Candidacy Exam


A student who has passed the Qualifying Examination becomes eligible to take the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. The Graduate School Handbook outlines the requirements for the Candidacy Examination. Refer to the GSH for policies about the timing and purpose of the Candidacy Examination. It is a single examination consisting of two portions, written and oral, administered under the auspices of the Graduate Studies Committee in conjunction with the student’s Advisory Committee and the Graduate School. The Candidacy Examination is a test of the student’s knowledge of chemical engineering and allied areas of study, of the capacity to undertake independent research, and of the ability to think and express the ideas clearly. It should be open-ended in nature.

The Advisory and Candidacy Examination Committee is chaired by the student’s advisor and is responsible for administering the written and oral examinations and for evaluating the examination in accordance with the rules of the Graduate Studies Committee and the Graduate School. The advisory committee consists of four authorized Graduate Faculty members, including the student’s advisor. The Candidacy Examination will cover the broad aspects of the student’s area of specialization, but the exam need not be limited to the dissertation subject. If the student has demonstrated a weakness in a major area of his or her course work, then appropriate faculty member(s) in this area will serve on the Advisory and Candidacy Examination Committee. Each member of the Committee will prepare one or more questions for the student, for the written examination, which he or she will grade. The time period in which the written portion is administered to the candidate will not exceed seven calendar days. Each student must be responsible to learn the deadlines, options, required forms, and take the full responsibility of executing them in a timely manner. The deadline to complete the first candidacy examination is the seventh semester. The student may petition the graduate studies committee to receive an extension. All requests for an extension should be submitted to both the graduate studies chair and the graduate studies coordinator. 

Candidacy Examination Schedule
1. The written proposal must be presented to the committee no less than three weeks before the oral exam is scheduled.
2. The written questions will be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator no less than two weeks before the oral exam is scheduled, who will collect them and pass them all to the student at least two weeks before the oral exam.
3. In the event that the Graduate Program Coordinator is unavailable; the exam questions will be collected by the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee; currently professor Nicholas Brunelli.
4. Answers to the written questions are due back to the committee one week from the time that they are provided to the student, or at least one week before the oral exam is scheduled, whichever is earlier.

Before the student can take the Candidacy Examination, the Notification of Doctoral Candidacy Examination form must be submitted on GRADFORMS.OSU.EDU. This form, including the names of the Doctoral Committee members, date, time and location of the Candidacy Examination, needs to be submitted in time to allow all the required approvals to be posted and the form is received by the Graduate School by the mandatory two-week notification deadline.

Format for the written proposal document.
The format of the written proposal emphasizes its essential purpose, which is to provide you with an opportunity to document your research progress to date and to propose a detailed plan for your future thesis research. In this sense, the exam is very much like a research proposal to the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, or similar granting agency. It is a compact, carefully worded document that provides suitable motivation for the proposal, a summary of accomplishments, and a detailed research plan. You will be evaluated on your scientific and technical comprehension, the quality of your research plan, your ability to communicate clearly and effectively, and your accomplishments to date. Each proposal must conform to the following guidelines:

One option for the format of the proposal is the following. This is adapted from the NSF Grant Proposal Guide, 2009. The document should be written in the form of a proposal. However, data may be added in the appropriate aim to indicate your progress.

The proposal must be clear and readily legible. and conform to the following requirements:
a. Use Times New Roman, 12 point character font, or Arial, 11 point font.
      A font size of 10 points or less may be used for mathematical formulas or equations, figure,
      table or diagram captions and when using a Symbol font to insert Greek letters or special
      characters. You are cautioned, however, that the text must still be readable. Figure captions
      can have a different font style, such as Arial, to help offset them from the main text.
b. Margins, in all directions, must be at least an inch.
c. Page limits and line spacing requirements apply. See below!
Please note that failure to follow these formatting guidelines will be grounds for your committee to request a revision of your proposal.

Sections of the Proposal (adapted from the NSF Grant Proposal Guide, 2009 and the US Department of Energy proposal review criteria)
a. Cover Page. The cover page should contain the title of your proposal, your name, your advisor’s name, and the names of your committee members.

b. Project Summary. Prepare a one-page, single-spaced summary of the proposed activity, entitled Project Summary. The Project Summary should not be an abstract of the proposal, but rather a self-contained description of your proposed research. The summary should be written in the third person and include a statement of objectives and methods to be employed. It must clearly address the scientific and/or technical merit of the project, for example, the influence that the results might have on the direction, progress and thinking in relevant scientific or engineering fields. It must also clearly address the appropriateness of the proposed methods, and the logic and feasibility of the research approach. The Project Summary should be informative to other persons working in the same or related fields and, insofar as possible, understandable to a scientifically or technically literate lay reader. Proposals that do not separately address both scientific merit and appropriateness of methods within the one-page Project Summary will not receive a passing grade.

