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Guidelines for Doctoral Students

BAYLOR DEPARTMENT OF MATHEMATICS

GUIDELINES FOR MATHEMATICS DOCTORAL CANDIDATES

 

This material is meant to supplement the official Baylor Graduate Catalog. Copies may be downloaded from the Baylor Graduate School pages (http://www.baylor.edu/graduate/).

 

COURSE REQUIREMENTS

Seventy-two semester hours of approved graduate courses are required for the Ph.D. degree in mathematics.

Required Courses*:

12 semester hours

MTH 5310  Advanced Abstract Algebra I

MTH 5323  Theory of Functions of Real Variables I

MTH 5330  Topology

MTH 5350  Complex Analysis

Choose 3 from the following*:

9 semester hours

MTH 5311  Advanced Abstract Algebra II

MTH 5324  Theory of Functions of Real Variables II

MTH 5331  Algebraic Topology

MTH 5360  Applied Mathematics I

MTH 5361  Applied Mathematics II

Dissertation:

12 semester hours

MTH 6V99  Dissertation

Electives

39 semester hours

 

A grade of B or better is required in classes whose category is marked with an asterisk. Electives: Any 4000 level MTH course carrying graduate credit or higher, any 5000 level or higher STA course, or other graduate electives only as approved by the Department of Mathematics.

 

 

QUALIFYING EXAM

Students must pass a Qualifying Exam in two of the four year-long core areas (abstract algebra, applied mathematics, real variables, and topology). The Qualifying Exam is meant to certify competency over a whole year-long core area of mathematics.

Dates and times for Qualifying Exams are determined by course instructors and typically take place during the summer.

The results of a Qualifying Exam are either Pass or Fail. If a student fails a Qualifying Exam, they may retake that Qualifying Exam exactly once (and only once) at the convenience of the instructor.

 

PRELIMINARY EXAM

Students must pass a Preliminary Examination administered by a Preliminary Exam Committee of at least two people headed and chosen by the student’s dissertation advisor. The Preliminary Exam is meant to certify beginning competency in the student’s area of specialization.

The format, requirements, and timing of the Preliminary Exam is determined by the student’s advisor and vary considerably from subfield to subfield.

The results of a Preliminary Exam are either Pass or Fail. If a student fails, the Preliminary Exam Committee has the option of allowing the student to retake that Preliminary Exam exactly once (and only once) at the Committee’s convenience. The Committee may choose not to exercise this option.

After a student successfully completes their Preliminary Exam, they must submit the Result of Preliminary Examination and Application for Admission to Doctoral Candidacy forms to the Graduate School. Forms may be downloaded from the Baylor Graduate School pages (http://www.baylor.edu/graduate/).

 

DISSERTATION

Students must write a dissertation under the direction of their thesis advisor.

Baylor has specific dissertation formatting guidelines that must be followed. These may be found on the Baylor Graduate School pages (http://www.baylor.edu/graduate/). However, the graduate students maintain a properly formatted TeX file that should make the necessary formatting straightforward.

Students should carefully check Baylor’s Graduate School Calendar to make sure that they meet all the deadlines for their current academic year. The Calendar may be found on the Baylor Graduate School pages (http://www.baylor.edu/graduate/). Some of these deadlines come very early.

 

DOCTORAL ORAL FINAL EXAMINATION

Students must successfully give an oral defense of their dissertation. A Dissertation Committee will give a result of Pass or Fail.

The Committee is composed of at least five members of the Baylor Graduate Faculty: the thesis advisor who serves as the committee chairperson, two other Graduate Faculty members from Baylor’s Department of Mathematics, one additional Graduate Faculty member, either from the home department or outside, and a fifth member or “outside” member. The outside member must be a Graduate Faculty member whose primary faculty appointment is from a department other than mathematics.

Candidates who fail this examination (and after at least four months) may give a second and final oral defense only upon the recommendation of the Dissertation Committee and the graduate director and also with the approval of the Graduate School.

After a student successfully completes their Oral Examination, they must submit the Result of Doctoral Oral Examination form to the Graduate School. Forms may be downloaded from the Baylor Graduate School pages (http://www.baylor.edu/graduate/). Students optionally (and usually) also bring copies of their dissertation signature page for the Committee to sign.

Students must schedule their exam and should carefully check Baylor’s Graduate School Calendar to make sure they meet all the deadlines for their current academic year. The Calendar may be found on the Baylor Graduate School pages (http://www.baylor.edu/graduate/). Some of these deadlines come very early.

