Second Year Precandidacy Exams

All students will be required to give a departmental seminar (registered as 1 cr CHE 5150) focused on their research project in May of the student’s second year, consisting of an approximately 45minute presentation, followed by a closed-door oral exam, approximately two hours total duration. The committee will consist of the student’s advisor, two other research faculty from the same division, and one research faculty from another division. The specific members of the committee are chosen by the student in close consultation with their advisor and must be members of the Graduate Faculty. The content of this presentation should include: (1) relevant literature that frames the background, novelty, and significance of the research project; (2) specific aims (or objectives) of the research  project; (3) experimental results to date; and (4) plans for future work. The date and time of the exam is to be arranged by the student based on faculty availability and timely completion before the end of May of the student’s second year in the program.  

One week prior to the oral presentation, the student shall submit a written proposal to the committee. The format of the proposal will follow either the current NIH R01 style or the NSF style depending on the advisor’s preference. Students should closely follow all the current page limitations, fonts, margins and other specifics as defined by either funding agency. The NIH R01 preparation instructions are contained in Form SF424 (R&R) at The NSF Grant Proposal guide can be found at written proposal will typically be an extension of the research proposal prepared for CHE 5260 Scientific Communication during the student’s first year of graduate study.  

After the departmental presentation, students will field questions from the audience first and then from faculty afterwards during the closed-door portion of the exam. Based on a simple majority opinion, a Pass/Fail grade will be assigned by the faculty members present from the student’s committee. In the event of a tie, the student will receive a passing grade. Seminars for all students that begin the Ph.D. program in August of a given calendar year will be scheduled during the month of May in their 2nd year (fourth full semester) of residency. Students who enter the program in January will be expected to participate as if they had entered the previous fall semester, i.e., take the exam at the end of their third full semester of residency. Students that do not pass this exam will be transitioned to a terminal, non-thesis M.S. track and should file for graduation in August of the same calendar year.

Those students that decide to change degree tracks to the non-thesis M.S. prior to the second-year exam are only required to complete a public departmental seminar on their independent research to fulfill the CHE 5150 requirement (1 cr). A Pass/Fail grade will be assigned by their faculty mentor. 

      2nd year pre-candidacy exam evaluation form (PDF)