APP Polices and Procedures

Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology Graduate Study Policies and Procedures

Philosophy and Expectations

Graduate education is based on one of the oldest models of learning known the apprenticeship. This method of instruction predates the medieval period during which it reached its peak both in terms of formality and the ubiquity with which it was used by craft guilds. The model is simple but effective. By working with a 'master craftsman' (in this case a senior scientist), a young apprentice (in this case a graduate student) can learn by example and by trial and error, while being corrected and educated by the mentor. Through a close association, the student learns both the skills required to perform science and also the strategies, philosophy, and ethics of science. All science is performed by applying the scientific method. It will be your task to apply this method in the formulation of hypotheses and the design of strategies to test them under the supervision of your major professor.

What makes graduate education different from a craft or trade is scholarship. Only the intellectual effort to push back the frontiers of knowledge in their discipline discriminates a scholar from these other pursuits. Scholars love knowledge and the acquisition of new knowledge.

The department and the faculty expect students to enter into this apprenticeship with the understanding that the responsibility for learning is theirs. While faculty are obligated to provide instruction and facilities, the actual work must be the student's. This experience will in all cases require extraordinary effort, both alone and cooperative, on the part of the student. Late nights and weekends are a normal part of the work week of a young scholar. The expectation of all students is to perform at the peak of their ability. The goals are lofty and the experience rewarding. Those with the greatest accomplishments will win the greatest rewards in future positions and opportunities.


Obtaining Information

Finding information can be a task, even for the most knowledgeable individual. However, it is less of a task if you know whom or what to consult. For technical information, a student should first look to his advisor, co-workers and advisory committee members. Besides these sources, the entire faculty is accessible for assistance. For information regarding Graduate School regulations, the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies (Dr. Frank F.  Bartol) is apt to have the latest information. Foreign students should consult the Foreign Student Handbook and the Foreign Student Advisor in order to maintain their status with the U.S. Immigration Service.

The Graduate School section of the Auburn University Bulletin presents regulations of the Graduate School and course descriptions. A schedule of courses offered throughout the University is published prior to registration. A Graduate Student Guide has been prepared by the Graduate School Organization and contains sections on administrative and academic matters, student life, and food and entertainment.


Responsibility for Meeting Graduate School and Departmental Requirements

The ultimate responsibility for meeting deadlines for registration, oral examinations, thesis and dissertation examinations and other Graduate School deadlines resides with the student. In attempting to meet these deadlines, the student should solicit the advice of his /her advisor, the College's Office of Research and Graduate Studies, and/or the Graduate School.


Research Proposal for Thesis or Dissertation Research

All students will be required to prepare a research proposal for their thesis/dissertation research, to include as a minimum the following: literature review, objectives, experimental design, materials and methods, budget. The proposal should be prepared soon after a topic has been identified and before the research is initiated; it will be critiqued and approved by the major professor and advisory committee. Aside from serving to define the project, this assignment will provide early exposure to fundamentals of grant writing.


Graduate Student Progress

The procedures which must be followed to consummate master's or doctoral degree programs are listed in the Graduate School Bulletin. Progress can be monitored most effectively by frequent meetings between student and advisory committee. At least two meetings a year should be held to ensure that the advisory committee is well informed as to a student's progress, although a student can call a meeting of his/her advisory committee whenever he/she considers it to be desirable. Additionally, the advisory committee may require a student to prepare a report or take an examination whenever the committee considers it necessary to evaluate a student's progress.

If a graduate student is deemed to be making unsatisfactory progress toward his/her degree, he/she may be dropped from the Graduate School. The student's advisory committee must prepare statement of grievances and in a meeting with the student discuss these grievances and suggest steps necessary for remediation. The statement of grievances must have the unanimous support of all members of a student's advisory committee. The student will be warned that corrective measures must be taken within a specified time period or action will be initiated that could result in the student being dropped from the Graduate School.


Seminar and Journal Club

Oral presentations and critical examination of current literature are an integral part of academic life. In order to develop proficiency in these skills, a student will be expected to participate regularly in one or more journal clubs or specialty conferences consistent with his/her areas of interest.

All BMS MS and PhD students whose initial enrollment in the BMS program was Fall semester, 2001 or thereafter must average at least two scholarly presentations per year during their graduate training program. This requirement can be satisfied in many ways, such as presentations in departmental seminars, final thesis defense, and formal oral presentations at local, regional and national scientific meetings. The mechanisms for satisfying this requirement are determined by the student's advisor and advisory committee. Each year, a Presentation Requirement Form documenting the presentations must be submitted to the Office of the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies for inclusion in the student's file. These forms will serve to verify compliance in the process of clearance for graduation.


