MS and PhD Requirements, Department of Comparative Biosciences, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

College of Veterinary Medicine at Illinois

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MS and PhD Requirements

Minimum Requirements for the MS and PhD Degrees

Graduate College (This section is excerpted from The Graduate College Handbook for Students, Faculty and Staff, a publication of the Graduate College.)

Students are expected to be aware of and follow the policies and requirements in effect at their term of admission.  Departmental and Graduate College policies may change subsequent to the term of admission, but subsequent changes in program requirements may not be imposed on students.  Master's students should also review the General Graduate Degree Requirements.


Graduate College Requirements:

1.  Credit and Residence:  The Graduate College requires a minimum of 32 credit hours, all at the 400 or 500 level, for the master's degree.  At least 12 credit hours must be in 500 level courses, and 8 credit hours of these 12 credit hours must be in the major field (599 thesis credit, cannot be used to meet this requirement).  Half or more of these credit hours must be earned in courses counted for residence credit (see chapter IV.B for more details).  Master's students are not required to be enrolled during the term in which they take their final exam.

2.  Thesis:  No more than 12 credit hours of 599 can be applied to the Master's degree.

3.  Time Limits:  A Master's degree candidate is expected to complete all degree requirements within five years of first registering in the Graduate College, unless the student is enrolled in a program with a different time limit, that has been approved by the Graduate College.  Therefore, a Master's degree candidate with course work that is more than five years old at the time of degree conferral must petition the Graduate College asking that the course work be accepted for the degree.  The petition must include an explanation from the department regarding how the student's knowledge in the areas covered by the old course work meets current standards.  This justification is needed for degree certification, and the petition should be filed during the term when the student is placed on the degree list.

Department Requirements:

1.  Required Courses:  The following courses or their approved equal are required:

     a)  MCB 450 Introductory Biochemistry (Lecture and Discussion-recitation), 3 credit hours.

     b)  PATH 524 Biostatistics, 4 credit hours, or Crop Science 440, Applied Statistical Methods, 4 credit hours.

     c)  VB 590 Thesis Seminar, 1 credit hour.  (Prospectus and Thesis defense required).  May be repeated for up to 2 credit hours.

     d)  VB 591 Biosciences Seminar Series, 1 credit hour. 1 hour required, may be repreated for up to 2 hours of credit.

2.  No more than 4 credit hours of VB 592 Special Problems or equivalent special problems courses can be applied to the Master's degree.

3.  Thesis:  A thesis in the format approved by the student's advisory committee and the department.  At the conclusion of the thesis, a concluding chapter should state and develop hypotheses for studies that should be carried out as a follow-up to the work presented in the thesis, or that would advance the state of knowledge in the discipline.

4.  Examination:  Passage of a final oral examination that shall include defense of the thesis by the candidate.  This will be preceded by a presentation of the thesis research in a departmental seminar.


Graduate College Requirements:

1. Credit and Residence: Doctoral degrees require successful completion of a minimum of 96 semester hours of graduate credit as well as the preliminary and final examinations.  Any doctoral degree candidate, regardless of transfer credits or a master's degree completed elsewhere, must complete at least 64 hours of residence credit out of the total of 96 hours required for the doctoral degree.  Thesis hours can count toward residence credit.

The Graduate College does not require students to be registered at the time of deposit.  However, all doctoral candidates must be registered for the entire semester or term during which they take the final examination.  For this purpose only, "term" is defined as extending through the day prior to the first day of the following term.  If enough thesis credits have been accumulated, registration for  0 hours is acceptable.  There is one exception to the registration requirement.  A student who was registered during summer session need not register for the fall semester if the final examination occurs on or before the final October examination deadline for the doctoral degree students.  This date is published on the Thesis Office deadlines web page.  This exception provides a grace period at the beginning of the fall semester for students who are unable to assemble their dissertation committees over the summer.  For example, in Fall 2007, a doctoral student who wants to defend but does not want to register for the fall term must: (1) have been registered for Summer 2007 and (b) successfully defend by September 14, 2007, the deadline for holding the final examination for October 2007 graduation. 

