Microbial Biology Ph.D. First Year Comprehensive Exam


All Microbial Biology Ph.D. students are required to pass the Comprehensive Exam at the end of their first year. The Comprehensive Exam is typically offered the first Friday in June.

The Comprehensive Exam contains two parts:

Part 1: Microbial Biology Knowledge (9:00am-1:00pm). Be prepared to answer any questions pertaining to the field of Microbial Biology. In preparation, students should review all the material covered in the first year core courses. There will be eight questions on Part 1 of the exam with two essay questions written by the instructors of each core course (Microbial Life, Microbial Biochemistry, Microbial Physiology, and Microbial Genetics).

Part 2: Scientific Understanding and Critical Thinking (2:00pm-6:00pm). Several research articles will be handed out two weeks prior to the exam. Students must read and understand the articles and be prepared to answer any questions about the experiments, general background, research hypotheses, conclusions, and future directions. Students may print the articles, make any notes that they wish on either side of the pages, and bring them to Part 2 of the exam. There will be eight questions on Part 2 of the exam with two questions written by the instructors of each core course (Microbial Life, Microbial Biochemistry, Microbial Physiology, and Microbial Genetics).

Previous comprehensive exams are posted on the Sakai file sharing site so that students can see the questions that were asked in previous years.

In order to progress to the second year in the Microbial Biology Ph.D. program students must (1) have at least a 3.0 GPA in the four core courses with no more than one C or C+, (2) pass the Comprehensive Exam, and (3) have made satisfactory progress in lab rotations and/or research. The Academic Standing Committee will meet to review the performance of first year students in late June after the faculty have graded the Comprehensive Exam. After the Committee has met students will get an email from Dr. Zylstra about the results of the evaluation. Scores for the Comprehensive Exam will then be posted on the Sakai site.