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2022 Anatomy Graduate Program Handbook

This handbook serves as an aid to faculty and graduate students in the Graduate Program in Anatomy. Information and degree requirements for the Penn State Graduate Program in Anatomy and criteria for inclusion as Graduate Faculty in the Program in Anatomy are provided at https://med.psu.edu/anatomy-phd. Additional University requirements can be found in the Penn State Graduate Bulletin.

Both students and faculty are encouraged to consult these sources for additional information. Additional information on the graduate bulletin updates policies and procedures for both faculty and students can be found here.

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Degree Programs and Goals

MS, PhD Expand answer

The Graduate Program in Anatomy at Penn State College of Medicine confers the Master of Science (MS) degree and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. Both degrees include didactic course work and original research, as well as written and oral defense of research. The objectives of both programs are to prepare students to demonstrate excellence in scholarship in Anatomy and associated fields, and to demonstrate excellence in research and scientific understanding of relevant disciplines.

Clinical and Translational Sciences (CTS) Dual-Title PhD Program Expand answer

The Anatomy program participates in the Dual-Title Graduate Program and offers a doctoral degree in Anatomy and Clinical and Translational Sciences. In addition, certificates in CTS are available for both masters and doctoral programs. A graduate dual-title degree is a fully integrated program of study that allows students to define a research problem that combines both the graduate major and dual-title fields. A dual-title graduate degree program must require a minimum of 15 credits for a dual-title doctoral program and 6 credits for a dual-title master’s program. The dual-title area of study cannot exist as a separate (stand-alone) graduate degree program at Penn State. The student’s diploma will carry the name of both the graduate major and the dual-title offering. Students may complete only one dual-title in addition to a graduate major program of study within a single degree program. Students must apply and may be admitted to an existing dual-title graduate degree program only after being enrolled in an existing graduate program. Doctoral students should enroll in a dual-title graduate degree program early in their training, and no later than the end of the fourth semester (not counting summer semesters) of entry into the graduate major program.

The dual-title PhD program in CTS provides the opportunity to complement and expand doctoral training in Anatomy to learn skills and methodologies that are central to the transformation of fundamental (e.g., bench-top) research into improved clinical practice and human health. An emphasis is placed on interdisciplinary approaches to solve health-related problems. The highly flexible curriculum allows students to tailor their doctoral experience by selecting from more than 85 approved elective courses covering topics that range from basic to clinical to social and prevention sciences. Major areas of focus include bioinformatics, epidemiology, biostatistics, experimental design, and the regulatory environment. Additional program features include an individualized internship experience in translational research, co-mentoring by basic and clinical scientists, and training in unique translational tools and methodologies. To pursue a dual-title PhD in CTS, students must first be accepted into the Anatomy Program and then apply separately to the CTS Program, typically in the first year of graduate study and prior to the Qualifying Exam. Dual-title students complete degree requirements for their major simultaneously with those required for CTS. Upon graduation, a single degree is awarded in the major field and CTS. Because the dual-title PhD complements the major program of study, CTS program representation must be included in all phases of graduate study, including the qualifying exam, doctoral committee, comprehensive exam, dissertation research, and final oral defense.

More information may be found in the Penn State Graduate Bulletin or by contacting CTS Program Manager at 717-531-0003, x285590.

Graduate Certificate in Translational Science (TS) Expand answer

The primary goal of the TS Certificate program is to provide a formal, structured program of study that allows health care professionals and medical and graduate students to build a successful career in translational science. The certificate is generally completed in one year and is ideal for individuals who want a customized non-degree program to provide in-depth training in clinical and translational research that complements the curriculum of their primary discipline.

The curriculum includes a 10-credit core of required 500-level courses in biostatistics, epidemiology, experimental design, and research ethics and 5 elective credits at the graduate level. Course enrollment may be at the Hershey, University Park, or World campuses, providing flexible options to complete the curriculum. Students must maintain a grade of B or higher in each course.

The TS certificate is available to all Anatomy master’s and doctoral students.

Application for the TS certificate program is made through the Graduate School GRADS portal and is similar to the application for the ANAT degree program. There is a fee for application. Upon completion, award of the certificate will appear on your Penn State transcript.

More information may be found in the Penn State Graduate Bulletin or by contacting CTS Program Manager at 717-531-0003, ext. 285590.

Goals of Graduate Education in Anatomy Expand answer

The goal of the Graduate Program in Anatomy at Penn State College of Medicine is to educate and prepare individuals for advanced professional degrees in human anatomy, histology, embryology and related topics.

The graduate program is directed toward students who plan to pursue either the Master of Science (MS) degree or the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree. The Master of Science in anatomy is an academic degree awarded for the satisfactory completion of a program of study that includes both didactic coursework and original research. It is expected that a student will expend a minimum of two academic years of study in a full-time capacity to complete this degree. Both the PhD and master’s programs provide students with a quality education encompassing teaching and research.

Completion of either degree track implies that the student will have satisfactorily (1) mastered knowledge that is unique to the field of human structure, (2) mastered knowledge in human anatomy that is necessary to perform in a professional, academic, or corporate setting, or related area, (3) demonstrated competence in scientific research, (4) demonstrated ability to read, write, and evaluate scientific literature, and (5) demonstrated a work ethic that supports scholarship and promotes the highest standards of academic integrity.

Admission

Requirements for Admission Expand answer

Admission is granted jointly by the Graduate School and the graduate program in which the student plans to study. For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either

  • a bachelor’s degree from a U.S. regionally accredited institution, or
  • a postsecondary degree that is equivalent to a U.S. baccalaureate degree earned from an officially recognized degree-granting international institution.

The applicant needs to demonstrate satisfactory completion of a course of study that will prepare him/her for entrance into the anatomy program. Admission to the Anatomy Program is based on several factors including letters of recommendation, academic performance in undergraduate school (i.e., grade point average (GPA), language proficiency, and research experience; graduate school entrance exams such as GREs or MCAT are no longer required.

While there is no strict minimum requirement for the GPA, the graduate school recommends that a GPA of 3.0 or better be maintained during the junior and senior years of undergraduate schooling. If the educational experience is outside the US, confirmation of equivalent coursework will be evaluated. The Master’s of Science track in the Anatomy Graduate Program will accept scores from either GRE or MCAT (or similar) examinations.

A total MCAT score of 500 or higher, or a total GRE score (verbal and quantitative) of 300 or greater, with analytical writing scores of 3.5 or better, are preferred. GRE tests must be taken within 3 years of matriculation.

Language Requirements for Admission Expand answer

Proficiency in English is a requirement of the Graduate School, as well as the Anatomy Graduate Program. The language of instruction at Penn State is English. International applicants must take and submit scores for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) prior to being fully accepted and matriculation. The minimum acceptable score for the TOEFL is 105 with 22 on the speaking section of the internet-based test (iBT). The minimum composite score for the IELTS is 6.5. International applicants are exempt from the TOEFL/IELTS requirement if they have received a baccalaureate or master degree from a university where English is the language of instruction (e.g., Scotland, British West Indies).

Competency in English is a requirement for advancing past the Qualifying Exam. Information related to English Competency is provided in II-F (page 11).

Academics

Requirements for the Master of Science Degree Expand answer

The Master of Science Degree in Anatomy is an academic degree and requires a minimum of 30 graduate credits with at least 18 credits at the 500-level or above. A GPA of 3.0 is required at the time of graduation.

There are 5 required Anatomy courses (13 credits) that include ANAT 503 (6 credits), ANAT 512 (2 credits), ANAT505 (2 credits), ANAT 506 (2 credits), and ANAT 590 (1 credit). NEURO 511 (3 credits) is highly recommended but is optional for graduation. In addition students will register for 1 semester of Biomedical Ethics (PHS 500, BMS 591, 1 credit), 6 credits of ANAT 600 (research), as well as 3-6 credits of electives.

Each of the 5 required anatomy courses must be completed with a grade of “B-” or better, and an overall GPA of 3.0 is required to graduate. Courses with “R” grades are not included in the GPA.

ANAT 600 (Laboratory Research) is required for the academic Master of Science degree and involves two 3-credit courses given quality grades, and usually taken in the last semester (or last 2 semesters) when the student is preparing to defend their thesis research.

The Graduate School has a requirement for training in the Responsible Conduct of Research that requires completion of a training module provided by CITI and at least 5 hours of discipline specific, discussion based ethics (fulfilled by completion of Biomedical Ethics, PHS 500, BMS 591 or the equivalent).

Each student must successfully complete a laboratory-based, hypothesis-driven research project which includes a written thesis and successful presentation of the work to their committee. Presentation in an open, public form is strongly urged.

If a student receives the grade of C+ or C in one of the 5 required Anatomy courses, the student may petition to retake the course, but the original grade will remain on the transcript. This will often necessitate remaining in the program for a 5th semester, and requires the approval in writing of the student’s advisor and the Program Director. If a student receives a grade of C or C+ in more than one required Anatomy courses, they may be asked to leave the program. Students who receive the grade of C- or less in any one of the 4 required Anatomy courses must repeat the course and may be asked to leave the program.

The Master’s Degree program must be completed in three academic years or six semesters unless the student has received prior approval (due to extenuating circumstances) for an extended course of study. Requirements for the Master of Science degree are found online in the Graduate Bulletin and on the Registrar website.

Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree Expand answer

Scholarship

The Doctor of Philosophy degree in Anatomy is conferred on students in recognition of high attainment in scholarship of the anatomy curriculum and competency in biomedical research.

Academic requirements include: 5 required Anatomy courses (ANAT 503, ANAT 512, ANAT505, ANAT 506, NEURO511 for 15 credits); Core Curriculum (BMS 502 and BMS 503 for 6 credits); Supervised Teaching (ANAT 602 for 2 or 3 credits) plus three discretionary courses including Ethics (1 credit), Electives (3 credits), Statistics (3 credits) and colloquium/professional development (ANAT 590, 1 credit). In addition, the Graduate School requires training in the Responsible Conduct of Research that involves completion of a training module provided by CITI and at least 5 hours of discipline specific, discussion based ethics.

An overall GPA of 3.0 is required at the time of taking each of the Qualifying, Comprehensive, and Dissertation Exams. The 5 required Anatomy courses must be completed with a grade of “B-” or better in each course. Any course given the “R” grade is not included in the cumulative average. PhD students must satisfactorily complete at least one semester of ANAT 602 (Supervised teaching) related to the Physician’s Assistant or Medical Education programs.

Any student who receives a grade of C or C+ in one (1) or more of the five (5) required Anatomy courses may be asked to withdraw from the doctoral track. The student may be offered (at the discretion of the Anatomy Advisory Committee and Program Director) the opportunity to petition for admission to the master’s degree track in anatomy. If a student receives the grade of C or less in two (2) or more courses, they will be asked to leave the graduate program. All graded courses are included in the GPA for comprehensive examinations. If the student’s GPA drops below 3.0, the student cannot participate in the qualifying or comprehensive exams, and may be terminated from the doctoral track.

Competency in Research

In addition to mastery of anatomy scholarship, the student will be expected to gain experience and competency in biomedical research. To document this proficiency, the expectations of the doctoral student include the preparation and submission of at least one first-authored, primary research article to a peer-reviewed journal prior to the thesis defense. It is expected that students participate each year in the seminar series, journal club, and/or colloquium within the department of their thesis advisor. If an assistantship is awarded the criteria of the assistantship supersedes these requirements and is outlined at the time of award. In addition, a student must satisfactorily complete the following: (a) written and oral qualifying examinations, (b) written and oral comprehensive examinations, and (c) written and oral defense of thesis. Students must demonstrate competency in the English language (usually fulfilled by successful completion of the oral and written qualifying examinations).

Required Publication

Competency in research is most frequently recorded as a peer-reviewed publication. With regard to doctoral students, the Anatomy Advisory Committee has ruled to require at least one publication related to the student’s research dated prior to the oral defense, and to encourage a first-authored publication submitted to a peer-reviewed journal prior to the oral defense. These publications may be the same in title and authorship. While there may be extenuating circumstances to prevent the completion of the requirement, each case will be considered by the student’s committee and progress toward publication may be accepted in lieu of an actual publication.

Funding and timeline

The current contract between a student, advisor, and the Graduate Program indicates that the student will receive a stipend for the entire time on campus if they maintain acceptable levels of scholarship and research integrity and activity. However, there is a finite timeline set by the University of 6 years from the time of passing the qualifying exam. The Anatomy Program recognizes these timelines but based on the curriculum and historical experience, limits the guarantee of funding to 6 years from the time of matriculation including 1.5 years support from Graduate Education and 4.5 years of support by an individual PI.

Credit Loads Expand answer

Credit loads for students appointed to Graduate Assistantships are defined by the Graduate School. For assistantships the minimum is 9 credits per semester and the maximum credit load is 15 credits per semester. Specific teaching requirements for maintaining assistantships are stated in section V.

Thirty credits are required for the Master’s Degree, 18 credits of which are 500 or higher level graded courses.

International students must register for 9 credits each semester to fulfill the INS visa requirement.

Electives Expand answer

All students must complete at least one elective. Courses should be selected and approved by the Thesis Advisor and Program Director prior to enrollment. Some elective courses are designed as 3 independent modules for 1 credit each. Not all courses are offered each semester; course offerings are available online (CANVAS). “Statistics” may serve as an elective course for Master’s degree students. Recommended electives include PSIO 504, PSIO 505, NEURO 521.

Students interested in completing the CTS certificate or dual degree program will have additional courses to select.

Competence in Written and Spoken English Expand answer

The Graduate School requires that all PhD candidates demonstrate a high-level competence in the English language, including reading, writing and speaking. All students (domestic and international) will be evaluated for their speaking and writing competence as part of their Qualifying Exam. Assessment shall include: original writing of a length and complexity suitable for assessing high-level English language competence. The oral component will assess the student’s listening, comprehension, and speaking skills. To assess speaking competence, students will be evaluated in formal situations where the student has prepared powerpoint presentations for ANAT 590 (Colloquium) held in the first semester, formal scientific presentations, and/or the oral Qualifying examination.

If the performance is not acceptable as judged by the Advisory Committee, the student will be directed to appropriate activities and support services to improve their English skills. Competence in the English language must be demonstrated prior to the Comprehensive Examination.

Teaching Requirement Expand answer

Each student (doctoral candidate) is required to assist in teaching a gross anatomy or neuroanatomy laboratory segment associated with the integrated medical curriculum or gross anatomy for Physician Assistants during the second year in the program; overall academic performance must be in good standing at time of registration (i.e., 3.0 or better GPA). Doctoral students may be required to assist in additional classes depending on type of assistantship, and career choices. All students receiving Assistantships are required to participate in teaching during their second year and to register for ANAT 602 – Supervised Teaching. As teaching assistants, students are expected to attend assigned laboratory sessions, correlated lectures, and participate in active teaching modules. Teaching assistants (TAs) are required to be present only for the duration of the laboratory session as outlined in the syllabus, unless previous arrangements have been agreed upon by both parties. All teaching activities will be assigned and/or supervised by faculty. TAs may tutor students outside the regular class hours at their own discretion. Performance will be graded with letter grades.

Information on the Graduate School Teaching Certificate is available here.

Master’s degree candidates who express an interest in transitioning to the doctoral program are encouraged to participate in teaching.

Transition from MS to PhD Track Expand answer

Although it is expected that most students will complete the academic track selected at matriculation, some students may wish to move from the Master’s degree directly into the Ph.D. track. Movement from the MS track to PhD track can be done following satisfactory completion of requirements for a Master’s Degree, including defense of research thesis. An overall GPA of 3.3 is required at the time of petition. During the last semester in the Master’s program, the student should make a formal petition to the Advisory committee stating their interest in pursuing a Ph.D. It is recommended, but not necessary, that the student have identified a laboratory in which they are interested in working. Although the student does not need to complete a formal application, the student should submit an online application so that his/her credentials will be added to the pool of candidates, and evaluated as any other prospective applicant. Completion of the Master’s degree does not guarantee admission into the doctoral program.

During the first semester following the transition (presumably the 5th semester of graduate school), the student will be required to complete a Qualifying Examination, the nature of which may be modified depending on the student’s academic performance. The student will be required to enroll in PHS 500 (Ethics), statistics, and any other electives or core courses not already completed. In addition, the student must prepare for the Comprehensive Examination which will most likely be administered during the Spring or Summer semester of the third year and follow the guidelines outlined in this Handbook (section III B). The student must follow the graduate school residency policy which requires that 2 consecutive semesters be completed before completion of the Comprehensive Exam.

If a student completes the Master’s program and receives a diploma, and then transitions into the doctoral track, a residency requirement stipulated by University Park must be fulfilled. This may require registering for 2 consecutive semesters prior to completion of the Comprehensive Examination; in some cases, exemptions to the residency requirement have been granted.

If the master’s track student has demonstrated exceptional scholarship during the first year and seeks to transition to the doctoral program, the student must have achieved an overall 3.3 GPA during the first, or first and second, semesters, with a 3.3 GPA in required anatomy courses. Along with consultation and permission from the program director, a written request to transition should be submitted at the end of the semester. The student would complete the qualifying exam and begin the 3rd semester (year 2) taking the core curriculum. The student would receive 1 or 2 semesters of support from the Graduate Program depending on the timing of transition.

The student should prepare a letter of petition, addressed to the Anatomy Graduate Program Advisory Committee, requesting early transition to the doctoral track. The student should indicate (me) why they are requesting the transition, (ii) future directions, (iii) indication of laboratory of interest (and) acceptance, as well as a brief explanation why they began the program as a master’s student. A decision will be made based on current academic performance, and interest/intent for the doctoral degree.

Transition from PhD to MS Track Expand answer

Transition from the PhD track to the MS track may occur at the recommendation of the Advisory Committee or the voluntary choice of the student. In all cases, this transition will be initiated in writing at the request of the student, and require approval from the Program Director and the Advisory Committee.

Transfer of Credit Expand answer

Transfer of Credit From An External Institution

Rules for transfer of credits are dictated by the Graduate Council at University Park. In general, a maximum of 10 credits of graduate work done at an accredited institution may be applied toward the requirements for the master’s degree. No credit earned to complete a previous master’s degree at any institution may be applied to a second master’s degree at Penn State.

