Choice of Research Question (Starting Fall 2022)


Students are encouraged to develop their qualifying exam Research Question based on the research they plan to pursue for their thesis (although this is not required). This topic should be chosen to allow the student to develop an original experiment that will advance the current state of the chosen research field. The student’s proposed research can be related to ongoing work in the mentor’s lab or work previously performed by the student, but must ultimately represent a novel research question. While it may be related to ongoing work by others in the lab, the student should complete the qualifying exam without significant input from the faculty mentor(s) after the initial set of core papers are selected on the PhD Qualifying Pre-Registration Form. As such, it is expected that the specific research question will be distinct from or a novel formulation of a research question that has already been proposed and/or funded by the mentor.

Specifically, student proposals must satisfy all of the following criteria:

1) No research question can be identical with the student’s past (prior to starting the PhD) research projects.

2) No research questions can be identical to any goal of ongoing or proposed research projects in the mentor’s lab being conducted by the mentor, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates, or technicians.

3) The research questions must be different from those of research groups actively collaborating with the mentor’s laboratory.

4) be based on the small set of primary literature (i.e., 5 papers chosen by mentor and student, plus 5-10 additional identified by the student).

Relevant Forms: 

Relevant Resources:

Qualifying Exam Timelines