Abbott Clark, PhD, Graduate Advisor
Center for BioHealth 441
The graduate training program in Visual Sciences is designed to provide the students with knowledge, skills, and technical experience to prepare them for a research career in industry or academia. Students will undertake advanced courses in vision-related topics including: the normal structure and function of the eye, ocular diseases (such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, inherited retinal degenerations, proliferative retinal diseases, and cataracts), ocular pharmacology and bioinformatics. Active participation in visual sciences journal clubs and visual sciences seminars is also required. Students will also be involved in in-depth basic research training utilizing genetic, molecular, cellular, biochemical, physiological, and pharmacological approaches in laboratories of university-affiliated vision experts in order to complete major requirements for master's or doctoral degrees. In order to accomplish these, students are encouraged to acquire a broad based knowledge from various disciplines in the institution and laboratories which can then be applied towards vision research.
Like other interdisciplinary programs, the Visual Science program is intended to provide the student with a repertoire of courses and training from various basic science disciplines. It is the responsibility of the student's mentor and advisory committee to direct the student to make the best choices among these courses and training in order to select those that will best fit the specific research project the student is interested in. To reflect this policy, at least 2 members of the advisory committee in addition to the mentor should be directly involved in eye or vision-related research. The advisory committee could also include adjunct faculty from industry involved in eye research.
Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy
The qualifying examination within the discipline of Visual Sciences must be successfully completed prior to concluding 72 semester credit hours (SCH). Students are encouraged to take the written qualifying exam in the first semester of their second year and the oral qualifying exam in the second semester of their second year. The main goal of the examination is to ensure that each doctoral student has a broad knowledge base and has mastered the fundamental principles of biomedical sciences. The qualifying examination consists of written and oral phases. The examination will be directed mainly towards the didactic coursework of the student but understanding of general research techniques in biomedical research will be included. The student is expected to become knowledgeable in these areas via individual reading of textbooks and scientific literature, coursework, seminar attendance, and/or journal club discussions. Successful completion of the qualifying examination must be accomplished before the student can register for Grant Writing (BMSC 6310). During the first month of the semester in which the examination is to be taken, the student will submit a written request and meet with the graduate advisor for Visual Sciences to discuss the format of the examination. The initial phase of the qualifying examination consists of a set of written questions administered by an Examination Committee (EC) appointed by the graduate advisor. The student's major professor may not sit on the EC. The student may meet with members of EC prior to the examination to discuss the topics and the examination schedule. Each examination answer will be graded independently by at least two EC members who are experts in the subject area. Within 4 weeks of passing the written examination, the chair of the EC will schedule the oral examination. The oral examination will consist of questions that further explore the student's answers in the written examination, as well as questions on additional topics deemed appropriate by the EC. The student's major professor may be present during the oral examination but will not participate in the examination or vote on the outcome. A university committee member must be in attendance for the oral phase of the examination. The qualifying examination will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis. In the written examination, 70% or higher comprises a passing grade. A student who passes both phases will receive a passing mark while failure in both phases will result in a failing mark. A student must pass the written portion before proceeding to the oral part of the examination. A student who passes the written phase but fails the oral phase will be required to retake the oral portion. Two attempts to pass the qualifying examination will be allowed. Failure to pass the qualifying examination after 2 attempts will result in dismissal from the doctoral program. In this case, a student may be allowed to complete the requirements for a Master of Science degree.
Grant Writing (BMSC 6310)
After passing the qualifying examination, but prior to the completion of 84 SCH, the student must register for Grant Writing (BMSC 6310). This stage of the advancement to doctoral candidacy evaluates a student's aptitude for independent thought and scientific writing. The student is required to (a) prepare an NIH-style R21 research proposal, (b) present the proposal in a public seminar, and (c) orally defend the proposal before the student's doctoral advisory committee. The proposal should be based on an original hypothesis and should describe specific experimental approaches to address the hypothesis. The graduate advisor will appoint a chair from the student's advisory committee to coordinate the process. The student will meet with the committee at least two times during the semester to review drafts of the proposal. The final written proposal must be typed in NIH format and presented to the committee at least one week prior to the public seminar and oral defense. The grant proposal and the student's oral presentation and defense will be evaluated on the basis of originality and ability to synthesize and communicate the proposal content. The student's major professor may be present but will not vote on the outcome. The student's university member must be present for the public seminar and oral defense of the proposal. Upon successful completion of Grant Writing (BMSC 6310), the student is advanced to doctoral candidacy. Two attempts to successfully complete the Grant Writing (BMSC 6310) defense will be allowed. Failure to pass Grant Writing (BMSC 6310) will result in dismissal from the doctoral program in Visual Sciences. In this case, a student may be allowed to complete the requirements for a Master of Science degree.
This page last modified January 31, 2013