Ph.D. Program Outline

The program is designed over a four-year period, but individual student progress in meeting the annual milestones may vary.

Students complete the core curriculum in the first two years of their training, followed by a preliminary exam, after which they will begin to develop their doctoral dissertation.

In addition, students attend the weekly departmental seminar, a weekly journal club and take independent study credit to work with faculty on research projects. Research experience is valued as highly didactic course work, and course schedules are designed to allow independent research work.

Student presenting at 2019 research showcase


Ph.D. students are expected to join faculty-led research teams during their first year of training. Besides exposure to grant writing and the research process, the student’s participation is expected to result in early completion of small independent research projects and presentation of results at the national or international meeting, as well as, the annual College Research Showcase. Students are also encouraged to participate in internships during their summer terms.

The program strives to maximize the competitiveness of graduates for future positions, including a strong emphasis on early development of a string CV. In addition to successful completion of core and specialty coursework, a manuscript must be submitted for publication before a student can sit for the qualifying exam and proposal defense.

Successful graduation requires a formal doctoral thesis of original independent work that offers a distinct contribution to and advancement of science along with a total of 90 credit hours of didactic coursework and independent research. At least one manuscript summarizing thesis content must be under review before graduation.

Please download and refer to the Ph.D. Program Milestones and Deliverables (updated for June 2021 ) for training requirements and accomplishments.

Junior Level

  • Complete core didactic course work
  • Prepare article critique for peer-reviewed journal
  • Pass preliminary comprehensive exam
  • Begin independent research activity with faculty


  • Establish supervisory committee
  • Present research at professional meeting
  • Complete specialty course work
  • Submit manuscripts to peer-reviewed journal
  • Present at COP Research Showcase
  • Pass written qualifying exam
  • Defend dissertation proposal
  • Write grant proposal

Ph.D. Candidacy

  • Complete dissertation
  • Submit manuscript of dissertation content
  • Defend dissertation