Welcome! The Department of Biological Sciences offers three PhD Programs: 1) Cell and Molecular Biology, 2) Integrative Biology and Neuroscience and 3) Biochemistry. The following pages will briefly summarize a Graduate student’s academic career, which is composed of two main phases: Pre-Candidacy and Candidacy.
The Pre-Candidacy Phase includes Course Work, Lab Rotations and Teaching or Research Assistantships. Throughout this phase, the student meets periodically with the Graduate Committee. The student is admitted into Candidacy upon the successful completion of Course Work, Qualifying Exams and Dissertation Proposal Defense. Each of these topics is discussed below.
The Pre-Candidacy graduate student will take a number of required Core Courses as well as a set of Elective Courses. In some cases, the Graduate Committee may allow substitutions or waive core course requirements if the student has taken equivalent course(s) at the undergraduate or graduate level (a proficiency exam may be required). Formal course work is to be completed by the end of the third semester of graduate study (fourth semester for Integrative Biology and Neuroscience students).
Graduate students are strongly encouraged to rotate among different labs during the Pre-Candidacy Phase. Rotations provide 1) first-hand laboratory experience, 2) training in lab-specific techniques and 3) one-on-one interactions with faculty. After a maximum of three lab rotations, the graduate student will make a final decision, with the approval of the Major Advisor, regarding in which lab s/he will pursue his/her dissertation research.
Teaching or Research Assistantships
Graduate students are supported during the year with either a teaching assistantship or a research assistantship. The teaching assistantships are provided by the department and usually provide up to 9 credits of tuition per semester as well. The teaching assistantship requires no more than 20 hours per week assisting the department’s professors in one (or more) or the department’s undergraduate classes. Research Assistantships may be provided by the department, the college or the Major Advisor. Students supported by a research assistantship are expected to spend at least 20 hours per week on the research designated by the support. Those students in receipt of a research assistantship will also receive up to 9 credits of tuition per semester.
The faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to providing a competitive 12-month stipend for up to five years for all graduate students in good standing. Good standing includes satisfactory performance in required coursework, passing of qualifier examinations, and distribution and defense of a proposal of the doctoral thesis resulting in timely admission to candidacy. After five years, students may request continued support by submitting a written request to the Graduate Committee.
The Departmental Graduate Committee includes faculty selected from all programs within the Department of Biological Sciences. This committee will advise the student throughout his/her Pre-Candidacy phase – including the monitoring of progress through lab rotations and selection of appropriate course work. Pre-Candidacy graduate students meet at least on a once per semester basis with the Graduate Committee.
The Qualifying Examination will be taken at the end of the third semester of graduate study (end of fourth semester for Integrative Biology and Neuroscience students). This examination will consist of a two-day written examination followed separately by an oral examination. Faculty will evaluate both written and oral exams. Passing the written exam is required to progress to the oral exam. If a student fails his/her first attempt at either portion of the exam, s/he will be provided one opportunity to re-take the exam at the next opportunity.
Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation Committee
In consultation with the Major Advisor, the graduate student will select a Dissertation Committee before the end of the fifth semester of graduate study. The four-member Dissertation Committee includes three departmental faculty (including the Major Advisor) and one doctoral level scientist from outside of the department. Through research efforts, mastery of the literature and with input from the Major Advisor, the student will prepare a written Dissertation Proposal. This document will be presented to the Dissertation Committee no less than two weeks prior to an oral defense in front of the Dissertation Committee. The defense of the Dissertation Proposal will take place no more than one year after successful completion of the Qualifying Examination.
The Proposal defense includes a General Examination in which the student’s adequate understanding of the science related to his or her field of study will be assessed. Upon successful defense of the Dissertation Proposal and satisfactory performance in the General Examination, the following two forms must be signed by all members of the Dissertation Committee and submitted to the Graduate Programs Office of the College of Arts and Sciences:
- Proposal Title Page
- “Report on the General Doctoral Examination”
In summary, the successful completion of coursework, written and oral qualifying exams and defense of a Dissertation Proposal/General Examination are requirements for Admission to Candidacy. By University regulations, Admission to Candidacy requires 72 credits beyond the Bachelor’s degree or 48 credits beyond the Master’s degree. At least 24 of the credits must be in course work.
II. DOCTORAL DEGREE CANDIDACY:
Candidacy is the second and final stage of the graduate experience. In this phase, the Doctoral Candidate engages primarily in research activities with the goal of publishing new and novel results. Throughout this phase, the student meets regularly with a Dissertation Committee chosen by the student in consultation with the student’s Major Advisor. Candidacy is typified by research publications, attendance and participation in both research conferences and departmental colloquia. This phase culminates in the generation and defense of a PhD Dissertation.
The major advisor is the professor in the department with whom the student designs and executes the project that will comprise his/her dissertation. The work is usually done in the major advisor’s laboratory, but, in some cases, work may be done in a lab outside of Lehigh University. The major advisor works in concert with the dissertation committee to guide the student’s project, but bears the greatest responsibility for overseeing the student’s progress.
The Dissertation Committee is chosen within the fifth semester of graduate study and assesses the Dissertation Proposal Presentation. The Dissertation Committee offers guidance to the Candidate and ultimately assesses the Dissertation Defense. Each Candidate will hold regular yearly Dissertation Committee meetings to discuss progress, problems, changes to the research plan, etc. Please click here to access the Progress Report form which must be completed and submitted annually.
Near the end of his/her academic tenure, the Doctoral Degree Candidate will generate a PhD Dissertation and then defend the findings contained within this document in both a public oral presentation and a private examination by the Dissertation Committee.
The requirements for the written Dissertation, the timetable for the submission of both a draft of this document and the final version of the Dissertation are established by College and University Regulations.