IV. Committees & Examinations

MAJOR PROFESSOR: GRADUATE ADVISOR/THESIS RESEARCH SUPERVISOR

The student’s Major Professor (i.e. Graduate Advisor and Research Supervisor) will be selected by the student in agreement with the faculty. The Major Professor will assist the student in choosing appropriate courses until the time that an Advisory Committee is formed. If the student is rotating through labs the Graduate Program Director will advise the student until the student has selected a lab and Major Professor.

MASTER’S COMMITTEE

The Master’s committee will consist of at least three members who will be recommended by the student’s Major Professor to the Graduate Program Director. For thesis students, the Graduate Program Director will request the graduate school to appoint these people. Only the Graduate Program Director must be notified for non-thesis students’ Advisory Committee. The Major Professor will chair the committee. The Master’s Advisory Committee does not require the appointment of a member who is outside of the department.

Ph.D. COMMITTEE

The PhD Dissertation committee shall be appointed in accordance with graduate school regulations. Upon recommendation by the student’s Major Professor, the Department Head or the Graduate Program Director shall recommend, by memo (form D.3), to the Dean of the Graduate School the names of at least three members of the Graduate faculty to serve as a Dissertation Committee. At least two of the Graduate faculty so nominated shall be from the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences (this may include the Chair) and one member from outside the Department. The outside member shall serve as the representative of the Graduate Council and the Dean of the Graduate School. The PhD Dissertation Committee should review a general research plan and guide the student towards the Preliminary Comprehensive Examination. However, Graduate School approval of the Committee does not have to occur until after the student has passed the Preliminary Comprehensive Examination.

SUMMARY of COMMITTEE STRUCTURES

1. Master’s Committee
A. Major Professor who must be a member of the Animal Biotechnology & Biomedical Sciences graduate faculty. The major professor acts as Chair of the committee.
B. At least two more members who are members of the graduate faculty of the University and may be from any department.
C. Additional members are not necessary but may be appointed if desired.
 
2. Ph.D. Committee
A. Major Professor who must be a member of the Animal Biotechnology & Biomedical Sciences graduate faculty. The Major Professor acts as the Chair of the committee.
B. A second member from the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences.
C. A third member who must be a member of the graduate faculty of the University (adjunct or regular) but may be from outside the Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences.
D. Additional members are not necessary but may be appointed if desired.

Examinations

MASTER’S RESEARCH OUTLINE (PROSPECTUS)

A research outline (prospectus) must be presented to the Committee for approval at least 4 months before the completion of the degree. For Master’s thesis students a specific form (form M.5) must be signed by each Committee member and department head or Graduate Program Director. For Master’s Thesis submission requirements and completion of your degree, please view this link.

Master’s Final Oral Examination

The final Master’s Examination consists of a public oral seminar presented to the Department and other interested parties followed by a private examination by the Advisory Committee.

 Ph.D. PRELIMINARY COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATION

A Preliminary Comprehensive Examination consisting of a written and oral component must be passed (to pass requires positive vote by all committee members by all doctoral candidates. The result of the examination must be communicated by memo from the Major Professor to the Graduate Program Director or Department Head who in turn communicates it to the Graduate School by memo (form D.2). The examination must be in accordance with the following rules:
        1. The format of the written examination is flexible but has several possible general formats. It may be:

