SDSU-UCSD Biology Doctoral Committees and Curriculum Plan

A.     Standing* and Ad Hoc Committees


         1.   Executive Committee*

         2.   Advising Committee

         3.   Qualifying Committee

         4.   Dissertation Committee


B.     Curriculum and Examinations


         1.   Curriculum Plan by the year

         2.   Qualifying Exam


A.     Standing and Ad Hoc Committees


         1.   Executive Committee


The Executive Committee for the Biology Joint Doctoral Program consists of five faculty members selected from the Joint Doctoral Faculty by the Coordinator of the program.  For the academic year 2016/2017, this committee is chaired by Ricado Zayas, with Marina Kalyuznaya, Scott Kelley and Nicholas Shikuma.


            Functions of this committee include:


            1)      Select students for admission

            2)      Establish curriculum

            3)      Advise incoming students until a Dissertation Advisor is selected (end of year 1)

4)      Evaluate and provide recommendations on the placement of students into

         dissertation laboratories, and

            5)      Select the Advising Committee members in consultation with the student and

                     Dissertation Advisor.


In addition, the Executive Committee monitors the academic progress of all Joint Doctoral students.  This will include 1) insuring that all course work, laboratory rotations, and teaching assignments are completed in a timely manner, and 2) verifying the completion of the Qualifying Exam by no later than the end of the Fall semester of the third year.


         2.   Advising Committee


The Advising Committee will be established by the Joint Doctoral Graduate Advisors from SDSU and UCSD in consultation with the student and the Dissertation Advisor.  This committee will consist of three faculty members chosen jointly from SDSU and UCSD.  The Chair of the Advising Committee will be the Dissertation Advisor; at least one member must be from UCSD.  The Advising Committee will establish the student's course of study from year two on, and will also select the Qualifying Committee.

  (The JDP documents/forms below are Word documents: Get Word Viewer)

            3.         Qualifying Committee



Please email Marifel Alfaro ( with the names of your proposed committee, prior to submitting the JDP form, to make sure the UCSD faculty you have selected are acceptable.


The Dissertation advisor will serve as a member of the Qualifying Committee.  The members of the Qualifying Committee will be selected by the Advising Committee in consultation with the student.  In order to provide continuity between exams, at least one member of the Qualifying Committee shall be a member of the SDSU Executive Committee.  Final appointment of Qualifying Committee members will be made jointly by the Graduate Deans of SDSU and UCSD.


         The Qualifying Committee will be responsible for carrying out the Qualifying Exam and the Chair of this committee will report the outcome of the exam and any related academic recommendations to the Executive Committee.  The Chair will also provide a written evaluation of the student's performance.  The Chair of the Qualifying Committee is responsible for notifying the members of the time and place of the exam, and the student is responsible for obtaining all required documents necessary for the exam four weeks before the scheduled exam time.


         4.   Qualifying Exam


         The exam will be administered in one session* and consists of two parts.


         First Part:  Oral presentation of dissertation research results and proposed dissertation plan (duration 40-50 min, similar to a formal seminar presentation, slides, etc.).  The student should come prepared to defend the overall experimental design, including possible outcomes and interpretations, and be thoroughly familiar with the literature in his/her chosen field.  A major portion of this examination will be devoted to background information so that a student can demonstrate the context in which the proposed research project lies.  A succinctly written version of the proposed dissertation plan (maximum 14 double spaced pages) should be provided to committee members at least two weeks before the presentation.  Prior written approval by all SDSU Qualifying Committee members stating that the written dissertation proposal is sufficiently developed must be obtained before the oral presentation takes place.


         Second Part:  In consultation with the members of the Qualifying Committee, the student will select two subject areas broadly related to the dissertation research.  Two members of the Qualifying Committee with expertise in these areas will serve as primary mentors.  The student will carry out literature research in each of the topics and select three to four research papers in each area to be discussed during the Exam.  Each of the papers to be discussed must meet the approval of the two primary mentors.  The student will be expected to answer questions on the selected papers, relevant background, and potentially related topics.  A major goal of this portion of the exam is to test the student's ability to extract information from the literature, to critically and objectively analyze this information, and to formulate a thorough knowledge base of the subject area.


*Currently, the two parts of the exam may be administered at separate times.


         5.   Dissertation Committee *


            Upon completion of the Qualifying Exam the Dissertation Committee will be established.  This committee will be selected by the Advising Committee in consultation with the student and his/her Dissertation Advisor.  The Dissertation Committee will consist of five faculty members; two should be from UCSD with at least one UCSD tenured faculty member from the Biology Department.  The Chair of the Dissertation Committee will be the Dissertation Advisor.  The Dissertation Committee will be appointed jointly by the Graduate Deans of SDSU and UCSD.


