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Candidacy Information

To: Students Applying for Candidacy

The following information is provided to assist you as you prepare for admission to candidacy and write your thesis or dissertation. Most of the information in this document is equally applicable to doctoral and masters students. Differences or exceptions will be indicated by the applicable degree abbreviation. It would be prudent for you to read an entire section to be certain you are familiar with the rules and regulations that apply. Note that "dissertation" always refers to doctoral students, "thesis" or "capstone" to masters students. There are four different masters-level degrees awarded by the graduate school: (1) the Master of Science (MS) degree, (2) the Master of Arts (MA) degree, (3) the Master of Medical Science (MMS) degree and (4) the Masters of Public Health (MPH) degree.

Review the following sections in the dropdown menu below:



Each doctoral program administers a written qualifying examination to determine the student's mastery of his/her chosen field. Some programs also may have an oral component of this examination. This examination is ordinarily taken after the major portion of the course work has been completed. Part of the qualifying examination may include the student's demonstration of familiarity with and preparation for an independent research project on which the dissertation will be based. Successful completion of the qualifying examination is prerequisite to application for candidacy. Ordinarily, this examination should be completed no later than 1.5 years after matriculation. The student's program director certifies successful completion of the qualifying examination by signing the application for admission to candidacy form.

After successful completion of the qualifying examination, students will be allowed to register for Research (6097) a maximum of three (3) terms. Failure to be admitted to candidacy by the end of the third term after successfully completing the qualifying examination is grounds for dismissal from the graduate school.


Qualifying examinations are not required by the graduate school for masters degree-seeking students. If a program wishes to utilize a qualifying examination for masters students, notice of the requirement shall be given to the student on admission to the program.

Admission to candidacy for all students requires the removal of all academic deficiencies; no student may be admitted to candidacy with an I, NR or failing grade (F, WF or U) on the transcript unless the deficiency has been resolved; the student may not be on probation. Each student must have an overall 3.0 grade point average or better at the time of admission to candidacy.

Doctoral students apply for candidacy after the qualifying examination has been successfully completed and the program faculty recommends his/her admission to candidacy.


Ordinarily, MA and MS students should be admitted to candidacy no later than two years after matriculation. Programs may require a minimum number of credit hours of course work before a student is eligible to apply for candidacy. MD-degreed students seeking the MMS degree typically apply for candidacy half-way between the time they enter the program and the projected time of completion.

An application for admission to candidacy form is completed and submitted with a research proposal to the dean of the graduate school. The research proposal must follow the format given. (These forms can be found online for both Masters and PhD students.) Concurrently, students should distribute copies to the proposed supervisory committee members. This should be done well in advance of the first date that the student wishes to register for dissertation or thesis. Admission to candidacy is prerequisite to registration for dissertation or thesis and the written agreement to serve from the full supervisory committee is prerequisite to admission to candidacy. All applications for candidacy must be approved by the dean of the graduate school. Please check the deadline dates for submitting the application to candidacy. Deadlines can be located on the academic calendar.

The supervisory committee is a small group of graduate faculty assigned to advise, monitor and review the research of a student. This committee is chaired by the supervisory professor, ordinarily the faculty member in whose laboratory the student will perform his/her research.

The supervisory committee and particularly the supervisory professor have the responsibility for directing the student's research, ensuring its quality and timely completion, and for supervising the writing of the dissertation or thesis.

Customarily, a student will spend the first year after matriculation becoming acquainted with the faculty of his/her program through course work, laboratory rotations, private interviews, counseling with the program director, etc., and will select a faculty mentor with whom he/she wishes to do the research leading to the doctoral or masters degree. This selection should take place before the qualifying exam. This faculty person effectively becomes the unofficial supervisory professor. As the time approaches for applying to candidacy, the student, the faculty mentor and the program director will develop a suggested membership list for the full supervisory committee.

The application form for admission to candidacy includes a place to list the proposed members of this committee. When the student applies for candidacy, (s)he is responsible for contacting the proposed committee members and obtaining their agreement to serve on the supervisory committee. The final composition of the committee must be approved by the Program Director and the Senior Associate Dean.


For doctoral students the supervisory committee will be composed of at least five members or special members of the graduate faculty, one of whom will be from another institution and one of whom is from a different area than that of the student. The supervisory professor and the supervisory committee shall ensure that the student satisfies all the requirements for the doctoral degree. The on-campus members of the supervisory committee shall meet with the student at least two times per year before the defense of the dissertation. However, the student should take advantage of every opportunity to consult with all members of the supervisory committee.


MD/PhD students shall have a supervisory committee like that for regular PhD students, but in addition, one member of the supervisory committee shall be an MD-degreed faculty person having a primary appointment in a clinical department of the UTMB medical school. This person may be one of the five original supervisory committee members or may be added as a sixth committee member.


