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PhD in Medical Sciences

Students in the Ph.D. Program in the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences  receive training in the broad fields of Craniofacial Biology or Stomatology or Dental Materials. This training includes the advanced study of cell and molecular mechanisms, experimental studies, and clinical studies of development, growth, aging, function, disease, and treatment.

Work leading to the degree of doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) is designed to give the candidate a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of a professional field and training in methods of research. The final basis for granting the degree is the candidate's mastery of the subject matter of a broad field of study and the demonstrated ability to do independent research. In addition, the candidate must acquire the ability to express thoughts clearly in both oral and written language.

Minimum Requirements

The minimum requirements for the Ph.D. degree in the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences include the successful completion of: 1) basic core courses or equivalents, 2) additional elective courses, 3) preliminary examinations, and 4) a dissertation. Students must maintain a grade-point average of 3.0 on a scale of 0 to 4.0. A minimum of 96 semester credit-hours plus dissertation are required for graduation. Students entering with a D.D.S. or other advanced degrees from American institutions may transfer up to 32 credits toward this credit-hour requirement if approved by the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee.  Those entering from the M.S. Program in the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry may receive credit for all courses taken as part of the M.S. program if approved by the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee.


See residence policy at the following link:

Curriculum and Credit Requirements

Course requirements for the degree consist of a total of 96 semester hours, which will be made up of required courses, electives, research, special problems, and directed readings. Since many students enter the program with advanced standing, some required courses may be waived, depending on their academic background. Hours of Dissertation (BMS 5V99) have no set maximum or minimum and are included as part of the required 96 hours.

Full-time students are expected to complete the majority of their didactic course work during the first two and a half years of residence. For students entering with advanced standing, the course work should be largely completed midway through the second year.

Required Courses

  •  Responsible Conduct in Biomedical Research (BMS 5126)

  •  Seminar: Current Issues in Biomedical Science (BMS 5190) (attendance is required during each semester in residence, but the course may be taken a maximum of two times for credit)

  • Research Design and Methodology (5221)

  • Applied Biostatistics (5222)

The choice of any one of the following course sequences. (Courses at other Dallas-area colleges and universities, such as the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, may be used as alternatives to these sequences if approved by the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee.)

  • Cellular and Molecular Biology of Oral and Craniofacial Tissues I (BMS 5V40), and II (5V42);  Techniques in Cell and Molecular Biology (BMS 5341), and one of the following: Growth and Mechanism of Development (5V69), Advanced Human  Craniofacial Development and Anomalies (5V73) and Physical Growth and Maturation (5V75)

  • Two of the three following courses: Biochemistry of Proteins and Nucleic Acids (BMS 5632), Molecular Biology (BMS 5633), or Cell Biology (BMS 5634)

  • Choice of any three of the following courses or course sequences. (This requirement may be waived for students with advanced standing)

  •  Neuroscience (BMS 5301)

  • General Histology (BMS 5402)

  • Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology (BMS 5307)

  • Microbiology (BMS 5208)

  • Mammalian Physiology (BMS 5611)

  • Immunology (BMS 5251)

Specific concentrations (e.g., Craniofacial Biology and Stomatology) have additional requirements that depend on the interests and proposed research plans of the student.

Elective Courses

Students must take elective courses from those offered as part of the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences, depending on the student's concentration. Courses from other departments may also satisfy this requirement, based on approval of the student's advisor and the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee. Depending on the proposed area of research, students may also be required to take advanced-level courses at other institutions of higher education within the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, such as the University of Texas at Dallas, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and University of Texas at Arlington.

Credit for reading courses, laboratory rotations, research, and dissertation preparation is arranged on an individual basis.

The choice of elective courses will be determined on an individual basis through consultation between the student and their mentor(s) (i.e., Graduate-research Advisor and Clinical Program Director, as appropriate). The Graduate Program Committee must provide final approval of each student's degree plan for their Ph.D. program.

Advanced Standing

Students entering the Ph.D. Program in the Graduate Program in Medical Sciences who have completed graduate courses in the basic sciences, typically as part of a predoctoral dental curriculum, may not be required to take a substantial portion of the required curriculum, depending on their specific background. Advanced standing may be given for up to 32 of the 96 credit hours required for the degree.  See TAMU graduate catalog for further information: 

Initial Advisors

After receiving admission to the graduate program and prior to enrolling for course work, the student must consult with the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Director, who will serve as the student's initial advisor. The Graduate Program Director will help the student select course work and will suggest other faculty with whom the student may consult in order to secure a permanent advisor (mentor).

Each student is required to meet with their advisor/mentor and the Graduate Program Director prior to the beginning of each semester to discuss the course work for the upcoming semester and progress toward the degree. The Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee will review the progress of each student on a regular basis.

