PhD Program Requirements

Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements


1. Credits: A minimum of 72 credits must be earned for this degree. The Ph.D. credit requirements are based on the equivalent of a minimum of 3 years of full-time study. Since official full-time registration is 9 credits a semester, the Ph.D. degree usually represents 72-90 credits of quality work, with a minimum of 32 course credits at the 500 or greater level. The remaining credits may be taken in research (minimum of 24 research credits required). In special cases, and with the approval of the Program Director, some course credits will be accepted at the 300-400 level. With the approval of the Program Director, up to 12 graduate course credits may be transferred from other universities. A maximum of 6 credits of Laboratory Rotation in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics may be used to fulfill the coursework requirement for the Ph.D.

2. Residence Requirement: Each candidate for the degree of Ph.D. must spend a minimum of two consecutive terms (which can include the summer session) as a full-time student in residence. During that time, gainful employment outside or inside the university must average less than 20 hours per week. This requirement can be modified on recommendation of the Student Affairs and Standards Committee subject to approval by the Executive Committee. An exception will be made only if the requirement imposes undue hardship on a student, who must demonstrate that non-residence status will not substantially retard progress toward the degree.

3. Qualifying Examination: There are two parts to Qualifying Exam: a written exam and a oral exam. Successful completion of both parts of the qualifying examination in a timely manner is required to remain in the Graduate Program.

Part I – Written Qualifier – Background Information: This exam consists of two parts. The first part consists of a written exam on basic information given in early June of the first year the student is in the program. In some cases, students may take this exam in the second year of the program. This exam is given only once per year. This portion of the qualifying exam is administered by the Molecular BioSciences Program. Under usual circumstances this exam may be taken only by students who have successfully completed the Molecular BioSciences core curriculum.

Part II - Oral Qualifier: The second part of the qualifying exam shall consist of an oral exam administered by a Ph.D. qualifying committee. The qualifying committee will be formed by the student with the agreement of his/her advisor and shall first meet before the student begins his/her third year of full time graduate study (i.e., at the end of the second year of study). In rare circumstances, an extension of this time limit may be approved by the Director, with appropriate justification, in written form, by the student and the student’s research advisor.


Additional Info

Note: A student must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better to take the second part of the qualifying examination.

a.) The oral qualifying examination committee shall consist of four members of the Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Graduate Faculty. One member shall be the student’s advisor who may be an Associate member or a Full Member of the Graduate Faculty. An attempt should be made to have no more than two faculty members of the student’s resident Department, Center or Institute on the committee.

b.) The qualifying examination shall be an oral presentation and defense of a research proposal. At the first meeting of the qualifying examination, the committee will also (a) elect a chairperson who must be any Full Member other than the student’s advisor; (b) review academic performance and future coursework with the student; and (c) administer the examination.

c.) For the oral examination, the student shall prepare a written research proposal with a title, hypothesis, and plan for accomplishing the research proposed. Note: The purpose of this part of the examination is to determine if the student is intellectually prepared to begin dissertation research, not to judge research results. Since this proposal will be written early in the career of the student, preliminary results are not a prerequisite for presentation of the proposal. The written research proposal should be presented to the committee members at least a week before the examination.

d.) After the second part (the oral research proposal) of the examination has been completed, the committee chairperson shall submit a written report to the Program Director and committee with a copy sent to the student. The report should indicate the strengths and weaknesses of the candidate and whether the student has passed the examination and should be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy. The Program Director will notify the student of any reservations or conditions that the Committee has placed. (See also the section headed General Academic Guidelines). Students who fail either or both sections of the Qualifying Examination may request a second examination. A second instance of failure in either section of the Examination will result in termination. The Qualifying Examination Committee may determine that the student is eligible for a terminal Master of Science degree. Subsequent appeals should be directed to the Student Affairs and Standards Committee.

4. Annual Thesis Committee Meetings:

After completing the qualifying exams, students are required to meet annually with their Research Advisory Committee, beginning in the fall semester of the second year. The annual Research Advisory Committee meeting is mandatory and the responsibility of the student. Should a member of the Committee be unavailable, the Chair of the committee should appoint either a temporary or permanent replacement. No student will be allowed to register without documentation of having taken the Qualifying Examination or held their annual Advisory Research Committee meeting within the past 12 month period.

5. Dissertation Exam

Dissertation and Thesis Style Guidelines

a.) A dissertation committee will be set up by the student and advisor within three months following the qualifying examination. The dissertation committee could be the same as the qualifying committee, but need not be so. The dissertation committee shall be comprised of a minimum of three program faculty members, including the student’s advisor/research supervisor, plus one member who does not hold membership in the program and is a scholar in a related research field (a total of 4 committee members). This “outside” member can be in another academic/research unit of either Rutgers University or UMDNJ or can be from another institution. In either event, he/she should hold an earned doctoral degree. Written approval of the Program Director is required for the “outside” member and for membership on the committee. Changes in the structure of the dissertation committee also require the approval of the Program Director. The dissertation committee chairperson must be a Full Member of the Graduate Faculty. The role of the dissertation committee is to (1) evaluate the progress of the thesis research, (2) to make suggestions about research directions as appropriate, and (3), to conduct the final examination and thesis defense. In order for the committee to fulfill this role, the student is required to meet with the dissertation committee annually, including about six months prior to anticipated completion of the degree. The student should also consult with the members of the dissertation committee on an informal basis.

