Thesis Background Oral

In the second year of study, all students will demonstrate that they have mastered the literature and obtained research skills needed to effectively conduct scientific research. The Thesis background oral (TBO) involves a written proposal, oral presentation, and defense before a committee of faculty members. The TBO will typically evaluate the student in four key areas:

  1. Knowledge of the scientific literature in the student’s area of research
  2. Ability to apply information learned in courses to research problems
  3. Demonstrated progress to date in the student’s Ph.D. thesis project
  4. Demonstration of understanding of the scientific method through a coherent explanation of the objectives, goals, and proposed approach for the Ph.D. research yet to be completed.

Students must consult with their thesis adviser to determine the desired TBO topic.

  1. TBO DocumentA written document will be developed in preparation for the TBO.  This document should be modeled after a standard NSF or NIH-style research proposal, including a summary of the relevant background literature, a clear statement of goals and objectives of the student’s research, a discussion of research accomplished to date, and a proposal for work yet to be accomplished.  A document detailing the proposal format is available from the Materials Chemistry Program Division Coordinator.  In the written document, the student will develop the subject in detail. The research proposal should be distributed to the committee members at least seven days in advance of the seminar.  It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all copying and distribution is done in a timely manner. Document Format
  2. The TBO seminar:  The TBO includes an oral presentation that will be presented publicly to all students and faculty. This may be done at the weekly analytical sciences seminar or at another time as determined by the Materials Chemistry Program faculty and Division Coordinator. The presentation should cover the background, progress to date and proposed research. Sufficient additional time (5-10 minutes) must be allowed for questions from the audience at the end of the seminar. Dates for each student’s TBO will be assigned by the Materials Chemistry Division Coordinator.  Students are not permitted to change the date or time without permission of the division faculty and must also notify the division coordinator. Students shall select their committee members and forward the information to the division coordinator, who will then determine the availability of the Chemistry faculty members.
  3. The TBO Defense:  The research seminar will be defended before a committee of faculty members subsequent to the presentation. The student is responsible for scheduling the defense, which, if possible, should be done on the same day as the presentation. The committee will be selected jointly by the student and the thesis adviser and will consist of two faculty members in addition to the thesis adviser. It must be noted that at least one of the faculty members must be a member of the Materials Chemistry Program.  The student’s performance will be evaluated on: (1) the student’s ability to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of those aspects of chemistry and instrumentation, both theoretical and experimental, which are needed to understand and carry out the research discussed in the seminar.  (2) the ability to critically analyze the relevant literature, and (3) the ability to select and design experiments to address scientific questions of relevance to the research area.

Upon completion of the oral examination, the examining committee will decide on one of three options:  1) the student passes the examination, 2) the student receives a partial pass, or 3) the student fails the examination. A “partial pass” will be given when there are some deficiencies that must be corrected before the student can be allowed to continue toward a Ph.D. A partial pass will require additional effort on the student’s part to correct the deficiencies; corrective measures will be determined individually by the TBO committee. Typical remedies may involve rewriting or adding material to the document, having a second individual discussion with the faculty, and/or doing a second presentation and defense.  If a student fails the examination outright, the student will not be permitted to continue toward the Ph.D. degree.