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The purpose of the exam is not merely to recapitulate the content of first-year courses, but rather to establish that students are able to synthesize this knowledge and apply it to solve problems in contemporary bioengineering research. It assesses the student’s knowledge of core curriculum material, their ability to integrate cross-disciplinary information and to address and solve integrative problems in biological science. The exam uses an oral format to test the students’ ability to communicate technical knowledge clearly and accurately.
The oral examination will be offered on scheduled dates at the end of the Spring quarter of the first year. Candidates should discuss their exam first with their faculty academic advisor. The Student Affairs Office will notify each candidate in writing of their committee composition, assigned date, time and location for their exam. All students are advised to begin preparing for the departmental exam and meeting with their advisor to discuss the exam in detail early during the Spring Quarter.
A committee of three or more faculty members will administer the oral examination, which typically lasts approximately 60 minutes though times vary. The composition of each committee will be announced to the candidates in Spring Quarter.
The examination includes the two broad areas that form the core first-year Ph.D. curriculum, namely Engineering Physics and Life Science. Each student is also supposed to have a firm understanding of the background material leading to each course, in particular the underlying physics, mathematics, biology, etc., depending on the nature of the course. The examination tends to emphasize the material of the required sequences, however, students are supposed to have a general understanding of all of the material covered during their stay in our Department. It is not merely to recapitulate the content of the first-year courses, but rather to establish that students are able to synthesize this knowledge and apply it to solve problems in contemporary bioengineering research. Once an examination committee has been assigned to a student, he/she is encouraged to contact each of the faculty members of the committee and discuss the nature of the topics and questions that will be posed during the examination. In this discussion each faculty usually gives a general idea of the area that will covered. This discussion should provide a broad guideline about the subjects that may be emphasized during preparation for the examination. Furthermore it may indicate whether the particular area will be discussed through problem solving or the review of a specific topic. It should be considered, however, that the examination has an open format, aimed at encouraging discussion, with the aim of demonstrating a student’s preparation, understanding of the basic science, and his/her ability to deal with problem solving.
The examining committee will also use the opportunity to ensure that the student has met the course and other departmental requirements of first year doctoral students. In particular, they will confirm that the candidate has successfully completed at least one quarter of the departmental teaching experience requirement at 25% effort (10 hours per week). They will also confirm that the candidate has identified a research advisor.
The departmental qualifying exam will normally be taken at the end of the candidate's first academic year of full-time study. Exceptions to the requirements or applications for extensions beyond the normal time limit may be required in some unusual circumstances. Students requesting such exceptions should discuss their situation with their faculty advisor and petition the Graduate Studies Committee by applying to the Student Affairs Coordinator.
In the event that the examining committee finds shortcomings in the candidate’s performance, it will make specific recommendations as to the student’s future course as a graduate student in the department. Such recommendations may include repeating one or more examination topics with or without additional coursework, or in the most serious cases, discontinuation of funding, or termination of the student's enrollment.