Graduate Program:

The Second Year and beyond


During their second year students begin to develop and define a thesis project. As the project begins to take shape, the student and mentor propose a Thesis Committee consisting of the advisor plus three, or occasionally four, additional faculty members. The Thesis Committee should be carefully chosen, as its collective expertise will help to guide the student through the entire course of the dissertation research. For this reason the Curriculum Committee will review each student’s proposed Thesis Committee, and may occasionally suggest the addition of an extra member. The student chooses one member of the committee (not the advisor) to act as chair of the Thesis Committee.

In Spring Quarter of the second year, each student submits a thesis proposal laying out their proposed dissertation research in the format of a grant proposal. This proposal is submitted to the Thesis Committee prior to the first Committee meeting. The first meeting serves as the Qualifying Exam for advancement to Ph.D. candidacy. The goal of the Qualifying Exam is to establish that the student is able to propose a logical series of experiments to test hypotheses that collectively address an important question in developmental biology.

In subsequent years, the student continues to meet with their full Thesis Committee at least annually, providing a short written report before each meeting. Many students also benefit from more frequent informal interactions with individual Thesis Committee members.


All of our graduate students are required to teach for at least two quarters. Some students with no prior teaching experience choose to take a “TA course”, which explores teaching approaches ad curriculum design, in lieu of the first TAship. Many students TA one undergraduate class and one graduate class, to get as wide an experience of teaching at different levels as possible. Most students complete their TA requirements in years 2 and 3, with some students opting to TA additional courses beyond the requirement.


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