Ph.D. in Microbiology

The program leading to the Ph.D. degree is designed to develop the student’s ability to pursue independent and original research in microbiology and allied fields, communicate the results of such research to the scientific community and serve as an effective teacher. Students normally enter the doctoral program after receiving a master’s degree. Four years are required to complete the program.

Ph.D. Student learning outcomes

Program Purpose

The Ph.D. program in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Hawaii is designed to give students the academic and technical skills to become independent scientists and researchers. We strive to provide each graduate student with broad knowledge in microbiology and in-depth knowledge in their area of specialization. Students are trained in both traditional and state-of-the-art technologies to be applied to the design and conduct of original research projects. Additionally, students have access to both basic and advanced coursework to further their academic and research goals.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Design microbiological or immunological experiments at an advanced graduate level.
  • Demonstrate proficiency with a variety of classical and modern microbiology techniques.
  • Read, understand and evaluate current literature in their discipline. Produce significant scientific research results.
  • Research results and interpretations of those results should be clearly presented both orally and in peer reviewed publications.
  • Develop awareness and perspective as a member of a local, national and global scientific community.
  • Compete successfully for productive employment or postdoctoral training in industry or academic institutions.
  • General Information and Procedures for the Ph.D. Degree

Advancement to Candidacy (Ph.D)

Advancement to doctoral candidacy involves four steps:

1. Comprehensive written exam.

The comprehensive exam consists of two sections.

  • A general knowledge section that tests students in all areas of microbiology and contains questions that all professional microbiologists should be capable of answering.
  • A current topics section that tests students on two current topics in microbiology.

This section of the exam tests a student’s ability to independently research and understand a concept, pathway, phenomenon, or other aspect of microbiology that is emerging at the forefront of the field. Students will be given the two topics a minimum of six weeks prior to the exam date.

Sections of the exam will be administered on consecutive days once each semester and summer term. This is a closed-book exam. The student will have 3 hours to complete each section. Exams will be written and graded by a three-member panel of Microbiology faculty. Graded exams will be returned to students within one week of their completion.

The written comprehensive may be repeated the following semester if a non-passing grade is received after the first attempt. Two successive non-passing grades will result in removal from the Ph D program.

2. Comprehensive oral exam.

A comprehensive oral exam will be administered by the three Microbiology faculty approximately one week after receipt of the graded written exam. Questions on the oral exam will focus on, but are not limited to, responses to questions on the written exam. A student’s mentor cannot serve on the comprehensive exam panel.

It is strongly recommended that students take the comprehensive exam in their fifth semester or earlier (third semester or earlier for students with a UH Microbiology MS degree). The first attempt at the comprehensive exam must be completed by the end of the sixth semester of study.

3. Dissertation written proposal.

Upon successfully completing the comprehensive exam, a written document describing the research that will constitute the student’s doctoral dissertation will be submitted to members of the student’s doctoral committee.

4. Dissertation oral proposal.

A succinct presentation of the proposal will be made to the student’s doctoral committee approximately 2 – 4 weeks after distribution of the written proposal. Committee members will be permitted to question the student on the research proposal. At the end of the proposal meeting, committee members will determine if the proposal is acceptable and whether the student is ready to advance to candidacy. Upon acceptance of the proposal, the student is conferred “doctoral candidate” status.

It is strongly recommended that students complete the oral dissertation proposal by the end of their sixth semester of the program.

Course Requirements

Completion of 30 credit hours as follows:

  • 12 cr. of classes 600 level and up, excluding MICR 699. It is expected that the majority of these classes will be in Microbiology. Classes from outside the program may be included, upon approval of student’s committee chair. Up to 3 credits of MICR695 may be applied toward the degree.
  • 7 cr. of Directed Research, MICR 699.
  • 1 cr. Seminar, MICR 690.
  • 1 cr. Thesis, MICR 800.
  • (e) 9 cr. of classes, which can include 400 level and graduate-level Microbiology classes. Directed Research (MICR 699) may not be included. Graduate-level classes from outside the program may be included, upon approval of student’s committee chair.

Note: certain adjustments can be considered for those with a M.S. degree in Microbiology or closely related field.

Teaching Requirement

At least one year of teaching experience is considered part of the training of the Ph.D. candidate and is a requirement for the degree. This requirement can be waived for equivalent experience or for other extraordinary circumstances.

Seminar Requirement

The student is expected to give at least one departmental seminar (MICR 690) in addition to the defense seminar at the end of the student’s program.

Ph.D. Language Examination

There is no program foreign language requirement.

Dissertation Review

Much of the Dissertation writing and review is done under the supervision of the major professor (mentor). Thus, a sufficient period must be allowed for first and second draft revisions. This period is not dictated in any way by the University or Program and will depend on the scientific and editorial qualities of the drafts. Also, it is not unlikely that a mentor will have several theses or dissertations to review in a semester. If the dissertation has not been properly reviewed and drafted by the student and his/her mentor, the other committee members are not obligated to read or judge the document until it is in reasonable shape.

Dissertation Defense

This will be given as an advertised public seminar of approximately one hour duration with an unlimited questioning period to follow. Consult the Graduate Division for advertising deadlines.

Dissertation Copies

In addition to the requirements of the Graduate Division, students are required to provide two bound copies of their dissertation to the Program before graduation, one of which goes to the chairman of the dissertation committee.

Remember: It is the personal responsibility of each student to see that all requirements are fulfilled and all deadlines met in a timely manner. See the university general catalog for the official calendars.