Quals and Dissertation

Unlike some programs in UCB or UCSF, our graduate program does not require preliminary exams, and both UCB and UCSF Graduate Divisions do not require a dissertation defense. However, we still need to take a qualifying exam and file a dissertation in order to graduate with a Ph.D. degree.

Qualifying ExamAdvancement to CandidacyDissertationExit Seminar

Relevant Documents

Qualifying Exam

By the end of second year, students are expected to form a qualifying exam committee composed of four faculty members (cannot include your PI): Two BioE professors from your home campus (UCB or UCSF), one BioE professor from the other campus, and one professor outside the BioE department from their home campus.

Students need to schedule their qualifying exam date sometime before December of their third year. You can reserve a room in Stanley using QB3 webpage. For UCSF, you can reserve a room through the MyAccess portal.

Students are required to send the proposal of their research three weeks prior to the exam date.

On a qualifying exam date, students give oral presentations on their proposed research project. This usually takes an hour, and can be extended to 2-3 hours with in-depth questioning by committee members.

Advancement to Candidacy

Basic requirements to Advance to Candidacy include:

  1. Passing the qualifying examination.
  2. Maintaining the minimum 3.0 grade point average in all upper division and graduate coursework taken in graduate standing with no more than two courses having been graded as incomplete.
  3. Submission of Application to Candidacy form to the Graduate Division and payment of the candidacy fee ($90 check out of pocket for UCB (unless you have NSF, then attach a note saying so), $170 for UCSF but is covered by the department).
    1. Advancement to Candidacy Form (UCSF 2016)
    2. Advancing to Candidacy Application Form (Berkeley 2017)
      • (As of 2017 UCB is in the progress of changing their system, so check http://grad.berkeley.edu/academic-progress/forms/ for updates)

The Dissertation Committee members are similar to Qualifying Exam Committee members, except that your PI serves as the chair of the Dissertation Committee. More detailed requirements are listed below:

  • As a Berkeley-based student, your dissertation committee should be minimum two Berkeley faculty members (chair and outside member) and one UCSF faculty member (BioE professor).
  • All faculty who serve on a dissertation committee must be members of the academic senate (Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, Professor)
  • The chair of your dissertation committee is your PI, if you are co-advised, certainly you would place both faculty as co-chair.
  • The outside member (much like the qual) is a Berkeley-based faculty member who either holds an affiliate position in the Group (seen here http://bioegrad.berkeley.edu/faculty/affiliate) or is outside the Group entirely.
  • One can have more than three members on the dissertation committee if it makes sense academically — be mindful since more than three members can be complicated.


Filing your dissertation at Graduate Division Office is one of the final step toward the award of Ph.D. Your manuscript is a scholarly presentation of the results of the research you conducted. Your faculty committee supervises the intellectual content of your manuscript and your committee chair will guide you on the arrangement within the text and reference sections of your manuscript. Consult with your committee chair early in the preparation of your manuscript. Your manuscript will be published through the UC Berkeley Library.
Relevant Links:

Exit Seminar

Announce your exit seminar to the entire BEAST! Reserve a room in Stanley (QB3 webpage) or through Sarah-Jane at UCSF and send an e-mail to the BEAST e-mail list & put it on the BEAST calendar. Congratulations!

Relevant Documents

You may find other relevant paperwork under Department Paperwork (2nd Year Paperwork) or (3rd Year Paperwork) section.