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Ph.D. Thesis


After passing the Comprehensive Examination, the student enters Ph.D. candidacy. During the following years the students perform research towards a thesis defense. Students must give annual reports on the progress of their thesis research to the CSD faculty in the form of 30-minute seminars, and meet at least annually with their Thesis Committee. The Chairman of the Thesis Committee will meet with the GAC to discuss the students progress and will submit a brief written summary of the outcome of each meeting with the student.

Upon completion of a body of original research that constitutes a significant contribution of new knowledge to the field of cell and developmental biology, students will write a Ph.D. thesis containing this information, and defend this document at an oral examination scheduled by the CU-AMC Graduate School. Check with the Graduate School for current deadlines, thesis format requirements and required paperwork prior to writing the thesis and scheduling the defense.

1. Guidelines

The rules of the University of Colorado Graduate School concerning a Ph.D. thesis are as follows:

"All doctoral students are required to submit a thesis (or dissertation) to the Graduate School as partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. The form and scope of this thesis is determined by the student, the thesis advisor, the Advisory Committee, and the Program. The thesis should be based upon original investigation and showing mature scholarship and critical judgment as well as familiarity with tools and methods of research. It must be essentially approved by the examining committee before the final examination can be taken."

The Graduate Program in Cell Biology, Stem Cells and Development amplifies the definition of the thesis as follows:

The successful thesis presents a problem-orientated, original and substantive investigation. The methodology and results contained in the thesis must be conclusive and of quality. The standards are to be those maintained by quality, peer-reviewed scientific journals. It is the expectation of the program that the student have 1 or more first author publications submitted prior to the thesis defense.

2. Thesis Committee

Once a student is admitted to candidacy, he/she should establish a Thesis Committee with the advice of the thesis advisor and the Director of the Graduate Program. The committee need not be the same as the Comprehensive Exam Committee but should be composed of five Graduate Faculty members; at least one member must be outside the program and the majority from within the program. The thesis advisor is a voting member of this committee. One faculty member of the program should be selected to serve as a chair of the Thesis Committee. This committee can be the same as the Comprehensive Exam Committee.

3. Graduate Advisor

The Chair of the Thesis Committee serves as the advisor to the student and will monitor his/her progress. The Chair must be a member of the Program. It cannot be emphasized enough, however, that each student is responsible for his/her own progress.

4. Guidelines for Supervision of Thesis Work

  1. Since all students present their work each year, all Graduate Faculty should follow the progress of all students. When concerns arise they should be discussed immediately with the student, the Thesis Advisor and/or the student's Thesis Committee.
  2. Students are encouraged to meet every six months, but must meet at least once a year, with their Thesis Committee. Students must submit a written update on their progress to the Committee at least one week before the Committee meeting. The Chair of the Committee should provide the student and the Program Director with a written summary of the student's progress and recommendations of the thesis Committee. The meetings should be documented (date of meeting, items discussed, committee recommendations, list of attendees, signatures of the student and committee chairman) and a copy provided to the Program Administrator for inclusion into the student's file. The Thesis Committee can recommend more frequent meetings when they feel more careful monitoring is warranted.
  3. When the student and his/her thesis advisor agree the work for the thesis has been completed, the student must meet with the Thesis Committee and receive formal approval to begin writing the thesis.

5. Preparation of Thesis and Thesis Defense

  1. The Assistant Dean of the Graduate School, Fran Osterberg, holds seminars once a year on the proper formatting of the thesis.
  2. The Thesis Committee must formally approve the written thesis before the final examination can be taken. Written Ph.D. thesis approval from the chair of the Thesis Committee is required prior to scheduling of the thesis with the Graduate School. The Thesis Approval Form may be obtained from the program administrator. Furthermore, the thesis advisor must find the thesis acceptable prior to submission to the rest of the committee. It is inexcusable for everyone concerned if the student reaches the point of his/her Ph.D. thesis defense and encounters major difficulties with the thesis.
  3. Arrangements for the thesis defense must be made in the Graduate School office at least three weeks in advance. The examination must be taken at least three weeks prior to the date on which the degree is to be conferred. Degrees are conferred in May and December. The student must be registered at the time of the thesis defense. In addition, a copy of the thesis must be given to the Thesis Committee at least two weeks before the defense.
  4. The thesis defense is the final examination of the thesis and related topics. It includes an oral presentation of the salient points of the research, its conclusions and its integration with the rest of the field. The oral presentation will be conducted by the Thesis Committee and only members of the Graduate Faculty may be present. The final decision regarding the result of the thesis defense is made by the Committee.
  5. All corrections to the written thesis required by the Thesis Committee must be completed within thirty days from the date of the thesis defense. The signed, written document must be submitted to the Graduate School at that time.
  6. The student must receive affirmative votes from the majority of the committee. The examination may be attempted only once. Disqualification of the thesis examination results in dismissal from the Graduate Program without a degree.
  7. The student is responsible for providing a bound copy of the thesis to the Thesis Advisor, the members of the Thesis Committee, the Program and the Graduate School.

For additional information, please consult the CSD Student Handbook.​​