Biodefense PhD Milestone Guide

It is my first semester in the Biodefense PhD program. How do I get started?

  1. Meet with your assigned advisor during your first semester (identified in your admissions packet) to complete your Education Plan. You can find education plans here.
  2. Submit the education plan to Shannon Williams, Director of Student Engagement, during your first semester in the program. You should periodically discuss your education plan with your advisor and/or Shannon Williams.
  3. Please remember to check PatriotWeb for the most up-to-date schedule of classes.
  4. Take courses in the order specified on your degree plan. If you plan to take a semester off (excluding summer), contact PhD Student Services.
  5. If applicable, submit your Reduction of Credit paperwork to the Graduate Coordinator within the first year of the program.

I’m finished with my coursework and ready to move on to the Comprehensive Exams. How do I proceed?

  1. Shannon Williams will send an email to the PhD listserv announcing the upcoming dates for the exams. Comprehensive exams are held twice a year (January and May).
  2. Notify Shannon Williams that you wish to take the Comprehensive Exam. Be sure that you have submitted an updated Education Plan form.
  3. You can find more information about the comprehensive Exams, including past exam questions here.
  4. Students have two opportunities to earn a passing grade on the exam. Failure to pass the comprehensive exam on the second attempt will result in automatic dismissal from the program.

I passed the Comprehensive Exams. What happens next?

If you began the program fall 2015 or earlier…

  1. After you have completed all the coursework and you have passed the comprehensive exams, you are eligible to advance to candidacy.
  2. Shannon Williams will complete the Advancement to Candidacy form. Additional paperwork required includes the Education Plan and the Reduction of Credit form (if applicable).
  3. You will receive notification in the mail that the Advancement to Candidacy has been approved. Please keep your address updated on PatriotWeb.
  4. Before you can register for BIOD 998 Dissertation Proposal, you must identify a committee chair who agrees in writing to serve in this role.
  5. As soon as possible after comprehensive exams, you will complete and submit a Dissertation Committee Form.

If you began the program fall 2016 or later….

  1.  Before you can register for BIOD 998 Dissertation Proposal, you must identify a committee chair who agrees in writing to serve in this role.
  2. As soon as possible after comprehensive exams, you will complete and submit a Dissertation Committee Form.

Who can be on my dissertation committee?

  1. View committee guidelines here. All dissertation committees must consist of at least three members of the graduate faculty, at least two of whom must be from the student’s academic unit or program faculty. The committee consists of a dissertation chair, a graduate faculty member from the School or program of the student’s field of study and at least two other members of the graduate faculty. Only a graduate faculty member with a full-time appointment at George Mason University may serve as dissertation chair. Other Mason faculty, as well as individuals from outside the university, may be appointed as additional members to the committee. Such appointments are made where the additional member’s expertise and contribution add value to the dissertation, but an appointment does not require graduate faculty status. View eligible faculty for committees.
  2. Student-initiated changes in the composition of the dissertation committee may occur only with the approval of the dean or director of the school, college, or institute or its designee in consultation with the committee. Faculty may resign from a dissertation committee with appropriate notice by submitting a written resignation.

I have identified my committee members and they have signed the form. What next?

  1. Give the signed Dissertation Committee form to Shannon Williams. She will obtain the appropriate approvals. Once the Committee form has been approved Shannon will give you a CRN so that you can register for BIOD 998. Please know that your committee must be approved at least two weeks prior to the start of classes for the semester. You must be registered for BIOD 998 by the first day of classes.
  2. The CRN for BIOD 998 will be different each semester. You should request this CRN from Shannon Williams at least two weeks before the start of classes for the semester. Students are required to be continuously enrolled every semester (excluding summers) until graduation.

I think I’m ready to defend my dissertation proposal. How do I proceed?

  1. It is essential for you to keep in touch with your committee members, especially your dissertation chair. You should avoid surprising your committee with what you think is a finished product. It is your responsibility to keep the committee informed of the status of your research and writing.
  2. Once the committee has reviewed and approved the proposal, you should schedule the defense with the help of Shannon Williams. At least three weeks before the scheduled date of defense, send her an email with the proposed dissertation title, date and time of defense, names of the committee members, and an abstract of no more than 100 words.
  3. In scheduling the defense, it is your responsibility to ensure that all members of the committee are available and will be present for the defense.
  4. Your dissertation committee will evaluate your dissertation proposal for originality, feasibility, comprehensiveness, and the likelihood that it will make a scholarly contribution to the field.
  5. If approved, your dissertation committee will sign the Proposal Approval form. Give the signed Proposal form to Shannon Williams.

My dissertation proposal was approved. How do I move on to BIOD 999 Dissertation credits?

