A major aspect of graduate training is the completion of a dissertation research project. Students will spend the first year choosing a research laboratory and mentor with whom to perform the dissertation research. Once a mentor is chosen, research in the mentors laboratory will work toward establishing the proposed research project. Students and their mentors will develop a Research Advisory Committee that will serve to facilitate project development, enhance student mentoring, and evaluate student progress. At the end of year 2, students will be expected to pass a Qualifying Exam determining their mastery of the core curriculum and a Preliminary Exam that evaluates their research proposal. After this is complete, students are considered doctoral candidates. Students are also expected to submit their research proposal for funding both at the intramural and extramural level. After the didactic coursework in the first two years, students will continue research training during the remainder of their time in graduate school through the participation in journal clubs and seminars. Once the Research Advisory Committee has deemed that the student has produced a sufficient body of research to warrant a doctorate in Pathology and Translational Pathobiology, the student will complete a doctoral dissertation and defend the document in both a Private Defense with the Research Advisory Committee and a Public Defense with the local scientific community.
- Lab Rotations and Selection of a Major Professor
- Research Advisory Committee
- Qualifying Examination
- Preliminary Examination
- Grant Writing
- Journal Club and Seminars
- Doctoral Dissertation
During the first year of training, students will choose a major professor (faculty advisor) in whose laboratory they will perform their research training. Students recruited through the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program will be expected to perform laboratory rotations according to the descriptions for that program. For students recruited directly into the Pathology and Translational Pathobiology Graduate Program, students will be expected to perform research in faculty laboratories for their entire duration of graduate training including immediate initiation of laboratory rotations within the first week of graduate training. During this week, students will be introduced to departmental faculty and adjunct faculty in a daylong meeting in which the faculty will discuss the ongoing research projects available for doctoral students. Each student will select at least three faculty members for rotation in their respective laboratories; although students will be allowed to change these selections as the year progresses. Rotations must be scheduled with the faculty member(s) involved on an individual basis. Students must also notify the Graduate Program Director which faculty member will advise them during the rotation. Students will be expected to spend at least 10 weeks in each rotation. MD/PhD students may do one rotation in the summer after their first year of Medical School as part of the Medical Students Research Program.
The selection of the major professor (advisor) will be made by the student in a letter to Graduate Program Director. Students will choose their major advisor after completing their rotations and begin their dissertation research thereafter. Every effort will be made to place the student in the laboratory of his/her choice provided that the faculty member is agreeable and that space and funds are available to support the student and his/her research. The major advisor will be responsible for supporting the student’s research program and will be expected to cover the student’s stipend if research funds are available. This support should be at least equal to the present level of Graduate Student Stipends and cannot exceed the maximum stipend level set by the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and the Department Head. Students directly recruited into the graduate program by a faculty advisor may forego the requirement for laboratory rotations but must be financially supported by the faculty member immediately upon entering the graduate program.
Individual Development Plans
The students' progress will be evaluated annually by the faculty. The evaluation will be based on the Individual Development Plan (IDP), reports from the advisors, Research Advisory Committee Reports, grades in courses, and any other available information. Students must complete an IDP (forms are available from the School of Graduate Studies office) at the end of each spring semester, with the assistance of their mentors who contribute an evaluative paragraph. The student submits the IDP to the Research Division Director no later than June 30 of each year. A copy should be provided to the advisor and to the Graduate Program Director, who will place it in the student's file. Each student must meet with his/her committee shortly before submission of the IDP (spring semester meeting). If significant problems are identified in the Advisory Committee meeting, the Faculty may ask the student to meet with them for further evaluation. A decision will be made on the continuation of the student in the graduate program at the annual evaluation sessions. Feedback to the student, both positive and negative, will be given in the IDP by their Research Advisor.
