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Subsequent Years


After the first year, students focus on laboratory research.  In the second year, students defend their doctoral thesis research proposal.  Advanced instruction continues with the annual Topics in Biology courses and elective postgraduate courses.  Students are awarded the Ph.D. degree after successful completion of their dissertation and defense of their thesis research.

Thesis Proposal and the Thesis Advisory Committee
In January of the second year, students defend a written doctoral thesis research proposal. The proposal includes a clear outline of goals and specific aims and describes the broader scientific context and debate surrounding the proposed research. After successful oral defense of the research proposal, a thesis advisory committee consisting of the research mentor, academic mentor, and the thesis research proposal examining committee is constituted to guide the student with his or her doctoral research.

Dissertation Preparation and Defense
With the approval of the thesis advisory committee, each student prepares a written thesis on his or her original research. To defend the thesis, students present a public seminar and are subsequently examined by the thesis committee and an additional examiner external to the Laboratory. A satisfactory defense and fulfillment of all curricular requirements results in the granting of the Ph.D. degree. The Watson School of Biological Sciences graduate program is designed so that students can complete their doctoral studies in approximately four years. If, at four years, a student and thesis committee agree that more than four and  a half years are required to complete the doctoral program, the student and thesis committee may petition for an extension.