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Cancer Biology Oral 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.

Ph.D. students in the Cancer Biology Graduate Program will take the Oral Comprehensive Examination in Cancer Biology the end of their first year in the program (July-August)

2022 2023 2024 2026
  • IGPBS Course
  • Lab Rotations
  • Choose Lab (before summer semester)
  • CBIO Courses
  • First Committee Meeting (Dec.-April)
  • Written Proposal Prep
  • Oral Comprehensive Exam
  • CBIO Courses
  • Bi-annual Committee Meetings
  • Completion of Comprehensive Exam (June-Aug.)
  • CBIO Seminars
  • Committee Meetings
  • Thesis preparation and defense

Timeline for the written proposal submission and oral examination:

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

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 (7 pages total) consisting of specific aims (1 page) and research strategy (6 pages). Document will be single spaced and Ariel font 11. The topic will be related to your thesis project. You should limit your proposal to two Aims.
  • The NIH R21 format consists of the following sections: Background, Significance, Scientific Premise and Rigor, Innovation, Preliminary data, and Approach. 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 3 hours. Each student will have 30 minutes to present their proposal research. 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).
  3. Subject material/content for the oral examination will be centered around the written proposal and may also cover broader aspects of cell biology, biochemistry, and molecular biology (topics covered in the IGPBS courses). For your examination, you will be expected to have an in-depth knowledge/understanding 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.  
  4. 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.

    Semi-yearly committee meetings (Post-Comps)

    • Following 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. This report (no more than 1 page) should be written in consultation with the mentor and other committee members and signed by the student and each committee member.
    KU School of Medicine

    University of Kansas Medical Center
    Cancer Biology
    3901 Rainbow Boulevard
    Kansas City, KS  66160