VII. PROGRESS REQUIREMENTS

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Curriculum Certification (Year 1) [Top]

After joining a lab, you are required to form a Certification Committee. This committee will help guide you through the process of earning the PhD Degree.  The Certification Committee consists of at least five members, including your Advisor. At least three members must be trainers in the Cancer Biology Graduate Program (http://cancerbiology.wisc.edu/faculty/faculty.html) and at least one member must be from outside your Advisor’s department. If you opt to complete an Option A minor, one member of the committee must also represent the minor department. Submit the “Certification Committee Approval” Form with the names of your committee members by May 31 of your first year.

Once a Certification Committee is established, you must hold your first committee meeting by August 31 of your first year. The goal of this meeting is to discuss appropriate coursework and briefly introduce your research project/direction to the committee. At least three committee members, including the Advisor, must attend. If necessary, you should meet individually with committee members who could not attend after the meeting. Students who do not meet with their committees in a timely fashion may be prevented from registering for the next semester.

Steps to Complete:

  • Schedule committee meeting and reserve room location and designated meeting chair (cannot be Advisor) by August 31.
    • Notify Coordinator of the scheduled date.
  • Distribute the project summary and first portion of committee form to committee members at least one week prior to the meeting.
  • Bring a copy of the committee form to the meeting.
  • Certification Committee establishes the Chair of the meeting (cannot be Advisor).
  • Committee holds an executive session and designated chair prepares a written evaluation.
  • Obtain signatures on the committee form and submit to the Program Coordinator.
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Prelim Exam (Year 2) [Top]

The Preliminary Examination consists of a written research proposal and oral defense of that written proposal. The proposal is based on your proposed dissertation research and is evaluated by your Certification Committee. The purpose of this examination is to evaluate whether you have mapped out a sound approach to an important and answerable question and to assist with the planning of your project. The prelim is based on your original work; however you are encouraged to consult with your Advisor and other colleagues during the planning and writing of the research proposal. You should complete your Prelim Exam by the end of your second year (August 31). In special circumstances, a one-semester extension will be granted when justified in writing by the student and Advisor.

Steps to Complete:

  • Schedule Prelim Exam meeting and reserve room location and designated meeting chair (All committee members must be present).
    • Notify Coordinator of the scheduled date at least three weeks in advance, to allow enough time to request warrant from the Graduate School.
  • Have written proposal draft(s) reviewed by Advisor. Once proposal is approved by the Advisor, distribute first portion of Prelim Exam Form and proposal to committee members at least 10 days before exam.
  • Bring a copy of the Prelim Exam Form to the meeting.
  • Give a 20-minute oral presentation describing the research proposal and respond to questions from the Certification Committee which correspond to the proposal itself and any related material (Advisor must not contribute to the student's responses unless specifically asked to by the other members of the Committee).  
  • Committee holds an executive session and the designated chair prepares a written evaluation.
  • Obtain signatures on the prelim form, warrant and minor approval form (if applicable) and submit to the Program Coordinator.

Students who successfully complete the Preliminary Examination will achieve dissertator status and continue their work toward the PhD degree. Students who receive a "conditional" pass on the Preliminary Examination must address deficiencies or revisions as requested by his/her Committee prior to continuing work toward the PhD degree.  Students who do not pass the Preliminary Examination will be required to repeat the exam or will be granted a Non-Thesis Master's Degree based on the successful completion of required coursework.

Format for the Preliminary Examination:

The length of the written proposal should not exceed 20 pages, double-spaced (Arial, 12-point, 1-inch margins), excluding title page and literature cited.  Number the pages consecutively beginning with the title page.  Adherence to this format will be considered in the final evaluation.

  • Title Page (not included in page limit). Descriptive title of proposal.  Your name.  Date, time, and location of the oral defense.  Names of all committee members.
  • Abstract (less than one page).  Summarize the research proposed clearly describing the objectives.
  • Specific Aims (less than one page).  State the broad, long-term objectives and describe concisely and realistically what the specific research is intended to accomplish and any hypotheses to be tested.
  • Background and Significance (2-3 pages).  Briefly sketch the background to the proposal, critically evaluate the existing knowledge, and specifically identify the gaps the project is intended to fill.  Concisely relate the specific aims to the broad, long-term objectives.
  • Preliminary Studies.  Use this section to provide an account of preliminary studies by you (and/or the members of your laboratory with proper credit) pertinent to this application and/or any other information that will help to establish the experience and competence of the student to pursue the proposed project.
  • Experimental Design and Methods.  Outline the experimental design and the procedures to be used to accomplish the specific aims of the project.  Include the means by which the data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted.  Describe any new methodology and its advantages over existing methodologies. Discuss potential difficulties and limitations of the proposed procedures and alternative approaches to achieve the aims.  Provide a tentative timetable for the investigation.
  • Figures and Tables.  Figures and tables (with legends) critical to the proposal must be included within the 20-page limit.  The student will have the opportunity to present additional figures during the oral presentation. 
  • Literature Cited (not included in the page limit). Each citation must include the names of all the authors, title, book or journal, volume number, page numbers, and year of publication.  Make every effort to be judicious in compiling a relevant and current list of literature citations.
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Annual Committee Meetings (Years 3+) [Top]

