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PhD Program Guidelines

Timeline for Successful Completion of a PhD** in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems

Time from Start Item Forms*
By 6 months Submit Plan of Study

BIOMED ENG Plan of Study

BIOMED SCI Plan of Study

12 -18 months Candidacy Exam*

D-2 Candidacy Exam

D-2A Committee Member Report

Yearly after becoming a candidate Annual Review: Meeting with complete committee and filing of 2 forms*

D-3B Annual Review

Biomed Annual Review

24-36 months

  • Proposal must be at least one year before the final defense, since this shows the feasibility of the project and the committee’s buy in.
  • Needs to be addressed in the yearly meeting with student.

Proposal, with R01-type document and presentation in front of full committee.**

  • Proposal document must be sent to committee 2 weeks prior to meeting.
  • Abstract must be sent to Steve Detofsky with location and time details at least 2 weeks prior to meeting.

D-3 Committee Appointment

D-3A Proposal

Biomed Annual Review

No sooner than one year after the successful completion of Proposal

Final thesis defense in front of entire committee.*

  • Thesis document must be sent to committee 2 weeks prior to defense.
  • Thesis format must comply with the University guideline
  • Abstract must be sent to Steve Detofsky with location and time details at least 2 weeks prior to defense.

D-4 Committee Appointment

D-5 Committee Report

Thesis Approval

Completion Form

* Students are responsible for coming to all of the meetings with the appropriate forms already completed with name, student ID, title of thesis etc. Without these the defense will not start.

** Applies to all students, including those entering the PhD program with an MS degree.

PhD Requirements

Students in the PhD program are either post-baccalaureate (have obtained a previous BS degree) or post-master's (have obtained previous BS and MS degrees). Students who are post-master's are required to take a minimum of 45 credits to complete the necessary course work for the PhD degree. Post-baccalaureate PhD students are required to complete a minimum of 90 credits.

Students who were accepted as post-baccalaureate in either Biomedical Engineering or Biomedical Science must satisfy the course requirements described in the Master's Program Guidelines for the respective master's degree. Once all the master's course requirements have been satisfied, the additional 45-credit requirement can be satisfied via a combination of thesis/research credits and/or course credits as determined and approved by the student's thesis advisor and endorsed by the School's graduate advisor.

Every student is required to file a plan of study within his or her first or second quarter in school. Under no circumstances will a student be allowed to proceed to a second year without a plan of study that has been signed by the student's thesis advisor and the School's graduate advisor.

Every full-time PhD student should identify a thesis advisor no later than the third term in school. Post-master's students are expected to identify an advisor as soon as possible after joining the program. If the student's primary thesis advisor is not a full-time BMES faculty, a BMES thesis co-advisor must be identified and appointed. The co-advisor must hold a primary, full-time appointment (as a tenured/tenure track, teaching, or research faculty member) in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems. Both primary thesis advisor and co-advisor(s) must be listed on the student's plan of study and approved by the School's graduate advisor.

In addition to the course requirements, PhD students must progress through a series of steps leading to the PhD Dissertation, as follows:

DOCTORAL CANDIDACY EXAMINATION

A student admitted into the PhD program is classified as a PhD student. After the successful completion of the Doctoral Candidacy Examination (or 'PhD Candidacy Exam,' as described below), and after satisfying the course credit requirements (45 credits for post-baccalaureate, or 15 credits for post-master's), the classification of the student changes to 'Doctoral Candidate' (DC), or 'PhD Candidate.'

Purpose of the Candidacy Examination

The purpose of the candidacy exam is to test the ability of the student to conduct advanced research, as required to succeed in the PhD program. The Candidacy Examination explores the depth of understanding of the student in areas considered core to his/her specialty area in Biomedical Engineering or Biomedical Science. The student is expected to be familiar with, and be able to use, the contemporary tools and techniques of the field and to demonstrate his or her ability to analyze and critique the principle results and key findings.

Objectives of the Candidacy Examination

The PhD candidacy exam consists of a written report, an oral presentation, and an oral examination. Evaluation of the student’s written report and performance during the oral examination includes testing the student’s ability to survey the relevant literature, identify gaps in knowledge, define a research question, design experiments to answer that question, and discuss the interpretation of results and any potential pitfalls for the first specific aim of his or her thesis only. In addition, the student should be prepared to answer questions that test knowledge that is central to the student’s research discipline.

Composition of the Candidacy Examination Committee

A Candidacy Examination Committee, which will become the student’s Thesis Committee, of at least 5 members will be appointed in consultation with the student's thesis advisor, and is to include: at least 3 faculty members with a primary full-time appointment in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems ('the School') and at least 1 faculty member who is not a member of the School's faculty (preferably from outside of the University). At least 3 of the Committee members must be currently tenured or tenure-track faculty members at Drexel University.