Transfer of credits for a doctoral student is a maximum of 10 credits carried out at an accredited institution. Courses that are acceptable for transfer must be taken within 3 calendar years of matriculation at Penn State. If a Master’s degree is awarded at Penn State and the student is transferring to the Anatomy Program, special consideration will be made to limit the number of additional courses required. However, all of the course requirements for the Program must be completed satisfactorily.

Acceptance of all transfer credits are at the discretion of the Anatomy Program Director and Advisory Committee.

Transfer of Credit From Penn State Graduate Programs

Transfer of credits for a doctoral student is a maximum of 10 credits carried out at an accredited institution. Courses that are acceptable for transfer must be taken within 3 calendar years of matriculation at Penn State. If a Master’s degree is awarded at Penn State and the student is transferring to the Anatomy Program, special consideration will be made to limit the number of additional courses required. However, all of the course requirements for the Program must be completed satisfactorily. If a student is transferring from another Graduate Program at Penn State University, course requirements for the Anatomy Program will remain in place (not waived), however other credits earned at Penn State will presumably be acceptable to complete required Selective and Electives requirements.

Residency Requirement Expand answer

The residency requirement for the research doctorate (policy GCAC-601) explicitly states that over a twelve-month period the PhD student must spend at least two consecutive semesters, exclusive of summer sessions, as a registered full-time student engaged in academic work at the Penn State campus(as) offering the Ph.D. degree in the student’s graduate major program. Furthermore, enrollment in ANAT 601 or ANAT 611 (research on campus or off-campus) cannot be used to meet this requirement.

Full time University employees enrolled in a PhD program must be registered for 6 credits or more in each semester in which residency is declared and must be certified as full time employees by their unit leader. In exceptional cases, the Head of the graduate program may certify to Graduate Enrollment Services that the student is devoting half time or more to graduate studies in lieu of registered credits. This requirement must be satisfied at a Penn State campus offering the Ph.D. degree in the student’s graduate major program. This requirement must be satisfied prior to the semester in which the final oral examination is administered.

Graduate School Examinations and PhD Checklist

Required Examinations Expand answer

All doctoral candidates at the Penn State University Graduate School are required to successfully complete a qualifying examination, written and oral comprehensive examination, and oral defense of their written dissertation. The student’s GPA must be 3.0 in order to participate in all examinations. Usually the qualifying examination is held in the spring of the first year following coursework, and serves to establish the student as a “candidate” for a doctoral degree. The comprehensive examination is overseen by the student’s thesis committee and the Program Chair, and is usually held at the end of the second year. The doctoral dissertation must be satisfactorily completed within 6 years of the Comprehensive Examination; otherwise a new examination must be completed.

Qualifying Examination (Policy GCAC-604) Expand answer

Purpose

The primary purpose of the Qualifying Examination is to provide an early assessment of whether the student has the potential to develop the knowledge, skills, and attributes the program has defined in its formal Learning Objectives, including evidence of critical thinking skills, necessary for a successful researcher in the disciplinary field. The Qualifying Exam assesses if the student is well grounded in the fundamental knowledge of the discipline, as well as the student’s comprehension of the body of knowledge related to the discipline.

All students must take the Qualifying Examination within three semesters (not counting the summer semester) of entry into the doctoral program. Students who have been identified as master’s-along-the-way upon admission into the graduate program may be allowed an extension such that the three semester time limit will begin upon completion of the master’s degree. Students pursuing dual-title degrees must take the Qualifying Examination within four semesters (not counting the summer semester) of entry into the doctoral program.

To be eligible to take the Qualifying Examination the student must have:

  1. Earned at least 18 credits in courses eligible to be counted toward the graduate degree (these may be graduate credits earned previously at other recognized institutions from which transfer credits would be accepted) or the equivalent as determined and documented by the program.
  2. A grade-point average of 3.00 or greater for work done at the university while a graduate student.
  3. No incomplete or deferred grades.

The Qualifying Exam is administered by the Anatomy Program Advisory Committee, which may confer with other faculty on the design of the examination. Subject matter is limited to the 5 required courses completed during the first year curriculum. As prescribed by the Graduate School, students must have a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 to be eligible to take the Qualifying Examination and grades of B- or better in all required courses; any research credits may not be included in the cumulative average. The comprehensive exam may not be administered until the qualifying exam has been passed.

For students transitioning from the Master’s to Doctoral program in Anatomy, the Qualifying Exam will occur within four months of transition and will involve an oral exam comparable to that applied to doctoral students and assessment of a thesis submitted in fulfillment of a research master’s degree in the major or a related program. Thus only the oral component of the Qualifying Examination will be required for transitioning students.

You can see the relevant Penn State requirements here.

Format

The guidelines for design, administration, and evaluation of the Anatomy Qualifying Exam are uniformly applied to all doctoral students. The Qualifying Examination usually consists of a written and oral examination that encompasses knowledge covered in the four major disciplines (e.g., gross anatomy, embryology, histology and neuroanatomy). The written examination consists of a number of questions that must be answered, or statements that must be defended or refuted. The oral qualifying examination is the presentation of a PowerPoint “lecture” on an assigned topic. During the oral presentation, the student must present and answer questions without support of any kind. Guidelines for the examinations are distributed at least three weeks prior to the examinations.

Evaluation

The oral qualifying examination is graded on-site by all faculty members in attendance. Quality scores (1 to 5 being best) are provided for eight criteria assessing Presentation Skills (organization of presentation, effective use of visual aids, good mastery of language, clarity of speech, appeared calm and confident) and Knowledge (general knowledge, detailed knowledge, ability to answer questions). In addition, subjective feedback is provided in writing as well as throughout the presentation. A total score of 30 (out of 40) is required to pass.

Written qualifying exams are graded by at least two (2) faculty. Answers are not returned, but overall feedback will be provided. There are seven categories graded on a numeric scale (5 being the best) including organization, logical presentation, thoroughness and accuracy of the answer, and evidence of critical thinking. A passing grade on the Written Qualifying Exam is 25 (out of 35) points.

Collectively, the Qualifying Exam is graded Pass or Fail, and student will receive a letter from the Program Director indicating the status. In the event of failure of one or more questions, or failure of the entire oral and/or written component, the Anatomy Program Advisory Committee will determine whether the student may take another examination. The student may take the qualifying examination only twice within the same academic program. If performance on the qualifying examination is unacceptable, students may be asked to resign from the program, or consider joining the Master’s program in Anatomy.

Changes to the design and implementation of the Qualifying Examination are at the discretion of the Program Director/Anatomy Advisory Committee. All doctoral students are required to complete this examination before identifying a research laboratory.

The same report of all Qualifying Examinations, regardless of the outcome, must be reported to both the student and Graduate Enrollment Services as soon as possible but no later than 30 days following the conclusion of the assessment of the student; this includes both the initial examination, and any subsequent retakes. The report will include any identified deficiencies as well as any remedial steps the committee recommends or requires the student to undertake. Unresolved deficiencies from other assessments (e.g., English Competence, see GCAC-605) should be included.

The Qualifying Examination Committee will also share any recommendations for further study or preparation, as well as any remedial steps the committee requires the student to undertake with the student’s Academic or Dissertation adviser and PhD Committee (when formed).

Dual-Degree Qualifying Examination

If the student is also enrolled in a dual-title graduate degree program, the Qualifying Examination requirement shall be satisfied by one of the following: Ideally, a single Qualifying Examination that incorporates content from both the graduate major program and the dual-title program. The Qualifying Examination Committee must include at least one member of the Graduate Faculty from the dual-title program. In cases where the timing of the Qualifying Examination in the major area precludes the inclusion of the dual-title area, the dual-title program may choose to examine proficiency in the dual-title area at a later time, but no later than the end of the fourth semester (not counting summer semesters) of entry into the major doctoral program. Dual-title programs may choose to allow the Qualifying Examination in the major area alone to satisfy the requirements for the dual-title program. The means of establishing proficiency in the dual-title area must be defined in the major program proposal adopting the dual-title degree and must be included in the student handbook for each dual-title program.

Comprehensive Examination Expand answer

Purpose

Each PhD student is required to pass a Comprehensive Examination to become a PhD candidate. The Comprehensive Examination is administered, overseen and evaluated by the entire PhD Committee (see GCAC-602 and GCAC-603). The committee evaluates the preparedness and competency of the student to conduct their research in light of the program’s defined Learning Objectives, particularly with respect to: the student’s mastery of the major, and if appropriate, dual-title and minor fields of study; and whether the student is prepared to succeed in their dissertation research. The Comprehensive Exam (for doctoral degree students only) is designed to test the student’s ability to comprehend the field of selected research and to assimilate this knowledge in such a way as to be able to phrase questions and identify areas in which to contribute to this knowledge base. At the time of preparation of this handbook, this exam is usually taken at the end of the second year, and serves as the transition from didactic learning to full-time researcher. The examination consists of a written research proposal followed by an oral examination. The Comprehensive Examination is administered by the student’s doctoral committee. It is a rule of the Graduate School that students must have a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 at the time of the Comprehensive Examination to be eligible to sit for the Comprehensive Examination. In addition it is a rule of the Program that a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 not include any research credits, and that all required Program courses be completed with a grade of B- or better. The student must also have satisfied the English competence requirement and should have completed all required coursework. The oral examination must be formally scheduled by the Associate Dean of the Graduate School at University Park.

