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Exams & Special Committee

A Exam

To qualify as a Ph.D. candidate, each graduate student must pass an “Admission to Candidacy” exam (or A-exam) before the start of the seventh semester. This oral exam may include a written component, as determined by your Special Committee. The purpose of the exam is to test the student’s level of knowledge and ability to design research strategies and to be sure you are ready to proceed into the dissertation phase of your degree program.

B Exam

The B exam is an oral defense of your dissertation. This exam can be taken after completing all degree requirements, but not earlier than one month before completing the minimum registration unit requirements. At least two registration units must be earned between the passing of the A exam and the scheduling of the B exam.

Special Committee

You are required to select your Special Committee chair within three weeks of registering with the Grad School. Because you will be doing lab rotations for your first year you will select your field's Director of Graduate Studies as your temporary committee chair. You are required to have a full committee by the end of your third semester. This will consist, at the minimum, a dissertation research chair (major subject) and two minor members (each representing one of your minor subjects). Any faculty member of any graduate field may serve as minor member. Your Special Committee chair must be from the Graduate Field of Computational Biology. This online process takes place in the Advisor section of your Student Center and will require approval of all your committee members, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and the Graduate Field Assistant (GFA).
Note that you cannot major and minor in the same subject. Please visit the listing of subjects/concentrations.

Understanding Majors and Minors

For students in graduate research degrees, earning a “major” or “minor” in a specific subject or concentration is not explicitly linked to the completion of coursework but is instead defined by the student’s special committee.  Faculty serving on the student’s special committee each represent a concentration.  Because many graduate faculty are active in more than one graduate field or academic discipline, students and faculty should be clear about which concentration will be represented when a committee is formed.

Note that Cornell field structure allows students to identify committee members from all across campus, not just from within their own field.  This promotes interdisciplinary scholarship and collaboration.

More information and details can be found on the Graduate School web site here.