The PhD Program Timeline outlines the process and provides a detailed structure for the first two years of the Ph.D. program. Thereafter, the time to completion of the Ph.D. varies largely on the progress and nature of the research project.
Year 1 – IGPBS course work, select a mentor and Student Advisory Committee (SAC).
Year 2 – Conduct research, have 1st SAC meeting by October 1st., Abstract for Written Proposal due November 1st, Written proposal due February 1st, Response to proposal critique due March 15, Oral Exams - April 15-30.*
Year 3-5 – Continue research, have mandatory yearly Dissertation Committee meetings, prepare and defend dissertation.
MD/PhD students enter the PhD program after completing their first two years of medical school, during which time they select their mentor. Students typically spend 3/4 years completing their PhD before returning to finish their final two years of medical school.
Year 1 – Conduct research, select Student Advisory Committee (SAC) and have 1st meeting by October 1st., Abstract for Written Proposal due November 1st, Written proposal due February 1st, Response to proposal critique due March 15, Oral Exams - April 15-30.*
Year 2-4 – Continue research, have mandatory yearly Dissertation Committee meetings, prepare and defend dissertation.
*A petition process to reconsider this timeline is available for students that don’t fulfill the Graduate School Enrollment and Academic Requirements by the end of their 2nd fall semester or who encounter unforeseen personal issues. The Departmental GSAC will evaluate submitted petitions. Transfer students will follow a similar timeline, but will be initiated at a date consistent with Graduate School requirements.
The student selects a Student Advisory Committee (SAC) with mentor assistance and a meeting is scheduled during the first 3 months of joining the lab, the Graduate Program Director should be notified of these members once selected. The committee will evaluate progress, sets future goals, and identifies and addresses issues/concerns during the course of the student's graduate program. The committee consists of the Mentor and at least four faculty members selected by the student. The makeup of this committee is described in the . The SAC typically becomes the Dissertation Committee following successful completion of the comprehensive exam. Rules governing faculty membership in these committees are provided in the Supplement to Guidelines for Graduate Study. The student will provide faculty names and update the Physiology Graduate Program Director of changes in the Dissertation Committee when they occur.
Oral Comprehensive Exams will typically be completed during the 2nd Spring Semester of graduate school. It consists of two parts: a written proposal (Departmental requirement) and an oral examination (University requirement). The written portion is composed of an abstract and a NIH style grant proposal, both of which require committee approval of completion before proceeding on to the oral exam. The process of preparing the abstract and research proposal is designed to mimic the process of writing and revising a NIH grant. The proposal typically describes the research project that will be the dissertation research project, however, by no means does this require that the student ultimately follow this plan for their dissertation.
Abstract: The student prepares an abstract that describes the overall concept of the proposal and submits it to their SAC and the Graduate Program Director by November 1st. The SAC will review the abstract to determine whether it constitutes a good basis for a proposal. The SAC will request changes such that by December 1st an approved abstract can be attained. Upon committee approval (via email) the Final Abstract will then be forwarded to the Graduate Program Director before December 1st. The abstract should state the broad, long-term research objectives, explain what the research in the application is intended to accomplish, and what hypotheses will be tested. The specific aims (2 to 3) of the full proposal will be listed, and avoid general excessive experimental details. (The abstract is double-spaced and less than 500 words in length with 0.5 inch margins; Arial 11pt font).
Written Proposal: The scientific problem and general research approaches are identified, developed, clarified and refined by frequent discussions with the mentor, the SAC, other faculty and students, and reading of relevant literature. The written proposal must be the student's own work, though the direction of the research will be determined in conjunction with the mentor. The student can and should seek feedback from faculty and other students regarding the written proposal.
The student will submit their NIH style grant proposal to the Graduate Program Director by February 1st. The Graduate Program Director will forward the proposal to the Oral Examination Committee (makeup described below). The student will receive a summarized written critique of the proposal during the 3rd week of February. The student is encouraged to discuss the critique with the mentor, but must revise the written proposal independently. The revision of the proposal will include a preface (<2 page) with replies to each of the comments in the critique. The student will submit this revised proposal to the Graduate Program Director by March 15. The proposal will be approved within a couple of days and the Comprehensive Exam date will be set by the Graduate Program Director to occur between April 15-30. (If the proposal is not approved - then the Oral Exam may be postponed 1-2 months).
Format of written proposal: Specific Aims (< 2 pages, double spaced) will precede the Research Strategy Section of the proposal (< 22 double spaced pages) and is comprised of the following sections - Significance, Innovation, Approach. The student should not feel compelled to use the full 24 pages permitted; conciseness and clarity carry far more value than length in judging these proposals; note the title page, abstract page, and references, do not count in the 24 page count. The NIH provides useful information for writing a good grant proposal at http://funding.niaid.nih.gov/researchfunding/grant/pages/default.aspx. Examples of written proposals are available from the Graduate Program Director. The proposal contains the following sections: (All documents - 0.5 inch margins; Arial 11pt font).
