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Cancer Biology: Graduate Studies Regulations

 PhD Requirements of the Cancer Biology Program are included below: 

Grading System 

Minimum grade requirements for Cancer Biology are governed by the guidelines and the policies of the graduate school as stated in the Bulletin of the Wake Forest University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

In addition, Cancer Biology graduate students must maintain an average grade point of 3.0 or better (using the 4.0 scale) in each semester. Any student who receives a grade of less than “B-“ in at least two of the core courses may be dismissed from the program. Exceptions to this policy due to extenuating circumstances can be made by a recommendation to the Program Director from a joint meeting of the Curriculum and Recruitment committee. If a student achieves a “C” or worse in any  Cancer Biology core course, the student will need to repeat the course in the following year and must obtain a “B” or better. Any student failing these requirements may be subject for dismissal from the program. 

Advisory Committee 

During the fall semester of the second year, the student, together with the faculty research advisor, select an Advisory Committee. The committee is composed of:

  • Faculty advisor
  • Two additional members who are primary Cancer Biology faculty
  • Faculty member with research interests that closely overlap the dissertation proposal (either within or outside the department)
  • One member from outside the Cancer Biology Department who will serve as the chair of the committee
  • Students should obtain prior approval from the Graduate Program Director on their selection of committee members before formally asking faculty to serve on the committee

It is the responsibility of the chair to report to the Graduate Program Director regarding the results of the meetings of the Advisory Committee. If the faculty advisor has not yet had a student graduate from their laboratory, it is recommended that at least one of the departmental committee members be a senior faculty member, who can advise on procedural aspects of the Graduate Program. The faculty research advisor has the option to add an additional outside, ex officio faculty with particular expertise in the thesis subject. This member will only be required to be present at the qualifying exam and PhD defense and will not have voting rights. 

The functions of the committee are to:

  • Advise the student on the course of their research
  • Administer the Candidacy Examination
  • Form the nucleus of the Dissertation Defense Committee

The committee shares responsibility with the primary dissertation advisor for informing the students of the expectations concerning the progress of their research and of the student’s performance in meeting those expectations. The committee, in concert with the dissertation advisor, will be responsible for assuring that the proposed dissertation research has goals that are achievable within an appropriate timeframe for receiving the PhD degree. 

The committee for each student should meet at least once each academic year and more often when necessary. The purpose of the meetings is to evaluate the progress being made in the student’s research and to make recommendations for the immediate future. The meetings should be scheduled by the Research Advisor to ensure that they occur in a timely fashion.

Intent to Graduate: Qualifying Exam

Each student must fulfill the following requirements for admission to candidacy in the PhD program in Cancer Biology: 

  • Pass their required courses with final grades of B or better
  • Pass an oral defense of a written research proposal

The Advisory Committee determines acceptability of the student for advancement to degree candidacy by critically evaluating the scientific quality of the project, the clarity of the written proposal, the completeness of the literature survey, and the student’s originality and understanding of relevant concepts. 


  1. A committee meeting prior to the qualifying exam and no later than October of the third year will be held to determine whether advancement to the oral exam is acceptable.
  2. Two weeks before this meeting, the student will submit an outline of the proposal to the committee, which will be discussed at the meeting.
  3. Upon acceptance of this outline, the student will proceed to prepare a full written proposal. The outline for this proposal follows National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines for an R01 grant application.
  4. The committee will not review preliminary drafts of the proposal, although the verbal advice of the committee may be sought during the preparation of the proposal.
  5. Two weeks before the oral exam, the student will submit the completed written proposal. 
  6. Within one week, the examining committee will inform the student if the written proposal is acceptable for oral defense. If not, the committee will provide a detailed written critique and set a date for receipt of a revised proposal, usually within 2 to 3 weeks. If the revised proposal is unacceptable, the examining committee will recommend to the Cancer Biology Program Graduate Committee whether the student should be terminated from the PhD Program. 
  7. If the proposal is judged acceptable, the oral exam will proceed as scheduled. Following the exam, the committee will make a decision on acceptability of the student for admission to degree candidacy.
  8. There are three potential outcomes of the exam:  Pass, conditional pass and fail. Conditional pass signifies that the student performed sub-optimally in the exam. The student will be offered the opportunity to remediate the performance. Typically, this will be in the form of a written document that addresses specific questions set forth by the committee. The student will be given 1 month in which to prepare written responses to these questions. The committee will then review the responses and assign a final grade of pass or fail to the preliminary exam. The committee chair will communicate the decision of the committee to the Program Director within 1 week of receipt of the student response. In the event that a student does not pass the oral exam, the examining committee can recommend that the student be refused admission to candidacy for the PhD program or that reexamination be allowed no earlier than 6 months from the date of the first exam. A student may be reexamined only once.
  9.  If the committee does not recommend the student for advancement to PhD candidacy, the student may, at the discretion of the faculty, have the option to complete the MS degree program. The chair of the committee will inform the Graduate Program Director of the outcome of the preliminary exam. The Graduate Program Director then informs the graduate office. 
  10. The qualifying exam has to be passed no later than the last day of courses in December of the student’s third year in the program. Variations from this rule can only be granted by the Program Director in case of extenuating circumstances. Noncompliance may be subject for dismissal from the program. 

Academic Probation and Dismissal

Any noncompliance with the Cancer Biology or Graduate School regulations and guidelines can be cause for dismissal from the program. The admissions committee together with the curriculum committee and invited ad hoc members will discuss individual cases and make recommendations to the Program Director. The Program Director will consult with the Dean of the Graduate School and a decision on academic probation for a semester or dismissal will be made. During academic probation, the student is required to fulfill minimal requirements during the next semester. If those requirements are not met, the student will be dismissed from the program.

Any regulations not covered specifically by Cancer Biology guidelines will be followed according to the policies of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Quick Reference

Cancer Biology

Telephone 336-713-4763

Fax 336-716-0255

Graduate Program E-mail

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Last Updated: 09-27-2016
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