 

A TYPICAL MILESTONE TIMELINE

For most students, year one is devoted to core classes. The first summer results in passing one or two Qualifying Exams.

Year two focuses on finishing remaining core classes and starting to specialize in a particular area. By the end of the second year, a thesis advisor should be chosen. That summer results in passing any remaining Qualifying Exams.

Year three emphasizes the student’s area of research. The Preliminary Exam is usually completed by the end of the first semester.

The fourth year and beyond are devoted primarily to research, the writing of a dissertation, and, hopefully, to the publication of papers.

 

SATISFACTORY PROGRESS

A student’s funding is dependent upon the completion of satisfactory progress towards a Ph.D. Upon recommendation by the Graduate Committee, students not making satisfactory progress may have their funding removed.

Failure to make satisfactory progress is demonstrated by any of the following:

  • Failure to maintain a 3.0 GPA for more than one semester. (The Dean usually revokes funding if the GPA drops below for a single semester. The first time this happens, upon recommendation from the Graduate Committee, the GPD will petition the Dean for a one semester extension of funding in order for the student to bring their GPA up to 3.0.)
  • Failure to pass two Qualifying Exams and find a thesis advisor by the end of the first semester of a student’s third year.
  • Failure to pass the Preliminary Exam by the end of the first semester of a student’s fourth year.
  • Failure to have met the 72 hour course requirements by the end of the student’s fifth year.

Since Ph.D. research does not follow rigid time tables and since each professor has their own approach, a report of failure to make satisfactory progress may occur in other less well defined ways. In general, a student is expected to work diligently and consistently, to be in regular communication with their thesis advisor, and to make sufficient progress on their dissertation problem so that it is reasonable to expect that they will graduate by the end of their sixth year. Failure in any of these areas may result in a report of unsatisfactory progress. In such cases, the student will receive a letter stating the problems and will have one semester to make corrections. At the end of that semester, the Graduate Committee will make the final decision on whether or not to continue funding for the student.

 

YEARS OF SUPPORT

Assuming satisfactory progress, students may receive up to six years of funding.

  • Funding for the first four years is automatic.
  • To receive a 5th year of support, students must inform the Graduate Director of their intention to return for a 5th year by December 1 of the student’s 4th year.
  • To receive a 6th year of support, students must inform the Graduate Director of their intention to return for a 6th year and secure approval from their thesis advisor by December 1 of the student’s 5th year.
  • No support is offered for a 7th year.

 

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT

Students are expected to maintain appropriate levels of professional conduct. Violations will be brought before the Graduate Committee and may result in expulsion.

 

STUDENT STIPEND DUTIES

First year students typically do a combination of grading, staffing our Math Lab, and running homework review sessions.

From the second year on, students typically teach one undergraduate class per semester. Student teachers are assigned a faculty teaching mentor and are expected to work with that mentor and to follow that mentor’s teaching recommendations.

Completion of our SET seminar (Seminar for Excellence in Teaching) is required before students may begin teaching. SET is usually held near the end of the spring semester.

Depending on oral communication skills in English, foreign students are typically required to take the Graduate School’s English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course.

 

CHOOSING A THESIS ADVISOR

Choosing a thesis advisor is probably one of the most important decisions you make as a graduate student.  Here are a few pointers that might help you out.

When:  Typically the choice of thesis advisor happens in the first or second year.  The most common scenario is to choose an advisor during the second year.  Some professors are willing to take a student right away while others like to see a year’s worth of material under a student’s belt.  It just depends on the professor and the subject area.

How to Pick:  The first thing to consider is research area.  Choose an area that is interesting to you and one in which you do well.  In terms of interest, in the long run, you usually come to love the field you study so it probably does not matter too much which area you pick—mainly avoid areas you do not enjoy.  It is probably most important to pick a research area in which you have a lot of success.

Another thing to consider is personality, temperament, and working style.  Ask other students about the professor you are considering as a possible thesis advisor.  Take a class from that professor, do a reading course, ask for some papers to read, or sit down and visit with them.  You will have to spend a lot of time with your advisor so make sure that sounds like something you would like to do. 

Procedure:  There is no formal procedure or form. Simply ask.  A bit more explicitly:  If you think you want to work with Professor X, ask Professor X if there is a time that you can meet together to discuss the possibility of becoming their graduate student.  If that sounds too intimidating, a nice way way of getting your foot in the door is to ask Professor X for a paper to read.

