Graduate academic advisors are members of the Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular
and Developmental Biology (BMCDB) Graduate Group faculty whose role is to advise
students about all aspects of their graduate education. This includes selection
of labs for rotations, selection of a major professor, selection of courses, preparation
for the qualifying exam and annual reviews of progress. The academic advisor is
the person to whom a student turns should there be a problem with a major professor.
Students meet with advisors upon entering BMCDB, quarterly for advice during the
first year, and at least once a year to review progress and complete reports to
All students admitted to the BMCDB Graduate Program from other institutions are
required to take a Qualifying Examination. While course waivers of required courses
may be granted by academic advisors, all transfer students must demonstrate proficiency
in general subject matter equivalent to BMCDB students already enrolled at UCD.
Choice of a dissertation advisor:
Selection of the dissertation advisor (major professor) is normally accomplished
by the end of the winter quarter, first year. The chair of BMCDB sends a letter
to each first year student requesting that the student find a major professor with
whom the student wishes to work and who is willing to take the student into the
laboratory and to provide the necessary financial support. Students submit their
requests to the BMCDB Student Affairs Committee, which approves and makes final
assignments. Satisfactory progress in the BMCDB program is dependent upon assignment
of a dissertation advisor by the end of spring quarter in the first year.
A Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (BMB&CDB) student must
pass an oral qualifying examination before being advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D.
To be eligible for the exam, the student must have completed all BMCDB course requirements,
must have removed any deficiencies on the transcript, and must have at least a B average in
all work undertaken while in graduate standing. The student must be registered during the
quarter in which the qualifying exam is taken.
The purposes of the qualifying examination are two-fold: 1) to determine that the student
has acquired sufficient knowledge, in breadth and depth, of biochemistry, molecular biology
and related areas and 2) to determine that the student has identified a dissertation research
topic that asks a significant question in biochemistry and molecular biology. The latter includes
demonstration that the student has completed a literature review of that topic, has identified a set
of achievable goals and has designed appropriate experimental approaches to accomplish those goals.
The dissertation research part of the exam is meant to be a proposal, not a research progress report.
Finally, the student's previous academic record, performance on specific parts of the examination, and
overall performance/potential for scholarly research will be evaluated in determining the outcome of the examination.
Qualifying examination committees will consist of five faculty members who are recommended to Graduate Studies
by the BMCDB Student Affairs Committee in the Winter quarter of the student's second year.
The BMCDB Student Affairs Committee will select three members of the committee with solicited input
from the major advisor and student, who will be asked to recommend names of members - ideally two of
these faculty members will also serve on the student's dissertation committee. The remaining two faculty
members will be selected to ensure coverage of the core areas of BMCDB (i.e., Biochemistry, Molecular Biology,
Cellular Biology and Developmental Biology). Qualifying examination committees are submitted to Graduate Studies
and appointed in accordance with the Academic Senate regulations. The chair of the qualifying examination committee
is expected to ensure that the student receives a fair examination. Qualifying Examination Committees may not
include the major professor who will serve as chair of the student's dissertation committee. The area of the
student's dissertation research will be considered so that at least one individual with expertise in this
area is a member of the qualifying examination committee.
Students will be informed of the prospective composition of the qualifying examination committee
(i.e. the recommendations of the Student Affairs Committee), and will be asked to confer with their
major professor to inform their graduate advisor of any concerns with the committee composition. With
this input taken into account, the advisors formally recommend to Graduate Studies the composition of the
qualifying examination. Committees will be submitted to Graduate Studies and appointed in accordance with
the Academic Senate regulations. Copies of the approved petition are sent to the student, the chair of the
examining committee, and the BMCDB Program Liaison. Students must notify all members of their examination
committee that they have been appointed. This is important - for example, if a faculty member will be on sabbatical
and unable to serve, the exam committee must be reconstituted through the BMCDB Student Affairs Committee and Graduate Studies.
Scheduling the qualifying examination. All Ph.D. candidates are expected to take their Qualifying Examination
in their sixth quarter following admission into the program (i.e., the Spring Quarter of the second year), unless a prior waiver
is approved in writing by the BMCDB Student Affairs Committee.
Format of the Qualifying Examination. The qualifying examination
will consist of a dissertation research proposal and an examination in the core
subject area(s) identified by the core course instructors recommendations to the
Student Affairs Committee. Candidates will be expected to submit a written dissertation
proposal to their committee at least one week prior to the oral examination (see
below). The qualifying examination will be administered on a chalk/white board only.
The exam should last no longer than 3 hours.
The Dissertation Proposal. The goal of the dissertation research
proposal is to provide a substantial and original contribution to the fields of
biochemistry and molecular biology. The scope should be similar to that of a grant
proposal. Written versions of the dissertation research proposal are to be prepared
by the student and distributed to the committee at least one week prior to the examination.
The format is that of an NIH postdoctoral fellowship proposal. Organize sections
1-5 of the research proposal to answer these questions: (1) Specific aims. What
do you intend to do? (2) Background and significance. Why is the work important?
(3) Preliminary studies. What have you already done? (4) Research design and methods.
How are you going to do the work? (5) References. DO NOT EXCEED 5 PAGES FOR SECTIONS
1-4. The following distribution for length is recommended:
- Specific aims. State briefly the broad, long-term objectives of the work. Then state
the specific purposes of the proposed research. One-half page is recommended.
- Background and significance. Briefly sketch the background to the proposal. Critically
evaluate existing knowledge, and identify the gaps that the project is intended
to fill. State concisely the importance of the proposed research by relating the
specific aims to the broad, long-term objectives. One page is recommended.
