Soon after entering the program, the student will be assigned an academic advisor, who must be a full-time member of the Biology Department faculty. Within six months, the student and academic advisor will choose an academic advisory committee (AAC) and will submit this proposed committee for approval to the graduate program director (GPD) and the Biology Graduate Committee, which oversees all aspects of graduate study in environmental biology. The AAC will comprise the academic advisor and two additional members in the student’s area of interest. The student, in consultation with the AAC, will plan an appropriate course of study. During the first year of graduate study and until a dissertation committee has been established, the AAC will monitor the student’s progress. The academic advisor and the student will provide a yearly progress report to the GPD and the graduate committee. The student can change his or her academic advisor or rearrange his or her AAC with the approval of the GPD.
To continue in the PhD program, the student must maintain a GPA of 3.0, and may not receive a grade of “C” in more than one course.
Written Comprehensive and Oral Qualifying Examinations
Students must pass two examinations before they undertake research at the doctoral level:
a written comprehensive examination to test the student’s command and knowledge of four specific areas of biology**
a subsequent oral qualifying examination based on:
- the oral description and defense of the student’s dissertation proposal, and
- comprehensive questioning focused on the four areas covered in the written exam.
The written comprehensive examination may be taken at the end of the student’s first year, or after the completion of at least 18 credits of course work; and it should generally be taken by the end of four semesters or 36 credits of course work. The student will defend four areas, drawn from the array of graduate courses offered in the department or from other areas acceptable to the AAC and approved by the Graduate Committee.
A student who fails the written examination may, at the discretion of the academic advisory committee, be permitted a second and final written examination after six months.
A student failing the examination a second time may either:
- withdraw from the program, or
- formally petition the AAC to work toward a master’s degree in biology, in biotechnology and biomedical science, or in environmental sciences.
A student cannot continue in the PhD program after a second failure of the comprehensive examination.
**Generally, within one month following the written exam, the student should submit a brief description of his or her dissertation proposal to the AAC and the GPD. Before taking the oral examination, the student should also confer with members of the AAC on the soundness of the proposal. The student should also discuss, with the individual members of the AAC, the possible deficiencies in the written exam. The oral qualifying exam should be scheduled, generally within one month following the submission of the dissertation proposal.
On successfully completing the qualifying examination, the student becomes a candidate for the PhD degree in Environmental Biology. The student is allowed up to five more years to complete and successfully defend a scholarly dissertation.
Approximately nine to twelve months after the student’s advance to candidacy, the student will present a seminar, based on his or her work in progress, to the entire department.
After becoming a candidate for the PhD, the student must choose a dissertation advisor and committee. The dissertation committee will generally, but not necessarily, comprise the three members of the AAC and one member from outside the department. With the approval of the GPD and the Graduate Committee, faculty from outside the Biology Department or non-UMass Boston faculty will be permitted to co-sponsor a student’s dissertation work.
A final public dissertation defense will be administered by a dissertation panel comprising at least five members including
- The Dissertation Committee,
- The Biology GPD or (if the GPD is already on the dissertation committee) a member of the Graduate Committee, and
- A member designated by the dean of Graduate Studies as the dean’s representative.
The defense will be chaired by the student’s dissertation advisor, and will be scheduled after the student has submitted an advanced draft of the manuscript to the dissertation panel and after the panel has agreed that the student is ready to defend it.