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Candidacy Exam

Please check the caltech catalog for up-to-date information.

Medical Engineering Candidacy Exam Requirements and Guidelines

Medical Engineering Ph.D. Candidacy Exam

The candidacy exam shall be taken before end of the third year of residence at the Institute. The intent of this oral exam is to determine whether the student has prepared a thesis topic and planned the research that will be necessary to graduate with a Ph.D.

With input from his or her advisor, each student is responsible for establishing a candidacy exam committee which must be approved by the MedE option representative. The committee must include a minimum of four members. Three members must be Caltech professorial faculty affiliated with Medical Engineering. The fourth member may be a Caltech faculty member or an outside professional of similar standing. The committee must include the advisor, but another member of the committee must be selected as chair. The committee chair must be a Caltech professorial faculty member.

Once a committee has been selected the student will go into Regis and complete the Candidacy Exam Data and submit for approval. The student's Plan of Study must be approved by the option representative before taking the candidacy exam.

Prior to the candidacy exam, the student will prepare a written outline of his/her research, defining the research area, specific topic and research goals, and summarizing progress to date and future work. Further guidance on this document is provided below. The document shall be provided to the committee members no later than one week prior to the exam and also at the beginning of the exam.

The candidacy exam itself is divided into two parts. In the first part the student will provide a brief account of the research and progress made. The presentation should be about 20 minutes in length, and the committee should refrain from discussion other than asking questions of clarification. The number of slides used in the oral presentation should be kept to the minimum needed to properly convey the research direction and expected results. In no case should there be more than 20 slides. In the second part of the candidacy exam, the committee members will present questions for the student to consider. These questions should be related to the student's presentation, the written document and/or the thesis topic.

After questioning, the student will be asked to leave the room for a few minutes and the committee will discuss the performance and determine a result of the exam. The result will be either pass or no-pass. In the event of pass, they will notify the candidate and, upon successful completion of all other candidacy requirements listed in the catalog, the student shall be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy.

If the result is no-pass, then the committee will inform the student of the result, but no additional actions will be taken. Later, the committee shall meet with the option representative to discuss the student's performance and general progress towards the PhD degree. The committee will determine either remedial action that must be taken in order for the student to advance to candidacy (for example retaking the exam within a specified time period), or, in extreme cases, that the student not be advanced to candidacy.

Guidelines for Preparing the Candidacy Research Outline

Candidates for a MedE Ph.D. must submit, to the Candidacy Examination Committee, no later than one week before the exam, a written summary describing their thesis. This document must be prepared in 12-point font and should not exceed five pages including all graphics, citations and other material. The questions listed below may be used as a checklist in preparing the document:

  1. What are the goals/objectives of the research and why is it important?
  2. How will the research be done? What methods will be used?
  3. What will be learned from the work? What new understanding is expected to emerge from it?
  4. What aspects of the research are innovative? How will it advance the state-of-the-art?
  5. Are there practical/logistical barriers to the work? What contributions from others will be required to complete the work? Is the timeline realistic?