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PhD Degree Requirements

The requirements for a PhD from the university are:

  1. Dissertation (research thesis written, approved, and submitted to the library)
  2. Residence (at least two consecutive semesters of full-time study – all students meet this requirement)
  3. Oral Exam (successfully passing the DBO)

The additional requirements for the school and/or program are:

  1. Attend two semesters of BME seminars (typically, during first year)*
  2. 30 credits of coursework (see Coursework Requirements section below)
    • Minimum of 12 credits in the life sciences or medicine
    • Minimum of 12 credits in the quantitative sciences or engineering
    • Minimum of 3 credits of substantial theory content
  3. Required first year courses
    • EN.580.710 Ethical Challenges in BME (Fall, 2 credits)
    • EN.580.711 Quantitative Methods in BME (Spring, 1 credit)
  4. Ethics/RCR course – refreshed every four years
    • ME: 800.811 Introduction to Responsible Conduct of Research or AS: 360.625 Responsible Conduct of Research (may be taken in place of ME: 800.811 for Homewood-based students)
  5. Annual Individual Development Plans (IDPs)*
  6. One teaching or teaching assistant experience
  7. Annual thesis committee meetings after DBO
  8. Thesis proposal (written document and presentation)
  9. Research defense (permission to write meeting)
  10. Public defense (final presentation)

* Note that previously, IDPs were only required from third year; we are moving to a policy of an IDP every year including first year, and this does not apply retroactively. Similarly, the BME seminar requirement began in recent years and students do not have to retroactively satisfy this requirement.

Coursework Requirements:

BME PhD students must complete at least 30 credits of relevant course work. A minimum of 12 of these credit hours must be in courses covering life sciences or medicine, and a minimum of 12 of these credit hours must be in courses covering quantitative/engineering subjects such as math, applied math, engineering, computer science, or quantitative biology. These courses must be at the 400 level or higher, with at least 6 credits at the 600/700 level. Of these 6 credits, at least 3 must come from courses with substantial theory content in engineering, mathematics, or computer science.  This refers to any classes with a significant coding or math component, covering topics including but not limited to biostatistics, mathematical or computational modeling, computational genomics, data science, dynamical systems, numerical methods, mathematical foundations of imaging, transport phenomena, and signal processing. Many courses fall within both the life science and quantitative categories. These can contribute toward the requirement for either category, but not both categories simultaneously. Required seminar and ethics courses do not count toward either the life science or quantitative credit requirements.

For a course to apply toward graduation, a grade of B- or higher is required. In medical school courses a passing grade of P is required.  If a grade lower than B- is received, that course must be repeated. If it is not possible to repeat the course, then an alternate course may be taken but must be approved by the program director.

Maximum Time to Degree

As of 2019, the maximum time to degree for a JHU PhD is 9 years; official leaves of absence (e.g. for internships or health reasons) are not included in the calculation.

The Doctoral Board Oral (DBO) examination should be completed once classes are complete – typically 12-18 months into the program, and no later than 24 months from matriculation. Within six months after passing the DBO, the student and advisor are expected to form a thesis committee and hold the first thesis committee meeting.

It is expected that students will meet annually with their thesis committees. Student, advisor, and committee members must complete and sign a Thesis Committee Meeting form that contains written feedback on the student’s progress.

If the student has not graduated by 72 months post-matriculation, meetings should be held semi-annually at which the program director or their designee must be present.

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