PhD Candidacy (Qualification) Exam

In consultation with the student, a research advisor is appointed to replace the academic advisor. The research advisor works with the student and the director of the Graduate Program to form a Doctoral Dissertation Committee to guide the student’s dissertation work. The dissertation committee requires at least four members with expertise related to the student’s dissertation topic, including:

  • The research advisor, who shall serve as the committee chairperson;
  • Three or more committee readers;
  • At least two of the committee members (including the advisor) should be members of the College of Optometry faculty;
  • At least one external committee member who is not a member of the College of Optometry faculty will serve as a referee to evaluate the dissertation defense process. If a non-optometry faculty member cannot serve on the dissertation committee, a College of Optometry faculty will be substituted.

If changes in the approved advisor or committee become necessary, the student must submit a written request and obtain approval from the VSG Committee before the change occurs.

At least one semester after passing the Comprehensive Knowledge Exam, a student may submit a dissertation research proposal for the PhD Candidacy Examination to the student’s dissertation committee. The proposal should be formatted as for grant application (e.g., NIH grant proposal) and include the following (or equivalent) elements:

  • Specific aims: Describe the main research questions and the hypotheses, and outline the experiments to test them.
  • Background and significance: Include a focused literature review on the topics and rationale for the importance of the research.
  • Preliminary studies or progress report: Describe the relevant preparation or research the student has done toward completing their dissertation.
  • Research design or methods: Describe the planned research.

Once passing the Qualification Examination, the student is advanced to PhD Candidacy and may begin their doctoral dissertation research as approved by the dissertation committee.