West Virginia University Logo

1st Year Handbook

Download the PDF Version of the Handbook





I. Introduction

II. Office of Research and Graduate Education

III. Entry into the First Year of BSGP

IV. Orientation

V. Curriculum

A. Core Courses

1. Fall Semester
2. Spring Semester
3. Summer Session

B. Transfer of Graduate Credits/Courses
C. Other Program Activities

1. Seminars and Journal Club
2. Individual Development Plan (IDP)

D. Registration

VI. Selection of Faculty Dissertation Mentor and Graduate Program

A. Selection of Faculty Dissertation Mentor
B. Selection of a Graduate Program
C. Selection of the Dissertation Advisory Committee

VII. Work Schedule, Sick Leave, Vacation, and Leave of Absence Policy

A. Work Schedule
B. Sick Leave
C. Vacation
D. Leave of Absence

VIII. Academic and Professional Standards

A. Academic Standards

1. Standards
2. Grading System and Reporting of Grades

B. Professional Standards

1. Academic Integrity
2. Scientific Integrity
3. Scientific Citizenship
4. Professional Interactions

C. Graduate Programs Committee on Academic and Professional Standards (GP-CAPS)

1. GP-CAPS Membership
2. Student Review and Appeals Policy

IX. Financial Packages and Fees

A. Stipend & Tuition Coverage
B. Student Health Insurance
C. Fees

X. Graduation Requirements

A. Successful Completion of the Ph.D. Degree
B. Full-Time Student Status
C. Ph.D. Examinations and Defense

1. Qualifying (preliminary) Examination
2. Dissertation Proposal Defense (candidacy exam)
3. Dissertation Defense

D. Time Limit to Degree
E. Exit Interview
F. Investiture/Commencement


I. Introduction

This handbook developed by the Health Science Center Office of Research and Graduate Education outlines the activities, requirements, and standards for students in their first year of graduate education for a PhD in the Biomedical sciences.  The Biomedical Sciences Graduate Programs (BSGP) include 7 degree-granting PhD programs:

  1. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
  2. Cancer Cell Biology
  3. Cell and Integrative Physiology
  4. Exercise Physiology
  5. Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis
  6. Neuroscience
  7. Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences

Students are admitted via a common admissions committee and process. Prior to selecting and entering into a specific degree-granting program, the students take a core curriculum providing a general knowledge base for further study in these programs, and rotate through at least 3 laboratories in order to select a mentor for his/her dissertation research.

As an undifferentiated student, you will take a core curriculum providing a general knowledge base for further study in these programs, and you will rotate through at least 3 laboratories in order to select a mentor for your dissertation research, and ultimately select a program that will guide you through the remainder of your graduate education.

At the end of this first semester, students will have learned to:

  • Integrate molecular, cellular, and integrative systems concepts
  • Critically interpret the current scientific literature
  • Develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills

Demonstrate technical skills in conducting scientific experimentation

  • Articulate, verbally and in writing, the understanding of concepts during scientific discussions
  • Discuss relevant scientific ethical issues presented as case studies
  • Engage with fellow students and faculty and demonstrate teamwork

This handbook governs the student's activities while in the undifferentiated portion of the graduate program as well as global policies and useful information common to all graduate programs.  If this information needs to be amended students and faculty will be informed in writing of the change and will be governed by the new information.  The information in this handbook supplements the information that can be found in the WVU Graduate Catalog.  This catalog can be found online at:  http://catalog.wvu.edu/graduate/.  Students and faculty are responsible for the information in both the catalog and this handbook. The graduate catalog contains allowances for programs to have more specific or stringent standards. In those cases, this Handbook supersedes the Graduate Catalog. Once the student transitions into his/her dissertation laboratory and joins one of the 7 Biomedical graduate programs, a program specific handbook will be provided that will supplement this handbook.

II. Office of Research & Graduate Education

The Assistant VP for Graduate Education, and staff assistants in the HSC Office of Research & Graduate Education. The following will interact with you most on programmatic issues. Please meet the others on our website: http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/resoff/home/

Laura F. Gibson, PhD

Senior Associate VP for Research and Graduate Education

(304) 293-7206


Lisa M. Salati, PhD

Assistant VP Graduate Education

(304) 293-7759


Joseph Andria
Program Specialist

Program Coordinator

(304) 293-4437


Penny Phillips

Administrative Assistant 

(304) 293-6231


NOTE: The University and our Office will communicate with students only via WVU MIX email address. We will not use other email addresses. The MIX account must be activated. If the student does not on exclusively using his/her MIX email account then the email must be configured to forward to the preferred account. Periodic checking of the MIX account will not suffice and students will be accountable for any missed communications. MIX email addresses do not expire. It is recommended that students continue to keep this account active after graduation for receipt of information related to their status as alumni.

