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Information for Advanced (3rd Year and Above) Immunology Graduate Students

Thesis Committee Guide  |  Preparing Research Proposal  |  Other Obligations  |  Thesis Committee Guideline [PDF]

Thesis Committee Guide

The Thesis Committee Meeting is an excellent opportunity for a student and his/her advisor to obtain the advice and perspective of other Johns Hopkins faculty. The major purpose of the committee is to assist in the establishment and pursuit of research goals that will eventually lead to a Ph.D. thesis.

Program Policy

Beginning in the Third Year of training, each graduate student must have an annual Thesis Committee meeting. Each student must have at least one committee meeting per year, but may have more if desired. At each meeting the student and committee will fill out the attached Thesis Advisory Committee Report and submit it for documentation to the Immunology Program Office.

The Committee should include the student’s advisor and 3-4 other Hopkins faculty. One member should be outside, i.e. not a member, of the Immunology Graduate Program.

Third year students

A student’s first Thesis Committee meeting must occur by January 1 of the Third Year of training. (Current third year students have until May 2007 to have the first meeting). In advance of this first meeting, students must prepare a written research proposal in the general form of a research grant. Guidelines for this proposal are attached. It is a good idea to update this research proposal for your subsequent meetings and redistribute it to your committee members, but this is not mandatory.


At each Thesis Committee Meeting, the student should present her/his research work, roughly following the format of the written proposal. The discussion can be and is often open-ended in nature. The student should be prepared to discuss:

  • Background and Significance of the project(s)
  • Specific goals of the research (Specific Aims)
  • Work accomplished to date, including pertinent experiments that “did not work”
  • Future short term and long term plans

The Thesis Committee meeting is not a second Oral Exam. Many students feel inhibited to schedule Thesis Committee meetings because they are concerned that they have “no data” to present or may not have a well-planned course of research and will be judged harshly. This concern may be particularly felt for the first meeting. Please be reassured that Thesis Committee members are not there to judge the student, they are simply there to help guide a student’s research efforts as part of a team that includes the student and the student’s advisor. The common goal of all present is to enhance the research experience and guide experiments toward thesis completion and graduation. A student does not need to have a body of data to present at the Thesis Committee meeting. Especially for the first meeting, even a collection of ideas is enough to facilitate the discussion and propagate advice. The meeting is a fantastic opportunity to pick the brains of smart, experienced, and expert faculty. Many thesis projects have been enhanced by Committee meetings - the associated exchange of ideas has often led to important discoveries and earlier graduation.

The Committee is empowered to collegially reach a consensus as to when the thesis research is complete and when the thesis should be written and publicly presented (see below).

Enforcement of the policy

If a student fails to have an annual meeting then his/her lab of origin will not be allowed to accept Immunology rotation students or new Immunology graduate students for the pursuit of Ph.D. thesis study, until the requirements of this policy have been met.