Stage I. A doctoral student is considered to be in Stage I from initial enrollment in the Graduate College to completion of a master's degree or its equivalent.  Each department should have a procedure for evaluating a student's progress at this first stage of doctoral work.  Elements of this evaluation will include not only GPA, but other factors related to good academic standing and satisfactory progress.  In some departments, this evaluation may take the form of a qualifying examination, or other examination or series of examinations, which a student must pass before entering Stage II of the doctoral degree program.  Evaluation of progress in Stage I, whether by examination or other formal review, should take place no later than the end of the second year after a student enters the doctoral program.  The evaluation results should be communicated in writing to the student.  Students who apply to a doctoral program having already completed a master's degree equivalent to that awarded by the University of Illinois are considered to have completed Stage I of the doctoral program unless the department stipulates otherwise. 

Stage II. A doctoral student is considered to be in Stage II from completion of the master's degree or equivalent to completion of all departmental requirements (except the defense and deposit of the dissertation), including passing the preliminary examination.  In some programs, doctoral students entering with a master's degree will take a qualifying examination early in Stage II.  Stage II usually consists of one or more years devoted to course work and research in preparation for the preliminary examination.  A student who passes the preliminary examination has completed Stage II.  The student is often referred to as being "ABD" (all but dissertation), and is formally a candidate for the doctoral degree. 

Stage III.  Stage III is the time from the completion of Stage II to passing of the final defense and deposit of an approved dissertation.  Registration is required for the entire term in which a student takes the final defense, regardless of when the thesis will be deposited or when the degree will be conferred.  See the Thesis Handbook for more information about enrollment dates for each term, deadlines and time limits, and also review the registration requirements for doctoral students. 

2. Time Limits:  The time by which a doctoral candidate is expected to complete all degree requirements varies depending on whether or not the student was accepted with a master's degree that will fulfill Stage I requirements.  A doctoral candidate who must complete all three stages of the degree is expected to complete all degree requirements within seven years of first registering in the Graduate College.  If the doctoral candidate has completed a master's degree at the Universityof Illinois at Urbana-Champaign within the last three years, the student is expected to complete the Stage II and III requirements within five years of first registering in as a doctoral student.  If three or more years passed between receipt of the master's degree at Urbana-Champaign and returning for the doctoral degree, the student is allowed six years to complete Stage II and III requirements. 

3. Other: Procedures regarding preliminary and final examination and dissertation preparation are provided in the Handbook.

Department Requirements:

In addition to the above listed requirements set forth by the Graduate College, students wishing to earn their PhD degree within the Department of Comparative Biosciences must meet the following requirements:

1.  Courses required of all PhD students. The following courses or their approved equal are required:

a)  MCB 450 Introductory Biochemistry (Lecture and discussion-recitation), 3 credit hours or

     MCB 501 Advanced Biochemistry, 4 credit hours.

b)  PATH 524 Biostatistics, 4 credit hours or

     Crop Science 440, Applied Statistical Methods, 4 credit hours

c)  VB 590 Thesis Seminar, 2 credit hours.  Prospectus and Thesis defense are required.  Other seminar presentations to the department are encouraged and may be repeated for credit within approved guidelines.

d)  VB 591 Biosciences Seminar Series, 1 credit hour.  2 hours required, may be repreated for up to 4 hours of credit.

e)  Other courses as chosen by individual student advisory committee.

f)  Other courses chosen by department divisions.

2.  Teaching requirements.  Regardless of the source of financial support, each PhD student schall acquire some teaching experience.  The minimum teaching experience may be acquired by:

a)  Assisting in the laboratory of a 3-hour course for one semester or

b)  Preparing and delivering a minimum of four (4) lecture/lecture discussions of different content or

c)  Preparing and delivering a minimum of four (4) seminars of differing content or

d)  Assisting as a tutor in repeated sessions for at least four students for one (1) semester in a course.

3.  Limited VB 592 credit hours.  A limit of 12 credit hours is placed on VB 592 or equivalent courses.  This limit includes such credits accrued during the MS degree.

4.  Language requirement for international students whose first language is not English.  Any language requirements must be completed before a student will be permitted to take the prospectus part of the Preliminary Examination.

a)  Students whose first language is not English are required to take the English Placement Test administered b y the Division of English as a Second Language (ESL).  These students satisfy the language requirement when they have successfully completed all courses that are:

    1)  Required by the Division of ESL, and/or

    2)  Required by the student's Graduate Advisory Committee.

5.  Selection of the Qualifying and Preliminary Examination Committee.  The qualifying and preliminary examination committee is selected by the student and his or her major advisor and/or research advisor, and in accordance with the requirements and procedures noted in this handbook.  The committee membership may be the same as that of the Advisory Committee.