III. Entry into the First Year of the BSGP

All students interested in a PhD in one of the 7 BSGPs applies via a common application and a common admissions committee reviews the application.  The admission’s committee is composed of representatives from each of the 7 BSGPs and a graduate student representative.  Applications are screened on the basis of overall GPA, GPA in science and math courses, GRE scores, personal statement, research experience, and letters of recommendation.  Applicants who have a breadth of coursework in chemistry, biology, and math through calculus are given preference.  Qualified applicants are interviewed prior to a final decision on acceptance.

IV. Orientation

Graduate studies start with a seven-day program known as Boot Camp that prepares them to successfully transition into graduate studies, provides time to interact personally and at social events with faculty and resident students, and for team building activity. The objectives of the Boot Camp experience are for the student to be able to:

  1. Decipher the experimental design of a journal article
  2. Present a figure from a journal article
  3. Actively participate in a journal club
  4. Describe expectations on performance in research
  5. Use Ref works and obtain journal articles when not within the WVU computing system
  6. Use the NCBI website to do basic searches for genetic information
  7. Handle experimental animals and operate in the animal quarters in compliance of federal and WVU rules
  8. Describe the steps that go into using human samples, tissues and subjects in Biomedical research
  9. Use SOLE to obtain course information and graduate program information
  10. Know when and how to use the Carruth Center
  11. Work in a laboratory in compliance with Federal and WVU rules
  12. Know what information needs to be in a lab notebook, know who owns the notebook, and know the rules governing the use of that notebook.
  13. Describe the purpose of the Individual Development Plan (IDP), take the survey, convey the results to their advisor, and make plans for the future to improve their skills.
  14. Describe the factors that play into establishing a good reputation in science

In addition, the students should have met and interacted with both their faculty and student advisors.

V. Curriculum

A. Core Courses

A.1 Fall Semester

Students take a common curriculum for the first semester in graduate school.  The required courses are:




Foundations for Contemporary Biomedical Research 1*

BMS 747


Foundations for Contemporary Biomedical Research 2*

BMS 777


Cellular Methods

BMS 706


Discussion on Scientific Integrity

BMS 700


Short laboratory experiences

BMS 702


*These courses run consecutively.

          a.  Foundations for Contemporary Biomedical Research 1 and 2

The purpose of these courses is to impart a fundamental understanding of the functional components of a cell, and the basis for regulation of cellular processes and organ systems. The knowledge base is developed in an interactive faculty-student environment that requires interpretation and rational speculation to apply general concepts to specific situations and stimulate creative scientific thought.


  • Impart a fundamental knowledge base
  • Integrate molecular, cellular and physiological concepts
  • Illustrate relevance through clinical examples
  • Illustrate current relevance via the literature
  • Stimulate student engagement and critical thinking

Assessable Skills

  • Understand important concepts, their significance and illustrate mastery with examples.
  • Apply the conceptual principles discussed to novel situations.
  • Design and interpret experiments to test molecular, cellular and physiological mechanisms.
  • Verbally articulate understanding of concepts during scientific discussion(s).
  • Demonstrate teamwork and problem-solving.

            b.  Cellular Methods

The goal of this course is to familiarize the first year Biomedical Sciences students with current technologies found in the literature but also typically used by students in the biomedical programs. The lectures in this course are presented by graduate students and postdoctoral associates at the Health Sciences Center. It provides a teaching opportunity for these trainees and this type of teaching is particularly germane to trainees considering a career in industry where they may need to give presentations on new instrumentation or techniques.


The students will be able to:

  • Recognize, evaluate, and interpret data generated through various techniques
  • Compare and contrast available techniques that are best suited for addressing a particular research inquiry
  • Be cognizant of the limitations of those techniques
  • Construct a set of experiments sufficient to examine a particular biological phenomenon

    c.  Discussions on Scientific Integrity

Graduate students at West Virginia University are required to meet particular federal and University-wide standards regarding the responsible conduct of research (RCR). To meet these standards, all graduate students undergo this training during the first 2 semesters at WVU. This course covers the required subjects specified by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In addition, students must complete an online RCR course offered by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). CITI training can be completed at any time after registering for classes but it must be completed within 30 days of the beginning of the initial semester- the passing grade is 80%. Failure to do so may affect the student’s ability to continue in the laboratory.

The Office of Research Integrity and Compliance (ORIC) will publish a training list derived from the CITI website database of those who have taken the training. This list will be published daily on the ORIC website (http://oric.research.wvu.edu) in the “Training Lists” section.  To remain in compliance with NIH standards, students will need to retake the CITI training every 3 years that students are active in research at WVU.

    Biomedical Lab Experience

The objectives of this course are to:

1. Select a faculty mentor to guide their dissertation research

2. Compare the research area of other laboratories in the Health Sciences Center so that the student can interact scientifically with the members of that laboratory

3. Identify research expertise of other laboratories in the Health Sciences Center so that the student can interact scientifically with the members of that laboratory.