            In part, the Dissertation Committee will be responsible for assessing on a periodic basis the progress of the student's research.  Regular committee meetings will be held with the student at 6 to 12 month intervals. Upon completion of the dissertation, a public oral presentation of the work will be presented.


JDP Forms and Information


Nomination of the Doctoral Committee for Qualifying Examinations for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy.  Fill out the form and return to Renee Konstantine in LS 102 Bfor processing.


Report of the Qualifying Examination and Advancement to Candidacy Committee For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biology.  Fill out the form and obtain your committee members' and Ricardo Zayas' signatures on the day of your Qualifying Exam.  See Marifel Alfaro at UCSD to obtain Joseph Pogliano's signature and  then pay the fee at the UCSD Cashier's Office.  Return form to the Graduate Program Administrator in LS 102 Bfor processing.


Nomination of the Doctoral Dissertation Committee for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biology.  Fill out the form and return to the Graduate Program Administrator in LS 102 B for processing.  *NOTE:  This form only needs to be completed if your committee membership has changed.


  Report of the Final Examination and Filing of the Dissertation for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biology.  Fill out the form and obtain your committee members' and Ricardo Zayas' signatures on the day of your Dissertation Defense.  See Marifel Alfaro at UCSD to obtain Joseph Pogliano's signature. Take form to your final appointment with UCSD Office of Graduate Studies.  See Graduation Checklist for detailed information.


NOTE:  Due to delays in the graduate offices, the appointment process often takes on the order of two months. Thus, to assure the committee is appropriately appointed prior to a qualifying exam or dissertation defense, it is essential that the student begin this process well in advance.



B.     Curriculum


1.      Curriculum Plan


               a)   Year 1--Normally students will be in residence at SDSU to complete three 15-week lab rotations, and to undertake course work as indicated by the Executive Committee.  The rotation laboratory will be determined by the student, the Executive Committee, and the PI of the laboratory.  Selection of the lab will be dependent on 1) student research interests, 2) availability of lab space, and 3) availability of research support in that laboratory.  To ensure well-rounded pre-dissertation lab exposure, the student will be advised to undertake at least one lab rotation clearly outside the indicated field of interest.  The rotation will consist of a well-defined research project to be carried out by the student.  Results of the project will be presented in mini-seminar fashion by the student at the end of the rotation period.


               It is suggested but not required that all first year students enroll in Molecular Biology 610.  It is to the student's advantage to acquire a well-rounded background in cell and molecular biology; thus, some courses outside the student's indicated research interests may also be advised.  Additionally, each student will be expected to participate actively in Journal Clubs and Research Seminars throughout their entire time at SDSU.


               Teaching assistant assignments will be made through the Biology Department and level of teaching involvement is dependent upon the source of the student's stipend.


               At the end of the first academic year the student will indicate to the Executive Committee his/her choices for a Dissertation Advisor.  In close consultation with the student and potential Dissertation Advisor, the Executive Committee will then determine the feasibility of the selection based on several criteria including 1) space in the prospective lab, 2) correlation of student and faculty research interests, and 3) appropriate student preparation to undertake work in the laboratory of choice.  After acceptance in a dissertation lab, the student will spend the summer between the first and second years beginning dissertation research.


               b)   Year 2--Normally, students will be taking courses primarily at UCSD carrying out a combination of course work (e.g. Biology 221, 222, 223) and/or research laboratory rotations.  In conjunction with the Executive Committee, the Dissertation Advisor and student will determine how best to spend the UCSD residence year.  Residency can be undertaken during later years, if this better suits the needs of the student.  Also during year 2 the student will be expected to continue dissertation research at SDSU.  Subsequent to the completion of the second year the student should be in a position to successfully complete the Qualifying Exam.


               During the summer between years 2 and 3 the student will continue dissertation research.


               c)   Years 3 and on--Year 3, and all subsequent years, will be spent in residence at SDSU.  The Oral Qualifying Exam must be taken by the end of the Fall semester of the third year.  Upon successful completion of this exam, the student will be advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.  The remainder of the program will involve full time dissertation research.  Dissertation research will continue throughout subsequent years until completion, as judged by the Dissertation Committee of which the Dissertation Advisor is the Chair.  Generally, completion of dissertation research is indicated by the completion of an original research project and includes publication of at least two full length research papers in first-rate refereed journals with the candidate appearing as first author.  At this point, the research is written up by the candidate.  Award of the degree requires acceptance of the manuscript by the Dissertation Committee and successful Department wide defense of the dissertation.  The Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Biology will be awarded jointly by the Regents of the University of California and the Trustees of the California State University, in the names of both cooperating institutions.

NOTE:  UCSD enforces a seven year limit to enrollment for the Ph.D.