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 (

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

12 semester hours

MTH 6V99 Dissertation

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

Ph.D. students must pass (Pass, not Master’s 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, Master’s Pass, or Fail. Students may retake a 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, it is necessary to give your advisor your Baylor ID and ask them go to (requires Baylor’s VPN, Global Protect, if they're not on campus). From there, your advisor has to fill out two of the forms: Results of Preliminary Exam and Admissions to Doctoral Candidacy. (Should they have problems, have them contact Sonny who will help them.)

Note: the Application for Admission to Doctoral Candidacy form is required before you may take MTH 6V99 Dissertation hours.


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 ( 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 ( 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.

Before the thesis defense, it is necessary to give the Graduate Assistant (Sonny) your Baylor ID and ask them to go to where they will select Announcement of Oral Examination and fill out the form for you. 

After a student successfully completes their Oral Examination, it is necessary to give your advisor your Baylor ID and ask them go to (requires Baylor’s VPN, Global Protect, if they're not on campus) where they will select Result of Oral Examination and fill out the form for you. Students optionally (and usually) also bring copies of their dissertation signature page to their defense for their 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 ( Some of these deadlines come very early.

A Typical Milestore 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. as well as satisfactory and timely completion of Departmental duties, including (as appropriate) Math Lab, grading, and teaching. Upon recommendation by the Graduate Committee, students not making satisfactory progress may have their funding removed.

Failure to make satisfactory progress may be 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 for the student to bring their GPA up to 3.0.)
  • Failure to take 9 credit hours per semester for the first two years (this can be waived with prior permission from the Graduate Director for special or unavoidable circumstances).
  • 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.
  • Failure to complete assigned Departmental duties. These may include Math Lab, grading, teaching, or other required duties. 

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 recommend funding for the student to the Graduate School.

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.
Summer Dissertation Hours if Graduating in August

Please only take Summer I credits (no Summer II courses). This will help ensure that you are able to get your degree without a delay.

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.

Note that graduate students may not give their class unproctored exams. In addition, instructions from your Course Coordinator supersede instructions from your Teaching Mentor.

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

To receive your summer stipend, it is expected that you are physically in Waco for the entirety of your assigned duties during summer 1 or summer 2 and do all assigned grading or Math Lab staffing. The only exception to this is if you find another graduate student here in Waco to fully cover your assigned grading or Math Lab staffing while gone, then it is acceptable for you to do some traveling during this period. It is your responsibility to make sure that your duties are performed without interruption and without inconvenience to the people for whom you grade or who run Math Lab. Additionally, we will try to work with you to give you your choice of summer 1 or summer 2, but your choice is not guaranteed. Please talk with us early if you have scheduling requirements.

Here are the rules we intend to follow regarding grading:
  1. When assigned as a grader, graduate students will not grade tests, exams, or finals without prior approval by the GPD.
  2. Homework/quiz assignment given by a faculty member to their graduate student grader should take at most 2 hours to grade per week during the fall and spring and at most 4 hours per week during the summer. Exceptions to this can only be made with prior approval by the GPD.
  3. For classes from Calculus 3 and above, faculty will provide solutions to the assigned homework/quiz problems to be graded by the graduate student. A grading rubric is encouraged, but not required.
  4. Graduate student graders will return graded homework to the professor’s mailbox before the start of the next class provided that the professor drops off the assignment in the “IN” box (located in the Graduate Student Lounge) within one hour of the end of the professor’s class.
  5. During the summer, graduate student graders are not responsible for entering grades on Canvas. This rule can be waived by the GPD.
  6. Graduate students will not be assigned to their thesis advisor for grading duties.
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.


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.

Full-Time Status

A graduate student has full-time status when they are registered for at least 9 hours of graduate credit each semester or if they are taking any number of MTH 6V99 hours.

For most students, there is no penalty for not being full-time: you still receive your stipend and tuition remission when you are not full-time. However, sometimes not being full-time can affect things such as loan repayment, being covered by your parents’ insurance, the status of international students, some types of summer internships, and the like.

First Paycheck

At time of writing, your first paycheck will be on August 31. If you have an Enhancement Scholarship from the Graduate School, they will disperse it, I believe, a few days before classes begin.

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.

5.)  In case you haven’t heard the terms, a post-doc is a temporary research 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.

6.)  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.

7.)  The AMS has an excellent web page with lots of details on each of these documents at  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 which has great advice on applying for jobs and the requisite documents.

8.)  Most of these documents are now submitted electronically and the best place to start looking for employment information is  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.

9.)  Here are some other useful links for job openings that you should check out: and

10.)  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 The deadline is usually in September. Again, start doing this before your last year.

Masters Degree

Students who desire a M.S. degree must complete thirty-three semester hours of approved graduate courses, including MTH 5310, MTH 5323, MTH 5350, and MTH 5330. In addition, one comprehensive exam must be passed: either one Qualifying Exam (Pass or Master’s Pass as listed under the Doctor of Philosophy requirements) or a specially created general comprehensive exam given by the Department of Mathematics. See the official Baylor Graduate Catalog. Copies may be downloaded from the Baylor Graduate School pages (

For Ph.D. students, getting a M.S. is completely optional and not really recommended—assuming you get a Ph.D.

It will be necessary to give the Graduate Assistant your Baylor ID and ask them to go to where they will select Graduate School Petition and fill out the form for you stating that you have (at lease Masters) Passed a Qualifying Exam and that the Graduate School should therefore clear the comprehensive exam requirement. As usual, check the dates carefully as some are very early.


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