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Thesis Defense

Before The Defense

At Least 6 Months Prior to Date of Defense

You must meet with your dissertation committee at least 6 months before you intend to defend your thesis. Your advisor and committee need to agree to your intentions to conclude experiments, data collection and analysis, and begin writing. Your dissertation committee must fill out the Permission to Write form, as well as the final Annual Evaluation, and submit it to the Program Coordinator.

At Least 4 Months Prior to the Date of Defense

A Chair is appointed for each PhD oral defense examination to monitor and promote fairness and rigor in the conduct of the defense. The Chair’s status as a nonmember of the advisor’s and student’s working group, program, or department enables distance from previously established judgments on the candidate’s work.

At least 4 months prior to your defense, you and your advisor will identify 3 individuals qualified to serve as Chair for your defense. These individuals must be current full-time, tenure-track faculty members at assistant professor rank or higher with a primary appointment outside that of your primary mentor. 

Paperwork to be submitted to the TBS Program Coordinator for Chair request:

  1. PhD Defense Chair Request
  2. Abstract Cover Page
  3. Abstract of the dissertation work

The suggested faculty are submitted to the TBS Program Coordinator, who submits to the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education. The suggested faculty are reviewed by the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and one faculty member is appointed as Chair. Notice of the appointment is provided via email to the Chair, the student, the advisor, the TBS Program Director and the TBS Program Coordinator. You must include the appointed Chair in planning for specific dates and times for your defense. Communicate information regarding examination date and time to TBS Program Coordinator as soon as possible, who will assist with finding a room for the open seminar and closed examination and give you the most up-to-date guidelines. Two weeks prior to the examination, the Chair will receive an automated e-mail from University Graduate Studies with instructions and the necessary sign-offs. The Chair will be responsible for ensure these documents are submitted properly to the Office of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs.

At Least 2 Months Prior to the Date of Defense

The TBS Program Coordinator will create your record in the University of Rochester Graduate Studies PhD Completion website. This record will include your degree information, past degrees, important contact information, and attachments including the defense version of your thesis in pdf format, and other relevant documents. The version of your thesis submitted to your online record is considered the registration copy. “Registering” simply means that you have presented a thesis, which you intend to defend, to the Dean of your School and to the University Dean that governs all doctoral candidates.

Poll your committee on their format preference for the copy of your dissertation (hard copy vs. electronic PDF copy).

At Least 25 Full Working Days Prior to the Date of Defense

Provide a copy of the thesis to each committee member for review in their preferred format. (Some may prefer hard copy vs. electronic; therefore, it is advisable to make individual inquiries to each member in advance of document distribution).

At Least 20 Full Work Days Prior to the Date of Defense

The TBS Program Coordinator will submit the defense record through the online system. This generates an email to your Research Advisor, Advisory Committee, Defense Chair, and TBS Program Director to request the online approval of the thesis submitted for defense. Once the registration has been submitted to the online system, no changes may be made to the thesis before the final examination.

At Least 10 Full Work Days Prior to the Date of Defense

Advisor, Advisory Committee, Defense Chair, and TBS Program Director have approved your thesis for defense. The thesis and defense record is reviewed and approved by SMD Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs.

At Least 5 Full Work Days Prior to the Date of Defense

Registration of thesis for defense. The University Dean for Graduate Studies reviews and approves the thesis and defense record. This generates an email to your Chair, Advisor and Advisory Committee announcing the date, time, and location of defense. The Chair receives instructions for the defense, forms and for reporting of the exam outcome.

More detailed information can be found at GEPA's Registering Your Thesis for the Final Oral Exam

More detailed information can be found at GEPA's Before Defense page.

Writing Your Thesis

Once permission to write has been acquired at the final committee meeting, the student may prepare their dissertation in one of two ways:

  1. The "Full Dissertation" Option: from start to finish, with introduction/background, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion sections
  2. The "Manuscript" Option: an introductory chapter, a body comprised of results chapters adapted from three distinct, submitted manuscripts, and a conclusions chapter

A booklet, last updated in 2014, entitled “Preparing Your Thesis” is available online or from the TBS Program Coordinator. This material provides specific information on the format to be followed. It is the student’s (not the mentor’s) responsibility to ascertain that the format of the thesis meets the approval of their Thesis Advisory Committee and follows all rules set forth by the University. The committee for the final examination decides on the acceptability of the quality of the research and the method of presentation (written and oral), following all University guidelines.  

The thesis (and all published papers) must explicitly acknowledge all sources of financial support. It is essential that students also acknowledge any individuals who assisted in the work presented, and clearly describe their specific roles. All data reported in the thesis that were not generated by the PhD candidate must be explicitly noted, along with the source of the particular data. 

The cost of thesis preparation and copying is the responsibility of the student. Students should notify the TBS Program Coordinator before the actual process of preparing the thesis is started. In this manner, the Program Coordinator can assist the student with the complex process of meeting all due dates for this final part of the PhD process.

More detailed information can be found at GEPA's Thesis Writing and Guidelines

The Defense

The PhD thesis defense in Translational Biomedical Sciences is held in the following format: the first hour of the exam is a public seminar open to the faculty, students, research staff at the University, and any guests. The student’s presentation should last about 45-50 minutes, with about 10-15 minutes allowed at the conclusion for questions from the audience. The student should be selective about the material presented, so that the seminar does not exceed the time available. Notes, slides, charts, and the usual visual aids for a seminar are permitted; however, the student needs to make arrangements for special audiovisual equipment well in advance. Following the public lecture, the student and the examining committee will adjourn to a closed session, where the remainder of the exam will be conducted.

At the start of the closed-door exam, the student will be asked to leave the room for a short period of time. Upon returning to the room, questioning for the oral exam typically lasts 1.5 - 2.5 hours. At the end of the oral exam, the student will be asked to leave the room. The committee will come to consensus regarding whether or not the student passed. The results of the closed oral exam and any changes required in the written document are communicated directly (verbally) to the student immediately at the end of the exam. The Chair of the examination committee is charged with the responsibility of conveying the results of the examination in writing to the Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs and the Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies.

More detailed information can be found at GEPA's Thesis Defense


After the Defense


You will receive annotated copies of your thesis from the members of your examination committee. After a successful dissertation defense, you will receive an e-mail from University Graduate Studies that includes: (1) Survey of the Earned Doctorate (2) Instructions for submission of the final thesis to ProQuest Dissertation Publishing, and (3) the University of Rochester publishing agreement.

The survey and UR publishing agreement are expected to be submitted to the University Dean by the date the final copy of the thesis is submitted to ProQuest. Students have 30 calendar days after the defense to complete all final requirements (revisions and upload to ProQuest) except when defenses are scheduled late in the semester and are subject to a deadline date that is shorter than 30 calendar days. 

Students typically give a bound, corrected copy of the thesis to each of the committee members. Although not mandated by the program, students should determine whether the committee members want a final copy. 

The student must maintain continuous enrollment up until the time of submission of the corrected thesis to the Office for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs. If registration must be continued into a new semester, the student must register for IND 999 Doctoral Dissertation.

More detailed information can be found at GEPA's After The Defense