Baylor University
Department of Physics
College of Arts and Sciences

Baylor > Physics > Graduate  > Dissertation Committee Formation Policy
Dissertation Committee Formation Policy

Baylor Graduate School Dissertation Committee Policy (in effect 1 June, 2018)

The dissertation examining committee will include a minimum of four members. At least two members, including the chairperson, will be Baylor Graduate Faculty from the degree-granting program. At least one member must be a member of Baylor’s Graduate Faculty whose primary appointment is from a program other than the one conferring the degree. This non-program member helps to ensure a consistent level of quality, rigor, and fairness across all graduate programs at Baylor University. The committee may also include one member from outside of Baylor with approval of the candidate’s Graduate Program Director. Non-Baylor committee members are not eligible to serve as the dissertation chairperson. The Graduate Program Director is responsible for ensuring the relevant expertise of the non-Baylor committee member and notifying the Graduate School through the Announcement of Doctoral Oral Examination form. The candidate’s dissertation director will serve as the chairperson of the committee and ensure that formal announcement of the examination is made, that the exam is conducted fairly, and that it is open to the faculty. The committee may include additional members beyond the required minimum of four. Preferably, the student and the examiners will be present in person, but in certain cases (e.g., online degree programs, extenuating circumstances, etc.) this may not be logistically possible. A Graduate Program Director may approve alternative formats for examination, including virtual, video-conferenced participation of one or more examiner(s). Such approval needs to be accompanied with justification to the Graduate School.

Department of Physics Dissertation Committee Policy

By the second year in the Physics program at Baylor, a graduate student should be attending the research group meetings of a Physics department faculty member who the graduate student is considering as a potential Ph.D. research advisor. Then, by the end of the first semester following passing of all sections of the Ph.D. Preliminary Exam, a graduate student should chose his or her dissertation research advisor and be accepted as (or under consideration to become) a research student by that advisor. It then becomes the joint responsibility of the graduate student and the dissertation advisor to determine by the end of the next semester who will be three additional physics department members (or two department members and one external member) of the graduate student’s dissertation committee. (Committee members may be changed between initial appointment and the Oral Defense if anyone becomes unavailable.) A month prior to each anniversary of the appointment of a defense committee, both the graduate student and the advisor shall prepare and submit to these committee members separate letters (of around 1 to 2 pages each) describing: (i) the graduate student’s long-term research plans/goals for dissertation research, and any revisions to these that may have developed in the past year; (ii) the graduate student’s research accomplishments of the past year and progress towards dissertation goals; (iii) research plans and goals for the next year; and (iv) any concerns of the advisor or of the graduate student about the project, the past year’s accomplishments, and/or graduate student-advisor interactions. (Note: the graduate student may consult the research advisor in preparation of the student’s report, if the student so wishes.) The dissertation committee members, including the advisor, shall then meet within one month after receipt of both letters to discuss the two reports and any significant concerns. If it is felt necessary, the committee shall meet with the student to discuss any concerns. The student will be expected to resolve any issues that the committee deems the student’s responsibility by the time of the next committee review in one year, or sooner, as determined by the committee. If ongoing concerns of the dissertation committee regarding the graduate student’s research progress still exist after one year, the committee may consider as one possible recourse a vote for dismissal of the student from the advisor’s research group. If a vote from the committee (including the advisor) for dismissal is unanimous, the student will be dismissed from the advisor’s research group prior to the beginning of the next semester. It will then be the responsibility of the graduate student to find another research advisor, if possible, and to be accepted into the advisor’s research group. Alternately, if the dissertation committee, not including the advisor, expresses concerns about advisor—graduate student interaction issues and a majority recommends the graduate student transfer to another research group, the graduate student may seek research under another advisor. (Note that this is always the right of the graduate student, independent of dissertation committee recommendation).

It will also be the duty of a dissertation committee to assist the graduate student in his or her search for post-graduation employment. Specifically, for at least a year prior to the planned dissertation defense, the dissertation committee should provide assistance, as is realistically possible, with the graduate student’s job search.