Dissertation Proposal Defense
Within six months of successful completion of the Oral II/Depth Exam and the awarding of the MPhil, the student obtains permission from his/her internal committee to defend their proposal. The internal members of the dissertation committee must receive a copy of the proposal at least four weeks prior to the scheduled defense. External members of the Dissertation Committee are not expected to attend the proposal defense. The GSAS Office of Dissertations does not receive a copy of the proposal. The student downloads the proposal defense application from http://gsas.columbia.edu/forms and fills in the form for the committee prior to the defense, giving the form itself to the committee chair. The chair is responsible for returning it to the Graduate Program Manager for submission to the Office of Dissertations. The chair of the committee is the most senior (in both rank and years within the department), highest ranking faculty member (ie Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor) out of the three or four internal members. The sponsor is the research advisor. The first hour of the examination is public; the second hour is a closed-door session with the committee. For both the sake of convenience and the potential for increased attendance by members of the department, the student is responsible for scheduling the exam in either the PH-20 Conference Room (for Clinical, Public Health or Translational students) or the Irving 8th Floor Conference Room (for Bioinformatics students). In order to ensure that sufficient notice is given regarding the public part of the defense, the student e-mails an abstract to Rosemary Vazquez, a minimum of three weeks in advance of the examination date. The dissertation proposal is the first step in the development of the dissertation and is required to ensure the viability of the dissertation topic. The student begins the preparation of a dissertation, generally building on the topic that was the subject of his/her Oral II/Depth Exam.
Dissertation Proposal Outline
With the approval of the research advisor, the proposal may be distributed to the internal dissertation advisory committee at least 3 weeks prior to the proposal defense. The proposal must be an original and significant contribution to the field of Biomedical Informatics. The project described by the proposal must be reasonable in scope and grounded in the existing literature. At the discretion and approval of the research advisor, the dissertation proposal should consist of 12-30 single-spaced pages with half-inch margins and be done in a minimum of 11 point type. It should be distributed to the 3 internal dissertation committee members a minimum of 4 weeks in advance of the dissertation proposal date and should include the following:
Chapter I: Introduction (Overview of the Thesis)
Purpose of the Study
Experimental Design Associated with Hypotheses
Chapter II: Background and Related Work
Review of Theories Related to the Topic
Chapter III: Methodology (Details of Thesis)
Preliminary Studies (Optional)
Experimental Design Applied (e.g. data sources, data collection, analysis, evaluation, etc.)
Chapter IV: Timeline
Chapter V: Bibliography
A final University-mandated thesis defense is held at the end of PhD training when the student’s primary research advisor deems the student to be ready. The remainder of the student’s internal dissertation committee will have been involved with the research and must also concur with the decision to defend. It is a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requirement that you must apply for your defense, and it must be approved at least 4 weeks in advance by the GSAS Office of Dissertations. Students intending to defend may contact the Graduate Program Manager the semester prior to set up an appointment to discuss the approval process and final steps leading to graduation. The form to apply for the defense is on the GSAS Office of Dissertations website found here. For both the sake of convenience and the potential for increased attendance by members of the department, the exam is scheduled by the student in either the PH-20 Conference Room or the Irving 8th Floor Conference Room. In order to ensure that sufficient notice is given for the public part of the defense, the student e-mails an abstract to Rosemary Vazquez a minimum of three weeks in advance of the examination date. The first hour is public; the second hour is a closed session with the full dissertation committee. The full dissertation committee consists of exactly five faculty. A minimum of three and a maximum of four are internal members of our Department who have an academic appointment in DBMI. One or two members of the five members are external faculty who hold a doctorate but do not have an academic appointment in DBMI. Should external dissertation committee faculty not already be approved dissertation sponsors within GSAS, the Department will need to submit the external faculty member’s CV to the Office of Dissertations for approval. Six weeks prior to the dissertation defense, students submit an Application for Dissertation Defense, available from the Office of Dissertations website (see Section II. Forms C. Forms for the MPhil and PhD Degrees). Students submit the dissertation to the Dissertation Committee a minimum of four weeks in advance of the scheduled dissertation defense. Both the chair and the sponsor must be physically present for the exam to take place. Should a member of the Committee who is neither the chair nor the sponsor be unable to attend the dissertation defense in person, advance approval to hold the exam must be secured by the Chair of the Department from the GSAS Office of Dissertations. If the GSAS Office of Dissertations approves your defense in advance, they will send appropriate paperwork (the instructions for the chair of the dissertation committee, the voting sheet, instructions on dissertation deposit and approval card) to the department prior to the defense. Your defense cannot take place without their prior approval and receipt of this paperwork in advance of the defense. The committee chair will be given the voting sheet prior to the exam. The approval card and deposit instructions will be given to the student. Under no circumstances may the student have the voting sheet in their possession at any time. It is the responsibility of the dissertation committee chair to provide the voting sheet to the graduate program manager following the exam. Students will need to submit an approval card provided by the Office of Dissertations with their dissertation deposit. The card must be signed by the student’s research advisor as well as the DBMI Department Chair (in that order).
PhD theses are expected to provide significant innovative insights and new results that add to the knowledge of biomedical informatics. There is a major emphasis on including some type of evaluation of the work, keyed to the initial hypothesis. Dissertations must be written according to the Columbia University guidelines and will generally follow the same chapter outline as described for the dissertation proposal. A template in Microsoft Word is available from the GSAS Office of Dissertations website.
After the closed session, committee members discuss the student’s performance and indicate their agreement with the final vote by signing the voting sheet provided by the Office of Dissertations. The dissertation committee chair is responsible for returning the voting sheet to the Graduate Program Manager for submittal to the GSAS Office of Dissertations.
Related Links: CU Dissertation Office – http://www.gsas.columbia.edu/dissertations