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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

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 your 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 you 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/.  You are responsible for the information in both the catalog and this handbook.  In some cases our standards are more specific than those listed in the graduate catalog.  When these standards are different, you will be governed and evaluated based on the Handbook for the first year of the BSGP.  Once you transition into your dissertation laboratory and join one of the 7 Biomedical graduate programs, you will receive an additional handout with program specific information. 

II. Office of Research & Graduate Education

The Assistant VP for Graduate Education, and staff assistants in the HSC Office of Research & Graduate Education administer the first year of graduate training. 

Lisa Salati, PhD
Assistant VP for Graduate Education

2267 HSS

(304) 293-7759


Andrew Flinn
Assistant Director of HSC Graduate Education

2271 HSS

(304) 293-7116


Lea Ann Defenbaugh
Program Specialist

2271 HSS

(304) 293-4437


Penny Phillips
Administrative Assistant

2271 HSS

(304) 293-6231


NOTE: The University and our Office will communicate with you throughout your training via your WVU MIX email address.  We will not use other email addresses.  You must activate this account.  If you do not plan on exclusively using this account then you need to forward it to an account that you prefer to use.  Periodic checking of the MIX account will not suffice and you will be accountable for any missed communications.

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

You will start your graduate studies with a seven-day program known as Boot Camp that will prepare you to successfully transition into graduate studies, allow you to interact personally and at social events with faculty and resident students, and allow you to enjoy the outdoors.  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

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 793A


Foundations for Contemporary Biomedical Research 2*

BMS 793B


Cellular Methods

BMS 706


Discussion on Scientific Integrity

BMS 700


Short laboratory experiences

BMS 791A


*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 the most current technologies found in the literature. Additionally, students will develop the critical thinking skills required to evaluate data and begin to synthesize an experimental design for a research project directed at a novel research question.  This is achieved by presentations on methods and having a journal club session with a paper that uses this method.  This course is integrated with the material presented in Foundations for contemporary Biomedical research.  The paper used for the journal club portion is chosen to compliment the lecture material in the Foundations course.


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

As a graduate student at West Virginia University, you are required to meet particular federal and University-wide standards regarding the responsible conduct of research (RCR). To meet these standards, all graduate students take this course their first semester at WVU.  This course together with the lecture on laboratory notebooks, cover the required subjects specified by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  In addition, you must complete an online RCR course offered by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI). You can take the course anytime after receipt of your acceptance but it must be completed within 30 days of the beginning of your initial semester- the passing grade is 80%. Failure to do so may affect your status within the College and the University in general.

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, you will need to retake the CITI training every 3 years that you are active in research at WVU.

           d.  Short laboratory rotations

There are four main objectives for the short lab experience:

  1. To aid in choosing a laboratory for your dissertation research
  2. To learn the research area of other laboratories in the Health Sciences Center so that you can interact scientifically with the members of that laboratory
  3. To aid you in selecting faculty members for your dissertation committee.
  4. To learn techniques involved in research.

Research Profile of Available Mentors:  Before Boot Camp, you will receive a booklet of one-page research profiles of the available faculty.  Arrive at Boot Camp prepared to identify at least three faculty with whom you would like to conduct a short lab experience.  During Boot Camp, you will have the opportunity to meet with the faculty and learn about their research.  Please discuss rotation projects and dissertation possibilities with available faculty if you are interested in rotating in their laboratory.

Selecting a Rotation Mentor:  On the last day of Boot Camp, you will submit to Dr. Salati the names of three faculty members with whom you would like to rotate during the first rotation.  Approximately 2 weeks before each of the next 2 short lab experiences in the fall semester, we will ask you to again submit three names of faculty (rank order) with whom you would like to rotate.  While you will most likely receive your first choice, we reserve the option to match you with your second or third choice based on competition with other first-year students for the same faculty mentor and research interests.

Schedule: During the 1st semester of Year 1, you will do three short lab experiences of 5 weeks each.  The schedule for these rotations is as follows:

1st rotation - August 17 to September 18

2nd rotation - September 21 to October 23

3rd rotation – October 26 to December 4

If you have not matched with a dissertation mentor by December/January of Year 1, you will conduct rotations during the spring semester until a match is finalized.  Please discuss with your rotation mentor about conducting research during University spring break. 

At the start of each lab experience, you should meet with the faculty member and set up a daily work schedule.  At this time, you may also receive additional materials to read in preparation for your experiments. 

NOTE: Usually only one student will rotate in any given laboratory during each rotation.  There may be an exception or two.  Some faculty may host two students at a time.

