A member of the doctoral committee advises all MS/PhD and PhD students in their first year of study, making sure all prerequisites are met and required courses are taken. In the second year, students pair up with a faculty advisor to gain research experience. By the third year students should have found a dissertation advisor.

Periodic Reviews

Student performance is reviewed by the program committee at the end of each semester for the first two years, and at the end of each year thereafter. In the first year, attention is on student performance in course work, particularly in the four core courses. Students are held to the highest expectations; any grade below A- is a cause for concern.

Qualifying Procedure

The qualifying procedure for PhD students consists of three components:

  1. Complete the four core courses during the first year, with at most one grade of B+ or worse;
  2. Conduct research during the first summer and give a talk based on this research at the beginning of the third semester;
  3. Submit a research report (paper) at the end of the third semester.

Students will be reviewed after each component. A student who fails to complete component (1) may be asked to withdraw from the program at the end of the first year.

A student who successfully completes component (1) will typically move on to do summer research, advised by a faculty member in the department. In the rare instance that the PhD Committee is dissatisfied with a student's performance in components (2) and (3), they may be asked to withdraw from the program at the end of the second year.

Qualification

After successfully completing the qualifying procedure, a student is considered by the faculty to be qualified to complete the doctoral program. However, due to the limited resources, support beyond a fourth year may not be possible. The departmental faculty is committed to guiding and assisting students to complete the program within the time given.

Thesis Advisor

The ultimate goal for a student in the doctoral program is to write a dissertation in collaboration with a faculty advisor. By the end of the second year, or start of the third year, each student should find a doctoral advisor, who will assume primary responsibility for advisement and evaluation. However, the entire faculty will continue to monitor each student's progress, and other faculty members will be available to give guidance.

At times, students may conduct research with more than one faculty member and are encouraged to interact with a broad range of faculty and students in the research community.

Dissertation Defense and Department Colloquium

At the end of the fourth year, the student defends their dissertation before a small faculty committee, following university guidelines. In advance, the student will distribute their dissertation to the committee. Technical errors and sloppy writing cause major setbacks; creativity is appreciated. At the time of the defense, the student will also give a seminar for the department.