Skip to main content
Explore URMC

SMD Logo

Preliminary & Qualifying Exam

Preliminary Exam

The Preliminary Exam serves as a tool for helping students prepare for the thesis proposal and qualifying examination. The exam evaluates the student's ability to read, interpret, and critique the scientific literature most important to the student's specific area of research. The format of the exam requires the student to work closely with their advisor and other faculty to first develop a reading list and then propose and answer in writing a series of questions based on the readings.

To be completed by June 1st prior to the start of the 3rd year.

Qualifying Exam: Thesis Proposal

The Qualifying Exam consists of 3 parts:

  • The thesis proposal is to be written in the form of a National Institutes of Health Kirschstein National Research Service Award pre-doctoral fellowship. Detailed instructions can be obtained by following the SF424 (R&R) link on the NRSA webpage.
  • An oral presentation to the Neuroscience community
  • A closed oral examination

To be completed by October 1st of the fall semester of the 3rdyear.

Scheduling Thesis Proposal/Qualifying Exam

  • At least 4 weeks (20 business days) prior to exam date: Submit in writing to the NGP Coordinator:
    1. the date and time agreed upon by your Committee for the public presentation and closed exam,
    2. the names of all Committee members, noting the advisor,
    3. the title page and abstract from the written proposal.
    The NGP Coordinator will schedule rooms for the seminar and exam and prepare necessary paperwork (Program of Study for the Master Degree Diploma Form and Qualifying Exam Appointment forms), and seminar announcements.
  • At least 3 weeks (15 business days) prior to the exam date: The Coordinator submits paperwork to the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education, who will then appoint one of the existing Committee members to chair the proceedings.
  • At least 2 weeks (10 business days) prior to exam date: The written paper MUST be circulated to the Committee and the NGP Coordinator.

Thesis Committee

Examining Committee

The University Council on Graduate Studies has designated rules for the Committee. The student’s committee must consist of 4 tenured or tenure-track faculty of assistant professor or higher rank and is subject to approval from the NGP Director.

Neuroscience Track

Three of the 4 members are chosen by the student in consultation with their thesis advisor. Of these, 2 MUST be from the NGP core faculty list and 1 must be from outside of the primary department of the advisor and co-advisor. Please notice that NGP faculty members can serve as external committee members for NGP students. Note that the thesis advisor is NOT a member of the Examining Committee for students in the Neuroscience track, although he or she is expected to attend the closed session as a silent observer. The final member of the Committee will be appointed by the NGP Director from the NGP core faculty and will be a member of the examining committee for the purpose of the thesis proposal only.

NBA Track

At least two of the four members MUST have their primary appointment in NBA while the external member must be from outside the NBA faculty. The thesis advisor (who must have a primary or secondary appointment in NBA) is the fourth member of the Examining Committee.

A person from outside the University may be invited to join the Committee as the external member with prior written approval from the NGP Director and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies.