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

All relevant paperwork can be found in Academic Resources of your particular year, or under Required Forms and Documentation.

Qualifying Exam

In this examination, students demonstrate their ability to recognize and attack research problems of fundamental importance, to propose appropriate theoretical, experimental or computational approaches to address these problems, and to display comprehensive knowledge of their disciplinary area and related subjects.

By the end of second year, students are expected to form a qualifying exam committee composed of four faculty members (cannot include your PI): 

  • Chair: Core Member from the student’s home campus
  • Member 2: Core Member from the other campus
  • Member 3: Core Member from either campus
  • Member 4: Outside Member (non-core member) from the student’s 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 which should be covered by your PI

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:

  • 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 usually your PI. If you are co-advised, you may place both faculty as co-chair. Some other PhD programs consider placing your PI as chair as a conflict of interest, and are encouraged to choose a different mentor as their Dissertation Chair.
  • The outside member faculty member from your home campus who either holds an affiliate position in the Group (non-core) 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 complicate scheduling.

Remember, the committee should serve the needs of the student. As projects proceed in new directions, perspective changes, or the student feels the committee is not meeting his/her needs, the composition of the committee can be changed by the student in consultation with the graduate advisor and dissertation advisor.



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.
Relevant Links:

When requesting a title page at the respective Graduate Division, it is necessary to identify oneself as being part of the inter-campus group in order to have both campuses listed on the title page and diploma. A copy of the dissertation must be turned into the Group office at the student’s Home Campus upon completion.


Exit Seminar

Announce your exit seminar to the entire BEAST! You can reserve a room in Stanley using QB3 webpage or with Rocio. For UCSF-based students, you can reserve a room through the MyAccess portal. Send an e-mail to the BEAST e-mail list & put it on the BEAST calendar. Congratulations!