4. To select faculty members for the student’s dissertation committee.

5. Describe and apply new techniques for biomedical research to the student’s scientific research.

Prior to the orientation boot camp, incoming students receive a list of faculty available for rotations and a description of their research. During boot camp, time is allotted to meet these faculty. The procedures for picking rotations and the schedule for the rotations are in the course syllabus. In general, rotations start on Monday of the first full week of classes and end prior to exam week. Students should expect to work the Monday and Tuesday of the week of Thanksgiving. Students who have not matched with a dissertation mentor by December of Year 1 will enroll in this course in the spring semester and conduct rotations until a match is finalized. The appendix contains the sample evaluation form for this course.


A.2 Spring Semester

Students who have chosen a graduate program take BMS 702 scientific integrity, courses and activities as required by that program, and enroll in the 797 research credits that are associated with that graduate program. The program director, the program handbook, and the dissertation mentor should be consulted on the courses to take.

Students who have not yet entered a graduate program and that may still need to do additional short rotations take the following curriculum:




Molecular Genetics

BMS 715






BMS 797


The student’s first semester faculty advisor will help with the choice of elective that will build toward emerging areas of interest. A suggestion for the elective is one of the program specific courses that are offered for first year students. Students need to register for a total of 9 credits to be a full time student.


A.3 Summer Session

a.  Year 1

During the summer session, students must register for between 1 and 6 credits of research using his/her programs course code. Please consult the website for the Office of Graduate Education and Life for information on the advantages of registering for differing numbers of credits. It affects both FICA withholding and the cost of student fees.



b.  Year 2

The second summer, all students enroll in the scientific writing course:




Scientific Writing

BMS 720



XXX 797



Scientific Writing

This course is divided into 2 parts.  The purpose of the first part of the Scientific Writing course is to introduce students to scientific writing using a standard journal format and a simple set of data.  Students may use their own data or a sample data set that will be provided to write a paper based on the format used in the Journal of Neuroscience.  Although, not all students will submit manuscripts to this journal, it provides a relatively straightforward structure and format that can be generalized to other journals. The background, details, methods, and data analysis in the paper will come from the student’s own research area and will be evaluated by their mentor.

The purpose of the second part of the Scientific Writing course is to introduce students to the grant writing process using a standard NIH predoctoral grant application format and a simple set of preliminary data. Students write the scientific portion of a grant proposal based on the format used by the NIH for a Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Predoctoral Fellowship (F31). The scientific details in the grant application will come from the student’s own research area and will be evaluated by their mentor. All 7 biomedical PhD granting programs use the predoctoral fellowship format for the dissertation proposal defense (or candidacy exam). It is highly recommended that students use this writing course to begin drafting this document for their exam.

B. Transfer of Graduate Credits/Courses

Ph.D. students may transfer all credits with a B- grade or better with preference to those credits that apply directly to their graduate curriculum. Only graduate credits earned at academic institutions accredited at the graduate level may be transferred. WVU HSC Admissions & Records must receive an original transcript from the transferring institution.

Pending approval by the Assistant Vice President for Graduate education, transferred credits/courses may substitute for required courses in the first-year core curriculum and/or for advanced courses required by the seven Ph.D. training programs. Transfer credit will not be accepted for the scientific integrity courses.

When transferring credits, please provide information the name of the institution with address and zip code, the course number and name, and course description/syllabus as published by that institution. Please make reference to the WVU course it may replace if it meets a course requirement. Attach the original transcript from the transferring academic institution to this form and deliver in hand to the Office of Research & Graduate Education for final approval. Final decisions regarding substitution of required courses with transferred courses will be made by the Assistant Vice President for Graduate education in consultation with Course Coordinators, Graduate Admissions Committee, and/or Graduate Director of the specific graduate program.

C. Other Program Activities

C.1 Seminars and Journal Club

In addition to formal course work in the first semester, students will attend weekly seminars and journal clubs.  During each rotation, the student will attend the seminars and journal clubs that are attended by the members of their host laboratory or as recommended by their host mentor.  Students are welcome to attend additional seminars that are of interest but they should be keenly aware not to spend undo amounts of time in seminars at the expense of getting to know the laboratory and completing assigned laboratory work.

C.2 Individual Development Plan (IDP)

The IDP provides resources to help students evaluate skills and interests in:

  • Scientific Knowledge
  • Research Skills
  • Communication (writing and speaking)
  • Professionalism
  • Management and Leadership
  • Responsible Conduct of Research
  • Career advancement

This information will be used to build the necessary skill set and to help in decisions regarding your future career options.  The role of the dissertation mentor is to help you to either achieve these skills. The IDP is to be reviewed annually.

The Biomedical graduate program will use the IDP at Science Careers (http://myidp.sciencecareers.org/). All incoming Biomedical students will complete this IDP and discuss their results with a faculty advisor during Boot Camp, the week before school starts. Once the student joins a laboratory, he/she is to review the IDP with the dissertation mentor. The IDP is reviewed annually and reported using the IDP Annual Review form(available under Forms). The form is placed in the student’s file in the Office of Research and Graduate Education.

