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BioPhD Handbook | Degree Requirements - Candidacy Examination

Bioengineering Ph.D.
For the 2018 - 2019 Academic Year
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C. The Candidacy Examination

All Ph.D. students at Notre Dame must take and pass a candidacy examination. Passing the candidacy examination will advance you to the level of Ph.D. candidate.

You generally take and pass your candidacy examination by the end of your third year in the program. The examination consists of both written and oral components, and will be administered by the appointed Examination Committee. The written and oral parts are considered separately and you must pass both.

It is normally expected that you will have submitted at least one paper to an appropriate peer-reviewed journal in your field prior to your oral candidacy examination. Your committee may accept a conference paper, or a paper that is nearly ready for submission. 

Written Candidacy Examination

The written candidacy examination is a research proposal. The formatting should follow guidelines for an NSF research proposal (see http://nsf.gov) including page limitations. You should not include personnel, facilities, and budget justification sections. Your proposal should include a CV that includes your relevant publications and presentations. Your CV need not follow NSF guidelines. It should include all publications, including conference presentations, and any other relevant research accomplishments or awards. Your advisor can provide you with examples of typical research proposals, which may vary between subdisciplines.

The proposal should introduce the theme of your research project and develop two to four specific aims within the first one to two pages of the proposal. Following the aims, the background and significance, including relevant literature and any preliminary results should be presented. Your specific research plan to address the aims, objective or hypotheses of your work should be presented. Specific methods should be provided as necessary to demonstrate your knowledge of how the research can be carried out.

You must distribute the written component of your examination to the committee at least one week prior to scheduling the oral examination. Each committee member must sign the examination report (Appendix E) and return it to Nancy Davis in 153 Multidisciplinary Engineering Research. You may not schedule the oral examination until the signed report is completed.

The written component of the examination requires unanimous committee approval.

Oral Candidacy Examination

The oral candidacy examination will conform to Graduate School guidelines.

The examination will include a presentation of completed research, and proposed research to complete your dissertation. It should specifically address how your research applies to the field of bioengineering, how it integrates knowledge of both biology and engineering, and how it will advance the state of knowledge in the field. The initial presentation is open to the public. You must accept and answer questions from the public audience at the completion of the presentation.

Following the public presentation, the examination committee will question you in depth on your completed research and you research plans. The committee may also ask fundamental questions about your field(s) of research and study. You may wish to confer with your examination committee members prior to the examination to determine the expected scope of their questions.

Following questioning, your Examination Committee will deliberate in private.

Passing the oral candidacy examination requires a majority vote of the committee.

Advancement to Candidacy

Upon passing both the written and oral candidacy examinations, you will be advanced to candidacy, which signifies your ability and responsibility to conduct independent research.

Master's Degree Option

A student who has successfully completed all parts of the doctoral Candidacy Examination may receive a Master's degree in Bioengineering on the recommendation of the candidacy committee, and approval by the program director. Note that it is the policy of the University to not award duplicate degrees. A student who has a Master’s degree in bioengineering or biomedical engineering will not be awarded a Master’s degree on completion of the Candidacy examination

Students Entering with an M.S. Degree

There are some modifications to the program if you had an M.S. degree upon entering the Bioengineering Ph.D. program. A request to the program committee for transfer of up to nine credits from a master's degree obtained within the previous five years may be made. To receive credit for a graduate course taken elsewhere, the course will need to be a graded, graduate-level, academic course, of the type that would normally be considered as part of our graduate academic course requirements and the student achieved a grade of a B+ or better. You cannot transfer pass/fail courses, research credits, thesis credits or other non-classroom credits. Your examination committee, advisor, and the program committee will assess whether these courses fulfill the category requirements of your degree plan. In any case, you will still need to complete at least 72 total credits, including research credits, at Notre Dame.