NOTE: Due to time constraints with obtaining security clearance for rotations at NIOSH, please indicate your desire to do a short lab experience before or shortly after arriving at WVU.  You must submit a security clearance form before conducting a rotation or dissertation research at NIOSH.  It takes time to obtain a security clearance at NIOSH.  Please be aware that a dozen or more people at NIOSH and CDC are involved in the submission and approval processes.  Therefore, NIOSH staff request that only those students who are really interested in the research faculty at NIOSH submit this form.  If you are seriously considering doing research at NIOSH, you will need to talk to NIOSH faculty for the proper form.

A.2 Spring Semester

Students who have chosen a graduate program:  in the spring semester you take courses and activities as required by that program.  Consult with your program director and dissertation advisor for information on these courses.

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




Molecular Genetics

BMS 715






BMS 797


Your advisor will help you choose an elective that will build toward your ultimate area of interest.  A suggestion for the elective is one of the program specific courses that are offered for first year students.  You need to register for a total of 9 credits to be a full time student.

A.3 Summer Session

a.  Year 1

By this point you will have transitioned into a graduate program.  During the summer most student take only 3 credits of research.  You will register for the research credits that use your programs course code.

b.  Year 2

This summer, all students enroll in the scientific writing course.  Your schedule will be:




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 may use a sample data set, unless you have your own data, and 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.

B. Transfer of Graduate Credits/Courses

As a Ph.D. student, you may transfer all credits with a B- grade or better with preference to those credits that apply directly to your 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.  Transferred credits/courses may substitute for required courses in the first-year core curriculum and for advanced courses required by our seven Ph.D. training programs. 

When transferring credits, please provide information about the course(s) you want to transfer and include 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 (2271 HSS) for final approval.  Final decisions regarding substitution of required courses with transferred courses will be made by the Course Coordinators, Graduate Admissions Committee, and/or your Graduate Director or Graduate Program Scholarship Committee, with the assistance of personnel in the Office of Research & Graduate Education.

C. Other Program Activities

C.1 Seminars and Journal Club

In addition to formal course work, students will attend weekly seminars and journal clubs.  In general, 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 you evaluate your 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 or identify resources that can augment your skills or inform your career decisions.  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 you join a laboratory, you are to annually retake the IDP and review the results with your mentor.  You will complete the IDP Annual Review form (available under Forms) and use this in your discussions with your mentor.  The mentor should sign the form and copies are to be placed in your file kept by the graduate program and in your file kept by the Office of Research & Graduate Education. 

The IDP will be required in all training grants and many pre-doctoral fellowships starting October 2014.  The Behavioral and Biomedical Sciences (BBS) NIH-T32 supported training program has developed their own IDP form and this one will substitute for the Science Careers IDP for students in that training program.

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 3 credits in summer semester.  You 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 VP for Graduate Education.

VI. Selection of Faculty Dissertation Mentor and Graduate Program

A. Selection of Faculty Dissertation Mentor

You have the opportunity to select a faculty mentor and graduate program by the December of Year 1 or during the spring semester.  You will be asked to submit in rank order three names of faculty with whom you would like to conduct your dissertation research.  The Graduate Directors, Departmental Chairs, and the Office of Research & Graduate Education can assist you in the selection of a mentor.  Final acceptance into the mentor’s laboratory is at the discretion of the mentor.

Graduate Faculty that are available to become Dissertation (Research) Mentors are selected by the Office of Research & Graduate Education in consultation with the graduate directors and departmental chairs.  The criteria to be an available mentor are:

To mentor a student the faculty investigator should:

  1. Want to mentor a new student in his/her laboratory
  2. Have extramural funding to support the student’s stipend or the demonstration of submitted and pending grant applications within the past year
  3. Have money for research supplies to support a student’s dissertation
  4. Have an active research laboratory as identified by recent (within one year) publications.

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, NanoSafe, the WVCTSI, or an NIH T32 training grant
  2. Student supported by a Teaching Assistantship (TA)
  3. Number of current students in the investigator’s laboratory

NOTE: It is a requirement to match with a faculty mentor who will guide you to completion of your Ph.D. dissertation research.  You are responsible to find/match with a faculty mentor.  Lack of fulfillment of this requirement may lead to dismissal from the IGPBMS.

B. Selection of a Graduate Program

After matching with a faculty mentor, please make the selection of a graduate program based on your individual career interests and the advice of your faculty mentor.  Successful entry into a graduate program requires approval of that graduate program.