In some cases, an advisory committee may be appointed for the student to facilitate construction of the student's degree plan. The committee will be appointed by the Graduate Program Committee and will most often consist of the student's proposed mentor, the Graduate Program Director, and one or two other members. Advisory committees will be assigned by the Graduate Program Committee and will typically be used when: 1) the student proposes a mentor who is an adjunct faculty member, a part-time faculty member, or a faculty member who does not have much familiarity with the graduate program, or 2) the student's proposed program is interdisciplinary and could benefit from the input of multiple faculty advisors.

In the case of students pursuing concurrent Ph.D. training and clinical certification, a Dentist/Scientist Committee will be appointed by the Graduate Program Committee. The Dentist/Scientist Committee will consist of the student's mentor/advisor and the Biomedical Sciences Program Director and the Clinical Graduate Program Director. Other members may also be appointed by the BMS Graduate Program Committee. Meetings of the Dentist/Scientist Committee will be held at least once a year to review the student's progress. Meetings will be organized by the student and the mentor. Additional meetings may be held at the request of the student or mentor, or if any issues affecting progress develop. If necessary, the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies will attend the meetings of the Dentist/Scientist Committee to help coordinate the clinical and basic science components of the program.


By no later than the third semester of residence and preferably by the end of the second semester of residence, each student should select a mentor from among the graduate faculty who will be responsible for helping the student formulate a degree plan. For students entering with a year of advanced standing, a mentor should be selected by the end of the second semester of residence. The Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry graduate faculty member (mentor) who assumes responsibility for coordinating the student's thesis research will be a regular faculty member of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. In some circumstances, a mentor from outside the Program may be permitted with the approval of the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee. In such cases, a Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry faculty member who is a member of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences will be appointed as a co-mentor and will serve as the student's advocate who will advise the student in meeting the degree requirements.

The qualities of a good mentor are numerous. The mentor must: 1) produce scholarly activity and be able to establish a close rapport with the graduate student to facilitate excellence in research; 2) have a substantial background in the methodology for the proposed project and be able to guide the student in formulating a credible scientific design; and 3) have time for research and for counsel and supervision of students. Consequently, a mentor typically cannot accommodate more than a relatively small number of students, usually a maximum of three (including both M.S. and Ph.D.) at any particular time.

Initial Degree Plan

The student, in consultation with their mentor, will develop an initial degree plan to be submitted to the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Director by the end of the third semester of residence. For students entering with advanced standing, this document should be prepared and submitted as early as possible. 

The degree plan must contain: 1) a listing of completed and ongoing coursework, 2) an approximate listing of future coursework, 3) a statement of the student's overall research area, and 4) a possible specific area for dissertation research. The Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee will review this document and make suggestions for changes, as appropriate.  The degree plan is submitted to the registrar and will be checked for completeness before a student graduates.

In the case of students pursuing concurrent Ph.D. and clinical training, the student's clinical advisor (Clinical Program Director) must also approve the degree plan prior to submission to the Graduate Program Committee. If necessary, the Clinical Graduate Program Director and the student's mentor will be invited to attend the meeting of the Graduate Program Committee where the degree plan is reviewed. The student should also be available during such meetings in case consultation is requested by the Committee. 

Final Degree Plan and Preliminary Examinations

The student, in consultation with their mentor and Advisory Committee, must prepare a final degree plan that includes a plan for preliminary examinations. This plan should be submitted to the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee by the end of the fifth semester of residence. For students entering with advanced standing, it is expected that this document will be prepared and submitted in the second year of residence.

The final degree plan will include: 1) an update of completed and ongoing course work and a listing of any future course work; 2) descriptions and rationale for two preliminary exams  in  the cognate areas of study; 3) a listing of the faculty member(s) responsible for each cognate examination; 4) a brief description of the dissertation topic comprising the major area of study; 5) a listing of the members of the dissertation committee; and 6) a tentative schedule for completing the preliminary examinations. The BMS Graduate Program Committee, in conjunction with the mentor, approves or suggests modifications. 

In the case of students pursuing concurrent Ph.D. and clinical training, the clinical advisor (Clinical Program Director) must approve the final degree plan prior to submission to the BMS Graduate Program Committee.

Students are encouraged to begin the process of taking their preliminary examinations as early in their program as possible, usually by the fifth semester of residence, or the third semester for students with advanced standing. The examinations should be completed by the end of the seventh semester of residence, or earlier for students with advanced standing. These schedules will be delayed for students pursuing dual training programs.

Preliminary Cognate Examinations

Each student will select two Preliminary Cognate areas for examination that are conceptually linked to the major area of study (dissertation topic), but that rely on distinct research technologies and different research literature. The topic areas should be highly specific, and each should focus on a singular research topic. Two different faculty members with advanced knowledge of these fields, other than the student's mentor, will be chosen by the student to conduct each cognate preliminary examination.  The student will assemble an annotated bibliography of 50-100 or more references for each specific topic. Upon satisfactory completion of each bibliography, as determined by the supervising faculty members, an examination consisting of a series of questions to be completed as a take-home or open-book examination. The time period for completion of each preliminary take-home examination is not to exceed one week. If deficiencies are found in the examination, the faculty may elect to require written or oral clarification of the answers. This additional portion of the preliminary examination must be completed within two weeks. The faculty evaluating each examination will consolidate their results and report them to the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee on the TAMU preliminary examination form.

