Degree Requirements – PhD

A minimum of 32 credits are required for the PhD degree, ten of which must be didactic course credits. In addition to satisfactory completion of course work, a preliminary qualifying examination and a research dissertation and defense in the student's field of research must be completed. The academic program runs year-round. It is expected that students continue research during the summer.

Students are required to take three mandatory courses:

  • BMS 653 - Fundamentals of Animal Research I: Biostatistics
  • BMS 654 - Fundamentals of Animal Research II: Ethics
  • An intermediate statistics course to be determined in collaboration with the student's Thesis Advisory Committee and the Graduate Program Manager.
  • In addition, depending on their area of research, and in consultation with their mentors, students may be required to take one or more veterinary professional curriculum core courses (for example: physiology, microbiology and immunology). Other courses may be required of students, but are determined by the student's Thesis Advisory Committee ( TAC)

Some entering students may already have post-graduate training, and some recommended coursework may be waived by the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee, upon recommendation by the TAC, on an individual basis. However, the student will still be required to complete a minimum of 32 credit hours, of which ten must be didactic credits. The great majority of the graduate courses listed in this program are taught on the Cummings School campus. All graduate students are required to participate in the program's weekly journal club and attend seminars each semester. The faculty and scientific staff involved in the program actively contribute to the program by offering seminars and courses and by participating in journal club.

In acknowledging the importance of obtaining teaching experience as part of one's graduate education, students are strongly encouraged to participate in various teaching activities while they are in the program, which will aid in the development of integral teaching skills. These may include small group (Problem-Based Learning), laboratory, and or lecture-based instruction modalities within our existing professional veterinary curriculum.

Transfer of Credits

Graduate coursework completed elsewhere for a previous degree may not be applied toward PhD credit for the program. However, if the student has taken prior coursework in a relevant field, the student can speak with his or her mentor and TAC to request a waiver of similar courses in the PhD program. If the TAC agrees, the student is not required to take these courses but will be required to take other courses to fulfill the didactic credit requirements.

Time Limit and Extension of Degree Time

The minimum residence requirement for the PhD program is three academic years of full-time study and a dissertation. Most students take between three and five years to complete their degree requirements, but all must complete their work within seven consecutive years.

Laboratory Rotation Policy

While most incoming PhD students are assigned mentors at the time of admission, in some cases students are admitted without a mentor. When this happens, first-year PhD students are expected to perform laboratory rotations so that a mentor-mentee relationship can be formed. Students perform the rotations in any lab that has both the funds and the space to train a PhD student.

Thesis Advisory Committee

During the first semester of study, the student and mentor must propose a Thesis Advisory Committee ( TAC) for that student. Each committee is comprised of the student's mentor and three additional members, which should include at least one member from outside Cummings School. At least two of the proposed members must be program faculty members.

Qualifying Exam

All PhD students must present for the Preliminary Examination no later than the end of the fifth week of the first semester of their third year in order to receive the reduced post-Preliminary Examination tuition rate. If the student fails to successfully complete the Preliminary Examination by that date, the full tuition in effect at that time will be charged. In the event of extenuating circumstances, permission for delays in the Preliminary Examination date may be obtained through the PhD Program Committee. The Preliminary Examination consists of both a written and an oral presentation. Only students in their second year of study who are in good academic standing are eligible to take the Preliminary Examination.


A major portion of work toward the doctoral degree consists of the preparation of a doctoral thesis or dissertation. The topic of the dissertation is chosen with the approval of the mentor, and the dissertation is written under his or her supervision. The dissertation must demonstrate high achievement in a specific branch of knowledge, the original development of an appropriate subject, and independent research. The TAC must accept the dissertation. The examination is oral, written, or both, as determined by the program faculty.