PhD Program Requirements
1. Course Requirements –
All PhD and MD/PhD students will be expected to fulfill the following requirements for the PhD degree:
A. Core Curriculum – According to MTA requirements
B. Laboratory Rotation – At least two rotations (except for transfer/ advanced students) must be completed. See detailed description below
C. Introduction to Journal Club – Two semesters of Introductory Journal Club are required
D. RCR: Responsible Conduct in Research – Fall semester, first year (except MD/PhD students who take the course during their first year in their PhD phase)
E. Biostatistics – Fall semester, first year (except MD/PhD students who take the course during their first year in their PhD phase)
F. Advanced Coursework – Advanced coursework is required as defined by each MTA. See section below for general MTA requirements, including a description of the individual course requirements, typical MTA requirements, and criteria for advancement to candidacy. There is also a section below listing Program Milestones that details the criteria for satisfactory completing of the program. Students should also refer to the section of Chapter 1 entitled Satisfactory Academic Progress.
G. Transfer Credits – Students who have successfully completed relevant graduate courses elsewhere will be granted exemption and/or graded credits at the discretion of the Dean, in consultation with the course and MTA Directors. See Academic Policies and the Registrar’s Office in Chapter 1 of the Handbook for details of this policy.
2. Milestones –
3. Graduation Requirements –
4. Advising –
Entering students are assigned a graduate faculty advisor who will handle student questions about courses, rotations or problems that surface throughout the first year. This faculty advisor is generally from the first choice MTA on the student’s application to the Graduate Program. In cases where the student is unsure about their choice of MTA, a second advisor from another MTA may be assigned. Once a student selects a dissertation advisor and a Multidisciplinary Training Area, with the help of the dissertation advisor, he/she selects an Advisory Committee, which is comprised by two expert faculty in the field of study and one faculty who is not an expert in the student’s field of study and is from another department. These three Advisory Committee members must be members of the GSBS Training Faculty. You may include additional members from outside of ISMMS. It is important to note that you can modify the membership of the committee as your project evolves.
This Advisory Committee should meet once per semester. Students are encouraged to provide a project summary of progress (in bullet-point style is generally sufficient) prior to each meeting. This often make the meeting more efficient for everyone. In an effort to streamline the processes even further, it is also suggested that students combine Advisory Committee meetings with a WIP or other formal presentation of their work.
Students and faculty are urged to understand that the advisory system is their strongest ally in identifying and helping to resolve problems, in maintaining a realistic set of expectations for progress, and as a source of extra ideas and new approaches. Students should take the initiative in scheduling meetings. Timely meetings are imperative.
Students should recognize that their thesis advisor is usually their most important mentor; someone who can advise the student on research directions and may also provide career guidance. It is expected that thesis advisors provide opportunities for the student to develop independence, encourage the student to participate in collaborations, presentations, departmental seminars, introduce the student to colleagues, help the student to learn about writing and submitting manuscripts for publication, help the student to identify and work with their strengths and weaknesses and be committed to help the student make the next move in their career development. However, other faculty who take particular interest in the student’s growth and development as scientists may often also serve as important mentors. Students are encouraged to develop relationships with those faculty whom they feel can provide significant research, career, and personal guidance.
Formal progress reports must be filed twice annually with the Graduate School Office. To meet this requirement, students are expected to meet each semester with the full Advisory Committee. All students will receive Progress Forms twice each year according to the schedule indicated on the Calendar. The student should review the Progress Form and correct/update as necessary. The Advisory Committee must use the last page of the Progress Form to evaluate the student’s progress, clearly identify strengths and weaknesses and indicate plans for development. All members of the Advisory Committee should then sign and date the Progress Form. It should then be returned to the Graduate School Office by the set deadline. Note that Progress Forms are due four weeks after distribution.
When a student fails to demonstrate satisfactory academic progress, the Program Director may mandate more frequent advisory committee meetings.