- Preliminary studies - dissertation research only. Describe the work you have already
accomplished that is relevant to the proposal. A maximum of one page is recommended.
- Research design and methods. Outline the experimental design and the procedures
to be used to accomplish the specific aims. Include the means by which data will
be collected, analyzed and interpreted. Describe any new methodology and its advantage
over existing methodologies. Discuss the potential difficulties and limitations
of the proposed procedures along with alternative approaches to achieve the aims.
Provide a tentative sequence for the investigation. Although no specific number
of pages is recommended for this section, the total for sections 1-4 should not
exceed 5 pages.
- References. Each citation must include the names of all authors, title of the article,
name of the book or journal, volume number, page numbers and year of publication.
BMCDB students may meet with each committee member to discuss his or her expectations
for the examination. This meeting should not be not a pre-examination of the research
proposals. Students should not ask for, nor should the committee members provide,
comments on weaknesses, potential problems and errors in the research proposals.
Qualifying Examination Evaluations. There are three possible outcomes
of the examinations - pass, not pass, and fail. Pass advances the student to candidacy
for the Ph.D. Fail means that the student is disqualified. Not pass means that the
student is required to retake all or part of the examination OR to satisfy another
requirement. If requested, the second examination is to be scheduled at the earliest
possible date and will be administered by the same committee. Satisfactory completion
of this examination (or completion of the new requirement) will result in Advancement
to Candidacy. Failure will result in disqualification. Note: To officially advance
to candidacy, a fee must be paid to the Cashiers Office and the fully endorsed Advanced
to Candidacy Petition can then be submitted to Graduate Studies.
Advancement to candidacy:
After the qualifying exam is passed, a student must file an application for advancement
to candidacy for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The chair of a student's qualifying
examination committee is sent the application form for advancement to candidacy.
When the student has passed the examination, the chair signs and dates the form.
The student then identifies a dissertation committee, provides a dissertation title,
obtains signatures of the major professor and graduate advisor, pays a fee, and
files the form with Graduate Studies. Graduate Studies requires that students must
be advanced to candidacy by the tenth quarter of academic enrollment to be eligible
for continued appointment as a graduate student researcher or teaching assistant.
Upon advancement to candidacy, a committee of three faculty members is submitted
to Graduate Studies and appointed in accordance with Academic Senate regulations
to direct the student in the dissertation research and to approve the dissertation.
The chair of the dissertation committee, the student's major professor, must be
a member of the BMCDB Graduate Group.
The other two members need not be members of the BMCDB Graduate Group. Members of
the graduate program faculty are recommended by the Graduate Advisor to serve on
advanced degree committees for students in BMCDB. If proposed members of the dissertation
committee are not members of the BMCDB Graduate Group, their service must be approved
by the BMCDB Student Affairs Committee.
Under certain circumstances, it is possible to suggest a committee member from outside
the University of California who has special expertise and qualifications. The Graduate
Advisor must submit a brief statement indicating the appointee's affiliation and
title, degrees held, and describing the special expertise that cannot be duplicated
on the campus. A curriculum vitae and letter from the nominated person indicating
willingness to serve must also be submitted.
Yearly meetings of the student and dissertation committee are required. A written
report must be filed with the BMCDB staff person after each meeting; it includes
the appended form and a 2-3 page progress report.
Annual progress reports:
Graduate advisors must file an annual report with Graduate Studies on each graduate
student's progress towards a degree. A report indicating that a student's progress
is satisfactory informs the student of the remaining steps necessary to attain the
degree. A BMCDB checklist of progress towards the Ph.D. is filled out in parallel.
BMCDB requires that the student be making satisfactory progress toward the degree
for continuation of financial support.
A student's progress is unsatisfactory, Graduate Studies places the student on academic
probation. The BMCDB Student Affairs Committee reviews a situation in which a student
is not making satisfactory progress and decides upon a course of action. The Dean
of Graduate Studies and the BMCDB Student Affairs Committee send the student a notice
delineating the work that must be completed to obtain a satisfactory evaluation
and a time limit in which to complete the work. If the student fails to meet these
requirements, the student is subject to disqualification.
To keep track of students' progress, the BMCDB staff person keeps a computer database
of information. This includes the student's name, year in BMCDB, laboratory, telephone
number, email address, major professor, qualifying examination members, date and
result of qualifying exam and dissertation committee members. Periodic updates are
provided to advisors. Major professors may obtain information upon request.
The research conducted by the student must be of such character as to show ability
to pursue independent research. The dissertation reports a scholarly piece of work
of publishable quality that solves a significant scientific problem. It must be
approved and signed by the dissertation committee before it is submitted to Graduate
Studies for final approval of formatting. A copy of the signed title page must be
sent to the Graduate Group Staff person.
The dissertation must be submitted to each member of the dissertation committee
at least one month before the student expects it to be signed. Keeping the committee
informed of progress as research proceeds helps committee members to read it in
a timely fashion.
Each student must present a seminar on the dissertation research before the dissertation
is signed and filed with Graduate Studies. The seminar is arranged through the major
professor and advertised by the BMCDB Graduate Group Office.
Time to obtain a Ph.D.:
A minimum of three years is required for the Ph.D. but ordinarily a student should
plan on four to five years to satisfy all requirements of the degree. Normative
time, measured from the time a student begins graduate study at any level at UCD,
is 5 years for the BMCDB Graduate Group.