Upon approval by the Assistant Vice President for Graduate Education, graduate programs may develop and use their own version of this process.

D. Registration

To receive/maintain a stipend and full tuition coverage, you must register for a minimum of 9 credits in the fall and spring semesters and for a minimum of 1 credit in summer semester.  Students must be registered in every semester until completion of the dissertation defense, or request a leave of absence, at which time your stipend and tuition coverage will be suspended. 

STAR Web registration system: http://registrar.wvu.edu/courses

Registration Process

  1. Point your browser to http://www.mix.wvu.edu/
  2. You will see the “Mountaineer information Xpress” with the MIX Login Screen
  3. Enter your Username and Password.   If your MIX account is jdoe@mix.wvu.edu, then your Username is Jdoe.   Your password is your 2-digit day of birth and the last 4 digits of your WVU ID.
  4. Click “OK”
  5. On the next page, click the STAR tab on the top
  6. Click “Click here to enter STAR”
  7. Select the Student Services, Housing & Financial Aid link.   You are now connected to STAR.
  8. Select Registration link
  9. Click on Select Term link.   Use the pull down option to select desired term.  Click on Submit
  10. Select Add or Drop Classes link
  11. Enter each CRN in the blocks and click on the Submit Changes button
  12. You can review your schedule by selecting the Student Schedule or Student Detail Schedule links
  13. If you are in STAR longer than 20 minutes MIX will time-out due to inactivity on the MIX pages

Note: students may not take courses outside of the recommendation of the graduate program (i.e. physical education, music, dance) without the written permission of the Assistant Vice President for Graduate Education.


VI. Selection of Faculty Dissertation Mentor and Graduate Program

A. Selection of Faculty Dissertation Mentor

The student selects a dissertation mentor from an approved list of available mentors and following completing a laboratory rotation with that faculty member. Students have the opportunity to complete this by the December of Year 1 or during the spring semester. It is a requirement for a student to match with a faculty mentor who will sponsor the student in the conduct of their dissertation research. Students are responsible to find/match with a faculty mentor. Lack of fulfillment of this requirement by the end of the spring semester may lead to dismissal from the graduate program.

Available mentor list:

Available mentors are research faculty, primarily tenured or in the tenure-track, who would like to recruit a graduate student into their laboratory and who are designated as an available mentor by the Office of Research and Graduate Education because they meet the criteria outlined here.

Procedure for developing the available mentor list:

1. The available mentor list is updated annually. Each year in March or April, the Office of Research and Graduate Education contacts department chairs and graduate directors to provide names of individuals for consideration as an available mentor for the following academic year.

2. The Office then evaluates the faculty on this list based on the criteria below. The final available mentor list is at the discretion of the Senior Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Education.

3. Faculty selected to be on the available mentor list will be contacted in May to provide a research summary that will be given to the new students in the summer prior to their enrollment. If they prefer not to recruit a student, they can decline at this time.


Note: newly hired assistant professors in the tenure-track are generally included on this list because of the availability of start-up funds for research and the expectation that they will successful in acquiring extramural support.

To mentor a student, the faculty investigator should:

1. Have a project in mind for the student’s dissertation, have space in the laboratory, and time to mentor the student.

2. Have extramural funding to support the student’s stipend for the last 3-4 years of their degree or the demonstration of submitted and pending grant applications within the past year as well as a track record of funding to indicate that there is a likelihood of success in securing funding

3. Have an active research laboratory as identified by research supply money and recent (within one year) publications.

4. Have regular graduate faculty status (NIOSH scientists can have associate status)

5. Not have a student receiving stipend support from the Office of Research and Graduate Education after June 30 of the student’s 2nd year in the program.


Other considerations taken into account when assigning student mentorship:

1. Association (by the participating faculty mentor) with Institutional Fellowship Opportunities, such as the NSF IGERT (presently in NCE), an NIH T32 training grant, or a COBRE

2. Student supported by an internal fellowship such as the Ruby

3. Number of current students in the investigator’s laboratory

4. Mentor’s track record of successful and productive training of graduate students (if applicable)

Selection process:

To select a mentor for their dissertation research, students complete three 5-week rotations during the fall semester in the laboratories of faculty from the available mentor list. At the conclusion of each rotation, the student can discuss possible dissertation projects with the mentor. The student should not ask the faculty member if they could join their laboratory. Note that this discussion does not mean that the student will choose that laboratory or that the rotation mentor should hold a spot for the student, it is simply an information gathering session. After the last rotation, the student considers the 3 rotations and rank orders them as choices for a dissertation laboratory. The student’s first year advisor, Graduate Directors, Departmental Chairs, and the Office of Research & Graduate Education can assist the student in this process. The student may choose to eliminate one or more rotation mentor from their list and can indicate that if they aren’t placed in the other choices that they would prefer to do a fourth rotation in the Spring semester. The choices are submitted to the Assistant Vice President for Graduate Education who then makes the assignments in consultation with the requested mentor and possibly the student if they are unable to match with their first choice. Final acceptance into the mentor’s laboratory is at the discretion of the Office of Research and Graduate Education and the mentor and requires completion of the Student Assignment Form. Graduate directors and department chairs are informed of the final selection for both rotations and final mentor assignments as soon as each assignment is completed. They are welcome to share this with their faculty.

