The Graduate Adviser will meet with all students who are eligible to take the Preliminary A Exam in the Spring or Summer in the beginning of December to answer questions regarding the abstract, topic, proposal, exam, and any other topic brought up in the meeting.
1. Scheduled by the fourth long semester of the student’s enrollment at UT Austin.
2. Student has spent considerable amount of time in a research laboratory.
3. Grade of B- or better for BIO 393 Advanced Microbial Genetics, BIO 395F - Genetics, BIO 395G - Biochemistry, BIO 395H – Cell Biology, and BIO 395J – Molecular Biology.
1. Students will offer to the abstract review committee two abstracts, each of substantial equal merit, and each embodying some aspect of the discipline of microbiology, as broadly conceived.
2. Each topic should represent an unresolved problem and must be unrelated to the student’s own research or any other project currently in progress in that laboratory. A useful method for selecting a topic is to find an interesting paper in a recent journal, and then, as if it were your laboratory that published the paper, decide what to do next.
3. The supervising professor should not have any input in the selection of the topic or preparation of the proposal.
4. Each student should state the problem and briefly describe the approach that will be used. A general description of the methodology used should be included. You will find that the more specifically you define your problem, the easier it will be to develop a realistic proposal. Each abstract is limited to one page, including no more than 5 references.
5. A three-member committee will review the abstracts and choose the abstract for each student in one week.
6. The Graduate Adviser will choose the three-member committee for each student.
7. Format of the Abstracts.
a. Save both abstracts and your thesis description in one document.
b. Name each abstract as “Abstract 1” and “Abstract 2.”
c. Place your name and your supervising professor’s name on the top of each page.
8. Please email the ONE document with both abstracts and thesis description to the Graduate Adviser.
9. The chosen abstract will be given to each student by the Graduate Coordinator one month prior to the exam date. This will give each student three weeks to write the proposal.
10. To reserve a room in NMS, call Steve Franklin at 232-3692 in the SBS office; to reserve a room in MBB, call the front desk at 471-1156.
11. Email the Graduate Coordinator the location, date, and time of your exam.
1. The proposal should consist of an original research proposal written as an abbreviated NIH grant application. It should be strictly limited to 10 pages.
2. Proposal should be single spaced on plain white paper with at least 1 inch margins on each side, using a 12 pt. font size. Each item should be identified by its title. Be concise and clear. Four copies of the proposal must be turned into the Graduate Coordinator by 4PM on the due date, one week prior to the examination date.
3. This document involves a detailed description of the background and logic behind the proposition, and the experiments proposed to address it.
4. A good proposal will address the following questions:
a. What do you intend to do?
b. Why is this important?
c. What has already been done?
d. How are you going to attack the problem?
5. Forms to fill out from http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/phs398.html:
a. Form Page 1 Face page
b. Form Page 2 Description, Performance Sites, and Key Personnel
c. Biographical Sketch Sample (fill out the one with A, B, and C, but only answer A and B
6. The written proposal will consist of the following parts:
a. Specific Aims: State concisely and realistically what you plan to accomplish. Remember, you are proposing a two-year project. This should be a focused but fully documented review. It should provide the history and current status of research in the area addressed by the proposal. In addition, it should help the reader to understand why the proposed work is important and how it will contribute to current knowledge. (Suggested length not to exceed one page.)
b. Significance/Background: A clear statement of the importance of the proposed work, not merely in general terms, but how it fits into and contributes substantially to work addressing specific important biological questions. Present the background to the proposal, critically evaluating existing knowledge, and specifically identifying gaps which this project is intended to fill. State the importance of the research described in this proposal by relating your specific aims to longer term goals. (Suggested length not to exceed two pages)
c. Experimental Design and Methods: The experimental plan should consist of a logically ordered sequence of experiments and their possible outcomes. Limitations of a particular line of approach should be mentioned, and alternative strategies suggested. Discuss how the data will be analyzed and interpreted. Potential difficulties and limitations with your approach and alternative approaches should be discussed. Wherever possible, students should consider innovative approaches, even if they are uncertain whether they will work. Potential outcomes of the experiment should be presented and results described using hypothetical data. These figures should be included under “Supplemental Material” and will not be counted against your page limitations. In this connection, students should have a basic understanding of the applicability of different techniques, but will not be expected to have expert knowledge. Detailed protocols are generally inappropriate, except where these are unusual or innovative. A quasi-repetitive proposal, in which the published or unpublished work of others is simply repeated with a related organism or in a similar situation, is unacceptable and grounds for failure. In this section and elsewhere, the work of others should be fully referenced, and the novelty of the experimental approaches made clear. (Suggested length not to exceed six pages
7. Literature Cited – use a standard citation format
8. Supplemental Materials – figures, tables, etc, relevant to the proposal should be included in an Appendix. These are not included in the 10-page limit
1. All examinations must be completed by May 7th unless otherwise told by the Graduate Advisor
2. The student’s faculty advisor is not to be involved in any aspect of proposal developing, writing or presentation. Faculty advisors may be present as silent observers during the exam itself, but not during the committee discussion following the exam. In some cases, however, it may be appropriate for the committee to seek an advisor’s comments.
3. The student presents and defends the proposal orally and is examined by a three-member committee. The examination is designed to test whether the student is ready to plan and carry out independent research. The exam is intended to test the breadth of the student's preparation beyond the focus of the dissertation research. It should be emphasized that the examiners will concentrate on the experimental aspects of the proposal, unless glaring deficiencies in general knowledge become apparent during the examination. (General knowledge has been evaluated previously through courses). Students are expected to have a general knowledge of the principles and practice of microbiology, particularly in those areas which form a general basis for the work described in the proposal. Students are also expected to have a basic facility in mathematics, chemistry, and biochemistry.
4. The student will make an oral presentation and defense on the date assigned. Plan a 25-30 minute talk
5. PowerPoint presentations are recommended.
6. The examination committee will decide the result and its evaluation will be indicated on a form to be included in the student’s permanent file. The committee will discuss the performance and decision with the student and any recommendations or conditions made.
7. In assessing performance, the committee will rank the student on the following criteria:
a. Database/Basic Knowledge
c. Understanding the techniques/approaches chosen
d. Alternative solutions/interpretations
8. Possible outcomes of the exam:
a. High Pass (recognition in some form)
b. Pass (no conditions)
c. Conditional Pass
d. Re-examination at a later date