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Graduate Studies Program

Doctor of Philosophy Degree in the Basic Sciences


The course of study for the Ph.D. takes approximately five to six years. The residency requirement is two years.

A minimum of 74 credit hours is required for the Ph.D. degree. The number of required course work credits is between 24 and 30, depending on the Center and 50 credit hours of research. (A Center cannot require more than 30 didactic credits.) The required credit hours of course work is comprised of didactic and elective courses selected by the student in consultation with a mentor. The required number of credits does not include credits for journal clubs. A course in Ethics will also be required. All students are required to demonstrate competence in English in the oral and written communication of their research. Upon recommendation of a Center or Thesis Committee, students may be required to undertake remedial English training.

A maximum of 15 credit hours of research and a total of 18 credit hours may be recorded each semester. If a student registers for more than three didactic credits, the amount of research credit must be reduced by the corresponding amount. Students are expected to register for research credits during all semesters while engaged in thesis research, even if the research credit requirement has been fulfilled. In the event that a student's GPA falls below the acceptable level of 3.0, the student may request transfer to the M.S. program. After completion of the requirements for the M.S. program, including thesis defense, a student may reapply to the Ph.D. Program.

Doctor of Philosophy Examinations - Doctoral students are required to pass three examinations: The Written Examination, the Oral Examination, and the Thesis Defense. The Graduate Student Progress Committee, through the Graduate Studies Program Office, must be informed in advance of the scheduled examination dates. After completion of the examinations, the Graduate Student Progress Committee, through the Graduate Studies Program Office, must be notified in writing of the result of each examination. Appropriate forms for notification are available to matriculated students in the Graduate Studies Program Office or may be found on the AMC intranet, in the Academic section for Graduate Studies Program, under forms.

In order to take these examinations, students must be in good academic standing as defined by a minimum G.P.A. of 3.0 and satisfactory grades in research.

All components of the Written Examination must be completed by the end of September at the start of the third year of fulltime enrollment. By the end of September at the beginning of the fourth year, doctoral students must pass the Oral Examination. The minimum interval between passing the Oral Examination and the Thesis Defense is nine months. Students' progress toward meeting these deadlines will be monitored by the Graduate Student Progress Committee.

All students are required to demonstrate competence in English in the oral and written communication of their research. Upon recommendation of a Center, Oral Examination Committee, or Thesis Committee, students may be required to undertake remedial English training.

Written Examination - By the end of September at the start of the third year, students matriculating in a Ph.D. Program within a specific Center take a Written Examination prepared by representatives from that Center. In order to take these examinations, students must have achieved a minimum GPA of 3.0 and be in good academic standing. Both the format and scope of the exam are specified by the Center. Each Center will define the passing criteria prior to the exam. The purpose of the exam is to evaluate student progress in two areas: [1] comprehensive evaluation of the student's scientific background and [2] evaluation of the student's ability to use that knowledge to address research problems. Following the completion of this exam, the student's research mentor will submit a report to the student, the Office of Graduate Studies, and members of the student's thesis committee. If the student fails the Written Exam, he/she will have to retake the exam within six months of the original exam but not later than December of the third year. Students will only be permitted to retake this examination once. If the student fails the reexamination, he/she is subject to dismissal.

Oral Examination - Doctoral students will select an Oral Examination Committee by September 30 of their third year of study, although centers may require the committee formation prior to this date. The Oral Examination Committee consists of the mentor (non-voting) and five voting members. The voting members will include at least one holding a primary appointment in the student's Center, at least one not holding a primary appointment in the student's Center, and at least three must be from within the Institution. A maximum of two members may be individuals from outside of the Albany Medical College. The final committee composition is subject to approval by the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies. The student's mentor shall be a non-voting member of both the Oral Examination Committee and Thesis Defense Committee and shall serve as the chair of both committees. The mentor (chair) of the committee is required to have an appointment in the Graduate Studies Program of the Albany Medical College. The committee is selected by the graduate student, mentor, and center director; the final committee composition is subject to the approval of the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies.