Oral exam: The purpose of the oral examination is to test the student's ability to defend the written proposal and knowledge of appropriate background material, including IGPBS and/or medical school course work, advanced graduate courses, and command of the relevant scientific literature. The Oral Examination Committee (5 members) will consist of several members of the SAC, in particular the outside Departmental SAC representative (dependent upon availability), the balance will be members of the University of Kansas Medical Center Graduate Faculty (note: those faculty chosen by the student will be given preference dependent upon their availability for the Oral Exam). The Graduate Program Director appoints a tenure track Physiology faculty member to serve as the Examining Committee Chair typically a Departmental Graduate Student Advisory Committee member. During the examination, the Examining Committee Chair acts as an impartial mediator. Students should discuss with members of the Oral Examination Committee those particular areas of knowledge for which they will be held responsible. Students are strongly encouraged to practice their presentation during a mock exam using fellow students as examiners.
Conduct of the exam. Prior to the start of the oral examination, the student is excused and the Examination Committee meets with the student's mentor, who reviews the academic history and laboratory experience of the student. The mentor is then excused and the Chair of the Examination Committee instructs the student as to the manner in which the examination is to be conducted. The student begins with an oral presentation in which the essence of the proposal is presented to the examining committee; audiovisual aids are encouraged. The objective of the examination is to ascertain the student's facility with the chosen area of research and the ability to defend the rationale and scientific approach of the proposed research. It is fully appropriate for the examining committee to explore the depths of the student's knowledge of basic science relevant to the research proposal. The examination is not open to the public.
At the conclusion of examination, the student is excused. The examination committee evaluates the student's performance with respect to the following components: the formal presentation, the defense of the proposed research, and the general knowledge of science exhibited by the student during the examination period. Next, committee members cast votes of satisfactory or unsatisfactory to determine the student's performance. The Committee Chair votes only in the case of a tied vote. The Committee Chair writes a brief summary of the performance in the Comprehensive Exam Report after a decision has been reached. The student and mentor return and are informed of the grade but not the distribution of voting. The Chair provides feedback regarding areas of strength or any deficiencies. In the case of an unsatisfactory grade, the student may apply for reexamination on a date no less than 90 days or more than 180 days from the date of the previous examination. The Qualifying Examination Committee determines the nature of the reexamination. In the event of a second failure, the student will not be allowed to continue in the Ph.D. program. The student must maintain continuous full time enrollment until completion of all requirements for the Ph.D.
Dissertation Committee Meetings: After passing the exam, the student, now a Ph.D. candidate, must convene a meeting of the Dissertation Committee at minimum once a year, more frequent Committee Meeting is at the discretion of the Dissertation Committee. Members of the SAC typically become members of the Dissertation Committee, the Physiology Graduate Program Director should be notified who the members of the Dissertation Committee members are and when changes in membership occur. In those cases where the Mentor is not a Departmental Representative as per University regulations, the Departmental Representative must serve as a co-chair.
Dissertation Defense: The student presents a draft of the dissertation to each member of the Dissertation Committee and the Physiology Graduate Program Director. Within 2 weeks of receiving a complete draft of the dissertation, each committee member should send suggestions for improvement via email to the student and mentor. If significant changes (inclusion of additional chapters, etc.) are requested the draft is revised appropriately and the approval process is repeated. Once all Dissertation Committee members approve the dissertation, the student submits a request to the Physiology Graduate Program Director to apply for a Final Defense. The student will provide the title of the dissertation, and a date, time and place, where all dissertation Committee Members can attend the Final Defense. The student must provide this information to the Director at least 3 weeks prior to the defense in order to file the Progress to Degree Form. The Defense will consist of a 50 minute public presentation and 1-2 hours of questions by the Dissertation Committee.
Dissertation Format: The product of the student’s research forms the basis of the dissertation. The dissertation typically contains several manuscripts that have been published, submitted, or are in preparation that describe the student’s research. Each manuscript forms a chapter in the dissertation. Additionally, the student provides an introductory chapter that provides the background and significance of the research project, and a final chapter that summarizes the conclusions of the studies. The KUMC Office of Graduate Studies has a number of documents at the following website that explain formatting, academic calendar, graduation checklists, etc.
KUMC Office of Graduate Studies http://www2.kumc.edu/aa/gradstudies/grad_grad.htm
Additional Resources include the Director of Graduate Studies for KUMC, Marcia Jones (8-4876 or 8-1238). Additionally, the Department has a Graduation Checklist that describes the process at its website.
Course Work requirements