Ethics in Graduate Education

Graduate students, just as any other member of society, will find themselves facing ethical decisions whose outcome could significantly affect their careers. It is obvious that theft of laboratory equipment, falsifications of data, and plagiarism are unacceptable behaviors. However, other choices might not be so straightforward. Graduate students are expected to conform not only to the Auburn University Code of Student Conduct (see Tiger Cub) but also to the unwritten code of proper scientific conduct. Ethical considerations should always supersede expediency-based decisions. Students should expect the same degree of ethical conduct from faculty members.

The usual type of problem a graduate student may confront as an ethical decision is in the presentation of data and interpretation of results. In fact, in some instances the student may not recognize that there is an ethical component to the decision. There are many ways in which data can be made to look better than the totality of the experimental results would suggest. Thus, how to present data often involves ethical decisions. When such a question arises, the obvious source of guidance is the major professor. Faculty members are expected to utilize and teach sound ethical practices to their graduate students, in part, through regular discussions and intellectual challenges. If a major professor does not illustrate, through his or her actions and behavior, what is expected of a student, but instead is the source of ethical conflict, the student should contact other members of his/her advisory committee and the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies. Alternatively, personnel in the Graduate School are usually able to give appropriate and confidential guidance to students.

Faculty members sometimes neglect discussion of ethical questions with their graduate students, assuming that good ethical judgment has already been acquired. In some instances, it might seem that an entire career rests with the success or failure of an experiment, or with the students's ability to satisfy a demanding major professor. Under pressures of graduate training and competitive scientific research, the student may be confronted with conflicting values and the most ethical choice may not always be clear. Although society has high expectations regarding the ethical behavior of scientists, most scientists set even higher standards for themselves and their colleagues. Determining truth in science is difficult enough without having to contend with international misrepresentations of fact.


Use of Animals

All research involving the use of animals must be approved by the Auburn University (AU) Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) in keeping with the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act (Public Law 89-544, August 24, 1966, and subsequent amendments), the Health Research Extension Act (Public Law 99-158, November 20, 1985, and subsequent amendments), and the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals (1985). Before animals can be used at Auburn University for research, teaching, demonstration, display, breeding, production, or maintenance, the IACUC must review and approve the protocol for the proposed activity. The protocol must be described on the AU Animal Subjects Review Form. A protocol review number PRN) is assigned to approved protocols. A current PRN is required in order to acquire animals, to use facilities for housing of animals, and to use the animals. Written information about requirements for the use of animals is available from the office of the AU Vice President for Research, the Director of Laboratory Animal Resources for AU, and the Director of Laboratory Animal Health at the AU College of Veterinary Medicine. The Director of Laboratory Animal Resources and the Director of Laboratory Animal Health provide orientation/training for all faculty, graduate students, and staff as needed, to ensure compliance with regulations and principles for the utilization and care of vertebrate animals used in research and teaching while facilitating the furtherance of appropriate animal usage with high standards of good laboratory practice.


Phi Zeta

The Society of Phi Zeta, the honor society of veterinary medicine, promotes excellence in scholarship and research. Each year in February, the Auburn Epsilon Chapter of Phi Zeta sponsors a college-wide research forum which enables students and other college members to make poster or platform presentations. Plaque and cash awards are given for the best presentations. The initial call for abstracts is in November.


Teacher Training

Most students who obtain advanced degrees will be involved subsequently in teaching as part of their regular activity. The College will strive to provide opportunities for students to gain teaching experience in either the professional or graduate program.


Graduate Student Travel

Graduate students are encouraged to attend scientific meetings that support their graduate studies. As a general guideline, students are expected to present a paper or poster in order to obtain financial support for travel. Funding for travel to most meetings is limited and extramural grant funds should be used when available. Some national societies provide travel grants for students to attend their annual meetings. In these instances, students are encouraged to avail themselves of these opportunities and apply to the societies for travel grants prior to attending the meeting.


Graduate Student Organization Senator

April is the month in which students in BMS are entitled to elect a representative to serve a one-year term as a senator in the Graduate Student Organization (GSO). Being a GSO senator gives one an opportunity to cooperate with other GSO senators to influence topics of interest to all graduate students (Graduate School and University policy, graduate student welfare). The GSO meets several times each quarter.


Graduate Student Research Forum

The Graduate Student Research Forum is held twice annually to provide students and faculty an opportunity to become familiar with research being conducted at Auburn. Students are selected to give platform or poster presentations of their work; a competition exists for cash awards. BMS has been well represented by speakers at several forums in the past, and a continuing participation in this activity is encouraged.


