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BioPh.D. Handbook | Degree Requirements - Qualifying Examination

Bioengineering Ph.D.
For the 2018 - 2019 Academic Year
Printable pdf version.



B. The Qualifying Examination

Passing the qualifying examination is your official acceptance into the Ph.D. program, and advances you to the level of doctoral student.

The purpose of the Comprehensive Evaluation is to determine whether a student is prepared to perform research at a level consistent with his or her degree objective.  The evaluation is normally after the first academic year, typically at the start of the third semester in residence. The evaluation includes a review, based on the student's course work, of his or her knowledge of bioengineering fundamentals, results of the written and oral components of a research examination and an evaluation by the research advisor of the student's performance in research.


To pass the coursework portion of the exam, students must have completed at least three engineering courses and at least four courses total while maintaining a grade point average of 3.3 or higher in their first year.  Any courses in which the student earned a grade of B- or lower cannot be counted towards satisfying degree requirements, regardless of overall GPA.       

If deficiencies should appear in the course work evaluation while the other evaluation components appear satisfactory, specific remedies may be identified on an individual basis at the discretion of the faculty.

Written Component

By the end of the summer session following your first year in residence, you must complete a research paper (5-7 pages) describing and analyzing a problem that includes both engineering and biological components.  It should formulate a unique problem, explain the motivation for the problem, and provide a description of the topic based on principles of engineering analysis.  Ordinarily these papers will be based on your research so that a description of the relevant experimental, theoretical, and computational techniques should be included along with preliminary results and a description of the next steps in the work.

Your examination committee, approved by the Program Director will evaluate the written component and hold an oral examination session to further evaluate your ability to continue for a PhD. You must distribute copies of your paper to the examination committee at least one week prior to scheduling your oral examination.

Oral Component

You are responsible for scheduling the oral component of the examination. Nancy Davis (153 Multidisciplinary Engineering) or your home department administrative assistant can help you to locate and schedule an appropriate room.

You will make an oral presentation, no more than 20 minutes in length, describing the key content of your written examination.  Of particular interest are research objectives, plans, and preliminary results.  This is followed by a period of questions from the faculty, which will focus on your ability to interpret and explain the presented research. Questioning is not confined to topics within the scope of the research, but this should be the majority of interrogation as the coursework component is intended to address fundamentals.  The oral examination is typically 45 minutes in length.

The oral qualifying examination is not public. However you are encouraged to present the examination material in alternate public settings such as a laboratory or group seminar.

Admission to the Doctoral Program

The Program Committee will make the decision to accept the student into the doctoral program after reviewing the student's academic record and the Qualifying examination results. Admission to the degree program does not constitute admission to degree candidacy, for which additional requirements are described below.