The student's advisor should be a member of the Candidacy Exam Committee, but not its Chair. The Chair shall be a School faculty member, preferably a senior faculty member. All members of the Candidacy Exam Committee must attend the presentation in person or via Skype. Individual examinations on a one-on-one basis are not permitted. If one member of the Committee does not attend and a replacement who satisfies the aforementioned requirements of the Committee cannot be found, then the Candidacy Exam meeting must be rescheduled.

Preparation of the Written Report

The written report consists of one Specific Aims page for the student’s entire thesis (1 page limit) and a research proposal describing the first Specific Aim only. The Specific Aims page should briefly provide the rationale for the entire thesis and list the main goals of each Specific Aim for the entire thesis. These Specific Aims are not set in stone and can be changed prior to the thesis proposal, but it is helpful to be aware of the bigger picture of the entire thesis in order to put Specific Aim 1 in context.  The rest of the document (6 page limit, not including references, at least 10pt font and 0.5” margins) should include the following sections for the first Specific Aim only:

  • Background/ Significance - should include a literature review that critically evaluates previous work in the area, identifies gaps in knowledge, and leads to the formulation of a scientific question that will be addressed by the specific aim.
  • Innovation – briefly highlight the main innovative aspects of the proposed research
  • Experimental design
  • Experimental Methods
  • Expected outcomes and interpretation
  • Anticipated potential pitfalls and alternative approaches

This document must be saved as a .pdf file and emailed to the Committee at least 2 weeks before the scheduled date of the candidacy exam. Reports that do not follow these formatting guidelines or that are not sent to the committee at least 2 weeks before the candidacy exam will NOT be accepted. The Committee will use this document to prepare questions for the candidacy exam. Note that this written report will not be the sole focus of the questions posed during the oral candidacy exam- other questions will include general knowledge pertinent to the student’s field of research.

Other Documents to Send along with the Written Report

Students should submit to the Committee a Drexel unofficial transcript and a resume containing education, publications, and presentations, along with their written report.

Preparation of the Oral Presentation

Students should prepare a presentation that mirrors the content of the written report. This presentation will not be interrupted and will be limited to a maximum of 20 min in order to leave time for questioning. It is recommended that the students include slide numbers on each slide to increase efficiency during questioning.

Preparation for the Oral Exam

Questions posed by the Examiners during the oral examination will focus on the written report as well as content knowledge that is considered central to the student’s discipline. In general, through both the written report and the oral examination, students will be expected to demonstrate:

  • a broad command of existing knowledge that is central to the student’s research discipline;
  • the ability to think critically about research questions in their field;
  • the ability to identify existing gaps in knowledge and how their proposed research fills those gaps;
  • understanding of relevant research methods, including key assumptions and technical considerations such as experimental, analytical, and statistical methods.

Students are advised to review the example candidacy exam questions.

Timeline

The student must complete the Candidacy Exam no earlier than July 1st of his or her first year, and no later than the end of the summer term of the second year. The student must petition the Candidacy Exam Committee for any deviation from the above outlined policies. It is recommended that the student follow the timeline below:

  • 2-3 months before the exam: In consultation with Advisor, form Committee, name the Chair of the committee, and schedule exam date
    • The Advisor should ensure that the Chair is familiar with the responsibilities of the Chair, listed below.
  • At least 8 weeks before the exam: Finalize research ideas with Advisor and begin writing the written report
  • 2-6 weeks before the exam: Meet with the Committee Chair to discuss exam format
  • 2-3 weeks before the exam: Practice oral presentation
  • 2 weeks before the exam: Send written report, transcript, and resume to the Committee

Other Responsibilities of the Student

  1. The student is responsible for arranging a time (Doodle is a suggested tool) during which all Candidacy Exam Committee members must be present (Skype is permissible for those who would otherwise have difficulty attending). However, all Candidacy Exam Committee members must attend the presentation and question session in one way or another.
  2. The student is responsible for scheduling a day, time, and room reservation (see the School of Biomed front desk in the Biomed Office for room reservations, or email Danielle Crocker at dnc23@drexel.edu) for the Candidacy Exam presentation. Allow at least 1.5 hours when booking the room.
  3. The student must submit a D-3 Dissertation Advisory Committee Appointment form (if changes to the Candidacy Exam Committee occur after the Candidacy and prior to the thesis proposal, then an updated D-3 form should be filed).
  4. The student must bring forms D-2 and D-2A (one copy of D-2A for each Candidacy Exam Committee member) to the Candidacy Exam presentation for the Committee members' signatures.