If you began the program fall 2015 or earlier…

  1. You must email Shannon Williams at least two weeks before the start of the semester to request a CRN to register for BIOD 999. Be sure to provide your dissertation chair’s name along with your request.
  2. Each semester you will need a new CRN before you can register. Contact Shannon Williams no less than two weeks prior to the start of the semester to receive the CRN. Students are required to be continuously enrolled every semester (excluding summers) until graduation.
  3. You must be enrolled for at least three credits a semester until the minimum number of credits has been reached. Then you register for one credit a semester.
  4. It is important to stay in touch with your committee. Meet with the Chair of your Dissertation Committee either by phone, email, or in-person once a semester or as needed.

If you began the program fall 2016 or later…

  1. After you have completed all the coursework, passed the comprehensive exams, and passed an oral dissertation proposal defense, you are eligible to advance to candidacy.
  2. Shannon Williams will complete the Advancement to Candidacy form. Additional paperwork required includes the Education Plan and the Reduction of Credit form (if applicable).
  3. You will receive notification in the mail that the Advancement to Candidacy has been approved. Please keep your address updated on PatriotWeb.
  4. You must email Shannon Williams at least two weeks before the start of the semester to request a CRN to register for BIOD 999. Be sure to provide your dissertation chair’s name along with your request.
  5. Each semester you will need a new CRN# before you can register. Contact Shannon Williams no less than two weeks prior to the start of the semester to receive the CRN. Students are required to be continuously enrolled every semester (excluding summers) until graduation.
  6. You must be enrolled for at least 3 credits a semester until the minimum number of credits has been reached. Then you register for one (1) credit a semester.
  7. It is important to stay in touch with your committee. Meet with the Chair of your Dissertation Committee either by phone, email, or in-person once a semester or as needed.

I’m ready to defend my dissertation. What do I need to do?

It is imperative that you visit the University Thesis and Dissertation Services (UDTS) site at library.gmu.edu/thesis. You must comply with the process and rules required by UDTS. DO NOT LEAVE THIS TO THE LAST MINUTE.

  1. When you are ready to defend your dissertation, you must notify Shannon Williams at least three weeks prior to the defense date.
    All committee members must be physically present. Include in your notification the following:
    1. A signed Oral Dissertation Defense Readiness Form found here.
    2. An email listing dissertation proposal title, date and time of defense, all committee member names, and an abstract of no more than 100 words
    3. The time and date of the defense
  2. You must also complete the tasks below.
    At least 15 days before the defense
    1. Submit to Shannon Williams an electronic copy of the final draft of the dissertation.
    2. Submit a hard copy of your final draft of your dissertation to the Reserve Desk of the JC Gateway Library, Fairfax Campus.
    3. Conduct a dissertation format review with University Dissertation and Thesis Services (UDTS).
  3. You should work with your committee chair to determine time limits and expectations of your defense presentation.
  4. This is a public defense; members of the University community are welcome to attend. We encourage all of our students to attend the dissertation defense of other students to get a sense of what to expect.
  5. Any requests for exceptions to these requirements must be made well in advance in writing by the student’s committee chair and approved by the Doctoral Program Direction and the Dean.

NOTE for the day of the defense:

  • Bring three copies of the signature sheet for your committee to sign. Please also bring the signature in an electronic format in case it needs to be re-printed.
  • Bring a BLACK PEN to your defense and have all committee members sign with it. After collecting the signatures, give the forms to Shannon Williams to collect the program director and dean signatures.
  • Both the library and the Schar School require ORIGINAL copies of the signature sheet. The dissertation copies you give to your committee members may include photocopied signature sheets. The signature sheet can be found here.

Once you have defended and made the required revisions to your dissertation, you must submit copies of your dissertation by the university’s submission deadline. The copies required are:

    • 1 PDF version of the dissertation on CD and one original signature sheet (submitted to the library).
    • 1 electronic version of the dissertation (in Word format) after all you have made all revisions (submitted to Shannon Williams).
    • 2 copies on regular paper, single-sided (submitted to the Schar School). These copies should be unbound but gathered in such a way that they stay together (box, folder).
    • A spiral-bound copy for EVERY member of your committee.

What do I need to do to graduate?

  1. Apply to graduate on PatriotWeb. For directions and deadlines go to http://registrar.gmu.edu/students/graduation/. You must be registered in the semester in which you want to graduate.
  2. Check your Mason email regularly. You will be contacted should there be a problem with your application to graduate.
  3. Be sure that your mailing address is correct on PatriotWeb.
  4. Attend convocation. For information on the ceremony events, please go to events.gmu.edu. (please include link) Caps and gowns are available at the GMU campus bookstore. Please contact the bookstore for more information.
  5. Diplomas will be mailed 6-8 weeks after degree conferral. Make sure your mailing address is up-to-date on PatriotWeb.