Doctoral Degree

First year students are advised by the Faculty Administrative Committee (FAC) and MCIP IDP Chair.  Throughout the first term, students are expected to consult with the MCIP IDP Chair or other members of the FAC to identify faculty whose research is closest to their own interests and who would be most appropriate for laboratory rotations.  In subsequent quarters, students’ enrollment and performance in coursework and laboratory rotations are closely monitored by the MCIP Student Services Advisor.  At the end of Spring Quarter of the first year, students are required to submit a Faculty Mentor Approval form, co-signed by the proposed mentor, to the MCIP IDP Chair, which considers the choice of mentor and the ability of the faculty to serve in this capacity.

By the end of Spring Quarter of the second year, students are expected to form a doctoral committee. A formal doctoral committee form must be submitted and approved by the Division of Graduate Education.  The student shall consult with the MCIP Student Services Advisor for submission of this form.  The doctoral committee consists of a minimum of four faculty comprised of the program’s affiliated faculty who are qualified in the student’s selected research area.  Students may petition to the MCIP IDP Chair to have an “outside” (non-affiliated faculty) member serve as one of the four faculty members. The chair of the student’s committee must be an affiliated faculty member of the MCIP IDP. The duties of the doctoral committee are to evaluate the feasibility and adequacy of the planned dissertation project for satisfying the requirements for the doctoral degree. The doctoral committee should also be attentive to the professional development of the student, and be available to serve a professional advisory role throughout the student’s training.

The faculty evaluators from the student’s Written Qualifying Exam frequently become members of the doctoral committee, although the student or committee members may elect to change the committee composition to best reflect the expertise required for advising and analysis of the dissertation.  In addition to the general advisory role of the doctoral committee, its duty is to administer the University Oral Qualifying Examination and the Final Oral Examination (Defense of the Dissertation), as well as to read, approve, and certify the dissertation.

Foreign Language Requirement

Course Requirements
Students are required to complete approved graduate coursework in molecular biology, cellular biology, research ethics, and physiology during their first year. Students who have completed professional or graduate degrees (e.g., M.D., D.D.S., M.S.) prior to admission to the program may be exempted from required first-year coursework if they have completed substantially similar courses elsewhere.

Students are required to enroll full-time in a minimum of 12 units each quarter throughout graduate study.  A student must successfully complete all graduate courses required for the program with a grade point average of 3.0 or better.

During the first year of graduate study, students are required to complete all of the following: MCIP 252; MCIP 262; MCIP 214 (research grant writing course); MIMG C234 (research ethics course); MCIP 296 (journal club) taken each quarter; and MCIP 596 (research training) taken each quarter.  Students also are required to complete one graduate seminar each quarter of their first year of enrollment.  The graduate seminar must be in the field of bioscience, physical science, mathematical science, engineering, or public health.

During the second year students are required to complete one didactic course in their research area taken in Fall Quarter which is MCIP 290A, B, or C. The second-year course must be related to the student’s research interest and must be approved by the student’s mentor and the FAC.  In addition, each student must take a total of three seminar courses during the second and third years. At least one of these three seminars must be taken during the second year.  Students are required to complete the 495 TA Training course before or during the quarter in which they will serve as a teaching assistant. Students must enroll in the 375 Teaching Practicum each quarter they TA.  The remaining units necessary for completion of the degree are fulfilled through MCIP journal club (296), research training (596), preparation for qualifying examinations (597), and dissertation research (599).

Program Participation:
Once in the fourth year, students are required to give a 1-hour presentation of their research project at the Molecular, Cellular & Integrative Physiology IDP student seminar series, held on the second Tuesday of each month throughout the year.  MSTP and STAR Program students may give this 1-hour presentation earlier than their fourth year.

Teaching Requirement
Students are expected to complete a minimum of one quarter as a teaching assistant, either one quarter in the second year or one quarter in the third year. Advanced students, such as participants in the MSTP program or students who already hold the M.S. degree may be exempted from the teaching requirement.  These advanced students must obtain approval from their faculty mentor and the MCIP IDP Chair.  Students from the STAR program may teach but teaching is not a degree requirement.  The teaching requirement is completed in the second or third year of graduate study.  Students must enroll in the 495 TA Training course before or concurrently the quarter they will serve as a teaching assistant and receive a grade of ‘S’.  Additionally, students must enroll in the 375 Teaching Practicum in the quarter they serve as a teaching assistant and receive a grade of ‘S’.

Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations
Academic Senate regulations require all doctoral students to complete and pass University written and oral qualifying examinations prior to doctoral advancement to candidacy. Also, under Senate regulations the University oral qualifying examination is open only to the student and appointed members of the doctoral committee. In addition to University requirements, some graduate programs have other pre-candidacy examination requirements. What follows in this section is how students are required to fulfill all of these requirements for this doctoral program.

The written qualifying examination must be completed by the end of Winter Quarter of the second year. Students are required to write a National Institute of Health (NIH)-style grant proposal that is approximately the length of the NIH predoctoral (F31) fellowship (1-page specific aims, 6-page Research Description – two year project scope, and references).  Each student independently selects the topic of the research proposal, designs the hypotheses to be tested and formulates the experimental approach.  By the end of the second week of Winter Quarter, the topic (abstract) of the proposal requires approval in advance by the student’s chosen faculty evaluators and the MCIP IDP Chair.  The student will prepare an abstract and should obtain the advice of their faculty mentor to nominate two appropriate faculty members to provide written critiques of their written qualifying exam.  These written qualifying exam evaluation committee members do not necessarily become members of the formal doctoral committee, which is formed later.  Although the topic and hypotheses are to be selected by the student, the student is free to consult with other individuals in formulating the experimental approach. The topic for the proposal may not be the anticipated dissertation research topic, nor may the topic be part of the active or anticipated research project in the laboratory of the student’s faculty mentor. The examination is graded pass/fail by the FAC based in part on recommendations from the faculty evaluators. Students who do not pass the examination are permitted one re-examination by the same committee in the same examination format on a date no later than the end of Spring Quarter of the second year.

The University Oral Qualifying Examination must be completed before the end of Fall Quarter of the third year. Students prepare a written description of the scientific background of the dissertation research project, the specific aims of the project, a description of preliminary findings and an experimental plan for addressing the specific aims. The dissertation proposal is then submitted to the student’s formal doctoral committee at least three weeks in advance of the examination. The examination consists of an oral presentation of the proposal by the student to the committee. The student’s oral presentation and examination are expected to demonstrate: (1) a scholarly understanding of the background of the dissertation proposal; (2) well-designed and testable aims; (3) a critical understanding of the technical applications to be employed in the dissertation; and (4) an understanding of potential experimental outcomes and their interpretation.

Students who fail may be permitted re-examination by the same committee in the same exam format on a date no later than the end of the following quarter. These students will have their standing in the graduate program reviewed by the FAC, in consultation with the student’s faculty mentor.  Following that review, recommendation for or against continuation in the program will be made.  Recommendations for continuation will be accompanied by specific requirements to be met by the student for preparation for retaking the University Oral Qualifying Examination.

Midstream Oral Presentation (Doctoral Committee Meeting):
No later than 12 months following the University Oral Qualifying Examination, students are required to give a midstream oral presentation of their dissertation research progress to their doctoral committee. The purpose of the presentation is to monitor the student’s progress, identify difficulties that may occur in progressing toward successful completion of the dissertation and, if necessary, to approve changes in the dissertation project. The presentation is not an examination. The student’s dissertation adviser is required to summarize the committee recommendation in writing for inclusion in the student’s file.

Advancement to Candidacy
Students are advanced to candidacy upon successful completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations.

Doctoral Dissertation
Every doctoral degree program requires the completion of an approved dissertation that demonstrates the student’s ability to perform original, independent research and constitutes a distinct contribution to knowledge in the principal field of study.

Final Oral Examination (Defense of Dissertation)
Required for all students in the program.

Normative time-to-degree is specified as five years for those students entering with a bachelor’s degree only. Students who enter with an M.D. or M.S. degree in a relevant discipline are expected to complete the degree in three years.


Termination of Graduate Study and Appeal of Termination
University Policy
A student who fails to meet the above requirements may be recommended for termination of graduate study. A graduate student may be disqualified from continuing in the graduate program for a variety of reasons. The most common is failure to maintain the minimum cumulative grade point average (3.00) required by the Academic Senate to remain in good standing (some programs require a higher grade point average). Other examples include failure of examinations, lack of timely progress toward the degree and poor performance in core courses. Probationary students (those with cumulative grade point averages below 3.00) are subject to immediate dismissal upon the recommendation of their department. University guidelines governing termination of graduate students, including the appeal procedure, are outlined in Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study at UCLA.

Special Departmental or Program Policy

UCLA is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and by numerous special agencies. Information regarding the University’s accreditation may be obtain from the Office of Academic Planning and Budget, 2107 Murphy Hall.