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Biophysics Policies and Procedures

  1. Qualifier Exam
  2. The Biophysics qualifier is taken in the summer after the first year in the Program when the student finds an advisor and chooses a field/area of research. The purpose of this two-hour oral examination is to determine whether or not the student is ready to embark on a research project in that specific field. The scope of examination does not emphasize the student’s future research plans but rather basic knowledge in a particular field and the material of relevant courses taken by the student during the first year.

    A committee of 3-4 faculty, including the primary advisor, is assembled according to the research area and expertise. The areas of specialization include (but are not limited to) Biophysical Chemistry and Structural Biology, Computational Molecular Biophysics, Theoretical Biophysics, Cell Biophysics, and Neuroscience.

    If the student passed the Chemical Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics courses with at least a B, the examination will emphasize the biological/biochemical/cellular aspects of the field, as well as material of elective courses recently taken by the student. Otherwise the committee is free to test the student in the subjects of Chemical Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics as well.

    Each of the 3-4 members of the committee contribute one ‘priming’ question that is meant to initiate a ~10-15 min conversation on a specific topic, with more questions to follow. The advisor chairing the committee finalizes the scope of examination with other committee members and the set of ‘priming’ questions is given to the student a week before the examination. The priming and following questions should be broad enough to probe the student’s general background in a specific topic but at the same time should reflect the depth of the courses taken by the student. The expected ‘passing’ answers should be at the level deemed satisfactory by all committee members. If significant gaps in student’s knowledge are identified and the committee decides that the student failed, one re-take is scheduled with an appropriate time and amount of remedial work in the interim.

    1. CHEM 687 & CHEM 684
      1. Qualifier Exam for Chem687 (Statistical Mechanics) and Chem684 (Chemical Thermodynamics) will be satisfied by taking both courses, including written Final Exams, and passing them with at least a B.
      2. If a student does not enroll in either course, that student must take a written qualifier exam for that course. The written qualifier exam will be the same qualifier exam question used for the Chemical Physics program.
      3. New students will be given a “free try” opportunity to take the written qualifier exam in these courses before their first semester of enrollment in the Biophysics program. If a student fails the exam during this free try, he/she will be strongly encouraged to enroll in the Chem687 and Chem684 or equivalent PHYS courses. If the student chooses not to enroll in the course, the student will be held to policy A.ii above.
    2. BIOLOGY (BIPH704) & 4th COURSE
    3. The qualifier exam for students’ Biology course (usually BIPH704-Cell Biology from a Biophysical Perspective) and the fourth course of the student’s choosing, will now be satisfied by two-hour comprehensive oral exam with a 3- member committee who will grade the exam.

  3. 2-Member Advisory Committee and Candidacy Examination Committee
    1. Students will be assigned a 2-member advisory committee at the time they enroll in the Biophysics program. One of the purposes of this committee is for students to get to know faculty members who they can ask for advice and to expand the range of available expertise. Each student is expected to have an advisory committee throughout the entire period of student's education.
    2. By the end of the first year the student is supposed to find an advisor and join his/her research group. Rotations through three research labs (BIPH699) should assist students to make a choice. By the end of the 5th semester the student is expected to present a scholarly paper that may or may not reflect the planned line of his/her Ph.D. research and give an oral presentation on this topic followed by a candidacy examination. This constitutes Advancement to Candidacy. For the candidacy examination the student should invite three members of examination committee besides the advisor. This committee may evolve into his/her Ph.D. committee which will follow student's progress to the graduation. These committees can change as students advance in their research. Thus the Ph.D. committee can, but does not have to be the initial 2 or 3-member advisory committee that was formed upon enrollment or include all members of the candidacy examination committee.
  4. Student Progress Reporting
    1. 1st and 2nd Year Students:
      1. Students must meet with their 2-member advisory committee once per semester during their first 2 years of enrollment. A committee meeting form, provided by the Program Coordinator must be completed and returned to the program coordinator.
      2. For all students, a progress email must be sent every semester. The student must write a single email of a paragraph's length to his/her advisor and committee members outlining his/her progress for the semester. This email with advisor's comments is then forwarded to the Program Coordinator.
    2. 3rd Year and Beyond:
      1. Students must meet with their advisory committee once per year during their 3rd year of enrollment and beyond. A committee meeting form, provided by the Program Coordinator must be completed and returned to the program coordinator.
      2. For all students, a progress email must be sent every semester. The student must write a single email of a paragraph's length to his/her advisor and committee members outlining his/her progress for the semester. The email with advisor's comments is then forwarded to the Program Coordinator.