PhD Thesis Defense


In order for a student to demonstrate that they have met the independent-research expectations for a PhD, they must defend their work in the public domain. Likewise, they are expected to be able to disseminate their work to the field, and thus must also write a comprehensive dissertation documenting their thesis research.  This document is intended to provide a cohesive and comprehensive story of how all of their thesis-research projects fit together to advance the field by filling in existing gaps within the literature regarding a significant research question. This detailed document also often serves as an archive of their work for future students in the lab, and as such is often more detailed than the journal papers that come from this work.


Deciding when a student is ready to defend is a shared decision between the student and advisor, and should be made based on a mutual agreement of when a student has met the requirements for the PhD degree.  The Graduate School has strict deadlines for thesis defense and depositing of the dissertation (with the oral defense required to occur at least one week prior to the dissertation deposit deadline set by the Graduate School).  The complete dissertation document is required to be given to the Thesis Advisory Committee 2 weeks before the oral defense.  Given these scheduling constraints, a complete document is often required more than one month prior to the deposit deadline, and thus students are encouraged to identify exact deadlines several months before their intended graduation date. Note: There must be at least two full registered semester sessions (can include summer) between when the preliminary exam is passed and when the final exam/defense is taken.

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In their oral defense and written document, students must demonstrate that they have met the BME expectations of PhD graduates (i.e., that they are able to critically analyze the literature to identify gaps in a biomedical area, design experiments to address these gaps, develop and/or use technology to perform these experiments, and critically analyze, interpret, and disseminate their own data to move the field forward in translationally relevant ways).  It is also expected within their defense and dissertation document that students will demonstrate they have carried out their own research by adhering to all principles for responsible conduct of research. There is no set number of published papers required to graduate with a PhD in BME because there are many factors that affect speed of publishing in various areas. A useful goal is to have two published (or accepted) journal papers by the defense, with several more in the pipeline.