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Qualifying Examinations

Qualifying Examinations for Admission to Candidacy

The admission to candidacy for a Ph.D. in the Pharmacological Sciences requires successful completion of a two-part examination that serves to insure that students have mastered all of the information that has been conveyed in the required coursework (Part I). Equally important, is that the students must be able to use these insights in new experimental settings; otherwise the information learned in coursework is not useful for their maturation as independent investigators. The major objective of Part II of the Qualifying Examination is to evaluate the ability of the student to pose a scientific question, state a hypothesis, develop reasonable strategies to test the hypothesis, anticipate possible outcomes and forecast reasonable interpreta­tions of those outcomes. Acquisition of such skills is a crucial prerequisite for success in any sci­entific environ­ment and therefore must be developed and evaluated.


Qualifying Exam Part I:  The Preliminary Examination

For Part I of the Qualifying Examination, students will be examined orally. Twenty-four hours prior to their examination, the student will pick up the written examination consisting of seven questions primarily based upon the didactic material covered in their required courses [Targets, Systems &Drug Action (PHAR 8320 and 8321); Receptor Theory (PHAR 8324)]. These questions will be developed by all of the faculty serving as course directors or as section lecturers in these required courses. During the 24 hours preceding the examination, no written materials may be consulted, however students may choose to prepare diagrams or other aids that would be effective in conveying an answer to the examination committee. Students will be examined for no less than one, but for no more than two hours on four of the seven questions chosen by the student.

In most instances, qualifying examination questions will provide raw data to the student and they will be asked for possible interpretations. During the oral examination, the interpretation of the data will be expanded to demonstrate whether a student not only has a knowledge of the specific details posed in the questions, but also can relate that understanding to issues related to receptor theory, drug metabolism and disposition, molecular signaling pathways, and other topics felt to be relevant to training in pharmacological sciences and introduced to the students during the required coursework. All faculty members who sub­mit questions will submit both the specific question to be given to the students as well as addi­tional discussion points to be probed by the Examination Committee. This latter input will guide the questioning and make the examination both uniform and broad-based for all students. There will be four faculty each year on the Examination Com­mittee. Two will rotate each year, so there will always be two faculty in year (02) of their assignment, thus providing a "program perspective" on the level of performance expected in this examination, as well as two faculty who have just begun in year (01) of their assignment.

The students will be evaluated for their performance on the examination as pass/fail. A written summa­ry of their examination will detail strengths as well as deficiencies that were noted during the examination. This written summary is given to the student and a copy maintained in the student's file. If there are deficiencies noted during the oral examination which are not sufficient to require re-examination, but which do represent areas where strengthened insights need to be achieved, these also will be noted in the formal summary. This summary will be made available to the student's Dissertation Committee, so that these areas of concern can be probed during the oral examination of the proposal for the Ph.D. (discussion of that examination follows). If a student fails this first oral qualifying examination, they must retake the examination within six months. If they do not pass the second time, they will be dismissed from the program.


Qualifying Exam Part II:  The Dissertation Proposal Defense

Part II of the qualifying examination is taken after passing Part I and should be scheduled within 120 days of completion of Part I. One purpose of Part II of the qualifying examination is to ensure that the student, advisor and Dissertation Committee have a general concept of what the disserta­tion project will entail and how it will be conducted. This should prevent such unfortunate situations as: 1) the student "floating" from project to project for several months or years with only a foggy notion of his or her objectives, and 2) the Dissertation Committee belatedly recom­mend­ing major changes in Dissertation direction after one or two years of work by the student.  Steps to completing Part II of the Qualifying Examination are outlined below.  As always, if you have any questions or need additional information, please contact first the Education Coordinator.