Review of Dissertation Proposal

The second part of the exam addresses the student’s proposed research. The exam will focus on the student’s development of questions, hypotheses, and experiments. This exam is also an opportunity for the student to get feedback from their committee. The proposal must include an abstract, introduction, questions and/or hypotheses, explanation of significance, proposed methodology, feasibility and potential pitfalls, and a brief literature review. Three or more chapters should be planned.

The date of the Part 2 exam should be scheduled shortly after the Part 1 exam is passed. At least two weeks before the Part 2 exam, the dissertation proposal must be sent to the Supervising Professor for approval. Once approved, email a copy of the proposal to each of your committee members at least one week before the Part 2 exam (hard copies should be provided on request). It is a good idea to remind each committee member the day before or morning of the exam as to the location and time of the exam.

Once the committee members have asked questions to their satisfaction, the voting members of the committee will decide the outcome of the exam from the following options:

Unconditional Pass: admission to candidacy with no conditions

Conditional Pass: admission to candidacy with specific conditions (e.g., modifications to the proposal, additional coursework)

Conditional Fail: re-examination at a later date after any conditions are met.

Termination with MA Option: the student is dismissed from the pre-doctoral program, with the option to pursue a MA degree

Unconditional Fail: termination of work toward the PhD and dismissal from the Plant Biology graduate program

The outcome of the exam is recorded on the Part 2 Exam Results Form by the Supervising Professor, signed by the committee members, and returned to the Graduate Coordinator.


Dissertation Proposal Committee

The student and his/her Supervising Professor should discuss which faculty members should serve on the examination committee. The committee must have at least 5 members including:


  • The Supervising Professor. The supervisor runs the exam, but does NOT VOTE or discuss the student’s performance, unless information is requested by the other committee members.
  • Three other faculty members from the Plant Biology Graduate Program. The members should be chosen to provide a breadth of examination on general topics, but with some relevance to the student’s research. One person should be outside of the student’s area of specialization. For example, a student with molecular or physiological interests would have one organismal faculty member on the committee.
  • An outside member. This person can be either a faculty member from another GSC or from another university. NOTE: If a member is from another university, you must provide a curriculum vitae from the person and have a written statement that the person will not request any funds from the University of Texas. Many opportunities exist to have outside members from within UT’s other GSCs, including Ecology, Evolution, & Behavior, Cellular & Molecular Biology, Geological Sciences, and Chemistry.
  • You must ask potential committee members if they are willing to serve on your committee in advance. Then set up a date, time and place for the exam when all of the members can meet. You must schedule a three-hour period and a room with the Graduate Coordinator.
  • The members of your Part 2 committees must be approved by the Graduate Advisor.
  • Note that between Part 1 and Part 2 or when you advance to candidacy, you may change the members of your committee with approval of your Supervising Professor and the Graduate Advisor. For example, the dissertation committee sometimes includes more members with greater specific knowledge about your area of specialization. Note that once you advance to candidacy, committee changes are restricted to those necessitated by deaths, faculty departures from the university, or similar compelling reasons and must be approved by the Dean. 

Advancement to Candidacy

Once you have turned in your Qualifying Exam Results Forms to the Graduate Coordinator, the web link to complete your candidacy application will be forwarded to you. You must fill out the on-line application and provide an abstract of your dissertation research. The submitted form will be routed for approval to your Supervising Professor, the Graduate Advisor, the GSC Chair, and the Graduate School. Students must be approved for candidacy by late August to be given the candidacy salary rate as a Teaching Assistant. Also, you must be registered the semester you take your exam and apply for candidacy.


ONCE YOU ARE ADITTED TO CANDIDACY, YOU MUST BE ENROLLED IN A MINIMUM OF 3 DISSERTATION HOURS EACH LONG SEMETESTER UNTIL YOU GRADUATE. You must enroll in _99R (Research) your first semester in candidacy. Each semester after that you should enroll in _99W (Writing). You are given credit for the dissertation hours after you turn in your dissertation the semester that you graduate.


Your graduate career at this point consists of completing your research, writing your dissertation, and defending your dissertation. Your Supervising Professor and your Dissertation Committee advise you. YOU are responsible for obtaining forms for the submission of your dissertation and arranging for the defense. You should no longer have to consult with the Graduate Advisor, except for concerns with teaching assignments, fellowships, etc.


Dissertation Proposal Application

Disseration Proposal Results