  1. A take-home exam designed as a mini-grant proposal (e.g., 20 double-spaced pages plus appropriate references and supporting appended material). The intent of the examination is for the student to demonstrate his/her ability to propose testable hypothesis driven experiments based on acquired knowledge and knowledge gaps found in current literature. It also tests the student’s ability to organize written information and effectively communicate scientific ideas. It is appropriate for the student to seek help (from their Major Advisor or others) in understanding grant formats and grant writing, but it is not appropriate to seek help in generating experimental ideas and hypotheses.
  2. A series of questions requiring literature research (written responses equivalent in time required to prepare and response length to the grant proposal format),
  3. An open or closed book comprehensive examination consisting of questions prepared by each member of the Committee and which requires substantial time to generate the written answers (e.g. At least one full day of writing for an entirely closed book exam and as much as one day/Committee member’s questions for an open book or combination open and closed book exam),
  4. Other variations or combinations of the above, as long as it is a written exam of a quality generally accepted as sufficient for admission of a candidate to the degree of PhD.
    The format should be decided by the members of the Dissertation Committee. It is recommended that the student be consulted as to the preferable format since individuals have differences in their learning styles. The intent of the examination is to not only to determine the extent of knowledge which the student possesses, to indicate to the student the limitations of her/his knowledge but to also be a learning experience (i.e. give the student practice in organizing knowledge). The topic for the exam must be approved by the Major Advisor and Graduate Program Director at least 2 months prior to the examination date. The final written document must be handed to the Committee members at least one week prior to the Oral Exam date. It is recommended that the student and committee discuss the specifics of the exam format well in advance of its due date.

        2.  The Oral Examination will follow completion of the written component and will not exceed 3 hours in length. It is recommended that the oral examination be used to clarify written answers and/or to be an extension or review of the material covered by the written component, although it will not necessarily be confined to such. The intent of the oral examination is to give the candidate the opportunity to elaborate or improve on weak or incorrect answers given in the written component. If the student chooses option ‘a’ above, the exam may start with a Power Point presentation by the student outlining the contents of the written grant proposal. In all cases the examination should proceed as a round of questions from all Committee members, with approximately equal time being used by each Committee member. It is the responsibility of the Chair of the Dissertation Committee to ensure that each Committee member receives an adequate or appropriate amount of time to examine the candidate and that the student is fairly questioned at an appropriate level.

       3.  In case of failure, the student will be given a second opportunity. The second examination should be taken by 6 months after the first examination unless further course work is required to fill deficits. A second failure will result in the students’ automatic academic dismissal from the program.

Ph.D. DISSERTATION OUTLINE (PROSPECTUS)

A final dissertation outline should be approved at least 7 months before completion of the degree. The dissertation outline form (form D.4) is prepared by the ABBS Administrative Assistant (send information ahead of meeting) for Committee and Graduate Program Director or Department Head signatures and given to the Graduate School by the candidate. The  Dissertation outline is not meant to be an extensive written document, but instead should include background, preliminary results/current work and an outline (and timeline) of the planned experiments for the ensuing years of research. The Dissertation Outline is approved by the Committee after a meeting during which the student presents their current research and the experiments found within the Dissertation Outline. The purpose of the dissertation outline is for the Committee to help the student ensure that a volume and quality of work deserving of a doctoral degree will be accomplished in a timely fashion. The Dissertation Outline is not set in stone, but is subject to change as the Committee sees fit and the research progresses.

Ph.D. FINAL ORAL EXAMINATION

The Committee will also arrange and conduct the final oral examination. All members of the committee must approve the dissertation before the final oral examination is scheduled. Scheduling of the final Oral Exam must be communicated by memo (form D.5) to the Graduate Program Director or Department Head who communicates it to the Graduate School by form at least 30 days beforehand. Students should consult the graduate school for other regulations such as scheduling the exam and announcing the defense.

The final examination consists of a seminar presentation of the Candidate’s research and an oral examination. The seminar is open to all interested persons while the Final Oral Examination is only open to all Faculty and Postdoctoral appointments in the Department sponsoring the Candidate’s graduate program (i.e., Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences) and any member of the Graduate faculty of the University of Massachusetts. However, only members of the Dissertation Committee may vote on the Candidate.

A unanimous vote of the Dissertation Committee is required for the student to pass the Final Oral Exam. If, at the examination, 2/3 of the members of the Dissertation Committee cast negative votes, the Candidate will be informed that he/she has not passed the examination. If there is only one negative vote, the degree will be held up pending action of the Graduate Council. The result of the examination must be communicated to the Graduate School by memo (form D.6) from the Graduate Program Director or Department Head.

All forms are in Section VIII

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