University of Wisconsin Madison College of Engineering
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PhD Prelim and Final Examination


It is strongly recommended that the Preliminary Exam be taken within one year after passing the BME Qualifying Exam. It must be taken as soon as a student.s PhD research activities and goals are sufficiently well defined that a formal proposal can be compiled. It is unacceptable to take the exam after the research is effectively complete.


  • Immediately after successfully passing the Ph.D Qualifying Exam, each student should form her/his Ph.D. Thesis Committee, in consultation with their major professor(s). Composition to the Ph.D. Committee: The committee will have five faculty members with at least one member representing the biological or medical sciences. The chair should be a faculty member in BME (primary or affiliate). At least one member should be from outside of the BME faculty. At least one member must be a primary BME faculty. The Ph.D. committee chair should approve the other members of the committee. The make-up of the Ph.D. Thesis Committee must be on file in the BME Office by the end of the first regular semester after successful completion of the Ph.D Qualifying Exam.

  • The BME Office should be notified at least four weeks before the date of your Preliminary Exam so the appropriate paperwork can be processed.

  • Students must prepare a written thesis proposal and seek approval of this proposal from all members of the Ph.D. Thesis Committee. Since this requires all of the Ph.D. Thesis Committee members to read the Thesis Proposal, it is strongly recommended that the main content be concise. A suggested model is similar to either an NSF or NIH grant proposal format (no more than 15 pages, including figures and equations, but not references or title page). The document must be given to the committee a minimum of 1 week before the scheduled prelim exam.

  • The Thesis Proposal must be presented orally before all Thesis Committee members to judge the whether the proposed research is satisfactory. The Thesis Committee must approve the Thesis Proposal and approval must be reported to the BME Office before the student can apply for Dissertator Status. Formal approval will require the signature of every member of the Thesis Committee.

  • The scope of the proposed work will be evaluated during the preliminary exam. The scope should require a period of 18 months to complete, at a minimum, prior to a final defense.

  • Students may apply for Dissertator status any time after this approval is reported to the Program Office and all coursework requirements are satisfied.