Students in Snitkin lab
Microbiology & Immunology PhD Program Requirements

All along, M&I faculty members and staff will mentor you in your scientific and academic journey toward achieving your goals, enriching your interests and preparing for a successful career. There are several checkpoints during your training that guide you in your progresses.

  1. Timing: ~12 months after matriculation (Aug/Sept at beginning of 2nd year). The specific date and departmental prelim examining committee for each year will be announced by July 15. This prelim date may be adjusted for MSTP students who may take it after their second rotation and having decided on a dissertation mentor.
  2. Format: Students will be given three primary research articles (three weeks prior to the exam), and will be required to understand the relevant literature and experimental approaches described therein, as well as general biological concepts. The students will choose one paper (of the three) and prepare a 1-page NIH-style Specific Aims page outlining plans for future experiments.
  3. Students will complete a ~2 hour oral exam to answer questions about general knowledge, the three papers and the student's proposal outline. An examining committee consisting of a limited number of faculty, including members of the Grad Studies Committee to ensure consistency as much as possible, will examine all students over a 1-2 day period. See additional information in Graduate Student Handbook.
  4. Preliminary exam reports from examining committees will be communicated to the entire Grad Studies Committee. The Grad Studies Committee will evaluate students for advancement to candidacy with respect to Checkpoint 1, with all students meeting individually with the GSC Chair (or representative) to discuss strengths and weaknesses of academic performance. The GSC Chair will articulate expectations and requirements for academic success (lab productivity, mastery of dissertation topic, etc). Remediation options will be limited to cases with notable extenuating circumstances.

Before the end of fall term of the Year 2, The Microbiology & Immunology Grad Studies Committee will assess each student for advancement to candidacy. In order to advance, students must pass the preliminary oral exam (Checkpoint 1), maintain academic performance standards according to Rackham, and have a written letter of support from their research mentor. Each student's academic record and laboratory progress will be reviewed. The final approval as to whether the student is advanced to candidacy will incorporate the totality of the student's record. Approved students' paperwork will be completed so that they advance officially with Rackham at the beginning of winter term.

The department will complete and submit to the Graduate School a Recommendation for Candidacy Form. This form certifies that a student has completed departmental requirements for Candidacy.

Certificate of Candidacy

When the Office of Academic Records & Dissertations receives the Candidacy Recommendation Form, the staff will review the student's academic record to determine whether all of the Rackham requirements for the doctorate (except the dissertation) have been completed, and that the student has met the minimum Rackham Fee Totals for coursework done prior to Candidacy. Once that information has been verified and the Candidacy process has been completed, the student may request a Certificate of Candidacy.

For more details about this process and advancing to candidacy, please visit the Rackham Graduate School's Academic Policies site.

  1. Students will schedule the Dissertation Evaluation in Year 2 (usually May to June)
  2. Students will prepare for this evaluation throughout the Years 1 and 2 by reading key literature, discussion with mentors/colleagues and by performing relevant laboratory research; students are discouraged from significant absence (>1 week) from the laboratory before the exam for last minute preparations.
  3. A detailed evaluation from the mentor and a self-evaluation from the student will be provided to the GSC at least one month prior to the dissertation exam for evaluation and deposited in the student's file. Students are expected to demonstrate progress and independent motivation for laboratory research in order to be considered ready for the dissertation proposal evaluation.
  4. For the Dissertation Evaluation, students will submit a dissertation proposal (NIH R21 format) and are expected to exhibit deep knowledge of their dissertation topic and associated methodology. Faculty will rigorously test relevant knowledge and ability of the student to defend the central hypothesis and aims of the proposal as the basis for approval. The mentor will be present during the evaluation, but may not contribute to the discussion.
  5. Students will be allowed 5 slides to introduce their dissertation topic and are expected to show preliminary data from their own work in support of their proposal.
  6. Each dissertation committee member will provide a 1 page evaluation post-exam of the student's readiness to proceed with the dissertation plan, and will also provide scientific feedback for the benefit of the student and mentor (using the downloadable form below). These evaluations will be given to the student and mentor and archived in the student's file.
  7. Students who receive approval from their dissertation committee will continue with their dissertation research, meeting with their committee at least annually.
  8. Students who do not receive approval will be placed on academic probation and required to have an additional Dissertation Evaluation within 3-6 months.
  9. Any student whose Dissertation Evaluation is not approved by the dissertation committee in the second meeting will likely not be allowed to proceed further in the program, barring extenuating circumstances.