c. Project Description. The Project Description (PD) is a 15 page (max), single-spaced proposal that describes your thesis project. It should include background and motivation, preliminary results, and proposed research. The PD should also provide an assessment of risk with your proposed research as well as contingency plans in case a particular research avenue proves inexpedient in some manner. Some examples of Project Descriptions will be provided, but the precise organization of the document is up to you, in consultation with your advisor. A typical NSF PD has perhaps 2 pages of background and no more than 5 pages on preliminary results. The balance (~8 pages) focuses on proposed research. The title of the proposal should be written at the top of the first page. The words “Project Description” do not need to appear. The project description should be a standalone document that does not rely upon the information in the supporting information to be reviewed. 

d. References. Reference information is required. Each reference must include the names of all authors (in the same sequence in which they appear in the publication), the article and journal title, book title, volume number, page numbers, and year of publication. Proposers must be especially careful to follow accepted scholarly practices in providing citations for source materials, including websites, relied upon when preparing any section of the proposal. There is no page limitation for the references, but this section must include bibliographic citations only and must not be used to provide parenthetical information outside of the 15-page Project Description. Figures used in the Project Description should be explicitly referenced in the caption if they are taken from another publication or website. References should be single-spaced, but a blank line between each individual reference is preferred.

e. Supporting Information. In consultation with your advisor, you may decide to include certain Supporting Information as an appendix to your Project Description. Supporting Information may be a more detailed discussion of a particular theoretical problem or experimental technique. It may also be a draft of a paper for publication. This Supporting Information is coordinated with your advisor and has no page limit. Please note that the inclusion of Supporting Information is not required, and it is unlikely to receive careful review from your faculty committee. They will focus instead on the required sections of the proposal.

Format for the oral presentation.
The oral portion of the Candidacy Examination is conducted according to the rules of the Graduate School. To satisfy the oral part of the examination, the candidate must demonstrate a broad knowledge of the field. The oral portion of the Candidacy Examination lasts approximately two hours. The oral portion consists of a brief oral presentation of the candidacy proposal and prior work before beginning the questioning portion of the oral examination. Questioning of the student should occupy the entire period of the examination.

At the conclusion of the oral portion, the committee determines pass or fail of the entire Candidacy Examination, based on both the written and oral performance. Attendance at the oral portion of the exam is limited to the student and the members of the Examination Committee. Successful completion of the Candidacy Examination requires an unanimously affirmative decision of the Committee. After satisfactory completion of the Candidacy Exam the student may be admitted to the candidacy for the doctoral degree which signifies that the student is judged to be properly prepared to undertake work on the dissertation.

Supplemental Candidacy Examination.
The nature of the supplemental candidacy examination and the membership of the candidacy examination committee are determined by the student’s advisor within the rules of the Graduate Studies Committee. The examination committee is composed of the advisor and at least three other authorized Graduate Faculty members. The supplemental candidacy examination must include a written and an oral portion that last approximately two hours. A Graduate Faculty Representative is appointed if a prior unsatisfactory examination result is on record. All other rules pertaining to candidacy examinations must
be followed.

Pre-dissertation review
Each student will schedule a mandatory research progress meeting with their thesis committee at least 1 year before graduation (typically, the fall of the fourth year). Scheduling a defense less than a year after the progress meeting will require a petition to the GSC for a special exception to this process. Pre-Dissertation Review Committees are expected to be composed of the same faculty from their candidacy exam committee the student’s academic advisor and two additional faculty members from the department in related research areas. There must be a minimum of three faculty members (including the graduate advisor). It is acceptable for the student to swap out the fourth or fifth member of the committee for an OSU faculty member from outside the department. This can be done as preparation for the final defense committee where an outside faculty member will be required. Other non-CBE OSU faculty and non-OSU affiliates may attend the research progress meeting as nonvoting members. The meeting will consist of a 30-minute oral presentation by the student on research progress followed by a 30-minute discussion, followed by a private meeting of the committee to vote on the outcome (pass/fail). In case of a “fail” vote, the exam is expected to be retaken within one year.

One week before the presentation, the student should submit to the committee a two-page document containing an abstract of the student's research, including background, accomplishments and plans, as well as lists of conference presentations, completed and planned publications. Other information such as participation in internships or campus professional development activities may be included as well.

The presentation should outline background and motivation for the student's research, a description of research accomplishments to date, and plans for future work, including a tentative timeline. A summary of the student's completed and planned publications should be included.