The Doctoral Degree
Admission to Doctoral Study
Admission to doctoral study is restricted to applicants who backgrounds show definite promise of success on this, the highest level of academic endeavor.
Applicants apply on the GSBS application website, http://www.bioraider.com where they create an account and choose the program application.
All completed applications received by the application deadline are reviewed by the Ph.D. Selection Committee. The committee is comprised of two members from each concentration as appointed by the department chair for a total of 8 committee members. The Senior Associate Dean for Admissions serves as chair and ex officio, and only votes in case of a tie.
A completed application consists of the following items: submitted application, unofficial transcript(s) from U.S. institutions and/or course-by-course transcript evaluation, GRE (required for international applicants), at least two letters of recommendation, essay/statement of purpose, resume/CV, application fee.
Incomplete applications at the application deadline are not and will not be processed or reviewed for admission. No exceptions are made.
Committee members conduct a holistic application review. Members submit a rubric evaluating applicants on personal essay, letters of recommendation, research experience, and graduate-level research/coursework. The numerical rating is compiled into a weighted composite score to arrive at a final admission score. This final admission score is used as the starting point for discussion and does not represent a hard cut-off for consideration.
The committee generally meets weekly December-March to review completed applications, conduct interviews and vote to determine which applicants to forward to the GSBS Admissions Committee or which applicants will be denied admission.
At each meeting, committee members are provided with the composite rubric evaluation and decide by consensus if an applicant will be invited to interview. Applicant interviews are conducted by the entire committee rather than by an individual committee member. No applicant is forwarded to the GSBS Admissions Committee without interviewing with the committee.
After the interview, the committee discusses the applicant (which includes the application, required supplemental items and interview) and votes to either forward to the GSBS Admissions Committee or deny admission. Voting requires a simple majority of committee members present, and a quorum is required for a meeting. The GSBS Admissions Committee has final authority to approve admission decisions.
Years of Study
A minimum of three years of graduate study beyond the bachelor's degree is required for the doctorate. Work completed for the master's degree may be considered as a part of this period if it forms a logical sequence in the entire degree program. Ordinarily, credit will not be given for work completed more than seven years prior to admission to the doctoral program at TTUHSC. Exception to this policy will require written justification by the graduate advisor and approval by the GSBS Dean following review by the Core Curriculum Committee.
Work completed in the doctoral program of another recognized graduate school will be considered on the recommendation of the graduate advisor, but no assurance can be given that such work will reduce the minimum residence (see Residence Requirements).
Doctoral study cannot be calculated solely in terms of credit hours, but the program for the doctorate requires the completion of 72 or more semester hours of work beyond the bachelor's degree. Typically the 72 credit hours is broken down into 48 didactic hours; 12 hours (maximum) of research and 12 hours (maximum) of dissertation. Prior approval by the Dean is required for any exceptions.
The intent of doctoral residency is to ensure that doctoral students benefit from, and contribute to, the complete spectrum of educational and professional opportunities provided by the graduate faculty. When establishing residency, the student should interact with faculty and peers by regularly attending courses, conferences and seminars, and utilize the library facilities and resources needed to support excellence in graduate education. Doctoral candidates must complete at least three (3) years of full-time graduate level work beyond the baccalaureate degree (or one year beyond the master's degree), of which at least one academic year - the residency year - must be spent in residence on the TTUHSC campus. The residence requirement is fulfilled by the completion of at least 9 hours of course work in each of the two long terms and 6 hours in the summer. Other patterns for fulfilling residency requirements require approval of the GSBS Office.
Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. Program Core Curriculum Policy
All biomedical science fields recognize the need for high levels of integration of scientific knowledge to accelerate opportunities for basic and translational research. Toward that end, full-time research is preceded by a curriculum that introduces scientific facts and provides opportunities for the development of critical thinking, synthesis of information, development of factual knowledge, and the ability to read and comprehend original literature. These skills serve as a foundation for all concentrations/programs in the GSBS.
Curriculum Design and Courses
The Core Curriculum consists of the five Core Courses taken in the first semester. GSBS requires that all doctoral students take all core courses in the first semester of enrollment and Responsible Conduct of Research in the second semester.
Core Curriculum Courses
- GSBS 5471 - Core I: Molecules - This course offers a broad coverage of biochemistry with an emphasis on structure and function of macromolecules, and the pathways of intermediary metabolism.
