PhD Milestones and Procedures

Milestones and Procedures for MCB PhD Students

MCB prides itself in mentoring graduate students and recognizes that students and mentors benefit from a timely progression through our graduate program.  This guide is based on requirements and procedures drawn from the graduate school, the MCB graduate program and the Department. Students and advisors should pay close attention to the sequence of events to ensure a smooth progression. Visit the graduate catalog and the MCB web page for details. Forms can be found on the UConn Graduate School web page.


  • Major Advisor selection and Graduate Committee formation: During the Spring semester of the 1st year students must choose a Major Advisor and form a Graduate Committee. This will include a required committee meeting where a 2-page paper from MCB 5801 and the Plan of Study are discussed. After the 3rd year, committee meetings will be held annually. Prior to completing the first year, the form “Change to Graduate Major Advisor” must be signed and given to the MCB Graduate Program Coordinator.
  • Plan of Study: A “Plan of Study“ signed by the students’ Graduate Committee has to be submitted no later than the end of the 2nd semester to the MCB Graduate Program Coordinator. After the first year, Ph.D. students typically plan each semester according to this Plan of Study.
  • 2nd Year Review: Students independently write a 2-3 page-long document (the “second-year review”) that describes background material for their research project. This review will be chaired by a member of their committee other than the major advisor. A signed report on the 2nd year review is given to MCB Graduate Program Coordinator. Any corrective actions are required to be made prior to authorization to take the General Exam during the 3rd year.
  • Stipend Level Increase: After a student completes 30 graduate level content course credits (24 credits for those admitted prior to 2017) they are eligible for a stipend increase to Level 2. To reach a level 3, Graduate Assistants must successfully pass the doctoral general exam. More information regarding Graduate Assistantships and stipend levels can be found on the UConn Graduate School website.
  • General Examination: All Molecular and Cell Biology PhD students are required to take the General Examination before the end of August of their 3rd year of graduate studies. A written document describing the proposed research is prepared in the format of grant proposal. This can serve as the prospectus (Proposal) required by The Graduate School. The Proposal is prepared with minimal input from the major advisor and the exam is chaired by a committee member other than the major advisor. The signed “Report of the General Examination for the Doctoral Degree” is given to the MCB Graduate Program Coordinator.
  • Graduate Seminar participation: MCB PhD students are required to give biennial 20-minute seminars on their research project in graduate student seminar (MCB 5884) starting from the 5th semester or sooner.
  • Preparation for the Dissertation: The Graduate School requires candidates to submit the Dissertation Proposal for the Doctoral Degree at least three months prior to the public defense date. Please find step by step instructions for defending on the Office of the Registrar website
  • Defense and Final Examination: The “Report on the Final Examination for the Doctoral Degree” must contain signatures of approval by all committee members. At least five faculty members must be present for the defense. The signed “Report on the Final Examination for the Doctoral Degree” will be given to the MCB Graduate Program Coordinator. See Procedure for MCB Grad Presentations


  • The Advisor: After the first year, the advisor-of-record will resign as major advisor. The student will have either found an advisor, or needs to find one within 30 days and communicated new advisor to the Associate Head of Graduate Studies. Similarly, if a faculty member resigns from being the major advisor of a student, the student has 30 business days to identify a new major advisor. If the student does not find one, their graduate degree program status is terminated.  This ensures that graduate students will be attached to a major advisor during their graduate career.
  • Exceptions: Exceptions to the MCB requirement can be made on a case-by-case basis and are typically approved only under extenuating circumstances, such as major life events. A written request for an extension must be sent by the major advisor of the student to the Head of the Area of Concentration (AoC) and the Associate Department Head for Graduate Research and Education (GRE) who must both approve the request in order for an extension to be granted. If a student does not meet the required timetable and was not granted an extension, the student must meet with the Associate Department Head for GRE and the AoC Heads who will decide on an appropriate course of action in consultation with the committee. Possible outcomes include ineligibility for teaching assistantships and departmental awards.
  • Financial Support: The Department normally offers support in the form of TAs for Ph.D. students in good standing, in compliance with the milestones and continuing to make progress.  However, the Department will not provide teaching assistantships to MCB Ph.D. students after their 8th year in the program. This period of time includes time as Masters student if a student remained in the same lab for the Ph.D.

Please see the Milestone Checklist [PDF] for your reference.