Students in the PhD program in bioengineering are expected to take the preliminary examination by the end of their second year in the program.
Students in the PhD program in bioinformatics are expected to take the preliminary examination within two years of completing the qualifying examination, usually by the end of the third year.
The preliminary examination allows the department to assess each student’s readiness to move on to researching and writing a dissertation.
Preliminary Examination Format
The preliminary examination includes a written component and an in-person (oral) component.
The written component is designed to replicate the format of an an NIH fellowship grant application. It includes:
- Specific aims (firm 1-page limit)
- Significance (about 1 page)
- Innovation (about a half page)
- Approach (about 4.5 pages)
In the written component, the student is expected to provide preliminary results and, more importantly, outline a research plan. The document is limited to 7 pages, excluding references. Students must provide the Preliminary Exam Committee with copies of this document at least one week prior to the oral examination.
Building a Preliminary Examination Committee
PhD students will work with their faculty advisors to develop a preliminary examination committee. At least three weeks before the scheduled date of the preliminary exam, the student is responsible for completing and submitting the committee recommendation form to the director of graduate studies and then the Graduate College for approval. When filling out the form, the program code for the PhD in Bioengineering is 20FS0408PHD, and the program code for the PhD in Bioinformatics is 20FS1909PHD.
The preliminary exam committee consists of at least five people. Specific requirements for the committee include:
- at least two members must be core BioE faculty
- at least one member must come from outside the UIC bioengineering department
- at least three members must be full members of the UIC Graduate College
- at least two members must be tenured faculty
- the chairperson of the committee must have full membership in the UIC Graduate College (but does not necessarily need to be tenured)
Students should note that any committee members who are not members of the UIC Graduate Faculty must have their CV included with the committee recommendation form.
The preliminary exam committee ideally will become the final dissertation defense committee, so students and their advisors should think ahead about an appropriate committee to judge the eventual dissertation.
If students need to make changes to their committee, those changes must be requested before the oral examination takes place. Students must use the Request for Change in Thesis Title/Committee Member(s) Form.
Preliminary Examination Timeline
At least two months prior to oral exam
- Work with your research advisor to identify and invite potential committee members.
- Consult with your research advisor to set a date for your anticipated oral examination and ensure that the date, time, and location works for all of your committee members.
- Confirm your registration in coursework and/or thesis research for the term when you will take the preliminary exam. (See the “Registration Requirements” section below for more information.)
At least three weeks prior to oral exam
- Complete the committee recommendation form and submit it to the director of graduate studies and then the Graduate College.
- Reserve a room for your oral examination. (Contact the GPC when requesting a BioE classroom.)
One week prior to the oral exam
- Provide copies of your completed research proposal to each committee member.
- Pick up the examination report form from the Graduate College once you are notified that it is ready.
Immediately following the oral exam
- Confirm that every committee member has signed the examination report form and marked their grade (“Pass” or “Fail”) on the form.
- Make sure the chairperson indicates the examination date and any post-examination conditions that may have been made by the committee.
- Submit the white and pink copies of the form to the graduate program coordinator within two business days of the exam.
A few weeks after the oral exam
- The UIC Graduate College will confirm your passing of preliminary exam and send a doctoral candidacy letter to the bioengineering department.
- The graduate program coordinator will notify you that your candidacy letter has been received, at which time you can order “PhD Candidate” business cards from the College of Engineering if desired.
Note: After students pass the preliminary examination, they are not intended to defend their dissertation until at least a year has elapsed, to allow appropriate time for research and writing a paper of the expected quality level. Students who plan to defend their dissertation before a year has elapsed must submit an online Graduate Student Petition requesting an exemption from the one-year minimum requirement.
Students must be in good academic standing to take the preliminary exam.
Students must be registered for academic credit during the term when they take the preliminary exam. This includes the summer term, if students are taking the preliminary exam during the summer. Following the preliminary exam, students must register each semester (excluding summer) until successfully defending the dissertation.
If all coursework and research hours are complete, and no assistantship, fellowship, or tuition waiver is applied, students can petition for zero-hour registration using the online Graduate Student Petition.