The most important aspect of the PhD program is the dissertation research. From the second to the fifth year of the program, the students devote the bulk of their time to original research and to the preparation of the doctoral thesis.
Identification of the Mentor & Research Area
Mentors are typically chosen at the beginning of the second year, but no later than the middle of the second year. Once a thesis mentor is identified, research toward the thesis begins. In the second year and thereafter, the student is engaged in full-time laboratory research in the mentor’s laboratory. If a fellowship grant is not obtained, students are supported by the mentor’s funding from third year onward.
Thesis Advisory Committee
This is formed in the second year and includes at least three faculty members from Pharmacology & Physiology with expertise in areas relevant to the student’s research and an established scientist from outside the Program. The thesis mentor is not part of the Thesis Advisory Committee, but attends the meetings and helps the student. The student’s committee members must be approved by the Program Director. After approval, the members of the thesis committee designate a chair of the committee who helps the student facilitate the meeting. The student meets with his/her Advisory Committee at least once a year to discuss and evaluate research progress. The meetings should take place immediately following the annual Seminar talk by the student. The student should download and print the thesis committee report form and bring it to the annual meeting. The chair of the committee should fill out and turn in the thesis committee report form.
A thesis proposal is prepared no later than the third year. The proposal defines an original and significant research problem, assesses the research literature critically, suggests feasible experimental approaches to the problem and presents any available preliminary data in support of the approach. The thesis proposal should be presented to the thesis advisory committee at the annual meeting in the spring of either the second or third year, typically coinciding with the Seminar talk in the spring. A form for the thesis proposal, signed by the thesis committee, needs to be turned into the Graduate School. Thereafter, the student meets with his/her Advisory Committee at least once a year to discuss and evaluate research progress and modify the initial proposal if required. It is highly recommended that meetings are held just after the student’s annual Seminar. These meetings are an opportunity to present data and get feedback from the committee with regard to the direction and progress of the project. The student is encouraged to prepare an agenda and a short handout. The only role of the committee chair is to aid the student in efficiently running the meeting.