An oral proposal typically begins with a brief introduction by the committee chair and the adviser. After the introduction, the student will be asked to leave the room. Privately, the adviser will discuss the student’s progression and productivity in the laboratory with the committee. Members may collectively discuss the student’s grades and degree progress or discuss the format or content for the upcoming oral examination. After the student returns, the proposal is officially underway. At the conclusion of the session, the student will be asked to step out of the room again so the committee can discuss the candidate’s performance and make recommendations.
After the proposal is complete, there are four potential outcomes by the committee:
- A vote to pass the student.
- A request for a revised written document for approval without further examination.
- A request for both a revised written document and second examination.
- A recommendation that the student be advanced to the Ph.D. program.
The committee chair will provide a statement summary of the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses. If progression in the Ph.D. program is not recommended, the committee chair will include reasoning in the statement.
Types of Oral Proposals and Exams
Admission to Candidacy or Initial Research Proposal (IRP)
When: End of second year
Purpose: Student presentation of intended program of study.
During the proposal, the student will make a 30 to 40-minute presentation of his or her written proposal and allow ample time for questions during the presentation.
When: End of third year
Purpose: Student presents an NIH-style proposal outside of the thesis topic.
The student prepares a talk of about 30 to 40-minutes, allowing plenty of time for questions during the presentation. The talk should follow the outline of the written proposal.
Dissertation Update or Discussion
When: About six to eight months before completion (recommended)
Purpose: Student updates adviser on thesis research progress.
This meeting—not required but recommended for progression—typically lasts less than one hour. The student provides a brief, 25-minute presentation to update the adviser about thesis research progress and hurdles encountered and outlines immediate research plans. The student also discusses any updates to manuscripts in progress, submitted or published. The meeting provides a framework of understanding between the adviser and student regarding project completion.