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Engineering a Healthier Future

Information for Current Students

Faculty Advisor

The students must select, with mutual agreement, a permanent advisor as soon as possible but no later than the end of their first semester of full-time study. To secure the advisor assignment, students must complete the “Faculty Advisor Agreement” form and obtain their advisors’ signature.  Once selected, the student is required to consult with their permanent advisor to plan their coursework and research for each remaining semester and in the preparation of the Application to Candidacy and other forms that must be submitted.  The permanent advisor provides guidance and helps direct the student’s dissertation. The student’s PhD Advisory Committee is chaired by the student's permanent advisor.

Ph.D. Advisory Committee

Students pursuing the Ph.D. are guided by a dissertation advisory committee. This committee is arranged to oversee all degree requirements for the student, and has the responsibility of evaluating and approving the student’s program of coursework as well as advising the Ph.D. dissertation. The advisory committee, which is responsible for administering the student’s preliminary and qualifying exam. The committee must be composed of a major professor from the Department who must be a member of the University Graduate Faculty, and at least two additional members who hold the rank of assistant professor or higher in the University Graduate Faculty. Note that Associate Members of the Graduate Faculty may not serve on doctoral committees as one of the three required core committee members, but may serve as additional committee members. The advisory committee must be selected by the end of the second semester of study.

Preliminary Examination

This exam is the first step along the path to the Ph.D. The intent of this exam is to evaluate if the student has the ability to formulate a research problem, to state hypotheses or outline design objectives, to propose a research plan using feasible design, experiment and analysis techniques to either test those hypotheses or achieve the design objectives, and to interpret data (if any). It is to be completed after the student’s second semester of Ph.D. studies.

For this examination, the student must meet with their advisor to select a research topic, prepare a written proposal and give an oral presentation on this topic. Format and content of this written proposal should be decided by the faculty advisor and/or Ph.D. committee members. Typically, the written proposal is in the form of a grant application (e.g. NIH F31 Individual Predoctoral Fellows format). The student may seek general guidance about the format expected from the advisor and/or Ph.D. committee members, but the preparation of the proposal must be completed without input from other humans. Students will be given a minimum of two months to prepare their written document and presentation. An electronic or hard copy of the written proposal must be submitted to the committee members 2 weeks prior to the oral presentation. Ph.D. students are advised to initiate this exam by the end of their second semester of Ph.D. study and complete the exam by the end of their third semester of Ph.D. study.  Upon completion of the presentation, the committee will decide whether the student passes or fails. Passing has two options: Pass as is and Pass with re-write of the document (no further presentation). Failure means the student is dismissed from the Ph.D. program and can continue to pursue a MS degree, if they desire. The Examination Committee should report the results of the examination to the student and to the Director of Graduate Studies upon completion of deliberations. The results of the examination must be included on the original BME Preliminary Examination Form (See Department Website).  Completed and signed form must be submitted to the BME graduate office. If edits to the written proposal are requested, the student has two weeks to complete these edits and submit the new version to the graduate office. The advisor must accept the new version before it can be submitted. Upon acceptance of the proposal and signing of the BME Preliminary Examination Form, the student has completed this stage.

Upon passing the Preliminary Exam, the student should fill out and submit the Application to Candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. 

Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Exam (QE) is the second step along the path to the Ph.D. It is to be completed when the student and the student’s advisor believe the student is ready. Normally, this should be during the second or third year of Ph.D. studies after passing the Preliminary Exam. The intent of the qualifying exam is to evaluate student’s overall progress and potential for graduate research as well as their ability to develop an organized research, to conduct research with proper planning and to demonstrate their potential to achieve the research goals.

For this exam, the student should give a presentation on their research followed by an oral exam. The presentation should be 30-45 minutes in length and cover, at a minimum, Background on the topic, Research completed so far, and Research to be completed. The student's faculty advisor and/or the PhD committee will determine if a written document is necessary, and the guidelines for the document. Following the presentation, the student will appear for an oral exam by the committee.

Based on the presentation and oral exam, the committee will decide if the student passes, fails, or must redo the exam. Pass means the student has completed the exam. Fail means the student is dismissed from the Ph.D. program. Redo means the student has one more attempt at the exam. Only one redo is allowed during the student’s term of study. The student must turn in a completed and signed QE Form (See Department Website) to the BME graduate office.

Upon satisfactory completion of the qualifying examination, the Ph.D. Dissertation Committee will assume responsibility for directing the dissertation work that will be carried out under the guidance of the candidate's major advisor. The dissertation must be original and must represent a significant contribution to the state of knowledge in the candidate's area of concentration.  

A graduate student is officially considered to be a student for the Ph.D. degree only upon successful completion of the departmental Ph.D. qualifying examination.

Application to Candidacy

The primary purpose of the Application to Candidacy (ATC) is to serve as a useful planning document for the student and the student’s committee, as well as to indicate to the Graduate School the student’s intended degree date. As such, it is important for the student to prepare and submit the Application to Candidacy at an early stage of his or her candidacy, preferably immediately after completion of the qualifyingexam for a Ph.D. student but no later than one year after the completion of the exam. The Application to Candidacy includes a summary of courses that are yet to be applied toward the degree.  The following additional points should be noted with regard to the Application to Candidacy:

  • The Application to Candidacy must be accompanied with a preliminary abstract of the dissertation, project, or thesis, a transcript of all coursework listed on the application, official transcripts to document any transfer credits, and informal course descriptions (for independent study or special topics courses).
  • Changes (e.g., adding and/or deleting one or two courses, changing thesis titles, changing committee members other than the major advisor, etc.) may be made using the Petition to Amend ATC Form.
  • For graduation expected at the end of a Fall term, the ATC must be submitted to the department no later than September 1st of that Fall, for the end of a Spring term it must be submitted no later than February 1st of that Spring, and for the end of a summer term it must be submitted no later than June 1st of that Summer. It is encouraged to submit the forms immediately after the completion of the Qualifying Examination.
  • An approved Application to Candidacy must be on file before a student may submit a Certification of Full- Time Status Form.


