Thesis Committee

Prior to the preliminary exam, the student must assemble a thesis committee. The committee must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School prior to the committee's first meeting. The committee approval form must be submitted via the DGS/DGSA to the Graduate School. 

The thesis committee must consist of at least five faculty, including a minimum of three from the Department of Cell Biology (the chair of your committee must be a primary in Cell Biology). Faculty with a secondary appointment in Cell Biology can be counted towards this requirement. The thesis advisor is a member of the thesis committee, but may not be the chair. All thesis committee members MUST be members of the Duke Graduate Faculty.  Most commonly all members of the thesis committee are faculty at Duke University, however, the goal is to assemble a highly informed and appropriate thesis committee for each student. Therefore, faculty at other institutions can be made ad hoc members of the Graduate Faculty for the purpose of serving on a PhD thesis committee. Any exceptions to the rules regarding thesis committee composition must be approved by the DGS and the Graduate School. Students are strongly encouraged to review these requirements, which are detailed on the Graduate School web site.
Sometimes changes in the thesis committee are necessary during the progress of work and before the final exam (thesis defense). These changes must be submitted via the DGS/DGSA to the graduate school for approval at least 30 days before the exam.

Thesis Proposal and the Thesis Committee

The doctoral candidate must have their first committee meeting before the end of their prelim year (for example, in the summer after the 2nd year or in the first semester of the 3rd year). A thesis proposal is submitted to your committee for the first meeting after you pass the preliminary exam.  It may take several months to schedule a meeting date, so start planning early. Deliver your proposal to your committee at least one week before your meeting. 

Please write your proposal in the following format.  Sections 1-2 should be 7 pages in length, single spaced, half inch margins, 11 pt arial font.  Section 3 is not included in this page limit.

1. Specific Aims (limited to 1 page)

State concisely the goals of the proposed research and summarize the expected outcome(s), including the impact that the results of the proposed research will exert on the research field(s) involved.

List succinctly the specific objectives of the research proposed, e.g., to test a stated hypothesis, create a novel design, solve a specific problem, challenge an existing paradigm or clinical practice, address a critical barrier to progress in the field, or develop new technology..

2. Research Strategy (limited to 6 pages)

    (a) Significance
• Explain the importance of the problem or critical barrier to progress in the field that the proposed project addresses.

• Explain how the proposed project will improve scientific knowledge, technical capability, and/or clinical practice in one or more broad fields.

• Describe how the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that drive this field will be changed if the proposed aims are achieved.

     (b) Approach
• Describe the overall strategy, methodology, and analyses to be used to accomplish the specific aims of the project. Include how the data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted as well as any resource sharing plans as appropriate.

• Discuss potential problems, alternative strategies, and benchmarks for success anticipated to achieve the aims.

3. References Cited in the Proposal

Annual Thesis Committee Meeting

Students are required to meet with his/her committee each year to review progress towards the Ph.D.  Two report forms should be brought to the committee meeting:  the Annual Thesis Committee Chair's Report and the Annual Thesis Meeting Committee Review Form.  The summary form must be signed by the DGS following your meeting and turned in to the DGSA along with a copy of your review forms.

The Thesis Exam

The Department of Cell Biology requires a written thesis and a minimum of one accepted first author peer-reviewed publication describing original research relevant to the thesis.  The written thesis must be given to the thesis committee at least two weeks prior to the examination.   For more information on graduation deadlines and how to apply please visit the Graduate School Website.