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Physiology & Pharmacology

Assignment of Faculty Advisor and Major Professor

Initially, the graduate coordinator can act as the faculty advisor for graduate students who have not selected a major professor at time of entry into the program. The graduate coordinator will direct and advise the student concerning the required course work so that time and energy will be spent on relevant courses. Normally, however, a major professor will be identified before the student begins course work or after lab rotations. Eventually the student, the major professor, and the Advisory Committee will prepare and approve a complete program of study.

To choose a major professor each student is expected to make an appointment to interview each faculty member prior to or at the beginning of the first semester's classes. During interviews with faculty, the student should discuss such items as the faculty member's research interests, possible research problems, special course work requirements for the area of interest, and opportunities for employment upon completion of degree requirements. Early enrollment in VPHY 6930 and completion of rotations in selected professors laboratories is useful. In this manner, the choice of major professor, if not already decided, can be based upon mutual interests. At this time, the faculty member can also indicate his/her need, desire, or qualifications to have a graduate student. An early choice of a major professor is desirable and this choice should be made by the end of the second semester of classes. This choice should be made known to the graduate coordinator who will keep the departmental faculty informed as to who is serving as advisor for each graduate student.

Role of the Major Professor

Selection of the Advisory Committee

As soon as a major professor has been identified and approved, he/she and the student should select the Advisory Committee. The make-up of the Advisory Committee must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. There is a form for prospective doctoral candidates to be signed by the graduate coordinator.

For the Doctor of Philosophy degree the Advisory Committee will consist of the major professor as chairman and at least two other members of the Graduate Faculty. The major professor and at least two of the other members of the committee must be appointed members of the graduate faculty. At least one of the members of the committee must be a tenure-track member of the department. One member of the Advisory Committee can be a member from departments other than Physiology and Pharmacology (joint or adjunct appointees of the department qualify to meet this requirement).  Additional persons may be added (see Graduate School guidelines), keeping a majority of the committee composed of members from the Graduate Faculty.

Program of Study

You must develop a preliminary program of study with advice from your major professor, and submit it to the graduate coordinator by the end of the first semester of your second year of residency. The graduate coordinator will check the preliminary program for proper completion and adherence to departmental and University regulations. As soon as the Advisory Committee has been formed, the major professor will call a meeting of this committee and the student for the purpose of reviewing the program of study. Courses used for a previous degree may not be used to satisfy credit requirements for a subsequent degree, but they may be used to satisfy departmental core course requirements as long as this action does not violate Graduate School policy on overall credit requirements for the subsequent degree.

Once the program of study has been approved by the Advisory Committee, submit it for signatures of the major professor and the Advisory Committee. Then submit it to the graduate coordinator for forwarding to the Graduate Dean.

Progress Reports

The student is required to report to the major professor at frequent intervals for the purpose of detailing progress in graduate work including course completion, grade and research progress.  The student will meet annually with their Advisory Committee to assess progress in their program.  Adequate progress will be documented by completion of the Graduate Committee Assessment Form.  

Assist in Selection of Thesis or Dissertation Problem

It is expected that close communication between the major professor and student will serve to guide the student toward planning a meaningful research proposal. A thorough review of the literature in the area of interest should be the basis for formulating the thesis or dissertation proposal.

Role of the Advisory Committee

Program of Study

The Advisory Committee will meet with the student to formulate a program of study tailored to the needs of the student, taking into consideration the student's research area of interest and future plans. Subsequent deletions or additions to the program of study must also be approved by the Advisory Committee.

Thesis or Dissertation Problem

The student is required to prepare and submit a written preliminary research proposal (prospectus) to the Advisory Committee as soon as possible after the Advisory Committee has been formed. The major professor and Advisory Committee shall guide the student in planning the dissertation. The student will prepare a dissertation prospectus. When the major professor certifies that the dissertation prospectus is satisfactory, it must be finally considered by the Advisory Committee in a meeting with the student. This formal consideration may not take the place of the comprehensive oral examination.

Approval of the dissertation prospectus signifies that members of the Advisory Committee believe that it proposes a satisfactory research study. Approval of the prospectus requires the agreement of the majority of members of the Advisory Committee which, together with the approved prospectus, is filed with the graduate coordinator.

The preliminary research proposal should contain the following:

  1. Introduction—State the overall problem.
  2. Literature Review—Review previous work and describe the current research status of the intended problem. A thorough search of the literature is an important activity of a graduate degree problem.
  3. Hypothesis
  4. Rationale—This should consist of a brief statement regarding the reasons for doing the proposed research.
  5. Specific Aims of project.
  6. Materials and Methods—Describe the experiments which will be conducted. Include the design of the experiment, the assay procedures which will be used, the animals which will be used, the data to be collected, and the statistical methods which will be used to analyze the data.
    • It may be instructive to include an estimated Budget.  This could include the cost of purchase and care of experimental animals, cost of chemicals, drugs, supplies, services, and travel needed for the research, and cost of any additional equipment needed for the study.
  7. Discussion—Discuss the potential significance of the proposed research. Point out any novel ideas or concepts of the study.  Include potential outcomes, anticipated problems, and alternative approaches to the problem.
  8. Bibliography

The research proposal which is accepted by the Advisory Committee will be presented to the department as a seminar. An abstract of the points described above should be distributed to those attending the seminar and should serve as an outline for the oral presentation at the seminar.

Comprehensive Written and Oral Examinations

The Advisory Committee, in addition to advising and approving the student's program of study and research proposal (prospectus), also is charged with arranging the comprehensive written and oral examinations, approving the completed thesis or dissertation, and approving the student's defense of his/her research.

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