Annual Progress Report


The student must meet at least annually (during Summer typically) with their advisor and/or committee to create and update a checklist of what must be completed before the student can defend his/her dissertation. The results of the progress report meeting must be submitted to the BME Graduate office. These progress reports ensure that the student is making progress toward their degree and are intended to help the student and faculty advisor.  The Annual Progress Report is located on the Graduate Forms page.


Oral Dissertation Defense

The final academic requirement to be satisfied by a candidate is the oral Ph.D. defense of his/her dissertation. Thus, the defense must consist of three components—presentation by the candidate, open session for questioning by the audience and committee members, and a closed session for more questions by the committee members and any faculty attending the defense. Passing this examination indicates that the Ph.D. committee is satisfied that the student possesses a true understanding of the material related to and contained in his or her dissertation. The results of the defense are Pass, Fail or Redo. Pass can (and normally does) require edits to the written document with no further presentation needed. Fail means the student has failed the defense and is dismissed from the program without a Ph.D. degree. Redo means the student must significantly edit the dissertation document, including possibly redoing experiments, and schedule a second dissertation defense. Only one redo is allowed. Upon passing the defense, the student must submit a signed Multipurpose Report for Graduate Degree Completion Form, also known as the “M-Form,” to the BME Graduate office.

A draft of the completed dissertation must be submitted to the committee at least 28 days prior to the defense date to provide ample time to read the document.

General announcements for Ph.D. dissertation defenses must be posted two weeks prior to the defense. All faculty and graduate students are invited to attend.

After successfully completing the dissertation defense, the candidate must submit to the Graduate School a digital copy of the dissertation, a copyright and billing form, and the Ph.D. survey to the Graduate School. Moreover, the student must submit to the department one bound copy of the dissertation. A cover page must be included in the bound copy, listing the Ph.D. advisor and committee members, with spaces for their signatures. 

Important Milestones

Scholastic Standing

A graduate student must earn an average of at least 3.0 for all courses taken for graduate credit which could be applied toward the degree. Accordingly, graduate course work in excess of that applied toward the credit requirement for the degree will be included in the computation of the student's GPA.

Satisfactory progress requires a minimum cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 A student is placed on probation if his or her GPA falls below 3.0 at the end of any grading period.

The following will constitute grounds for dismissal if:

  • a grade of "F" is earned in any course that could be applied towards the degree;
  • more than two grades are obtained from among “C,” “D,” and “U” in courses which could be applied to the degree;
  • the conditions of provisional admission have not been satisfied within one semester after admission;
  • probationary status has not been removed after one semester;
  • the cumulative grade point average for courses which could be applied to the degree falls to below 2.5 at the end of any grading period; or,
  • the student is found guilty of academic dishonesty according to existing regulations.

Informal Courses

Informal courses usually include Independent Study, Individual Problems, and Special Topics courses, which are taught on an informal basis and do not have formal catalog descriptions.   These courses require a complete narrative description which includes the signatures of the student, instructor, and the Director of Graduate Studies.  A copy of this form must be included with the student's Application to Candidacy for each such informal course taken for credit.

A maximum of 12 credits of informal course work may be applied towards the minimum 72 credit hour requirements for the Ph.D. program. This includes any informal coursework completed while earning a Master's degree.

Residency Requirement

Ph.D. degree programs require a minimum residency requirement of the equivalent of two complete academic years of full-time study at UB. This includes two semesters of continuous full-time study not already applied to the master’s degree.

Students must maintain continuous registration until all degree requirements have been fulfilled. If such registration should be impossible, they must secure a leave of absence.  

Use of Prior Coursework


A maximum of 30 credit hours from a Master's degree may be applied toward the 72 credit hour requirement for the Ph.D. degree. Of these, no more than 6 credit hours may be derived from a Master's thesis or project. At least 18 credit hours of coursework are required beyond the Master's degree.


Transfer Credit


A maximum of 30 transfer credits may be applied toward the 72 minimum credit hour requirement for the Ph.D. degree (this normally comes from a master’s degree). Only courses applicable to the engineering degree are acceptable as transfer credit, and the Department must approve all transfer credits. 


Time Limits for Degree

For the Ph.D. program, it must be completed within seven years from the first registration date in the program, excluding approved leaves of absense. 

A petition for an extension of time limit requires departmental and SEAS approval through the Director of Graduate Studies. The student must be currently making active progress towards the degree. The petition will be presented to the SEAS divisional committee for approval before being submitted to the Graduate School. The petition must clearly delineate reasons for the extension, present a schedule for progress and set a deadline for completion of the program.   The extension of time limit is normally granted for a maximum period of one year.

Leaves of Absence

  • A petition for leave of absence should be filed prior to the start of the semester in which the leave is to begin.
  • Leaves of absence will normally be granted for only one year at a time. 
  • Leaves of more than one semester require valid justification and documentation from the student and the student's advisor.   Documented cases of financial hardship, illness, or compulsory military service constitute valid justification.
  • A student who leaves the program after completion of some graduate work but has not been given an approved leave of absence must reapply and be readmitted as a new student, according to University guidelines.
  • Continued leaves of absence beyond two years will not be granted.

Graduation Information

General information regarding graduation from the Graduate School may be found at this link. This includes information regarding deadlines, required forms, and a checklist of requirements.

Additionally, all graduating students must complete the Departing Laboratory Student Checklist and submit this form with their signed M-form.



Other Policies & Procedures