b.) The dissertation itself must be a single entity and a clearly written account of the student¹s original research. In addition to a description of the details and results of the research, it should contain an appropriate general and contextual introduction, written at a level accessible to most other workers in the wider field. If the thesis consists of more than one piece of research, the elements of the dissertation must be related parts of a common research program and should be tied together in the introduction and the conclusion.

c.) Policy on the “Outside Member”: The Graduate School requires that one member of a Ph.D. dissertation committee be an individual who is not a member of the student’s degree program. This individual may be a Rutgers faculty member or someone from outside the university. Outside members are intended to bring a fresh perspective to the supervision of a student’s research and also to bring an unbiased look at the quality of the work. Therefore, they must be people with no conflict of interest with regard to assessment of the student’s work. In some fields, especially the biomedical sciences, there is such a broad inclusion of relevant individuals on program faculties that it has become quite difficult to find a Rutgers faculty member to appoint as an outside member of a dissertation committee who is not already a member of the program faculty. At the same time, the membership of these programs is drawn from a wide range of units within Rutgers and UMDNJ, such that there can easily be faculty members of a program who have little professional contact. It is therefore permissible, in such situations, that the “outside” member be drawn from within the program faculty when it can be shown that that individual has no personal or professional ties to the student, the adviser and other members of the committee. In these cases the outside member may not be a member of a department already represented on the committee. In addition, the “outside” member may not serve as dissertation committee chair. Requests for these exceptions will have to demonstrate that this is the case and will require approval by the Graduate School.

d.) The final examination and dissertation defense is open to the public. An announcement of the final examination and dissertation defense must be posted at all six of the major participating units listed under “Outline of the program” and at the Office of the Director of the Graduate Program, and on the Calendar computer program (or its equivalent).

e.) Final review of degree eligibility is undertaken by the Program Director who will certify completion of all program requirements. One copy of the dissertation title and abstract pages must be submitted to the Director along with the original Ph.D. Candidacy Form. An “Exit Survey” form must also be completed and submitted to the Director at that time.

The following items must be presented to the Director in order for the candidate to be granted the PhD degree:

Signed Thesis Title Page
Thesis Abstract
MS Candidacy Form signed by thesis committee members

General Academic Guidelines:

1. Academic Standards: A student is required to earn a grade of B or better in the courses described above. Students must earn a 3.0 grade point average as a condition for being permitted to take the final examination for the Masters degree. Ph.D. degree candidates must carry a 3.0 grade point average required of Ph.D. before they will be allowed to take the Ph.D. qualifying examination. These same requirements apply to a change from non-matriculated to matriculated status.

2. Termination: Students failing to achieve these grade point averages for two consecutive semesters will be requested to leave the Program. The procedure for termination is as follows: When a student’s grade point average falls below the required level, he/she (and the student’s advisor) will receive a letter of warning. Students will be expected to remedy their deficiencies in the next semester. Should the student not improve in the next semester, he/she will be requested to leave the Program. A notice of termination will be sent to the Dean of the Graduate School - New Brunswick.

Note: The general academic status of the student is monitored by the student’s advisor and also the Student Affairs and Standards Committee. It is essential that the student’s advisor make sure that each student maintains good progress toward his/her degree.

3. Transfer of Credits: The transfer of up to 12 credits from another institution is allowable for Ph.D. students. A student wanting to transfer credit should present a written rationale and justification for each course requested for transfer to the Program Director along with the appropriate form. Justification should include academic need and relevance of each course, evidence of academic level (text used, examination questions), and an indication of the equivalency to existing programs courses. Waivers of required courses will normally disallow the transfer of equivalent courses. It is strongly recommended that students seeking to transfer credits first submit a draft of the justification statement to their advisor prior to its submission to the Program Director.

4. Transcript Problems: All unresolved problems with a student’s transcript must be corrected prior to admission to candidacy. Students may be required to submit an updated transcript copy prior to final candidacy form review.

5. Registration Requirement: All students are required to maintain continuous registration until the completion of the final degree. Doctoral students who are on campus must continue registering for a minimum of 3 credits per term; doctoral students who reside out of the area and are completing their projects off campus must register for a minimum of 1 credit per term.

Once a student has accumulated 71 credits, of which at least 23 are research credits, he or she is required to register for only one credit per term to remain in good standing as a de facto full-time student.

6. Language Requirement: There is no language requirement but one may be recommended at the discretion of the student’s major professor and committee.

7. Time Requirement: The M.S. degree should normally be completed in less than 3 years full-time; the Ph.D. degree should be completed in less than 6 years full-time. Note: A Master of Science degree is not required for a Ph.D.

8. Residency Requirement: Ph.D. candidates must satisfy a one-year requirement. (See Doctor of Philosophy Degree Candidate Requirements).