The supervisory committee for MA, MS, and MPH students is composed of at least three regular or special members of the graduate faculty, two of which are from the student's program (one being the supervisory professor) and one of which has a primary focus different from the student's.


For MMS students the supervisory committee is composed of three members, one of whom is the supervisory professor. At least one member of the committee must be from a basic science department and one shall be from clinical department. No more than two members shall be from the department of the student. The supervisory committee for MMS students will meet with the student at least once approximately half-way through the training period and provide a brief written statement to the program steering committee as soon as possible after this meeting describing the progress of the student.

Schedule of Deadlines for Final Copies and Defense of Dissertation

The basic time frame for completing the thesis/dissertation and scheduling the final oral examination applies to all doctoral candidates and to masters degree candidates who will take a final oral examination. Other masters degree candidates should consult sections IV and V of the document for appropriate schedule.

The way to "start" is by finding out from the published GSBS academic calendar what the deadline is for submitting the final approved copies of the thesis/dissertation. Plan everything backward from this date. Schedule the defense of the thesis/dissertation at least two weeks before this deadline. Most students need more than two weeks after the defense to make revisions, duplicate and submit the formal, completed copies. The graduate school requires a two week period to publicize the defense after you submit the "Request for Final Oral Examination" form. Before the supervisory committee signs this form, they must have had adequate time to review the dissertation and determine that the student is prepared to defend it at the final oral examination. The student is required to provide a copy of the thesis/dissertation to each member of the committee at least three weeks before the committee signs this form. The copy of the thesis/dissertation presented should be in reasonably final form so the supervisory committee can thoroughly evaluate the work. Commonly, serious revisions are required by the committee after they have read the thesis/dissertation; prepare the draft very well and make sure to allow adequate time to rewrite. A copy of this document in WORD format must be provided to the program director when it is distributed to the committee after the committee has approved the document it must be sent to the student affairs dean for final changes/updates and approval.

Thus, from the deadline date for submission of the final copies of the thesis/dissertation, the student must have a completed version of the document ready at least six weeks earlier. To facilitate the entire procedure, it is most important that the student and the supervisory committee stay mutually informed and up-to-date on the research and writing progress, and that the student check frequently with the graduate school office for input about deadlines and about proper format and style of the thesis/dissertation.

The dissertation or thesis must be an original contribution to scholarship and must be based on the student's independent investigation. The student should read carefully the Instructions for Preparation of the Doctoral Dissertation and Masters Thesis before preparing draft copies.


Copies of the dissertation, unbound or electronic, shall be made available to the supervisory committee not less than three weeks prior to the final oral examination (the defense of the dissertation) to enable the members to evaluate its contents.


For masters programs which require a final oral examination (see section 5 below) copies of the thesis, unbound or electronic, shall be made available to the supervisory committee not less than three weeks prior to the final oral examination (defense of the thesis) to enable the members to evaluate its contents. If no final oral examination is used, copies of the thesis must be presented to the supervisory committee at least four weeks before the deadline for submission of the final thesis.


Typically, a final oral examination (defense of thesis) is not given to MA or MS students, but a program may require such an examination. Notice of this requirement shall be given to the candidate on admission to the program. If a final examination is given to MA, MS, or MPH students, it shall be conducted under the same guidelines as for doctoral students, as specified below. *


MMS students will take a final oral examination, and this defense of the data (either manuscript or thesis) will be considered an obligatory part of the degree requirements and must be completed before final preparation of the document. *


The final oral examination must be scheduled far enough in advance of the deadline for submission of the final copies of the dissertation to permit the student to make any corrections in the final form of the dissertation that may be required by the supervisory committee. Experience has shown that an absolute minimum of two weeks is necessary.

The final oral examination will cover the dissertation and the general field of the dissertation and such other parts of the student's program as the supervisory committee may determine.

The supervisory committee will sign the signature page of the dissertation and the report of the final oral examination (form attached) when they are satisfied that the student has:

  • completed the work assigned by the committee,
  • passed all examinations required by the program including the final oral,
  • completed a dissertation which gives evidence of ability to do independent investigation and itself constitutes a scholarly contribution to knowledge, and
  • prepared for publication in Dissertation Abstracts International, an abstract which meets the approval of the committee.

The office of the dean of the graduate school must review the form and illustrations for conformity with published instructions when the document is finalized and prior to submission of the dissertation. When the office of the dean of the graduate school grants final approval, the student shall upload the approved document to the ETD server and notify the graduate school that the submission is complete.


*see section VII for thesis option

Before the final form of the dissertation or thesis is typed, the student should carefully read the Instructions for Preparation of the Doctoral Dissertation and Masters Thesis and feel free to consult the graduate school office about acceptable format.

The graduate school has developed a template for the preliminary pages of the dissertation or thesis and a copy is available at the GSBS home page.