After a student has chosen a major advisor, he/she should select a Research Advisory Committee. The Committee’s function will be to provide advice and support for the student’s education and research and to assist in formulating the Research Proposal. This committee should be formed as early as possible following selection of a major advisor. This will ensure that the committee members can adequately advise the student on the direction and development of the Research Proposal. The formal committee will be composed of five faculty members: the Major Advisor (Chair), two faculty members from the Department of Pathology and Translational Pathobiology, one faculty member whose primary appointment is in another LSUHSC-S department, and one faculty member who is outside LSUHSC-S. For the purposes of the Research Advisory Committee, faculty members with joint appointments in Pathology and Translational Pathobiology will be considered as departmental committee members. The composition of this Committee should be formalized by completing the “REQUEST TO ESTABLISH ADVISORY COMMITTEE” form and submitting it to the Graduate Program Director, who must approve the composition of the Committee. The members of the student’s Research Advisory Committee, including the Major Advisor, may be changed at any time up until successful completion of the Preliminary Examination/Research Proposal Defense with the approval of the Graduate Program Director. In addition to advising the student on coursework and research, the Research Advisory Committee will conduct the Preliminary Examination and final examination of the Doctoral Dissertation.
The purpose of the qualifying examination is to ensure that the student has gained adequate knowledge to support their future research endeavors in Pathology and Translational Pathobiology. This evaluation will be made after the students have completed the required letter grade curriculum at the end of the Spring semester in Year 2. All students who receive marks of “B” or higher in the required curriculum will not be subject to further examination and will be considered as having passed their qualifying exam. However, students receiving a “C” or lower in any required course will be subject to an oral Qualifying Exam providing remediation concerning the subject in question. Course directors and faculty involved in teaching the course will be consulted and, when necessary, included in the Qualifying Exam.
Failure of Qualifying Examinations
Students who fail the Qualifying Examination may be dismissed from the program, or may petition to repeat the examination. Failure of a second Qualifying Examination will result in dismissal of the student from the program. A student who fails has the option to apply for admission into the Master's program. Upon acceptance into the Master's Degree program, the student should provide written notification to the Office of Graduate Studies. The student must then complete any remaining coursework and then register for Master's Thesis credits. A Master's Degree will require research, a written Master's Thesis based on that research, and a successful defense of the thesis.
As a major component of a doctoral training program in academic research, students will be expected to prepare, present, and defend a research proposal describing the student's project. This proposal will be written in NIH R21 Grant Application format by the student and include Specific Aims, a discussion of the research background, significance, and innovation, sufficient preliminary data to justify the study, and a description of the rationale, research strategy, methods, expected outcomes, and potential pitfalls of the proposed research strategy. The purpose of the research proposal is for the student to define their doctoral research project, which will be the subject of the doctoral dissertation. The choice of the topic should result from experiments conducted by the student during their first two years and from discussions with the student's Advisor and Advisory Committee.
The Preliminary Examination consists of an Oral Examination in which the student presents and defends the written proposal and answers questions on any of a variety of topics posed by members of their Advisory Committee. Students must pass the Qualifying Process prior to initiating the Preliminary Exam. The Research Proposal must be submitted to the student’s Advisory Committee two weeks in advance of their Preliminary Exam. Although this Preliminary Examination will focus on the proposal, the student is expected to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of background information and to be capable of applying basic information from their coursework and the applicable scientific literature to answer questions on a variety of topics. The student and Advisor should note that the official “REQUEST FOR PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION” form must be completed two weeks in advance of the Preliminary Exam and submitted to the Graduate School Office. Please provide a copy of this form to the Graduate Program Director.
Since this proposal represents a research plan for the student's dissertation research project, the major role of the student's Advisory Committee is to offer suggestions and comments on the proposed research, to ensure the propriety of the project, and to make certain that the student is prepared to undertake the doctoral research. After the Preliminary Examination, the Advisory Committee must decide whether the student has satisfactorily completed the Preliminary Examination. The recommendations available to the Committee include: Pass; Remediation; or Fail.
- If the Advisory Committee votes that the student has passed the Preliminary Examination, the Advisor and members of the Advisory Committee shall recommend that the student be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree. An official form must be signed by all members of the Advisory Committee and the Department Head, and submitted to the Office of the Graduate School.
- If the Advisory Committee deems the oral presentation inadequate, then the Advisory Committee may recommend measures for remediation.