Exit Interview

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the departmental graduate, program, the faculty requests that each student who obtains a degree participate in an exit interview with the College's BMS Graduate Program Committee after the final examination. Opinions expressed in this interview will be used in assessing the graduate program. In order to obtain a candid account of a student's opinions, the student's advisor and advisory committee members are excluded from the exit interview.


Recording and Reporting Results

Research is a team effort, and it is important that the contribution of all members of a team be recognized in the final reports, which are usually in the form of publications. It is often desirable to determine who shall be responsible for writing a particular report and who shall be co-authors at the time the research is initiated. There are no hard and fast rules in determining authorship; this determination is one of the responsibilities of the advisor. Another responsibility of the advisor is to oversee the projects under his/her direction. Whereas the day to day conduct of research is often done by many individuals in a laboratory, the person who has the ultimate responsibility to the agency from which research support has been obtained is the principal investigator (PI) It is therefore important that data be accurately recorded in an appropriate manner so that the PI has continual access to the data and that the original observations and record books be retained in the PI's laboratory. While this may seem like an inconvenience, the importance of maintaining the accuracy and integrity of records cannot be underestimated. Governmental agencies, commercial institutions and universities or colleges are presently in the process of developing new standards for the handling of research data. Certainly, the one who has the greatest impact on research results is the person making observations and recording data. Yet, the person held responsible for reported research is the PI. It is therefore important that all laboratory personnel (students, postdoctoral fellows, technicians, visiting scientists, etc.) adhere to the laboratory standards of the PI in charge of a project. In the case of students, this is usually their advisor.


Minimum Requirements for M.S.
  • A minimum of thirty semester hours determined by the Student's advisory committee are required; at least twenty-one semester hours must be in the major area of concentration. At least one-half of all credit hours applied toward the minimum degree requirement must be earned in 6000-, 7000- and 8000-level courses, which are courses for only graduate students.

  • Students must take a minimum of six semester hours of core course work consisting of courses in two of the following four categories: biochemistry, statistics, biophysics and molecular biology.

  • Students must register for a minimum of four semester hours for "Research and Thesis" (VBMS 7990). However, no more than six hours of VBMS 7990 may be counted toward meeting minimum degree requirements. Students may register for one or more hours of VBMS 7990 at a time.

  • Up to six semester hours of VBMS 7970 "Research Problems", which must be distinct from the student's thesis research topic, may be counted toward meeting minimum degree requirements.

  • Up to two semester hours of graded seminar courses may be counted toward meeting minimum degree requirements.
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    Minimum Requirements for Ph.D.

    The following is a brief outline of the Graduate School and the Biomedical Sciences (BMS) Graduate Program requirements for a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences. For additional information regarding Admission and Application Requirements; Advisory Committee and Plan of Study; General Doctoral Examination; and Final Examination go to the following web site A minimum of sixty semester hours determined by the Student's advisory committee are required. Of these thirty or more must be graded (e.g., A, B, C) graduate course work (6000-level and above) beyond the bachelor's degree with at least 18 hours of which must be completed as a graduate student at Auburn University. The other thirty semester hours of course work may include the courses numbered 7990 and 8990. A maximum of four semester hours of 7990 (Research and Thesis) from a completed master's program may also be counted.


    Minimum Core Course Hours

    All BMS Ph.D. students must take a minimum of twelve semester hours of core course work consisting of courses in the following four categories: biochemistry, statistics, biophysics and molecular biology. Of the twelve semester hours, no more than nine can be taken in anyone category. It is the student's responsibility to determine whether a particular course satisfies this core course requirement. This is usually accomplished when the student's Plan of Study is approved by the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies.


    Minimum Research and Dissertation Hours

    Students must register for a minimum of ten semester hours for "Research and Dissertation" (VBMS 8990). Students can register for 8990 at any time and may register for as few as one hour or as many as 16 hours of 8990 per semester.


    Ph.D. Student Grant Writing Requirement

    All BMS Ph.D. students whose initial enrollment in the BMS program was Spring Quarter 1996 or thereafter must fulfill a requirement of having written at least one grant proposal sometime during enrollment in the BMS program and of having the grant proposal subjected to peer review. The mechanism for satisfying this requirement is determined by the student's advisor and advisory committee. A Grant Proposal Requirement Form, documenting the procedure and format used for meeting the requirement and date fulfilled, should be submitted to the Office of the Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies for inclusion in the student's file. This form will serve to verify compliance in the process of clearance for graduation.

    A course in the fundamental of grant writing, VPB 7450P01, is offered every other year. All students are encouraged to take this course in preparation.


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