- GSBS 5372 - Core II: Cells - The structure/function relationships that underlie basic cellular processes, including translation protein trafficking, cytoskeletal organization and motility, cell adhesion and cell division.
- GSBS 5373 - Core III: Genes - Teaches essential scientific concepts underlying the field of Molecular Biology and Molecular Genetics.
- GSBS 5174 - Core IV: Biomedical Seminar Series - Students will attend and participate in seminars.
- GSBS 5275 - Core V: Introduction to Biomedical Research - Introduces the first-year graduate student to the fundamental principles and techniques in basic biomedical research.
Opting Out of Core Curriculum Courses
Students who have a master's degree in a biomedical or biological sciences discipline may request to opt out of the individual core courses, Core I, Core II or Core III. GSBS 5174 (Core IV), and GSBS 5275 (Core V) may not be waived. A waiver request to the GSBS Dean must come from the student's graduation program/concentration advisor, or in the case of undeclared students, from the GSBS Senior Associate Dean. When applicable, the request should include a course syllabus and grade received for each course that is considered equivalent to the core courses for which a waiver is requested (for transfer credit, a syllabus and grade are required). The waiver request must be made prior to the first day of class. The request will be reviewed by the Course Director of the course requesting to be waived, and the recommendation evaluated by the Core Curriculum Coordination (CCC) Committee. The GSBS Office will notify the student and graduate advisor prior to the 12th day of class. During the time prior to the waiver, the student must audit the core course for which a waiver is requested.
Undeclared Student Information
Students in the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program enter as undeclared, complete the core curriculum, and rotate in faculty labs prior to selecting a mentor and concentration. The following is intended to provide information for new students up to the time of mentor/concentration selection.
At the earliest possible date, whether that be before or after New Student Orientation, each student will meet with the First-year Student PhD Advisor to discuss Year 1 course selection, lab rotations, GSBS policy for selecting a concentration, and other academic issues.
During the first Fall semester, all students complete the core curriculum. One of the core curriculum courses is GSBS 5275 Introduction to Biomedical Research. During the first 4 weeks of the course, advisors will present concentration specific information and discuss research opportunities within each concentration. After the initial 4 weeks, students will complete two lab rotations of their choosing based on faculty availability as well as receive additional advisement regarding mentor and concentration selection. Students should refer to the course syllabus for additional information.
Students are encouraged to complete at least three lab rotations prior to selecting a mentor and concentration, however at minimum students must complete two rotations. The earliest students may select a mentor and concentration is the last day of the first Fall semester. If a student is still undecided after the Fall semester, additional lab rotations may be completed during the Spring term and a mentor and concentration must be selected by the end of the Summer term.
During the first Spring term, undeclared students register for GSBS 5098 (6 hours) Techniques in Biomedical Research, advanced course work and seminar tin the concentration of interest, and GSBS 5101 Responsible Conduct of Research. Students are encouraged to speak to the concentration advisor and Student Affairs Advocate for additional guidance and information.
Prior to selecting a mentor and concentration, students are encouraged to review concentration guidelines and become familiar with concentration expectations.
Once a mentor and graduate concentration have been selected by mutual agreement between student and mentor, the Application for Change in Major form should be prepared by the student, relevant graduate advisor, department administrator, and submitted to the GSBS office for final approval by the Dean (or appointed delegate).
The requirements specified in this policy are intended to balance student needs with access/representation of each of the Biomedical Sciences Program concentrations.
Filing a Degree Plan
The Doctoral Degree Plan will be submitted to the GSBS during the Spring semester of the second year of work. Revisions of the plan are permitted as needed by submitting the Changes to the Degree Plan form.
As soon as an applicant’s program/concentration has been determined, an advisory committee of at least four members of the graduate faculty will be appointed by the GSBS Office on the recommendation of the graduate advisor. This committee will meet at least annually with the applicant and will direct his or her work at all stages. The expectations of committee members, the advisor, and the Dean’s representative are available on the GSBS website. The Chair of a student’s committee must hold a full or associate membership in the program/concentration from which the student will receive the doctorate. Students may elect to have a co-Chair, who must have a graduate faculty appointment. It is strongly recommended that one of the committee members be outside the student's concentration and preferably a prominent scientist from another institution in the field of the dissertation research.