Immediately after the Preliminary Examination, the Faculty Advisor must complete and submit to the Research Division Director the form " REPORT OF PRELMINARY EXAMINATION.” The Research Division Director will submit this Report to the Dean. After approval by the Dean, copies of the Report will be distributed to members of the Advisory Committee, the student, and placed in the student's file.
All doctoral students are expected to submit an extramural fellowship application as part of their doctoral training. Students will be required to take the IDSP 235A: Grant Writing course and will be encouraged to attend the LSU Health Shreveport Grant Writing Series. It is expected that this grant application will be a version of the Research Proposal approved by the student’s Research Advisory Committee. Therefore, the student will have significant mentoring from the Pathology and Translational Pathobiology faculty during this process.
The Molecular Basis of Disease Journal Club serves to integrate basic science knowledge, translational models of disease progression, and clinical assessment of disease diagnosis, progression, and treatment. Held in both the Fall and Spring semester, this journal club allows students keep abreast of recent contributions to the research literature, learn how to critically evaluate experimental data, and hone public speaking skills. The Pathology and Translational Pathobiology Journal Club is held on Thursdays (except the second Thursday of the month) at 12:00 noon in the Pathology Conference room (2-301). All graduate students are required to present at least one article in the Journal Club per year, and students planning to graduate during the academic year must present a journal club before their scheduled defense date. First year students typically present in the spring semester and should consult a faculty member for guidance in selecting and presenting their journal club topic. Pathology residents are also required to present in this journal club once per year, which enhances the clinical and translational nature of the topics and discussion. Faculty and Postdoctoral Fellows are strongly encouraged to participate and present in the Journal Club as well. Students and residents will complete a one-page evaluation of the trainee presentation, which are provided to the student and faculty advisor to review. Following the Journal Club presentation, students meet with one or more faculty members of the Journal Club Evaluation Committee, who evaluate their presentation and provide constructive criticism.
The Pathology and Translational Pathobiology seminar program consists of 1) the Pathology Seminar Series and Grand Rounds and 2) the Special Topics in Pathology Research focus group meetings. Each of these events provides different but complementary benefit to graduate student training.
Pathology Seminar Series and Grand Rounds
The Pathology Seminar Series hosts a variety of renowned extramural speakers from around the country. This monthly seminar held on the second Thursday of every month from August to May provides students with access to leaders in their field and exposure to cutting-edge technology within their discipline. As part of this series, students and postdoctoral fellows have lunch with the seminar speaker after their talk. This meeting teaches students to be able to quickly communicate their research and provides an excellent networking opportunity for the student to make useful connections to enhance their career development.
In Pathology Grand Rounds, doctoral students will be exposed to a variety of clinical and basic science presentations on disease diagnosis and pathogenesis. These presentations, given by departmental faculty, local faculty from other departments, and external faculty, cover a broad array of topics. Pathology Grand Rounds are held every Friday at noon, and students be required to attend at least one Grand Rounds presentation per month as part of the Seminar Series requirement. As part of their research training, students will be expected to give a presentation in Pathology Grand Rounds once per year. These Grand Rounds Seminars will further the student’s training in how to present and discuss experimental data and hone their skills as scientists and teachers.
Special Topics in Pathology Research
All Pathology and Translational Pathobiology research faculty belong to one or more research focus groups, such as the Vascular Biology and Inflammation Focus Group, the Cardiac Biology Focus Group, the Neurovascular Biology and Stroke Focus Group, and the Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease Focus Group. These groups meet either weekly or fortnightly to discuss ongoing research activities by the group members. These meetings provide an excellent training platform, in which faculty, postdoctoral researchers, and graduate students meet and discuss research findings and new developments in the field. It is an important component of a training program for the predoctoral and postdoctoral student and is a special opportunity for the graduate student to demonstrate his/her abilities as a teacher and biomedical scientist, to learn to present and discuss experimental data, and to think on his/her feet. Students will be expected to present their research findings in one of these forums at least once per year.