Also, note that a doctoral student may not take more than five years after admission to candidacy to complete the dissertation; MA and MS students must complete all requirements for this degree four years after matriculation; and MMS students, one full-time equivalent year after matriculation is standard.

A student must be enrolled in the graduate school at the time of submission of the dissertation or thesis. After the final form of the dissertation or thesis has been approved by the supervisory committee, the student should submit to the graduate school office an electronic letter-perfect copy in PDF format, including all illustrations, for final approval of form before the dissertation or thesis is reproduced. The graduate school does not required a printed copy of the final document.

Students should consult the Instructions for Preparation of the Doctoral Dissertation and Masters Thesis for information on format and style.


For MA, MS and MMS students the supervisory committee may accept an in-press or published manuscript(s) in lieu of the conventional thesis. The manuscript(s) must have been accepted in a high-quality refereed journal approved by the supervisory committee, and the student's contribution must include most of the writing and principal/senior authorship. In addition, the work reported in the publication must have been carried out at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Galveston or under the supervision of a member of its faculty.


The dean of the graduate school will present the credentials of students completing their degree program to the graduate faculty as a body for their certification if the dean has received by the published deadline a positive recommendation on the report of the final oral, the required electronic copy of the final document, and all other paperwork required for graduation.

The student must be registered in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Galveston at the time of the faculty certification. Therefore, if the student does not meet the published deadline for submission of the dissertation or thesis, he/she must register in absentia for one additional term for the purpose of graduation. Degrees are awarded at the end of the fall, spring and summer terms, but public commencement is held for the graduate school only at the end of the spring term. Summer and fall graduates are invited to participate in the spring commencement.

General Suggestions

The proposal should be organized to answer the following questions:

  1. What do you intend to do?
  2. Why is the work important?
  3. What has been done already?
  4. How are you going to do the work?


This research proposal should be typed single-spaced.

  1. Title Sheet

    Title of the research project followed by your name and a 200 word summary of the proposed thesis/dissertation research. One page.

  2. Research Plan

    1. Specific Aims or Problem Statement

      State concisely and realistically what the research described in the proposal is intended to accomplish. What hypothesis is to be tested or what question is to be addressed? Do not exceed one page.

    2. Significance

      Briefly sketch the background (or literature review) to your thesis/dissertation proposal, critically evaluate existing knowledge, and specifically identify the gaps which the proposal is intended to fill. State concisely the importance of the research described in the proposal by relating the specific aims to longer term objectives. Do not exceed three pages.

    3. Research Accomplishments to Date

      If you have conducted any research pertinent to your thesis/dissertation proposal, briefly describe your results. Also, list relevant courses or other experiences which enhance your competence to perform the proposed research. Do not exceed four pages of written text. (Additional pages may be used for figures, graphs, tables, etc.)


      Briefly discuss the research design and the procedures to be used to accomplish the specific aims of the proposal. If any new methodology is being used, describe its advantage over existing methodology. Include the kinds of data to be gathered (when applicable) and the means by which the data will be analyzed and interpreted. The discussion should provide sufficient evidence that the specific aims are attainable. It is not necessary to include detailed methodological/technical protocols. Do not exceed ten pages.

    4. Literature Cited

      Cite the pertinent literature in the text and provide the complete reference list in the Literature Cited section. Each citation must include the names of all authors, the name of the book or journal, volume number, page numbers, and year of publication.

    5. Page Limits

      Although no page limitation is specified for this part of the proposal, make every attempt to be judicious in compiling the bibliography. It should be relevant and current. It need not be exhaustive.

    6. Supervision and Facilities

      Name the person(s) proposed to be immediately responsible for supervising your thesis/dissertation research and laboratory (or other facilities) where most of your proposed research will take place. If the proposed project involves collaboration with another institution, give evidence that the collaborator(s) agrees to participate.

    7. Human Subjects

      Include all human research-related instruments to be used in this study, sample of subject consent form(s), and instructions to subjects as appropriate.

As you approach completion of degree requirements and arrange for your postdoctoral position, please be aware:

  • Beginning a post-doctoral position before completing all degree requirements, even if the hiring agency will permit it, could be costly. Graduate school academic policies require you to be registered each term including the term the degree is awarded. Non-residents of Texas who pay tuition at the resident rate because of having a graduate assistantship or pre-doctoral fellowship, lose the qualification to pay resident tuition when they cease to be employed by UTMB with one of those titles.
  • International students should apply for optional practical training three months before they anticipate completing all degree requirements, including submission of the final, approved copy of the dissertation. Depending on the type of visa you have, you should check with Frances Garcia in the International Affairs Office or with James Bowen in the Office of the Enrollment Services.

If you have any questions and/or concerns regarding the above, please contact Tammie Taylor.