Responsibilities of the Advisor, Examiners, and Chair

Advisor- Advisors are responsible for working with the student to select appropriate members of the Candidacy Exam Committee who are knowledgeable in the general area of research of the student. The Advisor should ensure that the Chair is familiar with the responsibilities of the Chair, listed below.
The Advisor should work with the student to make sure he or she is preparing appropriately for the exam. It is recommended that the Advisor attends a practice presentation by the student and prepares practice oral examination questions.

Examiners- Examiners are responsible for thoroughly reviewing the student’s written report and for preparing questions related to the proposed research of Specific Aim 1 only as well as questions that more test the student’s general knowledge of facts and concepts that are pertinent to the student’s proposed research.

Chair- It is the responsibility of the Chair to ensure a fair and balanced examination while maintaining the high standards of the School. The Chair should ensure that every Examiner has the opportunity to ask questions during the exam, and that the exam remains an examination of the student as opposed to a discussion of the research. In addition, the Chair should meet with the student several weeks before the exam to ensure the student understands how to prepare for the exam. During the exam, the Chair should maintain the order of questioning. Following the exam, the Chair should summarize the recommendations of the Committee and ensure that the student understands them.

Recommended Procedure for the Candidacy Exam

  1. 20min: The student presents their research presentation.
  2. 5min: The audience is given the opportunity to ask questions, and then is dismissed.
  3. 40min: Each Examiner takes approximately 10 minutes to ask questions of the student.
  4. 10-15min: The student is dismissed while the Committee deliberates.
  5. When a consensus decision is reached, the student is asked to return, and the Chair informs the student of the Committee’s decision and summarizes the Committee’s recommendations. These recommendations are included in the D-2 form. Each Committee member will individually complete a D2A form, and copies will be emailed to the student following the Candidacy Exam, with copy to the Committee.

Pass/Fail Criteria

The Candidacy Exam Committee will meet in a closed-door session immediately after the question and answer session and will come to a consensus decision, with 4 possibilities based on the merit of the student's performance. Each Candidacy Exam Committee member will also complete a form (based on the current D-2A form) highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the student's performance, and will specifically address certain criteria, including:

  1. Pass
  2. Conditional pass: At the discretion of the Candidacy Exam Committee, the student may pass the exam contingent on meeting one or more additional conditions. Examples of conditions include (but are not restricted to) taking a course on a particular topic perceived as lacking in the student's background, and receiving a B+ or better, revising the written Candidacy Exam document to the satisfaction of all Candidacy Exam Committee members, or providing a written review of one or more research articles related to a specified topic.
  3. Re-take the Candidacy Exam within a period of 6 months, including submission of an extensively revised preliminary proposal document.
  4. Failure and dismissal from the PhD program, with the option to engage in the master's program, at the discretion of the Candidacy Exam Committee.

ANNUAL REVIEW

All PhD candidates must meet with their Candidacy Committee once a year and complete both form D-3B and the BIOMED Annual Review Form.

Annual Review Protocol

  1. Closed door examination.
  2. The PhD Candidacy Exam Committee members should be present to complete the review and sign the D-3B form, as well as the BIOMED Annual Review Form.
  3. Student-presented PowerPoint presentation on his or her progress since the last review and lasting no more than 20-30 minutes.
  4. Student must be prepared for questions.
  5. Students who have not met with their Committee in the last year or since the proposal should give a comprehensive overview of the project to date. Those who have met yearly should give an update.
  6. These exams will be conducted each year (± one month), starting from the date of becoming a candidate.
  7. It is the student's responsibility to set up a time and place of meeting and to send reminders to the Candidacy Exam Committee members.
  8. At the end of the review meeting, the candidate will be excused and the Committee will conduct a closed-door discussion on the student's progress.
  9. The candidate will be advised of the result after the Committee's discussion and agreement, and will be informed of any action required of him or her for completion before the next annual review meeting.
  10. The completed BIOMED Annual Review Form will become a record of the student's progress.
  11. Any PhD candidate whose performance is constantly rated below average may be asked to take remedial action or to transfer out of the program.

DISSERTATION PROPOSAL

Purpose of the Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal consists of a written proposal of the dissertation research and a presentation to the Dissertation Advisory Committee. The student must be prepared to defend the dissertation hypothesis and methodology. This is intended to ensure the feasibility and appropriateness of the proposed studies and to assess the student's ability to do the work, as demonstrated by the student's depth of knowledge in the selected field and the completion of the preliminary studies. The student will give a public presentation of the proposal followed by an oral examination conducted by the Committee. The proposal defense should take place no later than the end of the student's second year in the program. The proposal document should be modeled after the NIH grant proposal guidelines for R01 grants.