Timing and format of the examination

The responsibility for scheduling the Comprehensive Exam rests with the student and their PhD committee chair. The graduate student must be in good academic standing and must be registered as a full-time or part-time graduate degree student for the semester in which the Comprehensive Examination is taken. All students are required to have a minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for work completed at the University as a graduate student at the time the Comprehensive Examination is administered.

The Comprehensive Examination may not occur before: the completion of all course work required by the program and the PhD Committee (this does not preclude the Ph.D. Committee from requiring additional education, including course work, as defined in GCAC-603); the student has satisfied the English competency requirement (GCAC-605); the student has satisfied any program-specific communication and foreign language competency requirement. The Comprehensive Examination should be scheduled within a year of completion of all required course work to provide students with timely assessment of their ability to complete their dissertation, but it must be scheduled no later than five years following the passing of the Qualifying Examination. Comprehensive Examinations must take place at the campus location of the graduate center offering the program to ensure the technological reliability, confidentiality and safety of all participants.

Comprehensive Examination Attendance requires that the PhD student must be physically present at the examination. In addition to the student, at least three members of the PhD Committee, must be physically present at the examination. This must include the chair, the dissertation adviser(s), and (for students enrolled in a dual-title with a co-chair representing the dual-title) the dual-title co-chair. Additional PhD Committee members beyond the required minimum of three may participate remotely, but in-person participation is strongly encouraged. Notification of participation of any PhD committee member via distance must accompany the Examination Request Form at least two weeks prior to the date of the examination. (In the case of emergencies, programs should contact Graduate Enrollment Services.) Those participating via distance should use interactive audio-visual technology. If unable to connect with video, audio-only participation may be allowed. Participation via distance must be communicated to the student and all PhD Committee members at the time of the notification to Graduate Enrollment Services.

Written Proposal

The proposal may be on any topic, including the student’s prospective thesis research, and follows the format of a NIH Predoctoral Fellowship (F31) application. The topic of the proposal must be agreed upon by the student and his/her thesis committee. After agreeing to the topic, the student’s committee should have as little to do with the proposal as possible. This means that the student must limit verbal or written communication with the committee about the examination topic until completion of the requirement. The student is free to utilize any published or electronic papers that are available, but the logic, experimental design, and writing must belong entirely to the student. The written proposal must be completed and delivered to the members of the doctoral committee seven to ten days before the oral examination. The written proposal should not exceed 10 single-spaced type written pages (one page – abstract; nine pages for sections 2-4 of an F31 prototype), with an additional two-page limit for references (total 12 pages). The student has no more than three weeks to complete the written comprehensive paper and submit electronically to the committee. Thus the entire process requires a five-week period dedicated to the Comprehensive Examination.

It is the student’s responsibility to initiate scheduling the Comprehensive Examination, acquire signatures as needed, and abide by the temporal guidelines.

Oral Examination

Students are expected to present the rationale and general approach of their proposal, followed by an oral examination by the committee on the proposed experiments, predicted results, interpretation of data, and knowledge of relevant background material. The oral examination should be scheduled within seven to 10 days (no later than 14 days) after submission of the written examination. The oral examination is scheduled through the Office of Graduate Education at University Park and as such, acknowledges formation of the committee, and completion of one milestone in the Graduate Education process. The oral examination is scheduled for a three-hour period of time. Each committee member is required to be present for the Comprehensive Exam, or otherwise, will be removed from the committee.

Evaluation

The results of all Comprehensive Examinations, regardless of the outcome, must be reported to the Graduate Enrollment Services within five business days following the examination. Students are judged on their combined performance in the written and oral portions of the exam. A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the committee is required for passing. In the event of failure, the examining committee will determine whether the student may take another examination. The overall examination process is graded as Outstanding, High Pass, Pass or Fail; no letter grades will be assigned. Each committee member is required to assign a “descriptive” evaluation and sign the graduate college forms. A majority of passing grades are required for successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination. Guidelines for evaluation include, but are not limited to:

  • Is the research original?
  • Is there a testable hypothesis?
  • Are proper experimental designs used?
  • Are appropriate techniques, including animal care, patient care described?
  • Are results interpreted accurately?
  • Is the candidate able to defend the methods and conclusions?
  • Does the candidate show sufficient knowledge of the literature?
  • Is the research worthy of publication?
  • Is the research plan original and sufficiently organized/developed to submit to a funding agency?

A six-year limit is in place between completion of the comprehensive examination and oral thesis defense. If the six-year limit is exceeded, a new comprehensive examination must be rescheduled.

In case of failure, the committee decides if the student should repeat the oral, the written or both examinations. The retake examination must be administered by the same committee with all members present, unless otherwise decided by the committee that only the written examination is required and can be re-evaluated independently by the faculty. If an oral exam is required, it must be completed within 10 days of the original exam.

If the student fails the retake, the student will be dismissed from the program or may be allowed to change to the master’s degree. If the student fails both oral and written original exams, and a retake is not recommended, the student may be allowed to change to the master’s degree. A favorable vote of two-thirds of the members of the PhD committee is required to pass the Comprehensive Exam.

Ideally, the Comprehensive Exam is completed at the end of the fourth semester, and prior to the beginning of the fifth semester (Aug. 1).

Post-Comprehensive Registration Requirements

In most cases, all formal coursework should be completed prior to the scheduling of the comprehensive examination. In special circumstances, students may be eligible to take courses following successful completion of the exam. Students should consult with their thesis advisor and/or Chair of the Graduate Program as necessary. Students must register for the semester in which their Comprehensive Examination is scheduled.

After the student has passed the comprehensive examination, no further registration for credit courses is required by the Graduate School. Anatomy students should register for Thesis Preparation (ANAT 601) for 0 credits. It is important that students register for ANAT 601 because it involves a substantial reduction in tuition. If courses are taken during this interval, however, tuition must be paid and ANAT 601 cannot be used. To avoid this extra expense, all students should complete their coursework and comprehensive examination during the first two years of graduate work.

Dissertation & Thesis Defense Expand answer

Completion of the requirements for a PhD degree in Anatomy entails the preparation of a dissertation (written thesis), a final oral examination (thesis defense), and formal acceptance of the thesis by the student’s doctoral committee. You can find details concerning format and requirements for a thesis at Penn State’s Graduate School website and through University Libraries’ thesis and dissertation website. All thesis documents are submitted electronically. Intentions to defend the dissertation research should be indicated to the Anatomy Graduate Office at least four weeks prior to the scheduled oral defense.

Thesis Preparation

The Graduate School has strict guidelines for the preparation and format of the written thesis; see the Graduate Programs Bulletin for details. Extensive consultation with the thesis committee is strongly encouraged: it is expected that the student should distribute one or two drafts of the dissertation to committee members for review and critique prior to the defense. Students should plan to provide a first draft of the dissertation no less than 2 months before the anticipated date for the final oral examination. The goal is that the dissertation should be in final form prior to the oral examination.

The final written thesis must be submitted to the thesis advisor and/or committee chair no later than 6-8 weeks prior to the established date by the graduate office for the anticipated graduation. The written thesis should be provided to the committee members no later than 4 weeks prior to the established date of the oral defense.

Oral Examination

The final oral examination consists of a public presentation of the thesis research, followed by a closed meeting with the student’s doctoral committee. The examination should be scheduled after the student has fulfilled all of the graduate school requirements for the degree; three weeks’ notice is recommended by the Graduate School for scheduling this examination. The dissertation should be delivered to the members of the doctoral committee four weeks before the defense. A favorable vote of at least two-thirds of the thesis committee is required for passing the final oral examination.

Thesis Acceptance

This is the final step of the process. The thesis must be accepted, as indicated by the signatures of two-thirds of the doctoral committee, and by the program director.

PhD Degree Checklist Expand answer

The following items must be completed satisfactorily in order to graduate from Penn State. Graduation ceremonies are held for the Hershey campus only in May. However, if the requirements are met for graduation at other times of the year, the dates of August or December are assigned to the written thesis, but commencement ceremonies at the Hershey campus are only held in May. A non-inclusive list of requirements:

  • Qualifying examination (within 3 semesters of matriculation)
  • Appointment of doctoral committee (selection of chair and thesis advisor)
  • Complete communication requirements
  • Comprehensive examination (written and oral)
  • Approval by committee on an annual basis of progress in research
  • Approval to proceed to the final oral examination (granted by doctoral committee)
  • Schedule final oral exam (4 weeks prior to date)
  • Distribute completed thesis to doctoral committee members (at least 2 weeks prior to final oral examination)
  • Successful completion of final oral examination (public)
  • Submit electronic version of thesis to The Graduate School
  • Obtain final approval and signatures of committee
  • Purchase of bound copies is optional and paid for by the student

View information on completing your degree at the Graduate School website.

Unsatisfactory Scholarship, Failure of Academic Integrity and Dismissal

Unsatisfactory Scholarship Expand answer

Students in the PhD track are required to have a minimum grade-point average of 3.0 for both the doctoral qualifying (year 1) and eligibility to take the comprehensive examination (year 2). A cumulative grade-point average below 3.0 may be considered evidence of unsatisfactory scholarship and be grounds for dismissal from the University (see the Graduate Programs Bulletin). The Program Advisory Committee may initiate action. The Advisory Committee may also place the student on academic probation for one or more semesters. Specific criteria related to satisfactory/unsatisfactory scholarship are stated in sections II-A (Master’s Degree) and II-B (Doctoral Degree).