Upon entry into a specific Ph.D. training program, you are 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


Richard Dey

Pharmaceutical & Pharmacological Science          

Grazyna Sklarz


C. Selection of the Dissertation Advisory Committee

The Dissertation Advisory committee is generally selected in the Fall of the second year.  Together with your dissertation advisor, you will select at least 5 faculty members to function as your dissertation advisory committee.  These individuals will meet with you at least annually to provide you feedback on your research and evaluate your progress toward completion of your degree.  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 but be from a program outside of the student’s program and the majority of the members must be full members of the graduate faculty.  The Chair of the committee must be a full-time WVU employee.  This policy can be viewed at:  http://catalog.wvu.edu/graduate/advisingcoursesdegrees/degree_regulations/#committeestext

The inclusion of the dissertation advisor 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, Sick Leave, Vacation, and Leave of Absence Policy

The first day of your graduate studies is the first day of your career as a scientist.  It is a big step-up from your undergraduate years and requires your ultimate commitment.  

A. Work Schedule

Your first year of study focuses primarily on didactic education.  In the fall semester, you can expect to follow the academic calendar of the University for your December holidays.  During the week of Thanksgiving. University classes are not in session but research is still going on.  Discuss, your work schedule for this week with the faculty member with whom you are rotating.  The same is true in the Spring semester, if you are still rotating in laboratories, discuss expectations for spring break with your host mentor.  Make sure that you are clear on the expectations each host mentor has for you.  These expectations are likely to vary between laboratories.  Mentors are made aware of the guideline of approximately 20 h per week in the laboratory during the short rotations.  For safety, you should avoid working in the laboratory by yourself. 

B. Sick Leave

Graduate students do not receive a specified number of sick days per pay cycle or calendar year.  You are encouraged to develop a healthy lifestyle so that you are not sick.  In addition, headaches and small malaises should not be used as reasons to not be in class or lab.  Regardless of your state of health, your responsibilities remain the same and you will need to make up missed work by working weekends and evenings.  Please become familiar with any policies with regard to absenteeism in the syllabi of your courses and in your chosen Ph.D. graduate program.  If you are truly sick for a journal club, class, or exam, please inform the faculty member in charge of that activity.  This can be accomplished by phone or email or in person and should be done before the class or meeting.  Do not assume that informing your mentor or a single faculty member of your absence will result in that absence being communicated to other faculty.  Each faculty member with whom you have a class or other obligation must be informed individually for each absence.

C. Vacation

Once you have entered a specific graduate program, the vacation schedule for the University calendar no longer applies.  Discuss the expectations on vacation with your mentor.  These expectations are likely to vary among research laboratories so it is important to establish these expectations upon entry in the laboratory.  You should be aware that these decisions are made in your best interest and for safety and efficient conduct of experiments.

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.  Please 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 your return.

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.

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

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 D and 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 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.  If you receive an incomplete grade, you 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).  Changing an Incomplete grade requires a Grade Modification Form that should be submitted to the Office of Research and Graduate Education.  The instructor of the course, the director of the graduate program, and the Assistant VP for Graduate Education must sign these forms.  If removal of an Incomplete (I) grade cannot be met within the appropriate time frame, a written request from the faculty instructor must be made to the Registrar’s Office.

NOTE: You cannot graduate with a D or F grade on your Plan of Study.  You must retake the course and improve the grade to graduate.  Both grades will count toward your GPA on your transcript, and the higher grade will be placed in the Plan of Study.

NOTE: A first unsatisfactory (U) grade in research 797 is a warning grade.  A second U is grounds for dismissal from the IGPBMS.

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 your 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.  Because the 7 Biomedical PhD programs are not department bases, the appeals procedure is slightly different than the procedure found in the Graduate Catalog.  The procedure for you to use is found in the appendix under Student Review and Appeals Policy.  You should familiarize yourself with this policy before you need to use it.

IX. Financial Package and Fees

A. Stipend & Tuition Coverage

As a PhD student, you will receive a stipend (currently $25,000), full tuition coverage, and WVU student health insurance, the latter includes hospitalization and disability, throughout your training period if you maintain a GPA of 3.00, successfully pass the qualifying examination and dissertation proposal, and demonstrate excellent progress toward completion of PhD dissertation research.  The Office of Research & Graduate Education pays the stipends for the first, 22 months (e.g., August 6, 2015 to June 30, 2017).  The University pays in arrears, so your first paycheck will arrive on September 1.  In Year 3 of training (2nd year in your mentor’s laboratory), your stipend will be paid from your mentor’s grant or start-up funds, from an institutional training grant, (e.g. T32, NSF IGERT, WVU NanoSafe), or from an individual pre-doctoral fellowship (NIH, American Heart Association, etc.), which you are expected to write.  If these financial sources become unavailable, your mentor’s department, your specific graduate program, or the Office of Research & Graduate Education will provide your stipend support assuming you are in good academic standing and continue to perform satisfactorily in research.