You are required to conduct a yearly committee meeting with your Certification Committee after passing the Preliminary Exam. This meeting ensures that you are making satisfactory research progress toward the PhD Degree. Committee meetings must be scheduled and completed by August 31 of each year. At least three committee members, including the Advisor, must attend. If necessary, you should meet individually with committee members who could not attend after the meeting. Students who do not meet with their committees in a timely fashion may be prevented from registering for the next semester.

Steps to Complete:

  • Schedule committee meeting and reserve room location and designate the meeting chair (cannot be advisor) by August 31.
    • Notify Coordinator of the scheduled date.
  • Distribute project summary and first portion of committee form to committee members at least one week prior to meeting.
  • Bring a copy of the committee form to meeting.
  • Certification Committee establishes the Chair of the meeting (cannot be Advisor).
  • Present prepared presentation of research progress and accomplishments over the past year.
  • Committee holds an executive session and designated chair prepares a written evaluation.
  • Obtain signatures on the committee form and submit to the Program Coordinator.
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Semifinal Report [Top]

Approximately 6 months before the anticipated completion of the dissertation, you must present a research report on the proposed dissertation to the members of your Certification Committee.  The goals of this "6-month" meeting are to inform the committee of the proposed content of your dissertation in detail and to seek the committee's approval for that proposed content.  At least 10 days prior to this meeting, you must distribute a proposed outline of the dissertation (which has already been reviewed and approved by the Advisor) to your Committee members.  It is essential that this outline of the dissertation be sufficiently detailed so that the committee can evaluate the questions addressed, the exact experiments used to address the questions, and any other information needed.  Upon approval by the Certification Committee, a committee form should be completed and signed by the Certification Committee and returned to the Program Coordinator. 

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Dissertation Defense (Final Year) [Top]

The Dissertation Defense is a formal, oral presentation based on your original, independent research. Following the seminar presentation is a closed meeting with your Certification Committee. Per Graduate School policy, the Dissertation Defense must be completed within five years after completion of the Preliminary Exam. The dissertation must be formatted according to the guidelines of the Graduate School. Instructions for preparing and depositing your dissertation can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/despositdissertation.

Steps to Complete:

  • Schedule Dissertation Defense and reserve room locations (All committee members must be present).
    • Notify Coordinator of the scheduled date at least four weeks in advance, to allow enough time to request warrant from the Graduate School.
  • Distribute copy of dissertation to Certification Committee members at least 10 days before the date of exam. Students should be prepared to provide hard copies or electronic copies, as preferred by individual committee members.
  • Present public seminar and then defend and answer questions posed by Certification Committee in closed meeting.
  • Obtain signatures on the warrant (you will bring your warrant with you to your final review at the Graduate School).
  • After you pass your oral defense, you can schedule your final review appointment at the Grad School. Times fill up quickly toward the end of the semester, so it is helpful to call ahead of time.
  • Deposit your dissertation electronically. Detailed instructions can be found in Step 3 of: http://tinyurl.com/despositdissertation. All corrections and revisions must be made before depositing; you are not allowed to make changes after submission. You should deposit your dissertation at least one day before your final review appointment.      
  • Attend your scheduled final review appointment at the Grad School. Detailed instructions can be found in Step 4 of: http://tinyurl.com/despositdissertation. You will need to bring the following to your final review appointment:
    • Warrant
    • Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) certificate of completion
    • Graduate School’s Doctoral Exit Survey (DES) certificate of completion
  • Submit the following materials to the Program Coordinator:
    • Copy of the signed warrant
    • Address Information Form
    • 4 printed copies of your dissertation which will be bound for you; one copy for your Advisor, one copy for McArdle, and 2 copies for you (Please note that ordering additional copies from ProQuest is separate from these copies. You will be responsible for paying for any additional copies ordered through ProQuest).

Diploma

Degrees are posted on official transcripts approximately 4-6 weeks after the end of the semester and diplomas are sent approximately four months after the end of the semester in which you graduate.  Be sure to update your address in MyUW, so that the diploma is sent to the correct address. 

You can request a “Certification of Degree” letter from the Registrar’s office (https://registrar.wisc.edu/degree_certification_letters_acad_rec.htm) indicating that you have fulfilled all of the degree requirements after you have deposited your dissertation and paid the necessary fees (this letter is often required if a student is applying for a postdoc position immediately after graduation). To request this letter, email certs@em.wisc.edu