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Doctoral Board Oral Exam

Last updated: May 19, 2016

The Doctoral Board Oral Examination is conducted by five faculty members – two “inside” members who must be from the list of faculty of the Pharmacology Graduate Program, two “outside” members who must not be on the list and a fifth that may be either. Two alternates must also be selected, one from inside and one from outside the Program.

At least one examiner from outside the department must be an Associate or Full Professor. Your advisor is not to be included on this committee but should be present at the beginning of the exam to discuss your progress with the committee. With the help of your preceptor, you may propose up to six members for this committee, a list of which must be submitted for approval by the Program Director.

Since the mandate of the committee is to test the breadth and depth of your knowledge, there must be a diversity of expertise on your committee, including expertise in Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Bioorganic Chemistry  and Biophysics. Faculty members whose research spans disciplines may fill the requirement of any of their areas of expertise. If you propose a committee which the Director feels is too narrowly focused, you will be asked to broaden the scope by replacing prospective members on your list and resubmitting.

Doctoral Board Oral Examination

  • The deadline for taking the exam is June 30 of the second calendar year after your matriculation.
  • Since the mandate of this committee is to test the breadth as well as the depth of your knowledge, the members must represent most or all of the various disciplines in your required coursework, including Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Bioorganic Chemistry and Biophysics.  The Director will then add six names to your list and your committee will be assembled from this final list.
  • If you choose, you may provide a list of proposed committee members and alternates to Amy Paronto.  The Graduate Program has final say in who will be selected for your committee, but any suggested names you provide will be taken into account, provided they fit the parameters of “breadth” and “depth”.
  • The examiners are instructed to test the "breadth and depth" of your knowledge. Questions may cover general principles of biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology, bio-organic mechanisms, and/or biophysics. There is no preset time limit or specific format for the examination. The senior outside faculty member will serve as Chair of the committee (as determined by the Doctoral Board). At the time of the examination the Chair, with consent of the committee, will decide on the format and timing of the exam. Typically, the candidate is asked to say a few words about their research (at the discretion of the Chair), then is questioned for 10-15 minutes by each committee member.
  • The result of the examination will be either Unconditional Pass, Conditional Pass, or Fail. A Conditional Pass means that the committee noted a deficit in your background that needs to be addressed to ensure you have the necessary foundation for success. Such a condition should not be taken as a negative judgment on your capacity to succeed, but an opportunity for you to firm up knowledge in a key area. A Fail does not necessarily mean immediate dismissal.  Instead, the student is typically given an opportunity to retake the exam with the same or a new committee. A second Fail is reason for dismissal.