Written Dissertation, Defense, and Deposit

Section of an Outside Examiner

The student and mentor must extend an invitation to an outside individual who is an acknowledged expert in the field to serve as an examiner during the dissertation defense. This person will be a voting member. Altogether, the dissertation committee will therefore consist of the five MAC members chosen for the Dissertation Research Proposal Oral Presentation, plus the additional outside examiner. See Section Five for more information on selecting an outside examiner.

Written Document Format Options

  • Option One: Submit three first-authored manuscripts that have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. The three manuscripts must be thematically related to one another and to the dissertation proposal that was approved by the student’s MAC and represent an original new body of work. In addition, each manuscript must be individually approved by the MAC in order to ensure that the above conditions are met. The manuscripts must be accompanied by an introductory chapter that discusses the implications of the research findings and provides a description of plans for future research.

  • Option Two: Submit a more traditional dissertation that includes, at a minimum, chapters describing background, methods, analyses/results and conclusions of the dissertation project.

Either option must involve a substantive piece of original and independent research grounded in an appropriate body of literature and theory. High priority—both during the process of selection of the dissertation research topic and in the evaluation of the product of the dissertation research—will be placed on the extent to which the project is innovative and advances the field in which the student is working.

The written work must conform to the Mount Sinai Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences format, as outlined in the Depositing Your Dissertation Guide.

When the student has completed the written thesis, it must be read and approved by the MAC. The student should submit the thesis to each member of the committee as early as possible, but no later than four weeks before the defense. Committee members may reschedule the examination if not given the appropriate amount of time to prepare for it. Before the final scheduling of the defense, the student must meet with their committee to get approval to defend. The student must once again complete the Progress Report form, obtain signatures from the entire MAC, and submit the form to the Program Manager no later than four weeks prior to the defense to indicate that the student has been given permission to defend their thesis.

Students and the dissertation research mentor(s) should be aware that revisions and even additional work/analysis may be requested by the MAC. In either event, the MAC should decide and indicate in writing whether the whole committee needs to be reconvened to consider the new draft or whether a subcommittee (or just the Chair of the Committee) may approve the revised draft.

Registration for the Thesis Defense

To schedule the thesis defense and seminar, the thesis mentor and the student should check the proposed date with MAC members before submitting the appropriate registration form. The student will need to submit Dissertation Defense and Seminar Registration and Progress Report forms with the appropriate signatures, to the Program Manager at least four weeks prior to the defense. The student is responsible for scheduling the defense and should communicate with the Program Coordinator to find a room for the exam. The student is also responsible for communicating the final date and time to the individuals involved. Failure to register in a timely manner may result in a cancellation of the Defense. If a student does not register for a dissertation defense that is conducted, the Clinical Research Education Program reserves the right to require a re-examination or to require a notarized statement from the student and the MAC certifying the number of times the student has been examined.

The Defense and Seminar

The thesis defense is comprised of two parts, the public seminar and the closed session. Both parts must take place on the same day with the public seminar preceding the closed session. The public seminar will consist of a 45-60 minute PowerPoint presentation on the student’s work, open to the Mount Sinai scientific community, and will serve as the presentation to the MAC. The committee chair must make sure that all members of the MAC, the outside examiner, the mentor(s) and a member of the PhD Oversight Committee be present for the public seminar, since the student will not repeat the presentation during the closed session. The MAC and mentor(s) will be asked to remain silent during the public seminar and will reserve their questions for the private closed session. It is the responsibility of the student and mentor to appropriately announce the seminar to the public via email, and to the program at least four weeks prior to the Seminar. Once the student notifies the Program Manager of the date and location of the public seminar, the program office will communicate the information to the Graduate School in Biomedical Sciences office which will in turn send a school wide email to announce the seminar.

The closed session of the thesis defense will take place after the public seminar. Once again, the committee chair must make sure that all members of the MAC, the outside examiner, the mentor(s) and a member of the PhD Oversight Committee be present for the defense. Only the MAC and the outside examiner are considered voting members. The defense should take roughly two hours. Student’s mentors must attend the defense but must remain silent throughout the entire process. The purpose of the mentor’s presence is to assess first-hand the student’s performance in order to subsequently assist them in addressing the observed deficiencies. If the mentor fails to remain silent, they may be asked by the chair of the committee to leave the room. Copies of the presentation slides used during the public seminar must be provided to the MAC during the closed session. There is no limit to the number of questions the MAC might ask or the duration of the closed session. Once the committee has completed their questions, the student and the mentor will be asked to leave the room so that the committee members can discuss the outcome of the defense. The student is then asked back into the room and the decision and comments are shared with the student.

The student is expected to bring the Report of Dissertation Defense form on the day of the defense. This form must be signed and returned immediately following the completion of the defense to the Program Manager. If the Committee determines that there are revisions to be made, the information will be communicated to the student in writing. The student will need to submit an Approval of Revised Dissertation form once the revisions have been made.

Dissertation Deposit

By February 1, students must notify the Registrar of their intent to deposit their thesis in order to be included in the Commencement exercises of that year. Commencement information will be sent during the spring semester to the student’s last email address recorded with the Graduate School Office/Clinical Research Education Program.

Once the student has successfully defended their dissertation, they will have a maximum of three months to deposit their written dissertation to the library. Students who have not deposited their thesis within three months after their successful defense will be administratively withdrawn from the program. In the event that a student decides at a later date to either deposit or obtain a transcript they will need to pay a required fee.

After successfully defending the dissertation and making all revisions, the student should deposit the dissertation electronically according to the instructions in the Depositing Your Dissertation Guide.

Students should submit the online Student checkout form and the Graduating Student Exit Survey (which will be emailed) before depositing the dissertation. Failure to do this can result in a delay of the student’s graduation.

The dissertation may be deposited at any time during the year, but the following deposit deadlines and enrollment requirements determine the date of the degree. No degree will be awarded unless the thesis is deposited by one of the required due dates listed below. The degree is awarded on September 30, January 31, or the date of the ISMMS annual Commencement in May. Students depositing by the January or April deadline will receive their diploma at Commencement. Those students who have a dissertation defense scheduled between April 15 and June 15 may be eligible to participate in the spring Commencement ceremony even though they have not met the April 15 dissertation deposit deadline. In cases where a student is allowed to participate, the diploma will not be awarded at graduation. Only students in good academic standing will be offered this courtesy. Good academic standing should be understood to mean that all coursework has been completed with passing grades and the student’s mentor/committee fully expect the student will successfully defend the dissertation prior to June 15. If either of these criteria is not met, the student will not be allowed to participate in the spring graduation ceremony.

It is important to note that physical diplomas are produced only once per year by ISMMS. Students who do not meet deadlines for a May graduation will not receive a diploma until the following May after they have completed all degree requirements. The PhD in Clinical Research itself can be conferred on two other occasions, September 30 and January 30, following completion of all degree requirements. If necessary, prior to receipt of the actual diploma, students can request a letter from ISMMS Registrar’s office verifying that they have completed the degree requirements and confirming that the degree has been conferred.

If the student fails to deposit their thesis by the end of their seventh year in the PhD program, their dissertation mentor must petition the Dean in writing for permission to extend the student’s status. The petition must include a timetable for completing the dissertation and must also be signed by the student.

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