Students and available mentors are strongly warned not to make agreements or to suggest agreements prior to this final selection process. This eliminates potentially better matches in subsequent rotations and results in confusion for both faculty and students.

B. Selection of a Graduate Program

After matching with a faculty mentor, students select a graduate program based on their individual career interests and the advice of their faculty mentor.  Successful entry into a graduate program requires approval of that graduate program. The graduate program director signs the Student Assignment Form to indicate this approval. 

Upon entry into a specific Ph.D. training program, the student is now under the auspices of that graduate program until completion of the Ph.D. degree.  The table below lists the seven PhD degree-granting graduate programs and their directors.

Graduate Programs

Graduate Director

Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

F. Bradley Hillgartner

Cancer Cell Biology                          

Scott Weed

Cellular & Integrative Physiology   

Robert Brock

Exercise Physiology                         

John Hollander

Immunology & Microbial Pathogenesis

John Barnett


Bernard Schreurs

Pharmaceutical & Pharmacological Science          

Grazyna Sklarz


C. Selection of the Dissertation Advisory Committee

The Dissertation Advisory committee needs to be selected by the beginning of the fall semester of the second year and the student should have a meeting with the committee before the end of the fall semester. Dissertation Advisory committees contain 5 faculty members. These members are selected by the student in consultation with his/her dissertation mentor. Agreement to serve on the committee and approval of the committee must be documented by the Dissertation Advisory Committee approval form prior to any meeting of the committee. Advisory committees must meet with the student at least annually to provide feedback on the student’s research and evaluate progress toward completion of the degree. The first meeting with this committee should be in the fall of the second year. This is the committee that administers both the Dissertation proposal defense (candidacy exam) and the final defense. Per University guidelines, one member of this committee must be from a program outside of the student’s program and the majority of the members must be regular members of the graduate faculty. The Chair of the committee must be a full-time WVU employee. Committees can have co-chairs, only one of the co-chairs needs to be a regular member of the graduate faculty. This policy can be viewed at:


The inclusion of the dissertation mentor as a member of this committee varies between the 7 Biomedical graduate programs. The student should consult the individual program handbooks for the program policy.


VII. Work Schedule, Illness, Vacation, and Leave of Absence Policy

The Ph.D. degree is awarded based on completion of original dissertation research and not time served in the program. Undue time spent away from the University will hamper your progress in research.

A. Work Schedule

The first year of study focuses primarily on didactic education. In the fall semester, students can expect to follow the academic calendar of the University for the December holidays. During the week of Thanksgiving, University classes are not in session but research is still going on. The student is expected to discuss their work schedule for this week with the faculty member with whom they are rotating. The same is true in the spring semester; students still rotating in laboratories should discuss expectations for spring break with the host mentor. Expectations vary between laboratories; students and mentors should discuss this at the beginning of rotation. Mentors are made aware of the guideline of approximately 20 h per week in the laboratory during the short rotations. For safety, students should avoid working in the laboratory alone.


B. Illness

Graduate students do not receive a specified number of sick days per pay cycle or calendar year. Absenteeism from classes, graduate program activities, and the laboratory should be reserved for true illnesses that are contagious or completely block the ability to function. Headaches and small malaises should not be used as reasons to not be in class or lab. The student’s responsibilities remain the same and missed work will need to be made up possibly by working weekends and evenings. Absenteeism from classes and other events needs to be communicated to each faculty member coordinating a class or event.

C. Vacation

Once a student enters a specific graduate program, the vacation schedule for the University calendar no longer applies. Expectations regarding vacations need to be discussed with the mentor. These expectations are likely to vary among research laboratories so it is important to establish these expectations upon entry in the laboratory.


D. Leave of Absence

The Health Science Center has a defined policy to deal with extended periods of time outside of the laboratory or class, generally greater than 2 weeks.  Termed a leave of absence, a student may need to take such a leave due to grave illness, pregnancy, or family crisis. Students should consult this policy when considering such a leave.  In some circumstances, the leave may be imposed upon the student administratively due to academic issues or policy violations.  Procedures for this are detailed in this policy and there are forms for documenting all types of leave and any expectations or requirements upon the student's return.


Grading and handling of courses during a leave of absence

When a student goes on a leave of absence, whether less than 1 month or a longer leave without stipend, issues develop regarding the grading of courses when the leave begins mid semester. To a large extent this will need to be handled on a case-by-case basis. For defined courses, the student will need to work with the instructor to come up with a strategy and generally will need to take an I. Courses like research and seminar (when used to monitor

attendance) generally do not have a mechanism to fulfill an incomplete. If the length of the leave is known and it is before the deadline to withdraw, it would be best for the student to withdraw from these courses during the semester. If that deadline has past, a student in good standing should be able to receive a grade reflecting their participation prior to the leave especially when the course is graded S/U or P/F. Journal clubs can be handled by having the student write summaries of papers that were missed. If the student is having a major medical crises and can’t work during the leave, then either grade them for the time in the course or give an incomplete and come up with a protocol for making up the work.

