|Computation & Neural Systems California Institute of Technology|
Students receiving a Ph.D. in CNS are expected to have mastered the following:
During his or her first year in the Ph.D. program, the student is required to complete three lab rotations, and take six nine-unit courses. At the end of the first year, the student is expected to decide on a research group and begin work there. The first summer is thus expected to be spent entirely on research in that lab. Advancing to candidacy requires passing two tests: the general knowledge exam, and the research and candidacy exam. These exams are supervised by the CNS option representative. Degree is awarded upon successfuly completing the thesis and passing the final oral examination.
General Knowledge, Research and Candidacy Exams
The general knowledge examination is an oral one, with five faculty (including the heads of the student's three rotation labs and two others chosen for "breadth," of whom one can be from outside CIT). It should be scheduled by the student (who contacts the committee members) to take place during the last six weeks of the third term of year one. For the exam, the student must answer questions (from more than one category) taken from this list, which is modified each year. The exam can be retaken after six months. Upon completion of the exam (whether successful or not), the chair of the exam panel must send a written report (e-mail is acceptable) to the option representative as well as to the cns secretary, who will place this in your individual file for future reference.
During year two, the student is expected to produce a piece of work of quality sufficient to be presented at a professional meeting during the first term of year three. The objective of this piece of work is to offer a way to calibrate the level of expected research achievement and involvement. Acceptance of the abstract or paper is not a requirement for passing candidacy. During year two, the student may take other courses, as needed, but is expected to present a high standard (quality, originality) of research at the time of this second part of the candidacy exam.
This second---research and candidacy---examination satisfies the depth requirement. This is an oral exam that takes place in the spring term of year two, to the same, or similar, exam committee that conducted part one of the exam. The exam focuses exclusively on research (accomplished and/or planned). At the conclusion of the exam, the student will need to have all committee members sign the candidacy form (to be obtained from the cns office beforehand). The student should also provide proof of having passed the first part of the candidacy exam at this time. This can be done by bringing to the 2nd exam a copy of the e-mail sent out at the conclusion of the 1st exam, or asking the CNS secretary to forward said e-mail to the chair of your exam panel.
Thesis and Final Examination
1. General Goals
We wish to ensure the scheduling of yearly meetings between each student and his/her thesis committee. These meetings will take somewhat different forms as the student progresses. In the early years, the committee will serve to administer the required exams and advise on future research directions. In later years, the committee will help the student with his/her research, determine when enough research has been accomplished towards the PhD thesis, assess progress and hurdles and help solve problems that might arise during those years.
It is the intention of the CNS faculty to see each graduate student complete his/her thesis work before or during the 6th year of graduate study. The CNS faculty feels strongly that, with correct guidance, six years should be sufficient time, except in exceptional cases. To ensure that the students beyond this normative time get sufficient feedback on their progress, the student's committee will meet every 6 months (or more frequently if needed) during and beyond the 6th year. It will be part of the committee's responsibility to assess the status of the student, and to recommend to the CNS Option Representative and to the Dean of Graduate Studies that registration be approved for the years beyond the Caltech limit of five year. Each request for an extension will be accompanied by a package from the student containing a detailed explanation, progress report and plan for completion.
This schedule will ensure that each student meets with his/her committee at least once a year. The proposed schedule will apply to all students, although a certain latitude will be given to those presently beyond their 4th year, if they feel that such requirements may hinder rather than help their progress. Phasing in of the present format will hopefully be possible for most.
The detailed timing remains to be finalized, but efforts will be made to schedule all exams at least during a short time period. This implies that a large burden will likely fall on a fraction of the CNS faculty each year, but that this designated faculty will rotate from year to year.
5. Committee Make Up
As already in place, each committee will have a chair, whose responsibility will be to write a short report of the meeting, with detailed comments on progress, future plans and potential problems (if any). The three faculty in whose labs rotations are done will be on the student's candidacy exam committee. This report will be sent to the Option Rep., the Exec. Officer and the CNS secretary. A similar short report should be written by the student and sent to the Option Rep., the Exec. Officer and the CNS secretary. The committee's chair must be someone other than the student's advisor.
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last update: 06/10/2015