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Doctoral Degree (PhD, ScD, DrPH) Timeline

Welcome Letter



Complete required coursework, including the Academic Ethics requirement, with a miniumum 3.0 GPA.1st and 2nd year of degree program
Take and pass the Department's written Comprehensive Examination.

Comprehensive Examination Grading Policy
After successful completion of 140.621 and 340.751-4 series (end of degree program; Wednesday, May 25 & Thursday, May 26, 2016)
Satisfy the Department's Teaching Assistant Requirement.2nd & 3rd year of program
Submit Thesis Proposal to advisor.2nd & 3rd year of program
Form Thesis Advisory Committee and submit Thesis Committee Approval Form to Ebony A. Moore in W6508C.Once Thesis Advisory Committee is formed
Upon approval of advisor, submit thesis proposal to Thesis Advisory Committee.Friday, September 4, 2015 (December 2015 Graduation)
Friday, February 5, 2016 (May 2016 Graduation)
Schedule Doctoral Proposal Seminar and submit form to Jon Eichberger.2 weeks prior to presentation date
Schedule Departmental Oral Examination and submit form to Ebonay A. Moore in W6508C.2 weeks prior to exam
Complete Primary Data Collection requirement.Before taking the Preliminary Oral Examination
Schedule Preliminary Oral Examination and submit appropriate form (PhD/ScD or DrPH) to Edda Budlow in Office of Registration and Records, E1002.At least 30 days prior to exam
Review of student research by the Institutional Review Board. If applicable, advisor and student submit PHIRST application.Prior to working with data and within 6 months of successfully passing the school-wide exam
Submit Thesis Research Documentation to Angelica Watts in W1033.Within 90 days of receipt of form from Angelica
Complete Dissertation Approval Form and deliver dissertation to readers.At least 30 days prior to Final Oral Examination date
Schedule Final Defense Seminar (for promotional purposes).After scheduling final defense with Fran Burman and Edda Budlow
Final Oral Examination is scheduled.

Submit appropriate Appointment of Thesis Readers & Final Oral Examination form (PhD/ScD or DrPH) to Edda Budlow in E1002.
Friday, September 4, 2015 (December 2015 Graduation)
Friday, February 5, 2016 (May 2016 Graduation)
Successfully complete Final Oral Examination. 
Submit Thesis Acceptance letters to Edda Budlow in E1002.

Submit correctly formatted thesis to Eisenhower Library and Jon Eichberger electronically.
For December 2015 Graduation:
Friday, November 6, 2015
(2nd term registration NOT required) OR Friday, November 13, 2015 (2nd term registration required)

For May 2016 Graduation:
Friday, April 1, 2016
(2nd term registration NOT required) OR Friday, April 8, 2016 (4th term registration required)
Fall ConferralDecember 30, 2015
School ConvocationMay 17, 2016
Spring conferralMay 18, 2016

Academic Ethics Requirement

550.860.62 Academic Research Ethics

Responsible Conduct of Research Requirement

Department Comprehensive Examination

A two-day comprehensive examination is administered to all degree-seeking students in May of their first academic year. By the time of the exam, students should have completed 64 credit units (one full year of residence); Epidemiology 340.751-753, Biostatistics 140.621-624 or 140.651-654; and the required Epidemiology coursework in their track.

Topics covered on the examination include general epidemiologic methods and knowledge, history of epidemiology, and contemporary issues and leaders in public health. The first day of the exam (Part A) tests student knowledge of general epidemiology concepts and methods. The second day of the exam (Part B) is track-specific, and tests knowledge of concepts presented in the required courses for each track.

Students must pass both parts of the written comprehensive exam. Masters students must attain at least a 70% to pass and doctoral students a 75% to pass. Masters students must pass both sections of the exam in order to qualify for the Masters Tuition Scholarship in their second year. Doctoral students who do not pass the examination should consult with their advisor and may appeal to the Admissions and Credentials Committee. Progress of DrPH students who do not pass the examination will also be reviewed by the DrPH Executive Board. A repeat examination may be allowed, but is not guaranteed. Failure to pass one or both sections of the exam by a doctoral student may result in dismissal from the doctoral program or from the Department.

Comprehensive Examination Grading Policy

The Comprehensive Examination is graded by Department of Epidemiology faculty according to a rubric determined by the Comprehensive Examination Committee.  After grading and prior to issuing final grades, item response theory is applied to the exam in order to identify poor performing questions.  Poor performing questions are removed from the exam and final grades are calculated from the remaining questions.

