General Exam: Biological

If a graduate student chooses to pursue the Ph.D. thesis research in the Division of Biological Chemistry, the advisory committee should consist of a major advisor and at least two additional members from two different traditional chemistry divisions.

Written Exam:

What are the pre-requirements?

  • The student will be required to take both Biological Chemistry I and II. In order to enroll in these courses, the student must have either completed a one-semester course in Biochemistry (e.g. MCB 5001) or have consent of the instructor.
  • The student will be required to take at least two starred courses from another division
  • D. students are required to present a research seminar. It is expected that this requirement will be completed by the end of a student’s 5th semester
    • The student must select members for the advisory committee prior to the research presentation and notify the committee of the date for the research presentation.

When in my PhD timeline should I take it?

  • It is expected to be completed by the end of a student’s 7th semester

When during the year is it offered? How is it announced? How much advanced notice is given?

  • Given twice a year, once in Fall and once in Spring (usually during the 3rd week of September and February)
  • All students should prepare for the exam accordingly and let the major advisor know when he/she is planning to take it

What is the format? How long does the exam take?

  • The written portion will consist of a single examination (take-home format) assembled by the student’s advisory committee and comprised of material obtained from divisional faculty and culled largely from the biological chemical literature with emphasis on important biological topics. The objective of this approach is to train students in one of the traditional subfields of chemistry as well as to educate students toward scientific literacy in other areas of biological chemistry. A list of journals will be provided for the student’s reference.

Oral Exam:

The oral portion combines a defense of an independent, original research proposal with questions of a general chemical nature. The student should consult solely with an associate advisor in the choice of the topic for the proposal.  The objective of this part of the general exam is to evaluate the student’s capability for independent thinking and self-criticism and to test the student’s breadth of general chemical knowledge.  The original research proposal is expected to be on a topic that is outside the specific area encompassed by the candidate’s research program.

What are the pre-requirements?

  • Completion of the written examination

When in my PhD timeline should I take it?

  • Is expected to be completed by the end of a student’s 7th semester

How soon after I’ve completed the written exam should I take it?

  • Upon successful completion of the written examination, the oral portion of the general exam should be scheduled within two weeks.

How long should the presentation be? What should I cover?

  • Combines a defense of an independent, original research proposal with questions of a general chemical nature

Which (and how many) faculty members must attend the exam? What is the role of the general examiner?

  • The advisory committee should consist of a major advisor and at least two additional members from two different traditional chemistry divisions

What is the format for the proposal document (sections, number of pages, etc.)?

The expected format for the original research proposal is as follows:

  1. Summary of the Research Proposal: In less than one-half page summarize the proposed research with a brief introduction and significance.
  2. Specific Aims: List the broad, long-term objectives and what the specific research proposed in this application is intended to accomplish, e.g., to test a stated hypothesis, create a novel design, solve a specific problem, or develop new technology. Less than one page is recommended.
  3. Background and Significance: Briefly sketch the background leading to the present application, critically evaluate existing knowledge, and specifically identify the gaps that the project is intended to fill. State concisely the importance and health relevance of the research described in this application by relating the specific aims to the broad, long-term objectives. One to two pages are recommended.
  4. Research Design and Methods: Describe the research design and the procedures to be used to accomplish the specific aims of the project. Include how the data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted as well as the data-sharing plan as appropriate. Describe any new methodology and its advantage over existing methodologies. Discuss the potential difficulties and limitations of the proposed procedures and alternative approaches to achieve the aims. As part of this section, provide a tentative sequence or timetable for the project. Point out any procedures, situations, or materials that may be hazardous to personnel and the precautions to be exercised. Although no specific number of pages is recommended for the Research Design and Methods section, the total for Items a-d may not exceed 10 pages, including all tables and figures. Applicants are encouraged to be as succinct as possible and reminded that there is no requirement that all 10 pages allotted for this section be used. Please also keep in mind that the proposal should be clear and legible, and you may type in single space but the font size should not be smaller than 11 points and at least one-half inch margin should be maintained in all directions.
  5. Literature Cited/List All References: Each reference must include the title, names of all authors, book or journal, volume number, page numbers, and year of publication. The reference should be limited to relevant and current literature. While there is not a page limitation, it is important to be concise and to select only those literature references pertinent to the proposed research.