VII. Academic and Professional Standards

A. Academic Standards

A.1 Standards

It is expected that students will perform satisfactorily on all required courses.   To remain in good standing in the Ph.D. program a student is required to maintain the following standards:

a. An overall grade point average of 3.0 in graduate level coursework.  Note that this is higher than the university standard of 2.75.

b. Removal of any incomplete grades within one semester or summer session of their award, unless special permission is granted by the Assistant Vice President for Research.  Failure to remove an incomplete within one semester results in a permanent F on your transcript and this F figures into the GPA.

d. Satisfactory written comments describing the student’s performance in short rotations.

Failure to comply with these standards will result in the student being placed on academic probation and may result in dismissal from the graduate program.

A.2 Grading System and Reporting of Grades

Graduate courses are graded as follows: A, B, C, D, or F, and P (pass) or F (fail).  The Course Coordinator may submit letter grades with + or -, but your grade point average (GPA) is calculated using the basic letter grade. Grades of F are not acceptable for course credit toward a graduate degree but are used in calculating the GPA.  Letter grades are given for the short lab experience in Year 1.  Research 797 is graded S/U; U’s in research are not counted for the calculation of the GPA.   The first unsatisfactory (U) grade for 797 results in placement on probation; a second U in research 797 is grounds for dismissal from the graduate program.

The grade of Incomplete (I) is given when the instructor believes that the course work or other  programmatic activity is incomplete.  All incompletes must be removed within the next semester of the calendar year; however, an individual instructor may require their removal within a shorter time period. Students who receive an incomplete grade,  must contact the faculty member who issued the incomplete to discuss its removal.  If an incomplete is not rectified within the next semester, it will be changed to a grade of F (IF). 

NOTE: Students cannot graduate with an F grade on the Plan of Study. The course must be retaken and the grade brought into the acceptable range. Both grades will count toward the GPA on the transcript, and the higher grade will be placed in the Plan of Study.

B. Professional Standards

Graduate students in the 7 Biomedical Graduate Programs, the MS in Biomedical Sciences, the MS in Health Sciences, and first year students in the Biomedical Science Graduate Program are expected to adhere to the following standards of behavior throughout their tenure in graduate school.  This code governs student behavior in classrooms, research endeavors, academic and professional gatherings and travel, and in their daily conduct outside of the University.  In addition to the code outlined below, all students will uphold the WVU Student Conduct and Discipline Policy.  This code can be found at:  http://campuslife.wvu.edu/office_of_student_conduct

B.1 Academic Integrity

Students will:

  • not plagiarize the work of others either by directly copying that work or by summarizing the thoughts of others as their own;
  • not cheat on any examinations, on academic assignments and activities, and will not provide unauthorized help to others during an examination or graded academic assignment;
  • not alter examination scores, answer sheets, other graded materials, or their academic record;

adhere to the University policies on academic integrity (http://catalog.wvu.edu/graduate/enrollmentandregistration/#academicdishonestytext)

B.2 Scientific Integrity

Students will:

  • have actually carried out experiments as reported; 
  • represent their best understanding of their work in their descriptions and analyses of it;
  • accurately describe methods used in experiments;
  • not report the work of others as if it were their own;
  • in their publications adequately summarize previous relevant work;
  • when acting as reviewers will treat submitted manuscripts and grant applications confidentially and avoid inappropriate use; and
  • disclose financial and other interests that might present a conflict-of-interest in their various activities such as reporting research results, serving as reviewers, and mentoring students;
  • adhere to the University Research Integrity Procedures that can be viewed at:  http://www.wvu.edu/~lawfac/mmcdiarmid/aic/Final%20RIC%20Policy%20WVU%205-9-11.pdf

B.3 Scientific Citizenship

Students will:

  • strive to provide timely, efficient and high-quality work;
  • function as an effective and respectful team member in the performance of collaborative research;
  • strive to always acknowledge the contributions of their co-workers;
  • strive to keep all work areas clean, organized, and conducive to high-quality research;
  • respect shared work areas and reagents and insure that steps are taken to replenish reagents when they are in low supply;
  • refrain from activities that might be disruptive to the work of others, including playing music, conversation, telephone calls
  • be attentive in presentations by their colleagues and provide constructive criticism as appropriate;
  • seek and accept criticism without reprisal or defensiveness;
  • strive to address and remedy situations as they arise and to follow through on all promises and commitments to co-workers;
  • wear appropriate clothing in the laboratory and other research settings that is consistent with federal, state, and University regulations;
  • speak-up and report any practice, condition, or situation, that may cause harm or that is against federal, state, and University regulations;
  • when traveling as a representative of the University and laboratory, the student will behave in a professional manner, uphold the rules of the laboratory with respect to the sharing of data, report expenses in a truthful manner, and refrain from frivolous use of travel funds for meals or modes of transportation that are unnecessary.