Final grades are distributed to students via Courseplus by mid- to late July. Students who wish to view their exam should set up an appointment with the Academic Coordinator, Ebony Moore.  Students who score below 75% – the doctoral threshold for passing – are allowed to formally request in writing a re-grade of specific questions.  Re-grade requests must include a justification for a change in points allocated for each question being contested; requests without appropriate justification will not be considered.  A new score will be assigned for each question that is re-graded.  This score may be equal to, greater than or less than the original score awarded and cannot be contested a second time.  Re-grade requests are handled by the Comprehensive Examination Committee.

Teaching Assistant Requirement

Learning how to be an effective teacher and communicator about epidemiologic principles and methods is an integral part of education as an epidemiologist. The following Teaching Assistant requirements for the 2016-17 academic year apply for students who matriculate into master’s and doctoral programs in 2015.  

Doctoral students in the PhD, ScD and DrPH programs are required to be a Teaching Assistant for three courses over the second and third year of their studies. The courses will generally be in the Epidemiologic Methods Series (340.751, 340.752 and 340.753), for which Academic Credit equivalent to the course credit assigned to the course will appear on the student transcript. For the Epidemiology Methods courses, 10-15 hours per week will be required (and 20 hours per week for the lead Teaching Assistant). In some cases, a topical course may be substituted (with permission from the Chair). Requests for substitutions should be addressed to the Academic Support Core. Additional Teaching Assistant opportunities may be available for a pre-specified fixed payment after the Teaching Assistant requirement is met. 

Thesis Advisory Committee

The role of the Thesis Advisory Committee is to provide continuity in the evaluation of the progress and development of the student. The Thesis Advisory Committee is assembled by the doctoral student and his/her advisor. For PhD and ScD students, the Thesis Advisory Committee consists of the thesis advisor and at least two additional faculty members who hold either primary or joint appointment in Epidemiology. Additional faculty within and outside of the School may also be recruited. The Thesis Advisory Committee for DrPH students must also include a fourth member with expertise in public health practice; this public health professional (either a faculty member or an individual working in a practice setting) should be involved from the beginning of the DrPH student's dissertation work. Committee membership is permitted to change during research. This committee should not be confused with the Final Oral Examination Committee.

The Thesis Advisory Committee decides when the student is ready to proceed through each of the milestones needed to complete the degree requirements, including the Doctoral Proposal Seminar, the Departmental and Preliminary Oral Examinations, and the Final Oral Examination.

Annual meetings of the Thesis Advisory Committee are required, but meetings may occur more frequently. It is the student's responsibility to schedule meetings.

Tips for students for a successful meeting:

Once the Thesis Advisory Committee is formed, submit the Thesis Committee Approval Form to Ebony A. Moore in W6508C.

Thesis Research Proposal

This 12-page document is developed during the second year during Terms 1-3 in 340.863 Doctoral Seminars in Epidemiology and is the final project for the course 340.715 Problems in the Design of Epidemiologic Studies: Proposal Development and Critique. This proposal is reviewed and approved by the Thesis Advisory Committee prior to the Doctoral Proposal Seminar.

Doctoral Proposal Seminar

After the Thesis Advisory Committee has approved the student's 12-page research proposal, the student must orally present his/her research to the Department in a Doctoral Proposal Seminar. Students should present a prepared PowerPoint presentation approximately 40-45 minutes in length, followed by approximately 15-20 minutes of discussion.

The proposal seminar is presented at a Research in Progress meeting within the student's track. The thesis advisor must attend and Thesis Advisory Committee members are strongly encouraged to attend. Doctoral Research Proposals are advertised to the Department at large, and students and their advisors should personally invite other faculty and colleagues to attend. The best way to prepare for this seminar is to attend proposal seminars conducted by peers in the Department.

At least two weeks prior to the student's presentation date, he/she must submit the Doctoral Proposal Seminar Form to Jon Eichberger in W6508D or via email.

Departmental Oral Examination


The purpose of the departmental oral examination is to determine whether the student has both the ability and knowledge to undertake significant research in his/her general area of interest, including (1) capacity for logical thinking; (2) breadth of knowledge in relevant areas; and (3) ability to develop and conduct research leading to a completed thesis. Discussion of a specific research proposal, if available, may serve as a vehicle for determining the student's general knowledge and research capacity. However, this examination is not intended to be a defense of a specific research proposal.

