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Thesis Exam

Thesis Defense

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

Requirements and Guidelines for PhD Thesis Defense

MedE Requirements

The Ph.D. thesis defense exam is conducted by a committee that is set up by the student and approved by the option representative. The committee should be made up of minimum of 4 members and at least three of the committee members must be Caltech Faculty affiliated with Medical Engineering. The committee must include the adviser, but another member of the committee must be selected as chair. The committee chair must be a Caltech Professorial faculty member.

MedE Guidelines

  • Students should allow 2 hours for the whole defense process.
  • Without interruption, the continuous presentation should be about 40-50 mins.
  • Depending on communication skills, content, etc. 40-50 slides are suggested (but, no matter what, finish your presentation within 50 mins without interruptions).
  • It's highly recommended that students rehearse his/her presentation before real defense.

Suggestions for Zoom presentation based on a past Zoom Defense

1. The host is able to mute everyone, but still asked people to mute themselves. Everyone muted themselves and were very respectful of that.

2. The presentation was given using PowerPoint and sharing the screen.

3. Screen recording was used to record the audio and video of the presentation.

4. Questions and answers were facilitated by the advisor.

  • Those with questions were asked to type questions into the chat window and send it out to everyone. The advisor would then moderate the Q&A portion of the defense. This way, there was only the PhD candidate and the advisor speaking while everyone else stayed on mute.

5. There was a separate zoom link created for the private session of the defense that only the committee had access to. This way the public portion could end in roughly one hour and the private session could continue without interruption.

Caltech Defense Requirements

Final PhD Defense:

Final exam committee - Students should log on to REGIS to schedule the final thesis exam and select an approved committee for the defense. An approved committee consists of four total members, three of whom must be current Caltech professorial faculty. The chair of the committee is a professorial faculty member distinct from the advisor.

A requirement of all Ph.D. programs at Caltech is that the student must prepare and successfully defend a dissertation, known as a "thesis". Caltech theses have a common format and there are regulations regarding the contents and final submission to CaltechTHESIS. Students are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the regulations, following the recommended format, carefully proofreading the thesis, meeting deadlines, working with their adviser and thesis committee to schedule the final defense, providing timely copies of the thesis for review, and making requested revisions. Each thesis must be submitted to the Graduate Office for proofreading no less than two weeks before the scheduled exam date. In order to complete the Ph.D. degree requirements, the student must not only pass the oral thesis defense but also upload a final, approved version of the thesis to CaltechTHESIS as well as the necessary steps as described in the regulations and checkout procedures. Official certification of degree completion will be provided once all the steps have been completed and Institute approvals have been noted in Graduate Degree Progress in Regis.

The Caltech Library has a comprehensive website with instructions for submitting the final thesis, Theses Templates, and tips for preparing the thesis.

In addition to the thesis, each Ph.D. candidate must complete the following forms:

Thesis Examination Each Ph.D. candidate shall undergo broad oral examination on the major subject, the scope of the thesis, and its significance in relation to the major subject. The thesis examination, subject to the approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies, may be taken after admission to candidacy whenever the candidate is prepared; however, it must take place at least three weeks before the degree is to be conferred. The thesis examination may be written in part, and may be subdivided into parts or given all at one time at the discretion of the options concerned. The student must declare their intent to defend by completing the examination notification in Regis not less than two weeks before the date of the examination. A thesis examination committee consists of four members, with a minimum of three professorial faculty. Emeritus faculty, research faculty, JPL staff and external scholars may serve on the thesis examination committee with approval of the option representative and the Dean of Graduate Studies in advance of the thesis examination. Thesis At least two weeks before the final oral examination, the candidate should provide a draft copy of a completed thesis to the Graduate Office for proofreading and to the members of the thesis examination committee. The date of the examination and the composition of the thesis examination committee should be posted in Regis at least two weeks before the final defense is scheduled. In general, registration is required for the term in which the thesis defense is undertaken. Approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies is required for any student seeking to enroll for subsequent terms following the thesis defense. A student not receiving Caltech funding, may petition the Dean of Graduate Studies for a tuition waiver if the student schedules the examination by the third Friday of the term in which the examination will be taken. The last date to upload the final, corrected thesis is the fifth week of the succeeding term if the candidate defended their thesis during the previous summer or the fall or winter terms; or two weeks before the degree is to be conferred if the candidate defended their thesis during the month of May. It is required that all Ph.D. candidates submit an electronic copy of their dissertation, which the Caltech Library System will then archive and make available online as part of the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD), an international organization that allows researchers to globally search a database of electronic theses and dissertations. For special option regulations concerning theses or the exam composition, see specific graduate options. Before uploading the final, corrected thesis, it is the candidate's responsibility to obtain approval of the thesis by the option representative and all members of the thesis examination committee. With the approval of the option concerned, a portion of the thesis may consist of one or more articles published jointly by the candidate and members of the Institute staff or other coauthors. In any case, however, a substantial portion of the thesis must be the candidate's own exposition of their own work. The use of "classified'' research as thesis material for any degree is not permitted. Exceptions to this rule can be made only under special circumstances, and then only when approval is given by the Dean of Graduate Studies before the research is undertaken. Regulations and directions for the preparation of theses may be obtained from the Graduate Office website, and should be followed carefully by the candidate. Thesis templates are also available on the Library website.