As an option to the take-home examination, a student with the permission of the faculty advisors may elect to produce a review paper.  This paper should be of sufficient quality to be submitted for publication.

Major Examinations

The major preliminary examination is based on the dissertation proposal. The student prepares a research proposal according to the  NIH R01 grant format. The student's Dissertation Committee reads and approves this proposal and, after approval using the form "Proposal for Thesis/Dissertation"  gives the student an oral examination. The examiners consist ofmembers of the Dissertation Committee, and if necessary, other faculty members appointed by the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee. The format of the oral exam consists of a brief presentation (15 to 30 minutes) of the proposal, followed by questioning by the committee.  The questions are based on the content of the dissertation proposal, but may also be more wide-ranging to include topics from the broader area of the student's proposed research. The student's mentor synthesizes the opinion of the examining faculty regarding the proposal and the oral examination, and reports the results on the proposal evaluation form.   The mentor also reports any dissenting opinions. In case of disagreements, a simple majority vote is used to achieve resolution.  The results of the oral examination will be reported with the outcome of the dissertation defense.

Admission to Candidacy

After the student satisfactorily completes the residency requirements, all formal course work (excluding Dissertation), the two preliminary examinations, and the dissertation proposal, the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Committee advances the student to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. Failure of any portion of the program may require additional work, retaking of examinations, or in some cases, dismissal from the program.


The dissertation must represent a substantial contribution to research in the chosen area, as assessed by the student’s Dissertation Committee.  The written dissertation needs to be in the format described by TAMU.  The subject area should be determined by he Dissertation Committee, but there must be a minimum of two substantive papers and preferably three paper submitted for publication.  Articles must be in the review process, although their final acceptance is not required prior to the dissertation defense. 

Dissertation Proposal

In consultation with the mentor and Dissertation Committee, the student will develop a dissertation proposal. The dissertation proposal will follow the standard format for graduate research proposals at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. Forms are available in the Graduate Program Office and in the Office of the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies. Prior to the beginning of dissertation research, the required documentation indicating approval of the dissertation proposal in final form must be signed by each member of the Dissertation Committee. This form is entitled “Proposal for Thesis/Dissertation.  Complete copies of the approved proposal and signed documentation must be submitted to the Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program Office and the Office of the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies. If the dissertation research involves human or animal subjects, an approved form from the Institutional Review Board for Human Subjects or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee protocol number must be listed on the approved form.

Dissertation Committee

The Dissertation Committee assures that the student has an adequate background in essential methodology and pertinent literature.  The mentor serves as the chair of the dissertation committee, which must consist of a minimum of three Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry faculty members who are members of the Texas A&M Graduate faculty and at least one graduate faculty member from another department or component of Texas A&M University or from another institution. Because the committee members must be available for meetings and consultation with the student, full-time faculty members are preferable.  All members of the committee need to be Associate, Adjunct, Special or Full Graduate faculty members.

The first function of the Dissertation Committee is to help plan the proposed research project. During the progress of the research and the writing of the thesis, committee members provide guidance to the student to maintain the quality of the work.

Dissertation Defense

A copy of the dissertation in the final approved format must be submitted to the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, along with a form stating that the chair of the student's Dissertation Committee (mentor) has approved the final version, not less than one week before the dissertation defense. If changes are required that cannot be accomplished in the time available, the dissertation defense will be rescheduled.

Upon completion of the dissertation and approval by the dissertation committee, the student schedules a formal dissertation defense, which consists of two parts. The first part is a formal presentation of the dissertation research in seminar format to Baylor College of Dentistry. This public research presentation will take place at a convenient time so that any interested individuals from inside or outside the school may attend and ask questions of the candidate. At the conclusion of the seminar and audience questions, all non-committee members are excused, and the candidate submits to a formal defense of the dissertation by the Dissertation Committee. If the committee decides that the candidate has satisfactorily passed the defense and completed the dissertation, the candidate will have completed all requirements for the Ph.D. If the dissertation committee thinks that there are deficiencies in the dissertation, changes, corrections and (in some cases) additional research may be required.

The completed dissertation must be signed by the chair of the Dissertation Committee (mentor), all committee members, the Director of the Graduate Program in Biomedical Sciences, and the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies.  The final dissertation will be electronically submitted to the OGAPS office for final approval.

Time Limit

All requirements for the Ph.D. degree must be completed within a period of 10 consecutive calendar years. The student may request with cause that the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies grant a one-year (only) extension.  Graduate credit for course work more than ten calendar years old at the time of the final oral examination may not be used to satisfy degree requirements.

The final corrected copies of the dissertation or record of study must be accepted by the OGAP .

Last edited by: jsantacruz 03/11/2015

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