The dissertation research must be a significant contribution to the field and is expected to generate original findings that address a fundamental question. It is expected that the major substance of the study will be published in a reputable journal and that the student will present his/her research findings at local, regional, national, or international meetings of scientific societies in the student's field. Students must have at least one first author publication in a reputable journal prior to submitting their doctoral dissertation to their Advisory Committee.
Preparation and Defense of the Doctoral Dissertation
The dissertation is prepared by the student with the guidance of their Advisor and Advisory Committee. Upon completion of the dissertation, the student should provide copies of the dissertation to all members of the Advisory Committee. After an appropriate period of approximately two weeks, the student's Advisor will contact each member of the Advisory Committee and determine whether the member feels the dissertation is completed to a degree that will allow scheduling of the Dissertation Defense and Final Examination. If two or more members of the Advisory Committee feel the dissertation is incomplete and/or of a quality unsuitable to schedule the Defense, the Committee will meet and make specific recommendations necessary to improve the dissertation prior to scheduling the Dissertation Defense and Final Examination.
In order to schedule the Dissertation Defense and Final Examination, the student's Advisor must complete the form "REQUEST FOR DISSERTATION/THESIS DEFENSE AND FINAL EXAMINATION" and submit this form and a copy of the Dissertation Abstract to the Research Division Director, who will review the information, sign the form, and submit the documents to the Dean. The Dean must receive the approved form and Dissertation Abstract two weeks prior to the date of the private Defense and Final Examination with the Advisory Committee.
The private Dissertation Defense and Final Examination will focus on the dissertation research and the dissertation itself. The student is expected to answer questions about the work, defend the validity of the conclusions, discuss suggestions for revisions to improve clarity, etc. At the discretion of the Advisory Committee, the Defense and Final Examination may include questions from the major or minor fields in general, but this is not the usual situation.
After the student has answered questions concerning the dissertation, the Committee will discuss the dissertation and revisions that may be necessary and vote whether the student has passed the Final Examination. Voting to accept the dissertation (with all recommended revisions) will be by ballot with no more than one negative vote permitted. Each member of the Advisory Committee should sign the DISSERTATION/THESIS DEFENSE FINAL EXAMINATION REPORT ONLY if they judge that the dissertation (or thesis) meets the high standards for the PhD degree and that the student has satisfactorily defended the document. In the Department of Pathology and Translational Pathobiology, the private Defense Examination should occur before scheduling the final public Dissertation Seminar. Once the student has passed the private Defense examination, flyers announcing the public Dissertation Seminar may be prepared and distributed.
If the dissertation is not acceptable and/or the student is judged to have failed the examination, the Advisory Committee is expected to inform the student in writing of the reasons for the failure. A copy of this letter is provided to the Head of the Department and to the Dean of the Graduate School. The Advisory Committee, the Department Head, and the full-time graduate faculty members of the Department will meet to discuss the final disposition of any student who fails the Dissertation Defense and Final Examination. The Advisory Committee may vote to re-schedule a second Dissertation Defense/Final Examination if major revisions and/or additional experimentation are required. In this case, the student is to be informed in writing of the deficiencies and of the work that must be accomplished before a second Defense and Final Examination may be scheduled. This information must be included in the letter given to the Head of the Department and to the Dean.
Final Research Seminar
Once the student has passed the Dissertation Defense/Final Examination and the dissertation has been accepted by the Advisory Committee, the student is required to present a final research seminar open to all faculty, students, and staff. The purpose of this seminar is to allow the student to present the overall view of his/her doctoral research and to demonstrate to new and intermediate level graduate students as well as to other members of the Health Sciences Center the high quality of research expected for the doctoral degree. It is expected that this Final Research Seminar will be a joyous occasion and often a farewell for the graduate student who will be departing to continue his/her research career. When the student has passed the Dissertation Defense/Final Examination and presented the Final Research Seminar, they will be certified to the Graduate Faculty, the Dean, and the Chancellor as having met all requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Pathology and Translational Pathobiology. The Research Division Director will submit the signed "DISSERTATION/THESIS DEFENSE FINAL EXAMINATION REPORT" to the Dean.