Failure of Academic Integrity Expand answer

The Graduate School at Penn State holds several policies regarding unprofessional behavior. Guidelines for dismissal of a student from a laboratory, or more seriously, dismissal of a student from the Graduate Program, are outlined in the Graduate School’s policy on conduct. In general, substantial written documentation of the student’s behavior is required for dismissal.

The Penn State Code of Conduct outlines acceptable behaviors. Failure of the Code of Conduct is handled by the Judicial Affairs policies. If it is determined that misconduct was committed, the assistantship may be terminated upon approval by the Program Director in consultation with the Associate Dean for Graduate Education at Hershey, without proceeding with a performance improvement meeting. Acts of misconduct include, but are not limited to, theft, fraud, physical altercations, sexual harassment or ethical violations.

Termination of the Degree Program for Unsatisfactory Scholarship Expand answer

Termination of the degree program for unsatisfactory scholarship may include, but are not limited to:

  1. inadequate GPA (3.0),
  2. failure to obtain satisfactory grades in required courses for the program (B-),
  3. and/or failing of the qualifying, comprehensive or final oral examinations.
    1. Additional grounds for termination will be made in the event that a student has not selected a laboratory within 3 complete semesters of enrollment if there is evidence that successful rotations have been completed. In the event of illness or substantial absence from those 3 semesters will extend the period of time, but the student must show diligence and good faith in selection of a mentor. As the program supports only 3 semesters, the student must identify a mentor to continue the support of the student beginning with the 4th semester or termination from the degree program will be considered on the basis of unsatisfactory scholarship.

      In such events, the student must be given advance notice in writing explaining the reasons for termination. Procedures for termination are outlined here.

      Please see sections II-A and II-B for specific scholarship requirements of the Anatomy Program, as well as criteria for termination due to unsatisfactory scholarship, and possible transition to the Master’s Degree track from the Doctoral track.

Termination of the Assistantship for Inadequate Performance Expand answer

Termination of the Assistantship related to inadequate performance in research must be documented in writing in a timely manner, and preferably acknowledged in writing by both student and faculty indicating diligent and numerous attempts by both parties to resolve unsatisfactory issues.

Policies and procedures for the dismissal of students from either an investigator’s laboratory, from an assistantship, or from the Program shall follow the rulings established by the University Graduate Council and are outlined here.

The duties and responsibilities for individual laboratories vary widely. It is recommended that each student communicate with their advisor on the expectations of the particular laboratory; an “Expectations” document (see section VI-F below) is provided to each student during the first semester. This document can serve as a minimal set of requirements; advisor and students should amend as appropriate.

If a graduate assistant fails to meet acceptable standards of performance as prescribed in writing by the advisor, the Program Director should be notified and a meeting scheduled within 3 days. Upon review of the situation if it is concluded that the graduate assistant has failed to meet acceptable performance, the Program Director may terminate the assistantship appointment. Written documentation of this action must be submitted to the Dean of the College, Associate Dean of the Graduate school, as well as the student. Consequences regarding healthcare and/or other benefits must be made known to the student.

Information regarding an appeal process is provided online.

Withdrawal from Class and Repeating Courses Expand answer

Penn State University does not condone withdrawal from classes for purposes of repeating courses to achieve higher grades; see section 47-80 on repeating courses in the Graduate Senate Policy. The program policy is outlined below.

Anatomy courses

The Anatomy Graduate Program does not permit withdrawal from any of the 5 required Anatomy Program courses at the discretion of the student. A course in which a grade of C or C+ was obtained cannot be repeated. Any required courses in which a grade lower than C is received must be repeated. Any course may be repeated only once, and both grades are included on the transcript.

Non-anatomy courses

For other courses (e.g., BMS 502; BMS 591), the policy of the course instructor determines whether the course can be repeated. In general, courses may be repeated if original grades are unsatisfactory and the student presents a reasonable justification for this action such as extended illness or family issues. In these cases, the student must have contacted the instructor at the beginning of the illness/issue.

A student may repeat a course in which a grade of D or F was received. Both grades are included in the computation of the grade-point average.

Financial Support

Graduate Assistantship - Master's Degree Expand answer

In general, master’s degree students are self-paying. For selected students, half-time research assistantship may be provided for either one or more semesters while in good standing in the Master’s Program. Awardees receive financial support plus waiver of tuition. A 3.0 GPA is required to be considered for an assistantship and will be awarded at the discretion of the director pending available funding. Assistantships will be withdrawn if a 3.0 GPA is not maintained. Students are responsible for costs of books (approximately $400/year), activity fees, and medical insurance.

Graduate Assistantship - Doctoral Program Expand answer

For most doctoral students, a half-time research assistantship will be provided by the Anatomy Program for both semesters of the first year. Negotiations for assistantships in subsequent years are the responsibility of the student and their selected mentor. The Anatomy Graduate Program will provide monetary assistance for every 2 month period of time during which the student is teaching medical and/or PA students. This usually occurs by reimbursement of the faculty mentor, but in some circumstances could be direct payment to the study under work-study arrangements. Assistantships may also be granted from various university or foundation sources. Awardees received financial support plus tuition at the established College of Medicine rate. Students are responsible for costs of books, activity fees, thesis fees, and medical insurance. Medical insurance is strongly advised for Anatomy Graduate students, but not required. Penn State will pay 80% of the annual premium cost for the basic plan of the Penn State Student Health Insurance Policy.

Graduate Assistantship Terms Expand answer

Research assistantships are based on NIH guidelines and provide sufficient support to allow students full-time devotion to their graduate studies. Half-time assistantships span 18 weeks each semester, but are paid over the entire 52-week year. Stipulations of the assistantship may include, among other things, 20 hours of work for the mentor, unrelated to thesis research. The College of Medicine, as well as each graduate faculty member is encouraged to devise their own “Expectations” document that is supplied to students entering a laboratory (see Section VI-F). It is the responsibility of both the student and the mentor to review these expectations, particularly with regard to payment and expectations of receipt of stipend/assistantship. Time off for vacations, sick leave and unrelated research purposes must be approved by the mentor prior to the event. Some normal expectations associated with an assistantship include attendance at classes, study time for each course taken, in-laboratory research, and preparation of abstracts, manuscripts, and thesis. For students who register for teaching in ANAT 715, the hours of teaching are restricted to those that fall within the normal 8 a.m. through 5 p.m. workday; additional time spent with students is considered voluntary and students are under no obligation to do so. In return, the student can register for 3 credits of ANAT 602.

Assistantships have federal tax withheld.

The assistantship is automatically terminated upon graduation from the program or when the graduate assistant is no longer in the program. Assistantships may be revoked and/or not renewed dependent on the student’s academic integrity and/or performance.

Assistantships are made on an annual basis, and are not automatically extended for the duration of the student’s academic career.

Other Fees Expand answer

A thesis fee (approximately $95 for PhD, approximately $25 for MS) is required for all students. In addition, computer (IT) and activity fees may be imposed by the University on all graduate students.

Financial Awards Expand answer

Recruitment awards

Recruitment awards (up to $15,000 over a three-year period) may be offered at the time of competitive recruitment. Awardees are selected by a college-wide committee and awarded stipend adjustments commensurate with the award (e.g., University Graduate Fellowship, Burton Award, FEGR Award).

Fellowships

Doctoral students are encouraged to compete for national research fellowships including those provided by NIH (F31) and NSF. A few awards may be available from the American Association of Anatomists, and the American Association of Student Anatomists.

Advisers and Mentors

Faculty Adviser Expand answer

The Program Director serves as the adviser for all first-year students. Once a student has selected a laboratory, the PI (mentor) becomes the adviser. The Program Director continues in the position of overall adviser and mentor. The adviser assists in course selection, committee selection, and the writing and presentation of the research thesis.

Laboratory Rotations Expand answer

The Graduate Program in Anatomy is responsible for advising and oversight of first-year students. To ensure that each student experiences the breadth of research opportunities within the Program, first-year students participate in laboratory rotations. It is imperative that doctoral students identify a laboratory within 3 semesters of matriculation in which to conduct doctoral research and receive stipend/tuition, as the program supports ends.

Number and Length of Laboratory Rotations

Students on the PhD track rotate through at least two laboratories during their first year of study; master’s students can rotate through one to two laboratories during their first year of study. Each rotation is approximately 6 weeks in length.

The purpose of these rotations is to provide students with the opportunity to become acquainted with the personnel and research projects within a laboratory, as well as for students to learn particular techniques. A laboratory rotation involves minimally 20 hours weekly in the laboratory. In theory, the rotations should be carried out during November and December, mid-February through March, and April through mid-May. If a 4th rotation is necessary, it should be carried out in June and July of the first year.

Choosing Laboratories

The Director of the Graduate Program sets the dates for each rotation period, accommodating the coursework throughout the semesters. Faculty members will be solicited for the number of students and preferences for rotation periods. This information is distributed to students, and the Director of the Program, along with the Advisory Committee will assist in matching students to laboratories. Students will be introduced to faculty and laboratories during ANAT 590. As soon as students have identified a laboratory that they are interested in joining, discussions should ensue between faculty and students.