 1.    The Qualifying Examination.  This qualifying examination is comprised of a comprehensive oral examination and a written examination (i.e. two phases).  Both phases are to be taken prior to the beginning of the third year following entry into the PhD program.  This qualifying examination should test the student’s broad base of knowledge in his or her chosen discipline and area of endeavor.  This examination must be successfully completed with a result of “Pass”.

a)    The Written Exam.  The major advisor shall solicit written questions from each member of the Qualifying Examination Committee.  Members may submit written questions to the major advisor.  The written portion of the    examination should be administered in such a time frame that the results of the examination could be returned to the student at least one week (five (5) working days) prior to the oral portion of the examination.  It is recommended that a hard copy of the questions be provided to the graduate program coordinator 2 weeks (10 working days) prior to the oral exam date.  The coordinator will distribute the questions to the student.

b)    The Oral Exam.  Student’s Qualifying Examination Committee will administer the oral portion of the examination.

2.     The Preliminary Examination.  The preliminary examination is a written and oral research examination, focused on the student’s prospectus.  This examination is to be taken as soon as possible but no more (6) six months after the Qualifying Exam.  The student, with the assistance of his or her major advisor,     research advisor and Preliminary Examination Committee, should define the boundaries of the doctoral research effort and incorporate these into a prospectus.  The student is to determine the feasibility of certain research projects. To help define those boundaries the student may report on preliminary work.  At the discretion of the major advisor, some, or all, of this preliminary work may be incorporated into the prospectus.  The student’s Preliminary Examination Committee will approve the research prospectus before formal thesis research is initiated.  The prospectus is an agreement between the Department and the student.  Thus, once the prospectus is approved, substantial changes in the research plan are permissible only through the procedures specified below.  This examination must be successfully completed with a result of “Pass” with the examination results being reported to the Graduate College. 

a)  The Written Prospectus.  At least (2) two weeks (10 working days) prior to the oral prospectus examination, the student shall provide to the Graduate Program Coordinator enough  copies for each Preliminary Exam committee member and the Director of Graduate Programs of their written research prospectus describing the proposed thesis research.  The Program Coordinator will distribute the research prospectus accordingly.  The format of the prospectus should be in the current NIH research grant guideline (see below). The total page limit is 15 pages single space, minimum ½ inch margins and font size no smaller than 11 point Arial.  References are not included in the page limit.

     1.     Specific Aims (1 page)

     2.     Background and Significance (2-3 pages)

     3.     Preliminary Studies (flexible)

     4.     Research Design and Methods (flexible)

     5.     References

b)    The Prospectus Seminar.  The prospectus will be presented orally, in the manner of a seminar.  This portion of the preliminary examination will be open to the public, and all students, faculty and graduate and post-doctoral students will be invited to attend.

c)    Making Changes to an Approved Prospectus. Changes are classified as “minor” or “major.”  All changes are to be approved before the research is continued.

d)    Minor Changes:  These changes may affect an aim or hypothesis, in full or in part.  A written letter that justifies the change, and that describes anticipated effects of the change on specific aims and/or hypotheses must accompany these changes.  The letter is to be signed by the major advisor and student and sent to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will either approve the proposed changes as “minor” or require that the procedure for making “major” changes be followed.

e)    Major Changes:  These changes require a formal meeting of the student’s Advisory Committee also attended by the Director of Graduate Studies, or an appropriate representative appointed for that purpose by the Department Head.  “Major” changes may require that the student give another seminar to the Department.  Examples of “major” changes are; deletion or replacement of approved aims and/or hypotheses, insertion of new aims and/or hypotheses, substantive changes in approved protocols, especially if these have the potential for increasing the time necessary to complete the research.  Based on recommendations of a meeting of the student’s Advisory Committee, and a seminar, if so required, the Director of Graduate Studies will advise the Department Head regarding the rendering of a written decision for acceptance of the proposed amendments to the Prospectus.           

3.     Selection of the Final/Dissertation Examination Committee.  The Final Examination Committee is selected by the student and his or her major advisor and/or research advisor, and in accordance with the requirements and procedures noted in this Handbook.  The committee membership may be the same as that of the Advisory Committee.

4.     Final/Dissertation Examination.  The Final/Dissertation Examination (the thesis defense) consists of an oral defense of the dissertation by the candidate.  This will follow a presentation of the thesis research in a departmental seminar.  Results of this examination will be reported as "Pass", "Fail", or "Decision Deferred.  A minimum of one (1) year should elapse between completion of the Preliminary Examination and the Final/Dissertation Examination.