Neuroscience at The University of Chicago

The Graduate Program in Neurobiology

Guidelines for Thesis Preparation

Formation of the Committee

Once a student has chosen a laboratory, s/he can put together an Advisory Committee. This committee can be organized before taking the preliminary exam. By the end of the second year, all students should have an advisory committee.


The advisory committee consists of at least four faculty, a majority of whom must be in the Committee on Neurobiology. This includes the faculty member in whose laboratory the student is pursuing thesis research and a procedural chair. The procedural chair, who also must be in the Committee on Neurobiology, runs advisory committee meetings and communicates the outcome of the meetings to the student and to the Committee on Neurobiology. The procedural chair is chosen by mutual agreement of the student and the advisor.

Committee Meetings
First meeting:

At the first meeting, the advisory committee approves the student's course work. Until this happens, it remains possible that the committee will ask the student to take another course to best prepare for her or his thesis work.

How often:

The advisory committee must meet at least once annually for the remainder of the time the student is in the program. The student is responsible for setting up these meetings and to make sure that the Committee on Neurobiology chair and administrator receive copies of the meeting notes.

Thesis Proposal:

When the student is able to, s/he should prepare a thesis proposal. The thesis proposal should be written in consultation with the student's advisor, in the form of a Research Plan for a NIH grant proposal. This thesis proposal should outline the experiments that will constitute the student's final thesis but need not include results, preliminary or otherwise. The advisory committee's acceptance of this proposal represents an agreement that the completion of this body of work, regardless of outcome, will constitute a defensible thesis. This acceptance also serves to admit the student to candidacy. The Chair of the Committee on Neurobiology will forward this information to the division. Upon divisional approval, the BSD Graduate Affairs forwards the paperwork to the Registrar's Office where this becomes part of the student's permanent transcript record.

Pre-Defense Meeting:

Prior to scheduling a thesis defense, a student will meet with the advisory committee for a pre-defense meeting. Two weeks prior to this meeting a rough draft of the thesis should be delivered to each member of the advisory committee. The pre-defense meeting must be held sufficiently close to the proposed defense date (at least 6 weeks before) so that the thesis can be read as a rough draft, not as a work in progress. The purpose of this meeting is to determine if the thesis is likely to be defensible within 6 weeks.

Thesis Preparation

The thesis must include a background section placing the research in broad perspective, a description of the original research, and a discussion of the significance of this research. The description of the research may consist of published papers on which the student is a major author, as well as publishable material in manuscript form. The University Dissertation Office can provide guidelines for the format required.

When a student feels ready to graduate, s/he should consider scheduling the public defense early enough in the quarter in which the student will receive her or his degree so that there is adequate time to prepare the final document to submit to the University Dissertation Office by three weeks before the convocation ceremony. Full advanced residency tuition is paid in this final quarter by the student's advisor. The university does not approve registration waivers for the purpose of receiving the Ph.D. degree.

Thesis Defense

The advisory committee must be presented with copies of the thesis in finished form, including publication quality copies of all figures and supporting materials, a minimum of two weeks prior to the oral defense. Notice of the examination and a copy of the thesis abstract is sent to all members of the Committee on Neurobiology at least one week before the examination. The thesis will be presented as a public seminar on the subject of the research that forms the thesis. This will be followed by a brief period for public questioning of the student. The student will then meet in closed session with the advisory committee to answer additional questions. The advisory committee will decide if the thesis is acceptable. If revisions are required, it shall be up to the judgment of the advisory committee whether an additional oral examination must be scheduled. A student is permitted two public seminars to defend the thesis.

Once the thesis is accepted in final form by a majority of the advisory committee, the procedural chair will forward a recommendation for awarding the Ph.D. degree to the Dean of Students' Office. If the thesis has not been accepted in final form, the student will not be considered to have attained the Ph.D. degree, and the transcript and official communications from the University will reflect this fact.

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