Students may choose any member of the Anatomy Program for a rotation. Upon petition by the student, the student may rotate in the laboratory of a graduate faculty member not in the Anatomy Program. Students will be provided with the potential projects available from each member of the Program. It is the student’s responsibility to make an appointment with the faculty to discuss the rotation.

Rotation Reports

The rotation advisor should provide the student with a defined project and clear expectations as to the amount of work involved and the work schedule; the advisor should also meet regularly with the students to discuss the progress of the rotation. Upon completion of each rotation a brief synopsis of the project should be prepared by the student and submitted to the mentor and Program Director. This report serves to evaluate the writing skills of the student, and in part, to help the faculty assess English competency requirements. Moreover, the quality of the report is considered in the assignment of an “R” grade.

Each report should be approximately two pages (single-spaced; 12-point font) in which the student describes the project including: background, goals, experimental design/techniques, predicted outcomes, actual results (if any), and discussion of results (or discussion of predicted results). References and presentation of data (figures/tables) should be included.

The faculty mentor will also be requested to submit a report on the rotation.

Thesis Adviser Expand answer

For Master’s Degree students, the thesis adviser and permanent laboratory should be selected by December, no later than March 1, of the first year. For PhD students, the thesis adviser and permanent laboratory must be selected by the end of the first academic year (July 31) following rotations and successful completion of the qualifying examination. A student may choose any good standing member of the Anatomy Program faculty, provided the faculty member is willing to accept the student and provide appropriate space and resources (i.e., tuition and/or stipends) in their laboratory. In the event that the student initiates a petition to have a graduate faculty member outside of the Anatomy Program serve as adviser, the Advisory Committee for the Graduate Program in Anatomy must approve such adviser prior to the student beginning work in this laboratory. For all advisers, a letter from the Chair of the relevant Department is required that acknowledges the financial responsibility of that adviser and/or Department for the student during the entire course of the student’s training.

It is the responsibility of the thesis advisers and graduate committees for the judicious timing of meetings and examinations. There is a standardized tracking form in place for the mandatory yearly evaluation of each student.

Master's Degree Committee Expand answer

The Master’s committee consists of three (3) or more members of the Graduate Faculty of Penn State and includes at least two (2) members from the Graduate Program in Anatomy. The Chair of the committee must be a member of the Graduate Program in Anatomy, be a member of the Graduate Faculty, and represent the same field of research.

The responsibilities of the Master’s degree committee are to provide general guidance for the student and to insure successful completion of the thesis research. Students will prepare a thesis proposal for their committee’s review prior to beginning research (spring term of the first year). The committee will meet again in the spring term of the second year to assess the progress of the research and approve the final Master’s thesis.

The Director of the Graduate Program should be listed on the signatory page of the thesis but does not need to be a member of the committee.

Doctoral Degree Committee Expand answer

Purpose and Responsibilities

The primary responsibility of the doctoral committee is to guide the broad scholarly development of the PhD student, including direct responsibility for guidance and assessment of the student’s dissertation research and academic progress toward the PhD degree. PhD Committee members are appointed based on their skills and expertise with these goals in mind. Specific responsibilities include (but are not limited to):

  1. approval of the educational program for each individual student beyond the program requirements,
  2. provide written assessment of the student’s progress on an annual basis that includes
    1. a review of any prior annual assessments,
    2. comments on the quality of the student’s research and progress toward their degree such as recommendations to improve the student’s research and/or concerns identified and recommend actions to address the concerns,
    3. assessment of the student’s professional development and provide any recommendations as appropriate for the student’s career goals. Both majority and minority opinions should be recorded and supplied to the student.
  3. Administer the student’s Comprehensive Examination and assess the student’s performance on the examination.
  4. Assess the student’s dissertation and recommend (or not) its approval to the Graduate School. The PhD Committee shall conduct the student’s Final Oral Examination and assess the student’s performance on the examination.

Assessments usually follow the student’s annual seminar and are intended to provide a review of the student’s dissertation research and the student’s understanding of the dissertation research goals, objectives, and methods. The PhD Committee shall meet as necessary to advise the student and the student’s dissertation adviser. The best practice for the entire PhD Committee is to meet together with the student to conduct the annual assessment. If there is no meeting, it is strongly recommended that the student meet individually with each member, at least annually.

The responsibilities of the doctoral committee are to provide general guidance for the student and administer the Comprehensive Examination and Thesis Defense. Committee members should be knowledgeable and interested in the general area of the proposed research. Students are advised to consult with their advisor when choosing the members of their thesis committee; all committees are approved by the Penn State University Graduate Council. Students will prepare a thesis proposal for their committee’s review following successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination (most likely early in the third year). It is recommended that the student meet with the doctoral committee every six months, but no less than once each year.

Membership

In the fall of the second year, after the student has passed the qualifying examination, the student will form a doctoral committee in consultation with their thesis advisor. The doctoral research committee is selected and approved by the Program Director. The doctoral committee should consist of five (5) or more members of the Graduate Faculty and includes at least three (3) members from the Program in Anatomy and one Outside member. The “Outside” member represents the Graduate School and must have a primary appointment in a department other than the one represented by the student’s advisor, and must have no financial or intellectual connection with the advisor. The Chair of the committee most likely is the student’s thesis advisor; however it is not a requirement. As stated in section C above, the chair of the thesis committee may be a graduate faculty member outside of the Program in Anatomy, only if the Advisory Committee grants permission. If only 4 committee members are selected, permission from the Advisory Committee is required. In the event that one of 4 members cannot serve, additional members must be recruited.

In some cases, faculty who are not members of the graduate faculty may be instrumental in one portion of a thesis and might want to serve as Special Members or Special Signatory Members. For both cases, the rules outlined by the PSU Graduate School prevail.

Dissertation Committee (co)Chair: Graduate Faculty member(s) responsible for assuring that all Graduate Council standards and requirements relative to the PhD degree are met and that any conditions set by the student’s Dissertation Committee are fulfilled.

Dissertation Committee Chair: The Dissertation Committee Chair shall be a member of the Graduate Faculty and the student’s major Graduate Program. The Dissertation Committee Chair is responsible for arranging and conducting all Dissertation Committee Meetings, ensuring that all Graduate Program, Graduate Council, and Graduate School standards and requirements relative to the doctoral degree are met, and that any conditions set by the Dissertation Committee are fulfilled.

For students pursuing dual-title degrees, either the Dissertation Committee Chair or a co-Chair must be a Graduate Faculty member of the dual-title program.

Dissertation (co)Adviser: Each Committee shall include the student’s Dissertation Adviser. The Dissertation Adviser is responsible for the day-to-day guidance of the student’s dissertation research, and academic and professional development.

  • Where day-to-day guidance is shared by two members of the Graduate Faculty, both may be appointed to the Dissertation Committee as co-Advisers.
  • Co-advisers are jointly and severally responsible for the day-to-day guidance of the student’s dissertation research, and academic and professional development.
  • A Dissertation Advisor may also serve as the Dissertation Committee Chair (or co-Chair).

Outside Unit Member: Graduate Faculty member responsible for providing the student and the Dissertation Committee with a perspective on the dissertation research and other professional matters from outside the unit that offers the program or, in the case of intercollege graduate degree programs (IGDPs), outside the unit of the chair/adviser.

Outside Field Member: Graduate Faculty member responsible for broadening the disciplinary perspective available to the student and the Dissertation Committee; must have a disciplinary expertise different from the student’s primary field of study.

Minor Program Member: For students pursuing a minor, a Graduate Faculty member who is a member of and represents the minor program on the Dissertation Committee.

Special Member: A member of the student’s Dissertation Committee who is not a member of the Graduate Faculty of Penn State, but whose expertise and insights would provide substantial benefit to the student’s dissertation research and the Dissertation Committee.

Expectations Documents Expand answer

An Expectations policy has been implemented to provide open communication between students and mentors regarding expectations of each other in laboratory rotations, and particularly, in commitment to a laboratory for thesis research. It is advised by the Program for each faculty member to provide in writing a document, and to discuss with students, that outlines specific expectations of his/her laboratory. As faculty who should serve as role models, and as students who seek to become professionals, these codes of conduct will serve as guidelines. It is strongly urged that both student and mentor discuss the Expectations between both persons before written formal agreement has been established.

A recommended list of topics for consideration has been accepted by all Program Directors of Graduate Education at Penn State College of Medicine and includes:

  1. Expectations of Graduate Students within a Laboratory
    • Professionalism – Honesty, Communication, Behavior
    • Work Ethic – Attitude, Time in Lab, Time outside Lab
    • Laboratory Manners
    • Self Motivation
  2. Expectations of Thesis Advisers
    • Professionalism
    • Work Environment
    • Access (to mentor)
    • Expected Productivity
    • Guidance
Requirement for Publication of Original Scientific Research Expand answer

In the current atmosphere of competitive funding and scientific research, it is strongly recommended that each student have one or more scientific publications at the time of graduation. To facilitate this, doctoral candidates are required to have at least one first authored paper submitted to a reputable peer-reviewed journal or published at the time of their thesis defense.

Master’s degree candidates should strive to be included as an author on one or more peer-reviewed scientific publications.

