

  3. Deliberations: The student/candidate will leave the room when the committee deliberates on the outcome of the exam. The committee will invite the student/candidate back into the room and the chair will convey the decision regarding pass/fail to the student. At this time the mentor will be allowed to join the student and will be informed of the committees' decision.

  4. The student/candidate will provide each committee member with a Committee Member's Report on Comprehensive Exam form to be completed and returned to the Cancer Biology administrative office at 2003 Wahl Hall West.

Semi-yearly committee meetings (Post-Comps)

  • Following the completion of the comprehensive exam, a student will have one committee meeting every 6 months. The purpose of these meetings is to provide guidance that should speed progress towards completion of the PhD. A written synopsis of the meeting should be filed with the Director of Graduate Studies immediately after the meeting is held.
Last modified: Aug 04, 2020