By the end of September at the beginning of the fourth year, students must pass an Oral Examination. To be eligible for this examination, the student must have earned a minimum of 12 didactic course credits and 20 research credits, and be in good academic standing. This examination is based upon a NIH-style research proposal submitted by the student to his/her Oral Examination Committee at least two weeks prior to the exam. The research proposal must follow the standard NIH guidelines and be based upon the student's proposed area of research. The student will be examined on the proposal as well as related subjects. A four-fifths vote of approval by the committee is required for successful completion of this examination. Following the completion of this exam, the student's research advisor will submit a report to the student, the Graduate Studies Program office, and members of the student's thesis committee. The research proposal shall remain on file in the Center office.

In the event that a student fails the Oral Examination, he/she will have to retake the exam within six months of the original exam but no later than the end of March of the fourth year. Students will be permitted to retake the Oral Exam once.

The Oral Examination is not open to the public. The thesis defense for a Master's degree cannot substitute for the Oral Examination for the Ph.D. Degree.

If a student in the Ph.D. program decides to leave the doctoral program following successful completion of their oral examination and decides to instead obtain an M.S. degree, they will be required to write and successfully defend an M.S. degree thesis.

Thesis Defense Committee - The composition of the Thesis Defense Committee is determined by the same rules as specified for the Oral Examination Committee and is usually the same Committee. The Thesis Defense Committee is required to meet at intervals of six months to review the progress of the thesis research and to make appropriate recommendations. The student's mentor is responsible for submitting the six-month student progress report to the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies.

The following procedures are to be followed for submission of the dissertation, defense of dissertation, and evaluation of defense.

Each Ph.D. student is expected to complete 50 credit hours of thesis research, the Center required number of didactic credits, and complete a set of hypothesis-driven experiments.

By the start of their fifth year (September), PhD candidates are required to have a Timeline meeting with their thesis committee.  At that meeting the student should review progress toward the thesis and present a Timeline for completion of the degree.  This plan should include experimental work to be completed, progress toward manuscripts, planned submission of manuscripts, a proposed date of the final data set meeting, and a proposed date of thesis defense.  After the committee has approved this Timeline, it should be submitted to the Graduate Studies Office and also to the Center GEC.  The thesis committee should meet every three months beginning in the sixth year specifically to monitor student progress in meeting the proposed Timeline and to approve any request for modification.  More frequent meetings (ie. monthly) can be proposed as required and these can be as a group or individually with the student.  During the Timeline period, thesis committee reports should address experimental work that remains to be completed, progress toward manuscripts, proposed dates of the final data set meeting and thesis defense.  These reports need to be submitted to both the Graduate Studies Office and the Center GEC.

Final Data Set Meeting - At the time of the final Data Set meeting, the doctoral student must have at least one peer-reviewed journal article (in press or published), on which the student is the first author. The student must attach a copy of the published article(s) and/or a copy of the journal acceptance letter(s) to the Data Set Committee meeting form. Prior to the defense of the Ph.D. Thesis, the student must convene a thesis committee meeting for the presentation of the data set that comprises the thesis. At least four of the five voting members of the student's thesis committee must agree that the data set is sufficient for the thesis and that essentially no more experiments are necessary. A final target date for the thesis defense will be scheduled for no later than four months beyond approval of the final data set. If the student fails to defend their thesis within this time period they will be required to petition the Student Progress Committee for an extension. A letter will be written to the student's postdoctoral employer indicating that they have not yet completed their degree requirements. The student's funding may be discontinued at the discretion of their mentor.