The Qualifying Examination for Admission to Candidacy for the doctoral degree is one of the major features of the doctoral program and will be administered in the major area of study. The examination requires a synthesis and application of knowledge acquired during the course of study for the doctoral degree; consequently, successful performance in course work does not necessarily guarantee successful performance on the Qualifying Examination. The purpose of the Qualifying Examination is to ensure that students have mastered the fundamentals in a major area of interest, and they are adequately prepared to begin working full-time on doctoral research.
The following policies and procedures apply to ALL current Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. students, regardless of which concentration they have chosen.
A student is eligible to stand for this examination after receiving approval of the doctoral degree plan from the GSBS Office and completing most of the course work prescribed by the approved plan. Students may take the Qualifying Examination as soon as they have completed core coursework, however, it must be completed by the end of the third year. A petition for an extension should be made by the mentor and approved by the GSBS Dean. In the absence of extenuating circumstances, failure to complete the Qualifying Examination by the end of the third year will results in dismissal from the Biomedical Sciences program/GSBS. Each exam component (written and oral) can be remediated once. Failure to pass both exam components will result in dismissal of the student from the Biomedical Sciences program/GSBS. If a student fails the qualifying examination, but is in good academic standing, the student may graduate with a Non-Thesis M.S. degree, if all requirements are met. The topic of the qualifying exam may be on any relevant research area. The research topic may not be the aims of an existing or submitted research proposal from the mentor or anyone other than the student.
The qualifying exam will be written in the F30/F31 format. See GSBS website for additional details regarding required forms.
With the consent of the mentor and the student, the Advisory Committee will serve as the Qualifying Examination Committee, with the exception that the Chair of the Committee will be elected by the committee members. The mentor is ineligible to be the Chair.
The Examination Committee votes (pass/fail) on both the written and oral exam components. If a student receives more than one negative vote for one component, this will constitute failure of the respective exam component. The written exam must be passed before the oral exam can be scheduled. An overall pass in the oral exam constitutes a pass on the Qualifying Exam.
The oral exam should be presented as a typical public seminar (40-45 minutes) followed by an open Q&A discussion that will not exceed 15 minutes. This presentation will be followed by a closed-door committee examination.
The exam timeline is as follows:
- Year 1 (defined as the year when Ph.D. students enter the GSBS; for MD/Ph.D. students, Year 1 begins upon entering the Ph.D. portion of the program, after completing USMLE Step 1). In Year 1 the student and mentor establish an Advisory Committee.
- Typically in year 2 or Year 3 a consensus is reached that the student is ready to prepare the written portion of the Qualifying Examination which is in the format of an NIH R01 grant application. At this point the student prepares and submits a one-page abstract/Specific Aims of the proposed topic to the committee for approval. The student then also notifies the Graduate Advisor and Student Affairs Advocate of the composition of the qualifying exam committee (this must occur no later than 3 months prior to the examination).
- After the written exam is submitted, the Examination Committee submits to the committee chair within 2 weeks a pass or fail/revision memo with justifications to the chair of the committee. If a student receives more than one negative vote, this will constitute failure of the written exam component. The student may submit one revised written exam, which is then voted on pass/fail; more than one negative vote will constitute failure of the written exam and failure on the Qualifying Exam.
- The oral exam is a public seminar followed by an oral examination by committee. The oral exam must take place within 4 weeks of receiving a passing grade on the written exam. Only one examination committee member may be absent from the oral exam. A new chair should be chosen if the committee chair is absent.
- If a student receives more than one negative vote, this will constitute failure of the oral exam component. The student is afforded one opportunity to repeat the oral examination.
Procedure When the Examination is Successful
If the Qualifying Examination is considered successful, the Chairperson of the advisory committee will send the Admission to Candidacy form to the GSBS Office for consideration by the Graduate Council. This recommendation should be forwarded as soon as possible after all the above requirements have been met.
Procedure When the Examination Is Not Successful
If the Qualifying Examination is not successful, the Chairperson of the advisory committee will notify the GSBS Office in writing.
Failure to complete/pass the Qualifying Examination within the specified time (deadline is the end of the third year) will result in dismissal from the program irrespective of performance in other aspects of doctoral study.
Admission to Candidacy
Authority for admitting an applicant to candidacy for a doctoral degree is vested in the Graduate Council. Upon receipt of an Admission to Candidacy Request form from the advisory committee, the GSBS Office will submit it to the Graduate Council for approval.
