Prelim Preparation


The student will write and submit the research proposal to the Thesis Committee. The subject matter of the proposal will coincide with the student’s anticipated thesis research. The proposal should be written as a research proposal divided into five sections:

1) Abstract, 2) Specific Aims, 3) Background and Significance, 4) Preliminary Results, and 5) Experimental Plan.

The proposal will have an upper limit of 15 double-spaced text pages including embedded tables and figures. References are not included in the page limit. The student should consult with others, including the thesis adviser and committee members, before and during the writing process.

After the student provides the written proposal to the committee, the student can meet with each member of the committee for feedback.  Based on these comments, the student will revise the proposal and resubmit it at least one week prior to the oral defense. The revision must include an Introduction of not more than two pages that summarizes the substantial additions, deletions, and changes made in response to committee feedback. The Introduction must also include responses to the criticisms and issues raised by the committee.

If a committee member has reservations about the original or the revised proposal that are serious enough to make voting to “pass” unlikely, that member should notify the student and the thesis adviser of the concerns immediately.  In such cases, the thesis adviser, after consultation with the other committee members, may delay the defense to allow time for corrective actions.

More detailed guidelines regarding formatting the written research proposal, please refer to the MDTP Handbook.


Students give a brief (20-30 min) oral presentation describing the research proposal to the thesis committee.  During and after the presentation, students respond to questions raised by the members of the thesis committee.  The questions will center around the research proposal, but may include any question relevant to it or to the expected proficiencies in microbiology enumerated by the Steering Committee.  The major professor will assign a prelim chair who is responsible for completing the prelim report.  Following the examination, the thesis committee will decide whether the student (i) passes the exam unconditionally and proceeds to candidacy, (ii) passes the exam conditionally and is instructed to complete additional work to satisfy a perceived deficiency, or (iii) fails the exam.

In general, seeking feedback regularly from the thesis advisor and the committee ensures that students enter the prelim process prepared and get through the process successfully.


Once you have passed the prelim, you are probably ready for dissertator status.  Here are the requirements for dissertator status:

  • Satisfied Graduate School requirements of 32 credits in residence (51 credits required for graduation).
  • Completed all minor requirements, 10 coursework credits.
  • Completed all major requirements, 10 coursework credits, except the final dissertation and MDTP seminars.
  • Cleared all incompletes, no reports (NR), or grades of “P” in non-research courses.
  • Have completed one semester of teaching (or obtained a waiver from the Steering Committee)
  • Passed the preliminary exam, obtained signatures and turned in the signed prelim form AND warrant to the program coordinator.
  • Received a e-mail from the graduate school specifically telling you that you have reached dissertator status.

NOTE:  As a dissertator, you should register for 3 credits each semester to maintain continuous registration.  You must be registered during the semester you earn your degree.