Examination Committee Membership

For PhD and ScD students, the Committee should consist of: the advisor; and two other members and one alternate member, all of whom have primary appointments in the Department of Epidemiology. The Committee for DrPH students should consist of four members: the advisor; the public health professional serving on the student’s Thesis Advisory Committee; and two other members and one alternate member, all of whom have primary appointments in the Department of Epidemiology.

Thesis committee members are NOT permitted to serve on the Departmental Oral Examination with the exception of the student’s advisor (and the public health practitioner for DrPH students), who must participate. All Professorial and Scientist Track faculty may serve on the Committee.

Students are not required to meet with members of the Committee prior to the exam and should not expect that committee members will discuss what questions will be asked.

Conduct of the Examination

Department Oral Examination

This form is due to Ebony Moore at least 14 days prior to the start of the exam.


The Academic Coordinator, Ebony Moore, will schedule the room and send a memo to examiners prior to the exam date.

Examination Outcome

Outcome of the examination is Unconditional pass, Conditional pass, or Failure. Students who fail will be required to re-take the oral examination within six months. Two failures of the Departmental Oral Exam will result in dismissal from the program. For more information about the Departmental Oral Examination, please review the Department of Epidemiology Student Guidelines for the Departmental Oral Examination.

Preliminary Oral Examination


The purpose of the preliminary oral examination is to determine whether the student has both the ability and knowledge to undertake significant research in his/her general area of interest, including (1) capacity for logical thinking; (2) breadth of knowledge in relevant areas; and (3) ability to develop and conduct research leading to a completed thesis.  Discussion of a specific research proposal, if available, may serve as a vehicle for determining the student's general knowledge and research capacity. However, this examination is not intended to be a defense of a specific research proposal.

Examination Committee Membership

Preliminary Oral Examination Form

Examination Outcome

The outcome of the exam is Unconditional Pass, Conditional Pass, or Failure. Should the student receive a conditional pass, the Committee remains standing until the conditions have been met. Consequence of failure is decided by the Committee: (1) no re-examination; (2) re-examination by the same committee; (3) re-examination in written form and conducted by the same committee; or (4) re-examination by a new committee.

Final Oral Examination

Committee Membership (Thesis Readers)

Distribution of Dissertation to Thesis Readers

Committee members are encouraged and expected to communicate to the student specific recommendations for changes in the thesis prior to the Final Oral Examination. The student is, therefore, expected to distribute the thesis to the committee at least four weeks before the date of the oral defense. The Dissertation Approval Form signed by the student’s advisor should accompany the thesis at the time it is distributed to the committee members.

Appointment of Thesis Readers and Final Oral Examination Committee Form

This form must be completed and submitted to Registrar’s Office in E1002 a minimum of four weeks prior to the proposed examination date.  No exceptions.  The student is responsible for scheduling the room for the Final Oral Examination.

Conduct of the Examination

If one of the officially appointed members of the committee fails to appear on the date fixed for the defense, the previously approved alternate must be prepared to discharge the responsibility of the absent individual. A final oral examination may not be held with fewer than four officially approved faculty members present in the room. The advisor must be among the members present; an alternate may not serve for the advisor. Only approved members of the committee of thesis readers will be permitted to participate in the examination.

Examination Outcome

The outcome of the exam is determined by closed ballot as Acceptable, Conditionally Acceptable, or Unacceptable. If one or more members require substantive changes to the thesis (Conditionally Acceptable), the specific nature of these changes and the time expected for the student to complete them will be provided to the student in writing. The appropriately revised thesis must be submitted to each of the members for final approval.  If one or more members feel that the candidate’s understanding of the written thesis is inadequate (Unacceptable), or that the thesis in its present form is not acceptable, then the candidate has failed. Re-examination would be in order unless there is a unanimous recommendation to the contrary. Re-examination is normally conducted by the same committee, but a new committee may be selected by the Chair of the Committee on Academic Standards if petitioned by the student.


*Bolded dates are absolute; failure to meet these deadlines will result in postponement of graduation.

**For term start & end dates, spring & winter break, add/drop periods and holidays, please refer to the 2015-2016 Academic Calendar.