Leaving a Laboratory at Student's Initiative Expand answer

Arbitrarily leaving the laboratory for another after signing the student-advisor agreement is strongly discouraged. Students who are concerned that their choice of thesis adviser may not have been appropriate need to discuss the situation with their Program Director as soon as possible. If the student ultimately decides that they would like to identify a new thesis adviser, the student will provide at least four weeks notice, in written form justifying the need to change laboratories. Ongoing studies in the original lab will need to be completed, and all laboratory notebooks, reagents (antibodies, cell lines, etc.) and experimental protocols will be provided to the thesis adviser. During this time, the student must identify a new adviser willing to accept them into the laboratory (and assume financial responsibility for them) at the end of their time in the current laboratory, unless alternative arrangements are made with the Program Director.

Research

Master's Degree Thesis Expand answer

An original, laboratory-based, hypothesis-driven research project is required that consists of both a written thesis and oral defense of the research. Given the shorten period of time in which to conduct the research, projects should be selected that can be completed within 18 months. No formal laboratory rotation is required, but the student is advised to begin discussion of research projects early in the first year. A written research proposal is required and is submitted to the thesis committee for review and discussion with the student. A final presentation of the thesis research is made to the committee, along with the final written thesis.

Doctoral Degree Thesis Expand answer

Thesis Proposal

Within the first few months after passing the comprehensive examination, and not later than December of the third year of graduate study, the student will submit a thesis proposal to his/her Doctoral Committee. This proposal should include the history, background, and description of the chosen research problem, and a detailed description of the experiments that will be performed to investigate the problem. The student’s Doctoral Committee will review the proposal with the student and the student may revise or modify the proposal.

This requirement can be fulfilled by an edited, fully accepted written comprehensive exam or pre-doctoral fellowship (e.g., F31, F30).

Research-Related Progress Reports

As recommended by the Office of Graduate Education, a written review of the student must be prepared by the student and reviewed and approved by each committee member at least once each academic year. These reports will be retained by the Anatomy Program Office. Likewise, the student may submit to the Anatomy Program Office any written report outlining problems and/or obstacles in the completion of their research.

Policies and procedures for the dismissal of students from either an investigator’s laboratory, from an assistantship, or from the Program shall follow the rulings established by the University Graduate Council and are outlined herein:

Non-Curricular Program Requirements

Attendance at Seminars and Departmental Journal Clubs Expand answer

As a researcher and scientist, all students should seek to listen to, and learn about, the research of as many professional scientists as possible. Opportunities to associate and learn from mentors include attendance at seminars and journal clubs. Graduate students should make a concerted effort to attend on a regular basis each year a seminar series sponsored by the department where their research is being conducted or another program/department that is strongly aligned with their research. This recommendation has been incorporated into a requirement of ANAT 590 in the first semester where all students are required to attend 3 seminar of their choice and complete a small set of questions regarding the seminar. Students doing research in Basic or Clinical Science departments are expected to attend on a regular basis their departmental seminar series. In addition, each graduate student is encouraged to participate yearly in a seminar series beginning in their third year (i.e., as post-comprehensive researchers).

Teaching Expand answer

Students supported by Graduate Assistantships are expected to teach in the medical or physician assistant curriculum during the first semester of their second year. See section V (A) for discussion of Graduate Assistantship rules and expectations. Students must have an academic GPA of 3.0 in order to serve in any capacity as a teaching assistant and to receive stipend reimbursement from the Graduate Program. If the student is ineligible to teach during the first semester of the second year, they will be encouraged to bring their grade up to 3.0 in order to be eligible for teaching in a subsequent semester.

Additional teaching opportunities are voluntary and at the discretion of agreement between the Program Director, the research mentor and student.

Recommended Practices in Graduate Education

Designed to foster successful interactions among faculty, administrators, and graduate students Expand answer

Approved by the Graduate Council February 14, 2018. This document suggests examples of recommended practices in each of three core areas for all of the key participants in graduate student education. Programs are encouraged to use these suggestions as a starting point to develop a set of recommended practices that meets the needs of their students.

The six core Penn State Values form the fundamental principles underlying our institutional mission of teaching, research and service. These values are: Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Discovery, Excellence and Community. All students, faculty and staff are expected to embody these values throughout their time at Penn State. The Graduate Council believes these core values are central components of effective advising and mentoring of graduate students across the University and that they contribute to ensuring the climate within all of our graduate programs is one of inclusion and respect. Successful and productive advising relationships with students require that both students and faculty promote and demonstrate the highest ethical and professional standards, while maintaining open communication and a shared sense of community and accountability.

Faculty Members Expand answer

Climate

Practices that contribute to a respectful, stimulating, supportive climate include:

  • Serve as a role model by demonstrating ethical, professional, and courteous behavior toward all students, staff, and faculty.
  • Be supportive, equitable, accessible, and respectful.
  • Promote an environment that is intellectually stimulating, collaborative, respectful, and collegial.
  • Recognize and respect the diversity within our community consistent with Penn State’s overall commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • Show sensitivity to the power imbalance in the faculty-student relationship.
  • Take into consideration a student’s need to manage competing demands while maintaining timely progress towards their degree.
  • Meet with students to discuss topics such as climate, collegial relations, etc. should the need arise.
  • Refer students proactively to appropriate university resources to provide support (e.g. financial, physical/emotional health, career development).

Academic Issues

Practices that promote students’ academic success include the following:

  • Advise students on the selection of appropriate course work, thesis/dissertation committee and topic or capstone project, and completion of other benchmarks.
  • Set clear expectations and goals for students regarding their academic performance and progress toward degree completion.
  • Discuss policies and expectations for assistantship hours, responsibilities, and absences related to university closure, holidays, illness, etc.
  • Develop an appropriate schedule to meet with students to provide feedback on scholarly activities and progress.
  • Provide students with oversight, as appropriate, to the discipline in all relevant aspects of research, training and scholarship.
  • Guide and recommend training, study, and other resources to develop or enhance students’ skills and competencies.
  • Devise effective ways of providing students with guidance and supervision during a prolonged absence should the need arise.
  • Provide and discuss clear criteria for authorship and acknowledgement of contributions at the beginning of all collaborative projects.

Career Development Issues

Practices that promote the career development of students include:

  • Encourage participation in professional meetings, associations, collaborations, and opportunities within and beyond the university. Assist students with identifying resources to fund such activities.
  • Provide career advice, offer help with interview and application preparation, and write letters of recommendation in a timely manner.
  • Ensure that students receive assistance with developing the skills needed for a successful career in their field/discipline, including oral and written communication, and grant preparation as appropriate.
  • Recognize that students will pursue a variety of careers, including those outside of academia and/or their discipline, and assist them in achieving their chosen career goals.
  • Schedule meetings to discuss topics such as professional development, career objectives, and opportunities, etc.
  • Align assigned responsibilities and activities with students’ academic/professional career development as appropriate.
Graduate Students Expand answer

Climate Issues

Practices that contribute to a respectful, stimulating, supportive climate include:

  • Demonstrate ethical, professional and courteous behavior toward other students, staff and faculty.
  • Recognize and respect the diversity within our community consistent with Penn State’s overall commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • Be proactive about communicating needs, concerns, etc. with faculty and staff, understanding that communication is a two-way endeavor.
  • Take into consideration, in interactions with faculty and staff, competing constraints on their time.
  • Inform relevant faculty of potential and/or existing conflicts, and work toward their resolution. In the event that a solution cannot be reached, students should seek assistance from graduate program chairs, department heads, college administrators of graduate education, or the Graduate School.

Academic Issues

Practices that promote students’ academic success include the following:

  • Recognize that while faculty and staff are there to assist and guide students, the student bears the primary responsibility for the successful completion of their degree.
  • Discuss expectations and goals regarding academic performance and progress toward degree completion with advisors, committees, and other relevant faculty members.
  • Maintain the highest ethical standards and academic integrity in all aspects of scholarship, teaching, research, and other responsibilities.
  • Be familiar with program and Graduate School policies governing graduate education and adhere to all program and Graduate School policies and deadlines.
  • Act proactively to improve research and scholarship skills (e.g. writing, presenting, teaching, etc.).

Career Development Issues

Practices that promote the career development of students include:

  • Take an active role in identifying and pursuing professional development opportunities.
  • Communicate with faculty members regarding career goals.
  • Seek mentoring and support/resources beyond faculty advisor (e.g. other faculty members, peers, and organizations).
Representatives of Academic Departments Expand answer

Climate Issues

Practices that contribute to a respectful, stimulating, supportive climate include:

  • Maintain an open, inclusive, and respectful environment that is free from harassment and discrimination, in accordance with university policies and initiatives.
  • Recognize and respect the diversity within our community consistent with Penn State’s overall commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • Refer students proactively to appropriate university resources to address potential issues (e.g. financial, physical/emotional health, career development).
  • Provide students with contacts and resources for potential conflict resolution (e.g. graduate program chairs, department heads, college administrators of graduate education, the Graduate School, Office of Sexual Misconduct, Prevention and Response, Affirmative Action Office, Office of Ethics and Compliance, Diversity and Inclusion/Multicultural Affairs Office, etc.).

