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Division of Academic Affairs
Graduate Catalog 2012-13


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Brody School of Medicine


Paul Cunningham, Dean and Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs
Richard Franklin, Interim Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies

The Departments of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Microbiology and Immunology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Physiology offer graduate programs for the degree of doctor of philosophy. The Brody School of Medicine and the departments of Biology and Chemistry offer the degree of doctor of philosophy in interdisciplinary biological sciences. An interdisciplinary master of science degree in biomedical sciences is also offered. The educational objectives of these programs are to foster scholarship, critical analysis, and creative research activity in a particular field of study. In selecting candidates for admission, the departments give careful attention to individual aptitudes and career goals and design their curricula to complement the students’ baccalaureate experiences. Each candidate is encouraged to acquire a broad understanding of human biology in both health and disease and to gain authoritative knowledge in a specific area.

Doctoral studies in the Brody School of Medicine provide opportunities for students to have frequent contact with a wide variety of health science professionals who are concerned with problems relating to human biology. All of the departments are excellently equipped with state-of-the-art instrumentation necessary for preparative and analytical procedures. Specialized facilities are also available for cell and tissue culture, virological studies, and for the handling of pathogenic and recombinant agents.

Each department considers the laboratory as the major setting for the education of its doctoral candidates. Students are encouraged to begin research activity immediately upon entering the program and are assigned to staff members who supervise them in aspects of a research problem compatible with part-time laboratory work. Students are provided the opportunity to rotate among several faculty, within and outside of a department, before selecting a dissertation preceptor.

Program Requirements and Curriculum

A minimum of 76 s.h. of course work is required for the doctoral program, of which 15-18 s.h. may be in a cognate minor area. If fewer than 76 s.h. of course work and cognates to the major field are required in a plan, a specific statement to justify this plan should be submitted to and approved by the departmental chairperson and the dean of the Graduate School.

A doctoral student may minor in an area acceptable to the graduate faculty of the major department. When a minor is declared, the minor department(s) will be represented on the student’s advisory committee. A formal minor consists of a minimum of 15 s.h. earned in course work or 24 s.h. of combined course work and research approved by the graduate faculty of the department(s) of the minor field.

If the candidate meets all admission requirements, most courses required of him or her will be available in the areas of anatomy and cell biology, biochemistry and molecular biology, microbiology and immunology, pathology, pharmacology and toxicology, and physiology in the Brody School of Medicine. Upon approval of the departments concerned, individual needs of students may be met by appropriate graduate courses offered by East Carolina University and by other doctoral programs in the state of North Carolina. All doctoral students must complete HUMS 7004. Ethics and Research: Humanities and Basic Medical Sciences.

Graduate work completed prior to admission to doctoral candidacy will be evaluated by the advisory committee when the individual program of study is developed. Transfer of credit from another university is subject to further approval by the chairperson of the major department and the dean of the Graduate School.

A student whose undergraduate transcript indicates a deficiency in departmental prerequisites may be required to undergo examination to verify competency before admission to graduate study. If a student is admitted deficient in analytical and communicative skills necessary for his or her anticipated program, specific remediation will be prescribed in the student’s individual program plan. All such deficiencies must be removed before the doctoral candidacy examination is administered.

Individual Program Plans


Student Advisory Committee. The departmental graduate committee will be responsible for designing tentative program plans for all entering students and for evaluating their performance until the individual advisory committee is established.

At the appropriate time, a four-member advisory committee for each student will be appointed by the chairperson of the department. The committee will be chaired by the student’s dissertation director. The individual advisory committee will formulate the student’s program of study and submit it for review through the departmental chairperson to the dean of the Graduate School. In addition to formulating, administering, and evaluating the doctoral candidacy examination, the committee will have advisory responsibilities in the subsequent development of the dissertation. This advisory committee will administer and evaluate the final dissertation examination. The committee’s evaluations and certification that the degree requirements have been fulfilled will be forwarded through the departmental chairperson to the dean of the Graduate School and the associate dean for research and graduate studies at the Brody School of Medicine.

Doctoral Candidacy Examination. This examination is normally taken after the major course requirements have been completed. Upon passing this examination, the student is admitted to candidacy for the degree, doctor of philosophy. Each candidate is examined for his or her understanding and mastery of a broad field of knowledge, not merely the formal course work completed. The student must demonstrate abilities for critical analysis and synthesis as well as a familiarity with scholarly methods of research. The examination of scientific material shall consist of written and oral components. At the option of the departmental graduate studies committee, a major part of the examination format may be the defense of one or more original propositions developed by the student.

The student’s advisory committee, following the administration and evaluation of the candidacy examination, will forward to the Brody School of Medicine Office of Research and Graduate Studies, through the chairperson of the department, one of the following recommendations.

  • The responses are satisfactory and the student is recommended to candidacy for the doctoral degree.
  • Some responses are unsatisfactory and the student is to be re-examined at a specific time. Subjects and time are to be set by the advisory committee.
  • The responses are unsatisfactory, but a full re-examination will be administered during the subsequent semester.
  • The responses are unsatisfactory and termination of the program is recommended.

Doctoral Dissertation. The dissertation must reflect independent, self-motivated research which contributes significant new knowledge to the candidate’s major field. The dissertation should demonstrate the candidate’s skills in experimental design and technique. It must be effectively written and demonstrate understanding of the historical foundations of the work as well as a thorough analysis of the strengths, weaknesses, and significance of the results.

Before the candidate begins dissertation research, the candidate’s advisory committee must approve a proposal containing the following:
  1. A brief review of the pertinent literature.
  2. A short statement on the nature of the problem and the objectives of the proposed study.
  3. An outline of a feasible research program.
It is the responsibility of the advisory committee to counsel the student in his or her research program, criticize the dissertation, and conduct the final examination. Upon the satisfactory completion of all requirements, the committee and departmental chairperson will recommend to the dean of the Graduate School through the associate dean for research and graduate studies at the Brody School of Medicine, the award of the doctoral degree.

Enrichment. In addition to course requirements, students are encouraged to participate in scholarly activities, such as experience as teaching assistants and involvement in university-wide seminars. Such activities should be considered as components of the overall program of study.

As part of their predissertation course requirements, students are assigned various periods of rotation in research laboratories of individual faculty members to gain perspectives and laboratory experience in areas outside their fields of major interest.

As appropriate, assistance will also be sought from other departments of the university to meet special needs of students. Assignment of students to individual faculty members for pre-dissertation rotations may be made by the chairperson or by the student’s advisory committee.

Time Limits for Completion of Degree Requirements

A doctoral degree program must be completed before the end of the twelfth semester, excluding summers, following initial enrollment. With endorsement of the student’s advisory committee and the departmental chairperson, a student may request one extension of not more than two semesters, summers included.

Program Courses

The courses indicated by an asterisk are required of all candidates. Some courses carry variable hours of credit.