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Thesis Plan and Timeline


By the end of the 5th semester, each student is required to submit a thesis plan and timeline to the department office, Graduate Advisor, and their thesis committee. The thesis plan can be modified and made more detailed as the student's thesis research continues. The initial plan should include rough outlines of the thesis chapters. For each chapter that is a science research paper, the student should summarize the science question being addressed, why that question is important, why it hasn't already been addressed by others, and how his/her work will lead potentially to a resolution. Later iterations of the thesis plan, prepared before and revised after thesis committee meetings, should include detailed outlines and figures for each chapter.

The timeline can also be modified over time based on how the direction and/or scope of the research changes. Graduate students are guaranteed funding for five years. Given that the average time to graduation is 5.5 years, any extension of the thesis defense date beyond the sixth year of graduate study requires the approval of the Academic Program Committee.


Final Dissertation Defense

A five-person committee, which may be different from the student's thesis committee, is appointed when the student's dissertation is completed. (The Grad College requires only four, but the faculty agreed to have five members to insure that at least four will be present at the exam in the event of an emergency.) All five should read the thesis at least three weeks in advance -- or some other length of time agreed to by the committee and student -- and forward questions/comments to the student in advance of the exam.

The oral exam consists of a 30-minute talk by the student, to which the "public" are invited. In the private session following, questions are asked by each committee member on the thesis work and associated topics in the subject area.

The possible outcomes are (1) pass with no reservations, (2) pass conditional upon changes made to the dissertation recommended by members of the committee, or (3) fail. In case (2) the committee may grant discretion to the principal advisor to enforce the changes to be made to the thesis recommended by the committee. The members would sign the paperwork certifying completion of a satisfactory thesis, but the advisor would withhold the paperwork until satisfactory changes are made in the opinion of the advisor. All requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy must be completed within 5 years of passing the prelim exam. Should a student not finish within that time period, he or she may be allowed to re-take the prelim with permission of the program, and then proceed to complete other requirements, e.g., the dissertation.