By written communication, the GSBS Office will transmit the results of the council’s action to the applicant and to the Chairperson of the advisory committee. A student must be admitted to candidacy for the doctorate at least four months prior to the proposed graduation date.
Admission to Candidacy indicates that a doctoral student has completed all coursework and has passed a comprehensive exam attaining the graduate level to begin working on their dissertation manuscript.
Completing the Admission to Candidacy Form
Step 1: Verify the student is eligible for candidacy.
- A Doctoral Committee must be appointed prior to Admission to Candidacy
- Students must have successfully completed the comprehensive Qualifying Examination certified by the doctoral committee
- All enrollment requirements for admission to candidacy have been met and the student:
- Has been continuously enrolled since entering the program
- Has no "I" on their record
- Has a minimum 3.0 overall GOA
- The student's degree plan must be on file with the GSBS office
- Once candidacy is approved, the student may enroll in dissertation hours in the following semester. Students may not enroll in dissertation hours until the semester following effective admission to candidacy. Once the student enrolls for dissertation hours, they must be continuously enrolled in dissertation hours every semester until graduation.
Step 2: Complete the Admission to Candidacy Form
Step 3: Approvals (completed by the GSBS Office)
- GSBS Graduate Council Rep: Signed after approved at Graduate Council meeting
- GSBS Office: Signed after approved at Graduate Council
Proficiency in English
A student found deficient in English may be required to satisfactorily complete certain specified courses in English usage (without graduate credit) before being considered for admission to candidacy for a graduate degree.
Publication of Student Work
Every PhD student is required to publish an original peer-reviewed research paper to demonstrate that the student has made a significant contribution to science. Review articles are not an acceptable contribution. The manuscript must be accepted (or accepted pending minor revisions), in press or published before submission of the Approval to Schedule Defense Form. The manuscript must be in a journal indexed by PubMed or Web of Science. The student must be the "first author" or share "first authorship" with a co-author of the manuscript, and the work must be completed during the current degree program. Waivers: If there are compelling reasons that the student will not have a published first author manuscript when the approval to schedule defense form is submitted, the Dissertation Committee Chair may request a waiver from the GSBS Dean. In considering the waiver request there are three stipulations: 1) The student's mentor and advisory committee must consider the manuscript draft suitable for a first author (or co-first author) publication; 2) the reasons for the delay must be explained; 3) the waiver only allows the student to schedule the defense. The manuscript must be accepted or in press in order for the defense to take place. Based on this information, the GSBS Dean may grant a waiver.
A dissertation is required of every candidate for a doctoral degree. The dissertation work must earn a grade of at least B in order to qualify the student for graduation.
Defenses may be scheduled at a suitable time after the dissertation (not necessarily the final copy) has been read by the advisory committee. Defenses should be scheduled during an active term and not between terms or during extended break periods. They are generally open to the public and considered open meetings. The dissertation copy is typically provided to the committee two weeks prior to the oral examination. The required forms noting the time, place, and other information pertaining to the examination are available on the GSBS website. The examination is conducted by the advisory committee and a representative of the GSBS Dean. All members of the committee participate fully in the examination and cast a vote. Faculty members other than members of the committee, including the Dean’s representative, may participate in the examination, but have no vote in determining the outcome. At the conclusion of the examination, the Chairperson of the advisory committee will send the Dissertation Oral Signature Defense Form to the GSBS Office, giving the result of the examination.
The Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences strongly recommends that each student be required to present and defend a dissertation proposal before his or her committee early in the course of the research. The subject of the dissertation must be approved by the advisory committee and the GSBS Office at least four months before the candidate’s proposed date of graduation. The dissertation must demonstrate a mastery of the techniques of research, a thorough understanding of the subject matter and its background, and a high degree of skill in organizing and presenting the materials. The dissertation should embody a significant contribution of new information to a subject or a substantial reevaluation of existing knowledge, presented in a scholarly style. The work on the dissertation is constantly under the supervision of the advisory committee and any other faculty the committee or GSBS Office may consider necessary. A copy of the dissertation should be presented to the committee members and the Dean’s representative at least two weeks prior to the defense.
Dissertation hours are graded with a CR except for the last semester in which a letter grade is assigned. At the instructor’s discretion, a letter grade may be assigned to the last 12 hours of dissertation. The letter grade assigned for the written dissertation and oral presentation/defense is based upon evaluation by committee members using the Dissertation Rubric.