B.4 Professional Interactions

Students will:

  • strive to increase their knowledge and expertise in order to maintain qualifications consistent with the highest standards available in their discipline;
  • accept and adapt to the continual change inherent in the creation and delivery of knowledge;
  • be appropriate in dress, language and demeanor at all time and avoid language and dress that is offensive to others;
  • respect and protect all students’, staff, faculty, study participants’, and patient’s rights to privacy and confidentiality;
  • minimize personal text messaging, e-mailing, telephone calls, and social media while at work;
  • respond to all communications in a timely manner;
  • listen carefully and to be thoughtful and respectful in all forms of communication and during the attendance of seminars;
  • provide training and experience to advance the scientific skills and knowledge of ethical research practices for any trainee under their supervision;
  • treat all individuals in a caring, respectful, professional, and empathetic manner.

C. Graduate Programs Committee on Academic and Professional Standards (GP-CAPS)

C.1 GP-CAPS Membership

During the first year in graduate school, student compliance with these academic and professional standards is monitored by GP-CAPS.  This committee has representatives from all 7 Biomedical PhD programs and the clinical and translational science graduate programs.  Following the first year, issues related to academic or professionals standards are first evaluated by the program faculty and then for issues of dismissal or appeals by GP-CAPS.

C.2 Student Review and Appeals Policy

Students have the right to due process in all decisions regarding their grades, evaluations, and status in graduate school. Appeals of decisions regarding the above must follow a standard set of procedures. Procedures for student appeals can be found in the Graduate Catalog.

IX. Financial Package and Fees

A. Stipend & Tuition Coverage

PhD students receive a stipend (currently $25,000), full tuition coverage, and WVU student health insurance, throughout their training period provided the student maintains a GPA of 3.0, successfully passes the qualifying examination and dissertation proposal, demonstrates excellent progress toward completion of PhD dissertation research, and is enrolled as a full time student. The Office of Research & Graduate Education pays the stipends for the first, 22 months. On July 1 after the student’s second year in graduate school, the payment of the stipend is shifted to the mentor’s laboratory funds or individual or institution fellowships. If these financial sources become unavailable, the mentor will negotiate with his/her department and/or the Office of Research & Graduate Education for stipend support. Students in good academic and professional standing, should not expect a gap in stipend due to funding difficulties within the dissertation laboratory.

NOTE: Graduate study is a full-time commitment. Outside employment will detract from your academic efforts and is not allowed.

B. Student Health Insurance

Coverage of health insurance is provided as part of receiving a Graduate Assistantship and starts in August. The insurance only covers the student. The cost of adding family members to the policy must be born by the student. An on-campus representative will be at the orientation in August to discuss the policy with the students. The student is advised to become familiar with the terms of this coverage and make sure that it is satisfactory to meet their medical needs. If it is not, they may purchase separate insurance, independently. Students may choose to be covered by a parent or spouse’s policy. In this case the student must fill out the University waiver (http://studentinsurance.wvu.edu/waiver) to avoid being charged for the University student insurance. International students should pay particular attention to the terms of the student insurance, as coverage for health related expenses in the United States is very different than in most other countries.

Questions or inquiries about health insurance:Aetna customer service:  1-866-654-2338, www.aetnastudenthealth.com once at this website, find our institution. Email address:  sio@mail.wvu.edu or call (304) 293-6815.

C. Fees

Students are responsible for paying the University student fees unless they are covered by an individual fellowship. Failure to pay fees on time will result in a penalty that must be paid by the student.

X. Graduation Requirements

A. Successful Completion of the Ph.D. Degree Requires:


  1. 3.00 GPA, no D’s or F’s and S’s in research
  2. Proper registration and payment of fees
  3. Passage of the benchmark exams:

a) Qualifying (preliminary) Examination
b) Dissertation Proposal (candidacy exam)
c) Dissertation Defense

  1. Annual reports of completion of the IDP and advisory committee meetings
  2. First-Author manuscript
  3. Submission of required Approval Forms
  4. Electronic Submission of Dissertation       
  5. Application for Graduation and Diploma Form
  6. Exit interview with Assistant VP for Graduate Education

B. Full-Time Student Status

To receive a stipend, students are required to register for a minimum of 9 credits for the fall and spring semesters and 1 credit for the summer semester.  Credit hours exceeding 16 require prior approval by the Associate Provost of WVU.

C. Ph.D. Examinations and Defense

The examinations that must be passed for partial fulfillment of the Ph.D. degree are the qualifying examination (if the program has one), the research proposal (candidacy exam), and the dissertation defense. The individual graduate programs conduct these examinations.