You should bear in mind that some professors already have graduate students and therefore may be unable to take on additional students at this time.  This is no slight to you, but simply a matter of making sure that they have enough time to devote to their current students.  It is also possible that various other extenuating circumstances might prevent a professor from accepting students at a particular time.  Again, this is no slight to you.

 

COLLOQUIA

For those new to the word, a colloquium is a math talk  geared to the general mathematical community—as opposed to a seminar talk which is usually much more technical and given to a specific specialized group of mathematicians.

Students are expected to attend most colloquia. Occasional or periodic absences are fine. Colloquia are an important and mandatory part of your graduate education. They provide a glimpse into what is going on in the research world of mathematics and it is part of your job to stay in touch with such things.

 

JOB APPLICATIONS

Students: please read this section long before your final year at Baylor!

If this is your last year, you need to start soon and apply to as many reasonable places as possible. It is highly recommend that you start the process in July!

Mostly you’ll want to talk to your advisor for advice in these matters, but here are some generalities:

  • First of all, the deadline for applying to some post-doc & tenure-track positions for the following fall is as early as this September! You’ll need to start right away. 

2.)  If you want to get a good job, you need to write a good thesis. This typically takes years of sustained daily hard work. You need to start from the beginning working at least 40 hours a week. Find a way to schedule hours and hours of work on your thesis every day. Start from day one.

3.)  If you want to get a good job, you also need to find ways to demonstrate your commitment to and skill at teaching. Find programs to join or groups of people to help. Do something special or distinctive for your students. This is important and you need to start as soon as you begin teaching.

  1. http://www.baylor.edu/graduate/currentstudents/index.php?id=98116, http://www.baylor.edu/graduate/currentstudents/index.php?id=98814, and http://www.baylor.edu/graduate/currentstudents/index.php?id=98871. Much might not apply to mathematics, but plenty is helpful. You may need to register early. I’d recommend doing this before your final year.

4.)  In case you haven’t heard the terms, a post-doc is a temporary position (usually about 2 years) intended for new or recent PhD’s.  These are great opportunities to start branching out in new research directions and developing your own research program.  A tenure-track position is intended to be a permanent position (assuming you get tenure about 6 years later).  More prestigious universities typically do not hire new PhD’s for tenure-track positions and look for people with post-doc experience.  On the other hand, smaller colleges are usually looking to hire new PhD’s and don’t care about post-docs.

5.)  For your application, you’ll need to have a curriculum vita (resume), an AMS coversheet, a cover letter, about 3 letters of recommendation from professors commenting on your scholarship, a teaching letter of recommendation (probably 2 or more letters if you are applying to a teaching college), a research statement, and a teaching statement.  It is a good idea to get your advisor’s input early.

6.)  The AMS has an excellent web page with lots of details on each of these documents at http://www.ams.org/profession/career-info/new-phds/new-phds.  If you are planning on applying for jobs this year, I recommend reading the entire page thoroughly.  The page also gives information on the whole process of finding a job including topics such as the Employment Registry, finding job advertisements, giving a job talk, what to expect on an interview, and dealing with job offers.  I also strongly encourage you to look at the article at https://www.math.lsu.edu/grad/handbook/hb9 which has great advice on applying for jobs and the requisite documents.

7.)  Most of these documents are now submitted electronically and the best place to start looking for employment information is http://www.ams.org/employment.  There are many useful links there and lots of great advice.  They also contain many non-academic job listings if your tastes run that way.

8.)  Here are some other useful links for job openings that you should check out: http://www.higheredjobs.com/faculty/search.cfm?JobCat=104 and http://chronicle.com/section/Home/5.

9.)  You’ll probably want to plan on attending the AMS join meeting in January and, if possible, giving some sort of talk. Make sure to apply for a grant at http://www.ams.org/programs/travel-grants/grad-students/emp-student-JMM. The deadline is usually in September. Again, start doing this before your last year.

 

MASTERS DEGREE

Students who wish a M.S. degree must complete thirty-three semester hours of approved graduate courses. In addition, one comprehensive exam must be passed: either one Qualifying Exam (as listed under the Doctor of Philosophy requirements) or a comprehensive exam given by the Department of Mathematics. See the official Baylor Graduate Catalog. Copies may be downloaded from the Baylor Graduate School pages (http://www.baylor.edu/graduate/). For Ph.D. students, getting a M.S. is completely optional.