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Requirements and Timetable for PhD in Mathematics

This document covers the period after the completion of the comprehensive exam requirements or Preliminary Research Project.


1. Doctoral Candidacy Status

Candidacy status is an important attainment for doctoral students. The condition for granting candidacy status by the Graduate College is the approval of a dissertation proposal by the student's advisory committee. The Department of Mathematics requires in addition that the student pass a qualifying exam before approval of the dissertation proposal. Students are expected to attain candidacy status within two years of completing the comprehensive exam requirements. The advisory committee plays a key role in guiding students through this process.


2. Composition of the Advisory Committee

The doctoral advisory committee shall consist of at least four members of the OSU Graduate Faculty. Roles of the committee members are: chair, advisor, expert member, and outside member.


The chair must hold an OSU faculty appointment. Normally the chair is a faculty member in the department. The chair's duties include convening meetings of the advisory committee as appropriate and ensuring compliance with policies, procedures, and requirements. If the chair is not the advisor, s/he should serve as a liaison with the advisor with regard to progress in fulfillment of the degree requirements.

The advisor's primary duty is to mentor the student in regard to the conduct of research that is original and publishable. The advisor must be a member of the Graduate Faculty but need not hold an OSU faculty appointment.

The outside member of the committee serves as a representative of the Graduate College and ensures a high level of integrity in the procedures used by the committee to review and evaluate students.


The other members of the committee should be experts in research areas closely related to the work to be conducted by the student.

In decisions resulting from a vote of the advisory committee (e.g., qualifying exam, dissertation proposal, dissertation defense, approving a dissertation), a pass requires that the advisor vote in the affirmative and that no more than one member of the committee dissent.  


3. Forming the Advisory Committee

Students are encouraged to begin looking for an advisor before completing the comprehensive exam requirements. The dissertation advisor will usually suggest which individuals should be asked to serve on the advisory committee and will guide the student after the completion of the comprehensive exam requirements.

Within one semester of fulfilling the comprehensive exam requirements, students should complete the departmental Advisory Committee form (available here) and give it to the graduate coordinator. (Students should also complete and submit the Graduate College's Committee Change Request form as appropriate.)  


4. First Conference of the Committee: Qualifying Exam Preparation

The advisory committee and the student shall hold a conference in preparation for the qualifying exam, which covers the area of the student's research specialization. The advisor should prepare for the conference a draft syllabus for the exam. During the conference, the advisory committee shall 

  1. revise as appropriate the student's plan of study
  2. approve a written detailed qualifying exam syllabus, consisting of research papers and portions of books
  3. set a date for the qualifying exam. 

The syllabus shall be given to the student at least two months prior to the qualifying exam. A copy of the revised plan of study and the qualifying exam syllabus should be given to the graduate coordinator shortly after the meeting. The revised plan of study must be submitted to the Graduate College. 


5. Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the qualifying exam is to test the student in the area of specialization in order to determine readiness to write a dissertation in that area. The exam should be taken when the student has mastered a significant body of material related to the area of specialization. Before taking this exam the student must have an approved plan of study on file.


The exam is conducted by the advisory committee and must be based on the syllabus agreed to by the advisory committee. Part of the exam must be oral. Normally the chair of the committee leads the examination process. After the committee determines the result of the exam, it should record the result using the departmental Qualifying Exam Report form (available here) and give that form to the graduate coordinator.


If the student fails this exam the advisory committee shall notify the student of the conditions under which a second exam may be taken. If the student fails to meet the conditions imposed by the advisory committee, or if s/he fails the second exam, then the Graduate Committee may dismiss the student from the program. Appeals to such dismissal must be filed in writing with the Graduate Committee within 10 working days of the dismissal.  


6. Second Conference of the Advisory Committee: Dissertation Proposal

After the student passes the qualifying exam, the advisory committee shall meet to consider for approval a dissertation proposal prepared by the student. This meeting may be held in conjunction with the qualifying exam. The committee should ensure that the research topic undertaken is appropriate to satisfy the degree requirements.