Academic Issues

  • Practices that promote students’ academic success include the following:
  • Provide students with up-to-date information that includes policies, practices, degree requirements, and resources.
  • Assist students with selection of their advisor as needed. Monitor and document graduate student progress toward their degrees and professional development, including committee meetings, exam completion, and other benchmarks appropriate to their discipline.
  • Provide and monitor training in academic integrity and the ethical conduct of research.
  • Provide infrastructure, as appropriate, to allow students to complete their education and research/scholarship in a timely and productive manner.
  • Establish, communicate, and adhere to policies for absences, emergencies, and unplanned situations that may disrupt the work of students and/or faculty.
  • Ensure that university policies related to graduate assistantships (e.g. assistantship hours, responsibilities, and absences related to university closure, holidays, illness, etc.) are followed.
  • Incorporate these guidelines and recommendations in readily accessible departmental policies or handbooks and actively promote their observance.

Career Development Issues

Practices that promote the career development of students include:

  • Encourage participation in professional meetings, associations, collaborations, and opportunities within and beyond the university. Assist students with identifying resources to fund such activities.
  • Ensure that students receive assistance with developing the skills needed for a successful career in their field/discipline, including oral and written communication and grant preparation as appropriate.
  • Recognize that students will pursue a variety of careers; including those outside of academia and/or their discipline, and assist them in achieving their chosen career goals (e.g. provide and/or refer students to appropriate professional development activities/resources).
  • Provide students with access to pedagogical training and regular assessment of their teaching and other assistantship activities.
  • Partner with students and their advisors to align assigned responsibilities and activities with students’ academic/professional career development goals as appropriate.
Representatives of the Graduate School Expand answer

Climate Issues

Practices that contribute to a respectful, stimulating, supportive climate include:

  • Maintain an open, inclusive, and respectful environment that is free from harassment and discrimination, in accordance with university policies and initiatives.
  • Recognize and respect the diversity within our community consistent with Penn State’s overall commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  • Collaborate with academic programs, university offices/committees, and student organizations to address issues and concerns related to the well-being of graduate students.
  • Refer students proactively to appropriate university resources to address potential issues (e.g. financial, physical/emotional health, career development).
  • Provide students with contacts and resources for potential conflict resolution (e.g. graduate program chairs, department heads, college administrators of graduate education, the Graduate School, Office of Sexual Misconduct, Prevention and Response, Affirmative Action Office, Office of Ethics and Compliance, Diversity and Inclusion/Multicultural Affairs Office, etc.).

Academic Issues

Practices that promote students’ academic success include the following:

  • Provide students, faculty, and staff with up-to-date information regarding graduate education that includes policies, practices, degree requirements, and resources.
  • Monitor and document graduate student progress towards their degrees and professional development, including exam completions and other formal benchmarks.
  • Provide resources to support the development or enhancement of students’ skills and competencies.

Career Development Issues

Practices that promote the career development of students: include:

  • Provide and/or refer students to a broad range of professional development activities/resources to prepare them for careers upon degree completion.
  • Connect students with the Graduate School alumni network to facilitate the establishment of mentoring relationships and career development opportunities.

General Information

Stipends Expand answer

Monthly stipends are distributed by direct deposit to the student’s account. Stipends are distributed over a 12-month period of time (Aug. 1 – July 31).

Vacation Expand answer

First-year students enrolled full time in classes are eligible for scheduled university breaks that occur 3 times each calendar year: one week at Thanksgiving, 2 or more weeks during the December holidays; 1 week of spring break in March. Posts-comprehensive students, and those receiving stipends, are eligible for 2 weeks vacation over the 52-week year. This time should be scheduled with the advisement of their mentor and/or program director.

Communication between the student, mentor and Program Director is an ongoing requirement throughout the entire educational period. The status of ‘student’ at Penn State University provides a level of oversight by the Graduate Program Director and/or mentor for the general whereabouts of the student. For students receiving stipends (assistantships), this negotiation establishes a line of communication that is ongoing such that any absences from the laboratory need to be explained and/or requested. Full-time graduate students (year 2 and forward) in the Anatomy Graduate Program who receive stipends are permitted 10 calendar weekdays of vacation leave per academic year (July 1 to June 30). In addition to the 2 weeks, first year students are granted leave associated with coursework (i.e. seasonal/winter/holiday breaks). Leave should be arranged with either the Director of the Graduate Program (1st year students) or thesis advisor (2nd year forward) at least 2 weeks in advance. Documentation of the request by email is advisable. A response by the Director or advisor should occur within 72 hours if not immediately (again, email documentation is advisable). Students will not be granted vacation leave while enrolled in formal coursework.

Additional vacation leave may be awarded at the discretion of the thesis advisor. Vacation leave days do not accrue from year to year. Holidays designated by The Pennsylvania State University include New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King birthday, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas; these holidays are in addition to vacation days.

Sick Leave Expand answer

Sick leave is not formally assigned or earned, but may be used as necessary with approval of the student’s thesis advisor or Graduate Program Director. It is the student’s responsibility to contact their thesis advisor or Graduate Program Chair when he/she is absent from the classroom or laboratory due to illness. Sick leave cannot under any circumstances be used as a substitute for vacation leave. Extended sick leave must be approved by the Graduate Education Office – Hershey.

Leave of Absence Expand answer

A leave of absence for Family is recognized by the Graduate School. If the student has a valid reason for requesting a leave, approval for a leave of absence from the program will be considered by the student’s advisor, with final approval granted by the Advisory Committee for the Graduate Program in Anatomy. If the reason for the leave of absence is medically related, the student may petition to return to the program after a mutually agreed period of time. Letters from the attending physician are requested for reinstatement.

Accommodations with respect to courses (e.g., deferral of grades) are addressed here.

New Parent Accommodation Expand answer

New Parent Accommodation for any parent, male or female, of any child, natural or adopted, is provided by the University for a period of up to six weeks of paid leave if the student is a graduate assistant.

Employment Expand answer

Enrollment in the graduate program with accompanying stipend is considered full-time commitment and is not compatible with outside employment. If outside employment is established, the student may be asked to relinquish a portion of the stipend; consultation with the Program Director and thesis advisor prior to accepting outside employment is required. If the employment is part time and considered supportive of the degree expectations, appropriate permissions and paperwork will be prepared for signatures between the student, mentor, and program director.

Part-time wage payroll positions need to be officially approved before starting and require:

  1. Written approval from PI
  2. Submit PI approval and Job Posting to Rachel Reager and Becky Yockey in Grad Education
  3. Submit Grad Education review and recommendations to Dr. Lang for approval

For international students: Employment for F-1 and J-1 students is limited, and working without permission is a violation of status and a deportable offense. F-1 and J-1 students may not work off-campus without permission from International Student and Scholar Advising (ISSA). On-Campus Employment is permitted with certain restrictions. Students must complete employment paperwork with ISSA in order to work on-campus. A Social Security number is required for anyone receiving payment. ISSA can assist you with this process. ISSA offers workshops every semester which explain the different types of off-campus work permission available to F-1 and J-1 students.

Faculty and Advisory Committee

Faculty Listing Expand answer

See the anatomy faculty here.

Administrative assistant for the program is Jaci Wildner, Room C1712, Penn State College of Medicine, MC H170, jwildner@pennstatehealth.psu.edu or 717-531-6608.

Advisory Committee Expand answer

The Graduate Program in Anatomy has one standing subcommittee to assist in establishing policy – the Graduate Program in Anatomy Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee shall consist of the Director of Graduate Program in Anatomy and at least two (2) other graduate faculty members of the Anatomy Program. Membership on this committee may rotate among all members of the faculty in the Graduate Program in Anatomy.

At this time, Drs. Zagon, Evey, and McLaughlin serve as the Advisory Committee for the Graduate Program in Anatomy.

Any modification or addition/deletion to these policies and guidelines must be approved by the Graduate Program in Anatomy Advisory Committee, with written notification of any and all significant changes made to each student within 30 days of change. The handbook distributed at the time of matriculation should be followed throughout the course of the student’s tenure unless otherwise recommended by the Anatomy Advisory Committee.

Program Bylaws

Appointment of Faculty Expand answer

Candidates for appointment to the faculty of the Program in Anatomy will be considered either Full-standing Regular Members or Associate Members. Regular members are so designated because of a substantial involvement in teaching of the core courses for the Graduate Program in Anatomy. Both Regular and Associate Members have full privileges within the Program.

Faculty members in the Program of Anatomy will be requested to participate in the following activities:

  • serve as a member of the Recruitment Committee
  • interview prospective students
  • serve as instructors or facilitators in graduate courses in anatomy
  • supervise students undertaking rotations
  • advise students conducting thesis research
  • serve on doctoral committees
  • serve on program committees
  • participate in Qualifying Examinations
  • attend student and faculty seminars
Review of Program Faculty Expand answer

Faculty members of the Program in Anatomy may be reviewed from time to time (every 5 years) for their contributions/participation to the program. The reviews will be conducted by the Advisory Committee. The following decisions shall be adhered:

  • Faculty members who have made significant contributions, particularly in teaching, advising and service, will be approved for continued membership.
  • Faculty members who have not made significant contributions in the previous years will be re-reviewed in one year.
  • Faculty who continue to have little or no contribution to the Program will be removed from active membership.
  • Faculty members who request to be removed from the program will be granted the request.