Registration for at least 12 hours of 8000 is required for a doctoral dissertation. Once dissertation hours have begun, a student must be enrolled in such courses every semester until graduation unless granted an official leave of absence. Students may not enroll in dissertation courses before formal admission to a degree program by the GSBS Office.
Students may reference the Thesis – Dissertation Manual. All manuscripts must conform to the published policies. The final copy of the dissertation must be submitted electronically to the GSBS office. Dissertations must be accompanied by an abstract of no more than 350 words.
GSBS does not require a bound copy, although additional copies may be required by the advisory committee. The GSBS Office recommends utilizing www.thesisondemand.com to purchase bound copies, however any bindery is acceptable.
ETD – Electronic Thesis & Dissertations
The final copy of the dissertation must be submitted electronically to the GSBS office along with the ETD Account Information for HSC Students. Detailed instructions for completing the ETD account information is available on the GSBS website. The GSBS will forward the documents to the TTU Library for archival on the ETD website.
Early in the semester of graduation, the candidate will pay the HSC Bursar’s Office a document fee to cover the cost of uploading and storing the dissertation to the ETD website.
Department Coordinators should notify all GSBS faculty and the GSBS office of all defenses at least 6 weeks prior to the defense for posting to the GSBS on-line event calendar. Faculty interested in attending the defense at an off-site location should notify coordinators at least 4 weeks prior to the defense so room arrangements can be made and TechLink or Zoom secured. Two (2) weeks prior to the defense, coordinators should prepare and forward a copy of the dissertation announcement template to all GSBS faculty and students.
All requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed within a period of eight consecutive calendar years, or four years from admission to candidacy, whichever comes first. Graduate credit for course work taken at TTUHSC more than eight calendar years old at the time of the final oral examination may not be used to satisfy degree requirements. Absent an extension, the student may be permitted to retake the Qualifying Examination, and upon passing that examination, be readmitted to candidacy by the Graduate Council for some period of time not to exceed four years.
To define enrollment limits sanctioned by the Texas Legislature and outline the process for doctoral students approaching maximum limits. Master’s students may not reduce hours unless they are designated by the GSBS office as “off-campus” students. Master’s students that are designated as off-campus students should review the guidelines under “semester of graduation” within the Enrollment section. Reduced enrollment hours may affect financial aid status and/or payroll FICA exemptions. Students are encouraged to check with financial aid and the payroll office before taking the reduced hours. International students should also check with the TTUHSC DSO to verify hours for compliance with the Department of Homeland Security. Typically, international students may only reduce hours in their last semester. Any exceptions must be approved and updated in SEVIS.
- Once a doctoral student has passed candidacy and accumulated 120 hours, the student may register for 3 hours each semester for up to one year.
Ex. 3 hours - Fall; 3 hours - Spring; 3 hours - Summer
NOTE: If student elects the 3-3-3 enrollment and does not complete the degree requirements within that period, the student must resume full-time status (9 hours per long semester).
- Students accumulating 130+ hours may be charged out-of-state tuition (full-cost) and forfeit any GSBS state-funded Research Assistantship. The faculty mentor will be responsible for the student’s salary once the student exceeds 130 semester credit hours.
- Out-of-state tuition may be waived for students exceeding 130 hours if those students entered the doctoral program with excessive hours from a master's degree. Requests for tuition waivers must be approved by the GSBS Office.
Probation and Dismissal
GSBS students are required to maintain a minimum overall grade point average (GPA) of 3.0. If a student fails to maintain the required minimum GPA, she or he will be placed on academic probation.
- Students may also be placed on probation for not completing the Core Courses within the first semester.
- Students may not drop a Core Course for academic reasons (reasonable exceptions will be made for sickness, etc., at the discretion of the GSBS Dean).
- Students receiving a grade of C or below in Core Course I, II or III will be required to repeat the course.
- Students receiving grades of C or below in two or more Core Courses will be at risk of dismissal.
- Students who do not complete the required core courses by the end of the second year (which includes the 5 core courses and the Responsible Conduct of Research) will be at risk of dismissal.
Interdisciplinary Course Descriptions
- (F) Face-to-face
- (O) Online
- (H) Hybrid (combination of face-to-face and online)
- (V) Variable Credit