Submission of Thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree - Copies of the thesis must be submitted to the members of the Thesis Defense Committee at least three weeks before the scheduled date of the defense. Each member of the Committee must review the dissertation promptly. If any Committee member finds the dissertation not representative of the approved data sets or not coherently written, the chair of the Committee is to be notified in writing, with copies to the other Committee members, within one week of receipt of the dissertation. The nature of the objection(s) will be specified. The chair and the student must decide together whether to revise the dissertation or to defend it as originally submitted. If revisions are made, the revised pages must be distributed to the members of the Committee at least one week before the date of the defense. If there is a decision to delay the thesis defense, members of the committee and the Office of Graduate Studies must be notified in writing describing the nature of the delay. A new target date for the final defense must be set at that time.

A copy of the dissertation will be delivered to the Graduate Studies Program Office for public display in the Albany Medical College Schaffer Library no later than one week prior to the date of the defense. Consult the Instructions for Submission of the Ph.D. Thesis available in the Graduate Studies Program Office.

The student will acquire a copy of the form "Final Examination Report for the (Ph.D./M.S.) Degree." This form requires the signature of the mentor and committee members and should be completed at the time of the defense. The form must be returned to the Graduate Studies Program Office promptly after the defense.

Defense of Thesis - A minimum of four voting Committee members must be present at the defense. It is highly recommended that students defend their thesis no later than April 15. A student will not be permitted to graduate unless all degree requirements are completed by May 1.

Evaluation of the Thesis Defense - The candidate will present a public seminar of the thesis research after which the Thesis Defense Committee will evaluate the thesis in closed session. Following the seminar and an open question and answer session, the student and the Thesis Defense Committee will convene privately for the final examination, which should last no more than two to three hours. The examination is restricted to the research and to allied topics that relate to the candidate's dissertation. The student will be expected to defend his/her thesis in terms of hypothesis, experimental approach, data interpretation, conclusions, and future studies. At the end of the examination, each committee member will cast either a PASS or FAIL vote.

A defense is successful if a student receives at least four PASS votes. If a student receives more than one FAIL vote the defense is unsuccessful. Following this meeting the chair of the Thesis Defense Committee will submit a final report of the examination to the Office of Graduate Studies. In all cases, a thesis defense is unsuccessful if four PASS votes have not been recorded in the Graduate Studies Program Office following the examination. If the thesis defense is not successful on the initial attempt, a second defense may be granted upon the recommendation of a majority of the Thesis Defense Committee and the recommendation of the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, subject to approval by the Executive Committee. If the student fails the reexamination he/she is subject to dismissal. Publication of portions of a student's research prior to submission of the dissertation is permissible. The thesis must be defended within seven years from the date of initial registration, except under extenuating circumstances that are acceptable to the Graduate Student Progress Committee and the Executive Committee.

Following the thesis defense, corrections should be made and the copies of the thesis to be bound must be submitted to the Schaffer Library no later than May 1. Bound copies of the fully corrected and approved thesis must be presented to the Schaffer Library and to the student's Center Office, and the dissertation must be registered with Dissertation Abstracts, Inc, Ann Arbor, Michigan. The student will pay the fee for this registration.

Graduate students do not cease to be full-time students on the day they successfully defend their thesis, as time is needed to make revisions to the thesis and get it bound. For doctoral students, stipend support may be extended beyond the defense of thesis as deemed necessary by the thesis advisor/mentor but will not normally exceed 30 days following successful defense of the thesis.

Commencement - Please note: for a student to receive a graduate degree at the annual Commencement Exercises, all requirements must be completed by May 1 of that year. Please see the checklist of degree requirements for details. Graduate students who have satisfactorily completed all requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy or Master of Science degree are recommended to the Board of Trustees of the Albany Medical Center to receive their graduate degrees at the annual Commencement Exercise. Attendance at Commencement is required for all degree candidates.

Exit Interview - By no later than May 15, the student must complete an exit interview in the Graduate Studies Program Office before leaving Albany Medical College. The interview will include submitted copies of all published papers with the student as first author; completion of the NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates; forwarding address information and clearance form.