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Program of Study

Special Committee

As a member of the BBS Program, the Field of MIP requires three laboratory rotations during the first academic year. During this time, the Director of Graduate Studies serves as temporary Chair of your committee.

By the end of the rotation period, you should have a Special Committee Chair.  By the end of your third semester of registration, you should have a full Special Committee.  Please go online to Student Center to update our special committee members.  The Field of MIP requires that you have four faculty on your Special Committee.

  • Special Committee Chair:  Faculty mentor in whose lab your research takes place. 
  • Faculty Representing Two Minors:  At least one of these faculty must represent a Field other than Molecular & Integrative Physiology. 
  • Field Appointed Minor Member:  The Field-Appointed Minor Member is appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies.  Once you have chosen the members of your Committee, you should meet with the DGS.  At this meeting, you will let him know who is on your Committee and what your research project will be.  The DGS will subsequently choose a member of the Field to serve as Field-Appointed Minor Member.  Please note: the Field-Appointed Minor Member is a permanent member of your Committee and must be included in all meetings and exams.

All MIP students are required to submit a Student Progress Review (SPR) form annually. You should meet with your entire Special Committee by the end of the Spring semester to review progress over the academic year and to set goals for the coming year.  First year students should meet with their DGS.  The SPR needs to be completed by all Biological and Biomedical PhD students before June 15. 

Graduate Courses:

The course program will be formulated by you and the Special Committee. However, the Field of Molecular and Integrative Physiology recommends that all students take the following courses to acquaint themselves with various important aspects of the field:

  • You should take a course for depth of understanding of systems or cell physiology. This course should be chosen from a list made available by the Director of Graduate Studies. An example is BIOAP 4580 (Mammalian Physiology).
  • Familiarity with methods of experimentation and an understanding of techniques available for addressing questions in the physiological sciences are required. You should, therefore, take a course that stresses methods. Examples are: BioAP 4160 (Cell Physiology and Genomics Laboratory), BIOMG 4400 (Molecular Techniques for Animal Biologists), and VETMM 4700 (Biophysical Methods). This recommendation can also be met by an organized rotation through two or more research laboratories where technique is stressed.
  • In order to gain awareness of the current state of knowledge in diverse areas of physiology, you should complete two 6000-7000 level courses (at least one credit hour per course) chosen from those offered by MIP faculty, or others approved by your Special Committee.


The goals of the BBS Program are to train scientists in the biological and biomedical sciences, create new knowledge with high impact research, and prepare our students for positions in academia, industry, and government.  With this goal in mind the BBS oversight committee has developed a BBS Work-inpProgress (BBS WIP) to highlight and disseminate BBS student research.  The BBS program is very excited to offer this professional development opportunity which will foster networking and propel collaborative efforts. 
Beginning Fall 2015, all BBS students will be required to participate in the new BBS Work-in-Progress Student Seminar (BBS WIP).  It is expected that students will present on an annual basis throughout their time in the program through their 5th year.  Students are required to attend 75% of the BBS WIP- attendance will be taken. Students will need to register for VTBMS 7200 BBS Seminar. First-year students will give a presentation on their rotation projects.  Students beyond the first year should coordinate their annual Special Committee meeting with their BBS WIP research presentation and request their committee members attend the seminar. 
Students who matriculated in Fall 2010 or earlier are not required to give a WIP seminar, but are highly encouraged to attend.

Teaching Experience

Since MIP is a member of the BBS Program, every MIP student is required to complete a full-semester teaching experience. 


The Field of Molecular and Integrative Physiology strongly recommends the following format for the examination:

  • The exam will be comprised of a written component and an oral component. The written component will consist of a research proposal consistent with guidelines for a federal granting agency (NIH, NSF, USDA, etc.); generally this is limited to 15-25 pages. You should develop the scope and structure of the proposal in consultation with your thesis advisor and Special Committee members.
  • The proposal can focus on your own research goals or on a related topic or on a completely unrelated area. The topic should be chosen in consultation with your thesis advisor and Special Committee members. The proposal should contain:
  1. a description of the background and significance of the proposed studies;
  2. preliminary studies completed by the student (if applicable);
  3. carefully articulated specific aims and hypotheses examined within the specific aims;
  4. a description of the experimental plan;
  5. discussion of expected outcomes, potential pitfalls and alternative strategies and;
  6. a brief outline of future plans.

The proposal is to be your original work, although some general guidance and editorial consultation may be provided by the thesis advisor. The thesis advisor must approve the distribution of the proposal to the Special Committee members.

Within reason, you are encouraged to request/obtain feedback on the proposal by your close colleagues (lab mates, other graduate students, postdocs, etc.) prior to submitting the proposal to the Special Committee. The proposal should be distributed to the Special Committee at least one week in advance of the A Exam. At the discretion of the Special Committee, you may be asked to prepare a brief oral presentation describing background information for the proposal as well as an outline listing the specific aims and research plan.

During your oral exam, the Special Committee members will use the proposal to ask specific questions that test your knowledge of the experimental system described in the proposal. The A-Exam will also include some questions related to prior course work (for example, questions examining major and minor areas of specialization and broad knowledge of physiology).

The goals of this A Exam format are:

  • provide a framework for the A Exam that is equitable for all students within the Field of Molecular and Integrative Physiology
  • introduce the student to grant writing skills
  • emphasize and encourage comprehensive review of the literature to gain insight into the background and significance of the students research problem
  • encourage students to develop and express their thoughts and insights about their research projects independently of the insights provided by the research mentor

You should consult your thesis advisor regarding a time line for preparing for the A-Exam. Commonly, a student will spend four to eight weeks drafting the research proposal, revising the text, and reviewing coursework and current scientific literature. For additional details, contact the Director of Graduate Studies.

B Exam/Dissertation

The B Exam is oral and deals with the general subject of the dissertation.  You are required to present a seminar on the thesis research after the experimental work is essentially complete but before the dissertation is in final form. An appropriate time would correspond to the deadline for provision of a draft copy of your dissertation to the members of the Special Committee (i.e., a minimum of six weeks before the date of the final examination).  This can take place in the Work-in-Progress venue.

You are required to present a seminar on the results of your thesis research prior to the B-Exam; this seminar is open to the College and University communities. 

The formatting of your dissertation must follow the Graduate School guidelines.

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