Biomathematics: The Student’s Committee and Exam Requirements

A student’s committee or thesis committee is responsible for advising the student and evaluating his or her progress towards their intended degree.

The committee is typically convened towards the end of the student’s first year in the program, and should certainly be in place by the middle of their second year.

The committee chair (or co-chair or vice chair — see below) must a member of the biomath faculty. (Remember that this includes associate faculty.)

There are typically three members on a Masters committee, four on a Ph.D. committee. There are additional rules for the committee of a co-major (see co-majors page).

The Ph.D. committee is responsible for setting the BMA preliminary written examination. This exam is designed to test the breadth of the student’s knowledge across the courses they have taken. Typically, each committee member will set one question.

The committee also evaluates the thesis or (in the case of MBMA students) the project defense. This involves a presentation of the work that was undertaken, followed by questions that usually focus on the work presented (although more general questions, such as relating the work to course material, or to broader questions in biomath, may also be asked). The presentation part of the defense is usually public: other students and faculty members may choose to attend.

Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs of Committees

Because biomath is an interdisciplinary program, it may be desirable for a student to be jointly advised, or to have a primary advisor who either is not a member of the biomath faculty or is not an NC State faculty member.

In such cases, certain administrative arrangements must be made to satisfy the Graduate School’s rules about committee chairs. One possibility is to have co-chairs of a committee, another (for Ph.D. committees) is to have a chair and vice-chair. An alternative is to have a faculty member added to the biomath faculty roster.

These arrangements are easily made, but should be discussed with the Director of the Biomath program as soon as possible.

External Committee Members

It is possible to have committee members who are not NC State faculty members:

  • Graduate faculty members from UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Greensboro or Duke can serve as regular committee members.
  • Faculty members from other institutions, or professionals from government or industry with comparable credentials, can serve as external committee members. External members are additional members of the committee, beyond the required number of committee members. They play a full role in the decision making of the committee.
  • A person from industry, a government agency or another university may serve as a technical consultant, along with the required committee members. Technical consultants are expected to participate in all exams and may sign the thesis cover page, but do not vote on the outcome of exams.

The inclusion of such committee members should be discussed with the Director. See also the Graduate School’s rules on committee members from outside NC State.

Any questions regarding the formation and composition of committees, the assessment or examination processes should be discussed with the Director of the Biomath program.