The committee may require an oral presentation by the student. In any case the student should be present to answer questions.

The committee should discuss the extent to which the student will be permitted to use in the dissertation results of papers published (or to be published) with others. The dissertation proposal should identify any portions of the research project that are planned as joint work with others.  


7. Admission to Candidacy

Upon approval of the dissertation proposal the committee must file a doctoral candidacy form with the Graduate College. A copy of this form should be given to the graduate coordinator. Admission to candidacy status must occur at least six months prior to the date of the final dissertation defense.


8. Language Exam Requirement

Foreign language requirements for doctoral students depend on the area of specialization.


Applied Mathematics

The advisory committee of a student in applied mathematics must be satisfied that the student has a strong working ability with a computer language or symbolic computation. A statement to this effect should be approved by the committee and given to the graduate coordinator.


Mathematics Education

There is no foreign language requirement for the Ph.D degree with specialization in mathematics education; however, it is expected that students in mathematics education exhibit a strong working ability in calculator and computer-assisted instruction, which is then documented in their professional development portfolio.


Pure Mathematics

Candidates for the Ph.D degree in pure mathematics must pass a written exam to demonstrate reading knowledge of a foreign language. This exam should be passed before the student takes the qualifying exam. Usually the language is French, German, or Russian. Other options, including demonstrating a working ability with a computer language or symbolic computation, may be substituted subject to the recommendation of the student's advisory committee and the approval of the Graduate Committee.

The language exam consists of the translation into English, with dictionary allowed, of a suitable passage from a mathematics paper or book in the language. The passage is to be about 300 words in length excluding any symbolic expressions, and the exam period is one hour.


Language exams are scheduled by the Graduate Committee at the request of the student. A form for reporting the results on the exam is available here. A completed copy of the report form should be given to the graduate coordinator after the exam is graded. 


9. Dissertation

A doctoral dissertation is required. It should present, in a self-contained manner, the results of research which makes a new and original contribution to knowledge in mathematics or, for students specializing in mathematics education, in mathematics education. The results should have the quality of work publishable in peer-reviewed journals. 


10. Dissertation Defense and Approval

The student must take a final oral exam defending the dissertation. The advisory committee acts as the exam committee. As the date for the exam approaches, the student should periodically provide drafts of the dissertation to the committee. The student must provide a final draft of the dissertation to members of the advisory committee at least three weeks before the dissertation defense.


The dissertation presentation should be announced on the department's bulletin board and electronically. The presentation is open to all faculty members and graduate students in the Department of Mathematics, all members of the OSU Graduate Faculty, and anyone else who obtains the permission of the committee.


The dissertation defense begins with a formal lecture by the student on the results of the dissertation. Questions by all those present are allowed. After the public portion of the defense is completed, the advisory committee may question the student further. Then the student shall be excused, and the committee shall determine the result of the exam on the basis of the oral defense. The committee must submit the dissertation defense form to the Graduate College and should give a copy to the graduate coordinator.


If the student fails this exam, the advisory committee shall determine whether and under what conditions a second exam may be taken. If the student fails to meet the conditions imposed by the advisory committee, or fails a second exam, then the Graduate Committee may dismiss the student from the program. Appeals to such dismissal must be filed in writing with the Graduate Committee within 10 working days of the dismissal.


If the student passes this exam, the advisory committee shall determine whether to approve the dissertation itself and what revisions are necessary before the dissertation can be submitted to the Graduate College. The dissertation must conform to the guidelines for dissertation preparation established by the Graduate College. The student must make any changes in the dissertation required by the committee and by the Graduate College and submit the dissertation in final form signed by the committee to the Graduate College.


The student's successful defense of the dissertation and submission of the dissertation in acceptable form complete the doctoral program.


11. Time Limits

Students making reasonable academic progress and fulfilling their assigned duties in an acceptable manner are normally supported for six years.


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