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Curriculum

The curriculum is structured as a 1.5+3+2.5 year program, but because a PhD degree is results-based, rather than time-based, the period of time to its completion may vary.

Timeline:

  • First laboratory rotation during the summer prior to entering the program
  • Enroll in the DVM curriculum and complete 1.5 years of courses in that curriculum
  • Second laboratory rotation during the first year DVM distribution period at the beginning of the Spring semester
  • Third, and last, laboratory rotation the summer following first year of DVM
  • Select research mentor at the end of the third rotation
  • Transfer from the DVM program to the PhD program in the Spring semester of second year
  • Take A exam within 1-2 years of transferring into the PhD program
  • Complete research project within 3-4 years of transferring into the PhD program
  • Take B exam to complete PhD portion of program
  • Return to the DVM program in the Spring semester to complete the final two and a half years of the DVM curriculum

Program Guidelines:

DVM-PhD program guidelines

Curriculum Components

The foundation of the Combined DVM-PhD Program lies in the strength and scope of the educational opportunities it provides. There are five components of the curriculum:

DVM Curriculum

Our DVM curriculum fosters critical thinking, communication and clinical reasoning skills to complement a comprehensive background in the biomedical and clinical disciplines that are the foundation of veterinary medicine.

Laboratory Rotations

Trainees are required to rotate through at least three research laboratories. The purpose of the rotations is to enable each student to assess a variety of training opportunities before selecting a research mentor, who will also serve Chair of the Special Committee.

The Chair may be a faculty member either of the College of Veterinary Medicine or another college, but must be a member of the Cornell Graduate School faculty. Although the time spent in each laboratory may vary, it is expected that each rotation will be a meaningful experience.

Each student and faculty mentor is required to complete an evaluation form at the end of each rotation. Completed forms should be submitted to the Office of Graduate Education.

Graduate Courses

During your first year in graduate school you will take BioAP7100 — Translational Biology (spring semester), and BioAP6100 — By Experimental Design; Survival skills for graduate students (fall semester).  You will also take an Ethics course BioMG7510 - Ethical Issues and Professional Responsibilities and a Clinical Biostatistics course (VTPMD 7070).

Additional graduate courses will be taken before the A-exam. These courses will be selected to meet the requirements from the graduate field and from the student graduate committee. Information about courses can be found in the Courses of Study catalog.

Clinical Rotations & Pathways

To ensure broad preparation, each student is required to complete the same set of 12 Clinical Rotations. In addition, students must select one of six Clinical Pathways, comprised of seven additional rotations. This allows students to tailor a component of their clinical training to meet their interests and professional goals.

PhD Degree Requirements and Dissertation

Registration Units

One registration unit (RU) corresponds to the satisfactory completion of one academic semester of full-time study and research. Six registration units are the minimum requirement for the PhD degree; two of these must be earned after the A-exam.

Examinations

  • Examination for Admission to PhD Candidacy ("A-Exam") - A student is admitted to doctoral candidacy after passing a comprehensive examination administered by his or her special committee.
  • This examination is either oral or written and oral, as determined by the special committee. The passing of this examination certifies that the student is eligible to present a dissertation to the graduate faculty.
  • The A Exam may be taken after two registration units have been accumulated in a PhD degree program.
  • Final Examination for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Degree ("B-Exam") - A doctoral candidate takes the final examination upon completion of all requirements for the degree but no earlier than one month before completion of the minimum registration unit requirement.
  • A minimum of two registration units must be earned between passing the A-exam and scheduling the B-exam. This oral exam covers the general subject of the dissertation.

Dissertation

PhD degree students must present a dissertation - including an abstract not to exceed 350 words, signed by the special committee chair, acceptable in scholarship and literary quality.

Acceptance of the thesis or dissertation requires the approval of all the special committee members. Ordinarily, the thesis or dissertation is written in the student's major subject of study and under the direction of the chair of the special committee. With the approval of the committee, a student may elect to write the thesis or dissertation under the direction of the representative of a minor subject.

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