Qualifying Exam

Preparing for the Qualifying Exam

The Qualifying Exam is your research proposal for your Ph.D. dissertation research. The exam will consist of an oral and written presentation of original work completed thus far, and a coherent plan for completing a body of original research. While there is no strict format for the written proposal, the department strongly suggests that it should follow the thesis/dissertation guidelines from the UCI Library. Templates can be found here.

The Qualifying Exam is usually taken at the end of the second year in the program. If you and your advisor agree that your exam should be postponed, please notify the graduate academic coordinator, Maggie Mulcare.

All core coursework, including the four required elective courses, must be completed prior to taking the Qualifying Exam.

Forming your Exam Committee

The committee must consist of five total members: four general members and one outside member.
Of the four general members, at least three must be core or affiliate BME faculty.  The fourth general member is typically an affiliate within the School of Engineering. The fifth member must be an outside member (outside the School of Engineering), who does not have a joint appointment or affiliation with BME. All members of the committee should be tenure-track faculty with membership on the academic senate.

Exceptions for faculty who are not on the academic senate (such as, adjunct professors, certain clinical professors in the School of Medicine, or a faculty from another institution), can be made for a general member only. Exceptions cannot be requested for the outside member.

Please contact the graduate academic coordinator, Maggie Mulcare, to request an exception, at least three weeks prior to your exam date.

If a Conflict of Interest has been identified between you and your advisor, an oversight member will need to be selected by Graduate Division. Please contact the coordinator for instructions regarding this process.

The student is responsible for asking faculty members to serve on their committee and for scheduling an exam time that works for all committee members.

Format of the Exam

The written proposal should be sent to your committee members at least two weeks in advance of your exam date and you will then make an oral presentation, with some time allotted for questions. Your exam should be two hours (approximately 30 minutes to one hour for your oral presentation and the remaining time allotted for questions from your committee).

Unlike the preliminary exam, there are no restrictions on practicing your exam in front of your peers or your advisor and seeking their constructive criticism.

Required Paperwork

Before the Exam – It is strongly recommended that you email your intended committee to the graduate academic coordinator at least two weeks prior to your exam, to ensure your committee meets all requirements and is approved by Graduate Division.

If you are requesting an exception for a general member, or need an oversight member selected, you must submit the form and inform the graduate academic coordinator at least three weeks prior to your exam.

After the Exam – After passing your exam, the Ph.D. Form I must be completed and signed by all committee members. The Ph.D. Form I should be completed and submitted via DocuSign. Please complete the DocuSign Request Form after your exam to initiate the form in DocuSign on your behalf. The form will be automatically routed to all signees.

Conferring the M.S. Degree

Our program is a combined M.S./Ph.D. program for most students. Unless you have earned a master’s degree in biomedical engineering, biotechnology or similar discipline, prior to enrolling at UCI, you are expected to earn an M.S. degree “along the way” to your Ph.D.

You will earn the M.S. degree via the “Comprehensive Exam” option. In this case, the preliminary exam, which was taken at the end of year one, counts as the “Comprehensive Exam,” and the M.S. degree will be conferred on your transcript in the academic quarter after passing the Qualifying Exam. Degrees can only be conferred during a quarter in which you are enrolled in classes, so if you pass the Qualifying Exam in Spring, your M.S. degree will not be conferred until the following Fall quarter.

To confer the M.S. degree, the Graduate Academic Coordinator will initiate the conferral form in DocuSign on your behalf.