Degree Requirements

Continuation and Graduation

Candidates for degrees are eligible for graduation upon completion of all academic requirements in effect at the time of the first registration, as defined by the Graduate School. All degrees will be conferred by the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors upon recommendation of the graduate faculty. Degrees will be granted at the close of the Fall or Spring semester in which students complete their work. Each of the degree applicants must have achieved a minimum overall grade-point average of 3.0 (“B”).


Graduate Advisory Committee

Each Ph.D. committee will be chaired by a faculty member in the Ph.D. Program in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology and will have at least 4 faculty advisors. At least one member from a track outside of the student’s primary discipline will serve on the student’s graduate committee to provide cross-disciplinary mentoring. If the student’s primary track is not life sciences, at least one member of the advisory committee must be from the life sciences. This advisory committee must be selected by the students by the beginning of their third semester of study. The student’s advisory committee will, in concert with the student, develop a plan of study outlining the courses to be taken and the course of research to be undertaken. Students must submit a plan of study to the graduate school by the end of the third semester of study. Students must call a meeting of their advisory committee at least once each year to review progress in the program.


Requirements for Advancement to Ph.D. Candidacy

At the end of the first year of study, students will be evaluated based on their course grades, which will include an assessment of research performance when appropriate. At the end of the second year, students will be evaluated based on course grades and an initial research proposal. The purpose of this initial proposal is to encourage students to demonstrate some mastery of pertinent research literature and to present research ideas that they have formulated in their first two years of study. This proposal will be presented and defended at a meeting of the advisory committee. During the period of time between the end of the third year and end of the fourth year of study, each student must prepare a dissertation research plan and give an oral defense of that plan and the scientific foundations on which it is based. The dissertation research plan is expected to be a refinement of the initial research plan presented at the end of the second year. It is to be prepared in an NIH-style format and should provide a clearly defined description of the research the student plans to complete in fulfilling the research requirement of the Ph.D. The oral defense of the plan, which constitutes the preliminary examination, will include questions both directly related to the proposal as well as more general questions that examine the student’s knowledge of fundamental principles. It is anticipated that students will complete degree requirements, including dissertation defense, by the end of the fifth year of study. Students seeking to complete degree requirements in fewer than five years (e.g., entering with Master’s degree or significant work experience) will need to meet these milestones on an accelerated schedule, and this schedule must be approved by their Graduate Advisory Committee.


Dissertation Defense for Ph.D.

Upon completion of all coursework and the intended research, a doctoral student must prepare a dissertation describing the completed research using the format common to Virginia Tech. A dissertation defense, under the direction of the advisory committee, will be scheduled to examine the student’s research, dissertation documentation, and underlying fundamental knowledge needed to complete the research. Upon successful completion of the defense and dissertation, the doctoral student may apply for graduation from Virginia Tech with the Doctor of Philosophy in Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Computational Biology.


Exposure to Breadth of Discipline

In an interdisciplinary program such as this one, which requires considerable coordination among several academic units, it is important to insure that students receive as broad an exposure to the disciplines as is practical. The course requirements are designed to provide much of that exposure. In addition, students in the program will be conducting dissertation research projects that cross the boundaries of traditional disciplines. To complement coursework, and to assist students in developing their dissertation research projects, additional focused research experiences may be required. The requirement for, and design of, these research experiences will depend on a number of factors such as level of preparation of a student, primary specialty track of a student, source of funding for a student, and need of a student to identify a dissertation research advisor. These research experiences may include lab rotations when that mechanism provides the best way to achieve this breadth of exposure, but other mechanisms also are possible. Before a student selects a Graduate Advisory Committee, decisions related to this aspect of the program will be made in consultation with the program Steering Committee.


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