When a dissertation advisor thinks his/her student is nearing a point of completion, the Advisory Committee should meet with the student and advisor to assess the students readiness to write a dissertation. This meeting should take place approximately 6 months before the anticipated dissertation defense. Students should update their list of publications and manuscripts in press on the Progress Report form before this meeting. At this meeting, the Advisory Committee will certify that the student is ready to write his/her dissertation and to schedule a defense date. This approval should be given and a date set only if the student has at a minimum achieved the following:
- met all of the required program milestones,
- completed all coursework and met the academic standards of the Graduate School,
- mastery of the literature, conceptual skills, analytical skills, writing and presentation skills, experimental skills, record keeping skills and work ethic meets doctoral-level standards,
- intellectual contributions as a lead author, or equivalent, to at least one manuscript, published, in review, or ready for submission in a peer-reviewed journal. An exception to this requirement will require the unanimous approval by the Advisory Committee.
When these criteria have been met, the student will be given a green light to enter the dissertation writing phase.
5. Selecting a Research Mentor –
The choice of a dissertation advisor and MTA is a major focus of the first year of the Program. The year culminates with the student being accepted into the laboratory of a Graduate Faculty member for pursuit of the dissertation work. Together with that faculty member, the student decides on the MTA in which the advanced coursework, seminars and journal clubs, will be completed. Students are urged to take full advantage of their rotation experience during the first year. Faculty mentors of rotation students are urged to present a realistic picture of the tone of the laboratory, the nature of the ongoing projects, how work is assigned or monitored, and any general history or policies with respect to meetings, publications/authorship, weekly journal clubs and laboratory meetings, and direct contact to be expected with the laboratory leader. A choice of dissertation advisor is usually, but not always, consonant with the MTA choice.
Following the end of the second semester in the Program, each PhD student should complete the Declaration Form. MD/PhD students complete this form following the fourth semester in the Program. At this time, the student must also select a three-member Advisory Committee whose members will be most helpful in the dissertation project. Advisory Committee members must be members of the Graduate Faculty. Two Advisory Committee members are experts in the area of the student’s research; a third member must be from a related field but need not be expert in the student’s area of research. MD/PhD students are encouraged to add a clinical/translational (C/T) investigator, who need not be a member of the Graduate Faculty, to their Advisory Committee to provide feedback about the C/T impact of their research. This Form should be submitted to the Graduate School Office with all the required signatures as soon as possible, but no later than June 30.
One indication of satisfactory progress in the Program is the demonstration of the potential for research and the timely selection of a mentor and MTA. PhD students are expected to declare a dissertation advisor and MTA no later than 12 months after matriculation. MD/PhD students are expected to declare by the end of the second year in the Program.
The choice of a dissertation advisor by the student and the acceptance of that student by the future dissertation advisor should be considered a commitment on the part of both parties that the student will remain with the chosen dissertation advisor until the thesis is completed. If a student is contemplating a change in dissertation advisor or MTA, or, if the dissertation advisor is unsatisfied with the academic progress of the student, mediation should be sought to remedy this situation by first meeting with the MTA Director and the student’s Advisory Committee. If necessary, the Dean of the Graduate School may also meet with the student and their dissertation advisor. Movement between MTAs is permitted if the student is certified, in writing by the MTA Director(s), to be in good academic standing by the original MTA and is accepted, in writing, by the proposed MTA. Students who are contemplating a change must discuss this fully with the current dissertation advisor. These changes invariably involve some loss of time and dislocation to both student and dissertation advisor and possibly extra coursework. Careful guidance by the student’s Advisory Committee will reduce the number of such changes and will increase the likelihood that those changes that do occur are productive. The student should also complete and submit a Change Form to the Graduate School Office.
Following are guidelines applicable only to students whose dissertation advisor relocates to another institution:
Students who have successfully completed their thesis proposal with a given dissertation advisor, who subsequently relocates to another institution, will be permitted to pursue their graduate research off-site at their mentor’s new institution.
If the student has passed his/her thesis proposal exam, the student may wish to leave ISMMS to join his/her dissertation advisor at the new institution to continue his/her thesis research project. Under these circumstances, the student will continue to be a ISMMS matriculated student and will continue to receive student benefits (access to library, housing, health insurance). Any publications resulting from the student’s research that was performed at ISMMS, before the student left the institution, should list ISMMS as the institutional affiliation of the student.
6. Vacation Policy –
The vacation policy for PhD students in Biomedical Sciences or Neuroscience is clearly stated in Academic Policies section of Chapter 1. Please refer to that section for the complete policy. In brief, PhD students in Biomedical Sciences or Neuroscience receive two weeks of paid vacation each year. Time spent studying for courses, preparing for examinations, etc. is not considered vacation time.