Composition of Dissertation Advisory Committee

The Dissertation Advisory Committee will conform to all of the rules that exist for the PhD Candidacy Committee. A Dissertation Exam Committee of at least 5 members will be appointed in consultation with the student's thesis advisor, and is to include: at least 3 faculty members with a primary full-time appointment in the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems ('the School'), at least 1 faculty member who is not a member of the School's faculty (preferably from outside of the University), and at least 3 members who are be currently tenured or tenure-track faculty members at Drexel University.

The student's advisor should be a member of the Committee, but not its Chair. The Chair shall be a School faculty member. All members of the Committee must attend the presentation in person or via Skype. Individual examinations on a one-on-one basis are not permitted. If one member of the Committee does not attend, an alternate faculty member from the Graduate Curriculum Committee will be found.

Examination Format

The Biomedical Engineering and Biomedical Sciences Dissertation Proposal will consist of:

  1. Formation and approval of a Dissertation Advisory Committee. Form D-3 must be submitted to School's Graduate Advisor at least 1 month prior to the dissertation proposal for approval.
  2. Submission of a written dissertation proposal document (following the NIH proposal guidelines for R01 grants: 12 pages, plus 1 page on specific aims) at least 2 weeks prior to the defense to all Committee members.
  3. An oral presentation that mirrors the written dissertation proposal and a defense that includes open-ended questions by the Examination Committee in a private session. It is recommended that the oral presentation should be approximately 30 minutes in duration. Please note that the defense is not restricted solely to the content of the preliminary proposal document.

Timeline and Deadlines

The student should complete the dissertation proposal within 1 year after successful completion of the Candidacy Examination. A formal request for an extension of this deadline must be approved following a review of the student's progress.

Preparation

The student, in consultation with his or her advisor, will prepare a written document that follows the guidelines modeled after the NIH grant proposal format for R01 grants; this document must be submitted to the Advisory Committee at least 2 weeks before the presentation. The oral presentation will mirror the written document; it is recommended that the oral presentation be approximately 30-40 minutes in duration.

Responsibilities of the Student

  1. The student is responsible for arranging a time (Doodle is a suggested tool) during which all Committee members must be present (Skype is permissible for those who would otherwise have difficulty attending). However, all Committee members must attend the presentation and question session in one way or another.
  2. The student is responsible for scheduling a day, time, and room reservation (see the School of Biomed front desk for room reservations, or email Danielle Crocker at dnc23@drexel.edu) for the Candidacy presentation. Allow time for questioning when booking the room.
  3. The student must submit a D-3 form at least 1 month prior to the dissertation proposal and have it approved by his or her School graduate advisor.
  4. The student's and advisor's full names (and co-advisors' names, where applicable), a title, an abstract of the proposal, along with time, date, and place of the presentation, must be emailed to Steve Detofsky at sbd25@drexel.edu at least 2 weeks prior to the defense so that the presentation can be adequately publicized.
  5. The student must submit the written component of the dissertation proposal document to the entire Committee via email (and with a copy to Natalia Broz at njb33@drexel.edu) at least 2 weeks prior to the scheduled presentation.
  6. The student must bring form D-3A (Dissertation Proposal Form) to the Proposal presentation for the Committee members' signatures.

Pass/Fail Criteria

The Committee will meet in a closed-door session immediately after the question and answer session and will come to a consensus decision, with 3 possibilities based on the merit of the student's performance.

  1. Pass
  2. Repeat the dissertation proposal within a period of 6 months, including submission of an extensively revised dissertation proposal document.
  3. Failure and dismissal from the PhD program, with the option to engage in the master's program, at the discretion of the Committee.

FINAL DEFENSE OF THE DISSERTATION

The written dissertation will be submitted with the research advisor's approval to the Dissertation Advisory Committee, whose members are appointed 4 weeks prior to the oral defense (form D-4). A title and abstract of the dissertation must also be provided to the Biomed Office at least 2 weeks prior to the defense to allow the time and place of the defense to be publicized. The thesis must be made available to all members of the Committee 2 weeks prior to the defense. The defense consists of a public presentation of the dissertation research followed by an examination by the Committee (form D-5). All members of the Committee are required to attend the final defense.

PLEASE NOTE: STUDENTS MUST PETITION THE GRADUATE CURRICULUM COMMITTEE FOR ANY DEVIATION FROM THE ABOVE OUTLINED POLICIES.Advisor- Advisors are responsible for working with the student to select appropriate members of the Candidacy Exam Committee who are knowledgeable in the general area of research of the student. The Advisor should ensure that the Chair is familiar with the responsibilities of the Chair, listed below.
The Advisor should work with the student to make sure he or she is preparing appropriately for the exam. It is recommended that the Advisor attends a practice presentation by the student and prepares practice oral examination questions.