C.1 Qualifying (preliminary) Examination

The Qualifying Exam is usually given after most formal coursework has been completed. In general, the qualifying examination will test the student’s scientific knowledge pertinent to the chosen PhD training program. The individual graduate programs conduct these examinations at different times and use different formats. Upon completion of this exam, committee members sign the appropriate form, and it needs to be placed in the student’s file.

C.2 Dissertation Proposal Defense (candidacy exam)

Successful defense of a proposal outlining the student’s dissertation research marks the entrance to PhD candidacy. Timely completion of this benchmark not only provides a guide for the remainder of the research but also provides an excellent springboard from which to apply for an external fellowship. The Proposal Defense begins with the preparation of a grant application in the style of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) pre-doctoral fellowship. Portions of this grant application will be drafted during the Scientific Writing course. The proposed research is presented in a formal seminar to the faculty, graduate students, and other interested people, followed by an oral defense of the proposal to the student’s dissertation committee.

It is recommended that the proposal be defended in the fall semester of the student’s third year in graduate school. If the defense is not successful, the student may petition his/her dissertation committee to retake the exam. Successful defense of the research proposal must occur on or before the last working day of Year 3, which is usually the 3rd Friday in August. Failure to pass the defense by this date will result in dismissal from the graduate program. Students with extreme circumstances may petition for a delay in this deadline. The petition must occur in writing to the Assistant Vice President for Graduate Education and must include a strong rationale for the delay. Individual graduate programs may require that the Dissertation Proposal Defense occur at an earlier date and their date supersedes the deadline in this handbook. With successful completion of the dissertation proposal, the student advances to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree and the 5-year clock for completion of the degree starts.

Before or usually after defense of the proposal, the student should seek a fellowship from a national funding agency. These include agencies, such as the NIH (F31, F31 diversity) and the AHA. Students who choose to apply for a pre-doctoral fellowship should consult the Health Sciences Graduate Programs site on SOLE for helpful hints and guides on how to construct this application. The graduate program director is required to provide the Description of Institutional Environment and Commitment to training and should be consulted early in this process.

NOTE: Successful defense of the research proposal must occur on or before the last working day of Year 3, which is usually the 3rd Friday in August. Failure to do so will result in dismissal from the graduate program.

C.3 Dissertation Defense

 The student defend your dissertation research for the Ph.D. degree by writing a dissertation, presenting it orally in front of a public forum, and defending it in private to your dissertation committee. Dissertation research must be original and make a contribution to the scientific literature.  To pass, the student must receive the approval of 4 of the 5 members on your committee.  You are required to electronically submit the dissertation to the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) program at WVU - http://thesis.wvu.edu/.

Note:  All committee members must be present at the defense.  Please see the University regulations controlling this exam.  http://catalog.wvu.edu/graduate/advisingcoursesdegrees/degree_regulations/#thesesdissertationstext

First author publication requirement

Students must have at least one first-author manuscript, based on their Ph.D. dissertation research, published or accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal before they defend their dissertation research. In the case of joint first-author manuscripts, the manuscript can only fulfill this requirement for one author. This requirement should not be misinterpreted to mean that the student is able to defend once they have a first author publication. The decision of when a student has completed the aims for their dissertation rests with the dissertation advisory committee. With some research projects, this will result in multiple first author publications.

D. Time Limit to Degree

University policy states "doctoral candidates are allowed no more than five years in which to complete the remaining requirements of their programs after being admitted to doctoral candidacy." Under extraordinary circumstances extensions can be obtained but these situations must be grave to fall into this category. For more information see: http://catalog.wvu.edu/graduate/advisingcoursesdegrees/degree_regulations/#timelimitstext


E. Exit Interview

The exit interview is conducted with the Assistant VP for Graduate Education shortly after the successful defense of the dissertation. The interview is collegial and will allow the student to express his/her opinions about their graduate experiences. All expressed opinions are confidential. The purpose of the interview is to use constructive criticisms in a positive way to improve both the graduate program and the overriding support of graduate programs by the HSC and WVU. The student will be sent a form prior to the interview to fill out. In this form, the student will be asked for contact information for both themselves and 2 people who do not live with them but that would be able to find them should we lose contact. This is part of our effort to track our alumni. Tracking is necessary not only for continued program improvement but to meet both University and Federal standards for evaluating the long-term success of our training strategies.

F. Investiture/Commencement

Graduates can attend the graduation ceremony for the School of Medicine or School of Pharmacy.  These ceremonies are held on Saturday/Sunday in the second week of May.  The School of Medicine ceremony features the graduates of 6 of the Biomedical graduate programs, the MD/PhD Scholars Program, and the MD program.  The School of Pharmacy ceremony features graduates of the Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences PhD program and the PharmD program.  At these ceremonies, the student’s mentor places the PhD hood on the graduate and the Ethical Affirmation for Scientists is recited.  This oath was originated at WVU and was published in the journal, Science, in 2003.




To review the appendix, please download the PDF.