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GSBS Qualifying Examination for Basic & Biomedical Sciences Umbrella Programs

View Clinical & Population Health Research Program QE process here

Qualifying Exam Timeline

  • QE Committee should be formed, and approved by the Program Director and the Dean by January 31.
  • The Specific Aims page is due to the committee 1 week before the Specific Aims meeting.
  • The Specific Aims meeting must be held by March 15.
  • The written proposal is due to the committee 4 weeks after successful completion of the Specific Aims meeting.
  • The oral exam must be completed by May 1 and must be 5-7 weeks after the Specific Aims meeting.
  • Any retests (written or oral) must be completed within 2 weeks of the oral exam.
  • Any exceptions to this timeline must be petitioned in writing and approved by the GSBS.

ADMINISTRATIVE REQUIREMENT

Students must track all QE requirements in BlackBoard Learn to receive proper credit and to help expedite communications to all members of the QE team.

HAVE QUESTIONS ABOUT ANY PART OF THE QE PROCESS?

 Contact Mindy.Donovan@umassmed.edu

QUICK JUMP

 

Qualifying Exam Committee Selection

Timeline

QE Committee should be formed, and approved by the Program Director and the Dean by January 31.

Membership

  • Committees will consist of three faculty members and one General Examiner. The General Examiner is assigned by the Office of Academic Affairs.
  • The Chair of the committee must be a tenured Associate Professor or Professor.
  • The Chair does not need to be in the student’s program, as the exam is not program specific.
  • The Chair cannot be a current collaborator on the student’s thesis research project. Collaborations must be declared at the time of committee selection.
  • The student and their PI can discuss and recommend the composition of the committee, but the final committee membership will be determined by the Program Director.
  • Each Program must define and adhere to a mechanism for committee selection and approval. This mechanism must be approved by the GSBS Dean.

ADMINISTRATIVE REQUIREMENT

Student initiates Qualifying Exam Committee Selection Form which automatically circulates to all required signers after the student completes their portion

Specific Aims Meeting

Statement of Purpose

During the Specific Aims meeting the student will articulate the hypothesis or question to be investigated and the rationale for undertaking these studies.  General approaches will also be discussed so that the committee can evaluate the feasibility of the proposed Aims. During this meeting, the committee may suggest revisions to the Aims, including the removal or substitutions for Aims more suitable for testing the student’s competency during the subsequent exam.

This meeting also provides an opportunity for faculty to communicate areas of investigation or concerns that the student should expect to address during the formal exam. The primary purpose of the Aims meeting is to help the student prepare for the subsequent exam.

Timeline

  • The Specific Aims page is due to the committee 1 week before the Specific Aims meeting.
  • The Specific Aims meeting must be held by March 15.

Format

  • The student will prepare a 1-page Specific Aims page (single spaced; 11 pt NIH-approved font (e.g. Arial); 0.5” margins). References are optional, but if included must be on a separate page.
  • A student who has previously submitted an NIH F31 or grant application of similar length with substantial input from their thesis advisor is expected to develop at least one Aim not contained within the jointly developed application.
  • Previously submitted grants must be disclosed and submitted to the QE committee prior to the Specific Aims meeting.
  • The meeting must not exceed one hour in duration, unless discussion of revisions requires additional time.
  • The student must prepare a brief powerpoint presentation (no more than 15 minutes uninterrupted and 10 slides) to introduce the background and rationale for the research proposed, as well as a brief experimental outline of each Aim. Experimental details or preliminary data will not be presented.
  • Transcript and letter from the thesis advisor (supporting the student’s candidacy) will be reviewed by the committee at this time.
  • The thesis advisor can have input on the Specific Aims before this meeting.
  • The thesis advisor may attend the Specific Aims meeting but is not a member of the committee. The advisor is allowed to have a wrap-up discussion with the student following the meeting.
  • The outcome of the meeting, including details of any substantial revisions to the Specific Aims, must be communicated to the student in writing by the QE Chair.

Possible Outcomes

  1. The Specific Aims are approved and the student may begin preparing the full proposal.
  2. The Specific Aims must be revised, according to committee recommendations. Revisions must be submitted by email to committee members within one week.
  3. The committee may call an additional Specific Aims meeting at their discretion if extensive revision of the original Specific Aims is warrented.

 

ADMINISTRATIVE REQUIREMENTS

  • Student schedules Specific Aims meeting and enters date in BB Learn immediately
  • Thesis Advisor provides a letter to the Committee (GSBS Office initiates request)
  • General Examiner initiates and completes Specific Aims Outcome Form

COVID-19 ACCOMODATIONS

 Specific Aims meetings are to be held remotely

Standard Operating Procedure for holding Specific Aims Meeting remotely

Qualifying Examination

Statement of Purpose

The Qualifying Examination (QE) assesses the student’s preparedness for doctoral research. The QE is designed to allow the student to demonstrate, in written and oral communication, that they have acquired the skills necessary to generate a testable hypothesis in their field of study, design experiments to test this hypothesis, as well as to critically analyze experimental data associated with these experiments.

Timeline

  • The written proposal is due to the committee 4 weeks after successful completion of the Specific Aims meeting.
  • The oral exam must be completed by May 1 and must be 5-7 weeks after the Specific Aims meeting.
  • Any retests (written or oral) must be completed within 2 weeks of the oral exam.

Proposal Format

  • Students are encouraged to write a proposal that directly relates to their likely thesis research, although an unrelated topic may be chosen.
  • Written exam must be in F31 (F30 for MD/PhD students) format: 1-page specific aims (single spaced), 6 pages (single spaced, 11pt NIH-approved font (e.g. Arial), 0.5 inch margins) proposal, inclusive of figures but not references.
  • Exam room must be scheduled for a 3-hour time period, although the expectation is that exams will be completed within 1.5-2 hours.
  • The thesis advisor may not be present at the QE exam.
  • The student must prepare a brief (~10 minute) presentation to introduce their proposal, which they will be allowed to present uninterrupted at the beginning of the exam. Additional slides can also be prepared to facilitate futher discussion, if needed.

ADMINISTRATIVE REQUIREMENTS

  • Student schedules Qualifying Exam and enters date in BB Learn immediately 
  • General Examiner initates and completes the General Examiner Checklist
  • General Examiner initates and completes the and Qualifying Exam Outcome Form which automatically circulate to all signers after GE completes their portion

COVID-19 ACCOMODATIONS

 Qualifying Exams are to be held remotely

Standard Operating Procedure for holding Qualifying Exams remotely