NOTE: Continued stipend support is reviewed annually and is dependent on good academic standing (minimum GPA of 3.00) and demonstration of satisfactory progress toward completion of dissertation research.

NOTE: Graduate study is a full-time commitment. Outside employment will detract from your academic efforts and is not allowed.  The first day of graduate studies is the first day of your scientific career!!

B. Student Health Insurance

Coverage of health insurance, primarily hospitalization and disability, starts on August 11.  We will provide a temporary health insurance card the week of orientation.  You should receive an official health insurance card in the mail later in the year.  The insurance only covers you, the student.  If you wish to add family, you can purchase extra insurance.  The cost (we pay) per student is ~$800.  An on-campus representative will be at our orientation on August 6th.  Please familiarize yourself with the terms of this coverage and make sure that it is satisfactory to meet your medical needs.  If it is not, you may purchase separate insurance independently.  If you choose to use a different insurer you must fill out the University waiver (http://studentinsurance.wvu.edu/waiver) or you will be charged for the University student insurance.  For Fall 2015, the waiver is due August 3, 2015.  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

You must pay fees by Friday before the start of each semester to avoid a late charge.  Payment may be made by credit card or banking information for an electronic check payment.

X. Graduation Requirements

A. Successful Completion of the Ph.D. Degree


  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, you are required to register for a minimum of 9 credits for the fall and spring semesters and 3 credits for the summer semester.  Credit hours exceeding 16 require prior approval by the Associate Provost of WVU. Remember, fees must be paid before the start of each semester to avoid a penalty.

C. Ph.D. Examinations and Defense

The three main examinations that must be passed for partial fulfillment of the Ph.D. degree are the qualifying examination, 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 your scientific knowledge pertinent to your chosen PhD training program.  The individual graduate programs conduct these examinations at different times and use different formats; please consult the rules and regulations of each of our seven PhD training programs. Upon completion of this exam, committee members sign the appropriate form, and you submit the form to your program, and to the Office of Research and Graduate Education, and keep a copy for yourself.

C.2 Dissertation Proposal Defense (candidacy exam)

Successful defense of a proposal outlining your dissertation research marks the entrance to PhD candidacy in your graduate program.  Timely completion of this benchmark not only provides a guide for the remainder of your 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, often times in the style of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) or American Heart Association (AHA) 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 your dissertation committee. 

It is recommended that the proposal be defended early in your third year in graduate school.  If you fail the defense exam, you have the opportunity to retake the defense one more time after petitioning your dissertation committee for a retake.  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 lead to the loss of stipend support and/or dismissal from the IGPBMS.  Individual graduate programs may require that the Dissertation Proposal Defense occur at an earlier date.  With successful completion of the dissertation proposal, you have advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree and also have started the 5-year clock for completion of the degree. 

Before or usually after defense of the proposal, you should seek a fellowship from a national funding agency.  Your Dissertation Proposal provides the cornerstone of an application for an individual pre-doctoral fellowship from agencies, such as the NIH (F31, F31 diversity) and the AHA.  Successful defense of your Dissertation Proposal strengthens your ability to obtain a pre-doctoral fellowship because the research plan has received an internal critique.  Examples of deadline dates for a Ruth Kirschstein NRSA F31 application to NIH are the first weeks of April, August, and December; the F31 diversity fellowship deadlines are the first weeks of May, September, and January.  Deadlines for an AHA pre-doctoral fellowship are in January and July.   Consult with your Graduate Director for other opportunities and their deadlines that are pertinent to your discipline.

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 may lead to the loss of stipend support and/or dismissal from the IGPBMS.

C.3 Dissertation Defense

You 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.  Your dissertation research must be original and make a contribution to the scientific literature.  To pass, you 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

Note:  You must have at least one first-author manuscript, based on your Ph.D. dissertation research, published or accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal before you defend your dissertation research.  In the case of joint first-author manuscripts, the manuscript can only fulfill this requirement for one author.  Please note that the order of authors in some chemical journals is different than in most biological journals.  Therefore, it is important for you and your faculty mentor to identify that the content of the journal article is based on your dissertation research and that you are the primary author

D. Time Limit to Degree

University policy states that if you do not successfully defend your dissertation research within 5 years of reaching PhD candidacy, you must retake the Proposal Defense.  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 you to express your opinions about your graduate experiences.  All expressed opinions are confidential.  The purpose of the interview is to use your constructive criticisms in a positive way to improve both your graduate program and the overriding support of graduate programs by the HSC and WVU.  You will be sent a form prior to the interview to fill out.  In this form, you will be asked for contact information for both you and 2 people who do not live with you but that would be able to find you 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 advisor 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.