Biostatistics Graduate Program

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Dissertation Committee & Defense

Dissertation Committee

Students who pass the third-year oral doctoral qualifying examination must choose a dissertation advisor and assemble a dissertation committee. The committee may be the same as that chosen for the doctoral qualifying examination, but this is not required. Students should choose their committee in consultation with their advisor.  The committee may be any combination of three PhD Biostatistics faculty[1], one of whom is student’s advisor, and one PhD faculty from Vanderbilt at large (not in Biostatistics, Statistics, or Mathematics). Faculty not possessing a PhD are eligible to participate as non-voting members of the committee and may participate in all committee deliberations. The composition of the dissertation committee must be approved by the DGS. Please complete the Request to appoint PhD committee form and return to Linda Wilson.

The dissertation committee is intended to bring specialized expertise and guidance to the student’s research, education, and career development. The dissertation committee will serve as a resource for the direction of, and assistance with, independent research in the context of senior sponsorship and oversight. The dissertation advisor primarily is responsible for the overall guidance of the student’s research and training. The student must meet with his or her dissertation committee members either as a group or individually soon after completing the oral examination and thereafter every six months (e.g., at least twice a year). The student, with guidance from their advisor, is responsible for summarizing committee meetings in written minutes and action items. Copies of this summary must be sent to all committee members and the DGS, and become a part of the student’s permanent record.

The dissertation committee is responsible for administering the final PhD examination (i.e., dissertation defense) and will determine whether the candidate has presented an acceptable dissertation and has demonstrated strong proficiency in the five key skill areas during their educational tenure at Vanderbilt.

Dissertation Defense

Candidates for the PhD degree in Biostatistics must present a dissertation that yields clear evidence of original research and thinking, and that advances methodological knowledge in the discipline of Biostatistics. Examinations are administered in two parts, the first half of which is open to the public. In the first half, candidates present their dissertation work in a 45- to 60-minute presentation and take questions from audience and committee members. In the second half of the examination, which is closed to the public, the committee members may ask questions or discuss any relevant substantive or methodologic issues that remain or should be revisited. After this second period of questions and discussion, the committee deliberates in private.

The chair of the dissertation committee is the most senior professor, excluding the student’s primary advisor(s). The chair of the dissertation committee will be responsible for running the examination and will inform the DGS in writing of the results of the final defense, including completion of any required revisions. If all other requirements are satisfied, the DGS will notify the Dean of the Graduate School that the student has completed the requirements for the PhD degree.

The dissertation defense must be completed within four years of the student’s admission to candidacy for the degree, i.e., after successful completion of the oral doctoral qualifying examination. Once you are ready to schedule your PhD dissertation, please complete the Request to schedule Dissertation Defense form and submit it to Linda Wilson at least four weeks prior to the exam date.

[1] ‘PhD Biostatistics faculty’ includes departmental faculty with a PhD, ScD, or DrPH in Biostatistics or Statistics

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