Engineering | School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering

Comprehensive Exam

Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive examination will include both a written research proposal and an oral examination in the broader areas that pertain to that research proposal.  In the oral examination, students will be questioned in depth about the proposed research and related areas.  The written portion of this exam will have the form of an NIH proposal.  The topic of the proposal should not be in the specific area of the student’s dissertation research but may be in the same field.  The comprehensive exam committee, which administers the exam, is assigned to the student by the Biological Design Executive Committee.

The research proposal outline is listed below:

  • Title of project (81 characters maximum, including spaces and punctuation)
  • Project Summary (30 lines of text maximum)
  • Table of Contents
  • Research Plan
  • Specific Aims (1 page maximum)
  • Research Strategy (12 pages maximum)
  • Significance
  • Innovation
  • Approach
  • Bibliography & References Cited
  • Facilities & Other Resources
  • Biographical Sketch (4 pages maximum)
  • Budget


The comprehensive exam committee will determine whether the student passes, passes with conditions, or fails. If the committee establishes conditions, those must be completed within the specified time period.  The student doesn’t pass the comprehensive examination until the student has completed all conditional requirements.  Once the student has passed the examination, the Report of Comprehensive Examination Results form must be submitted to the Graduate Advisor.

It is the student’s responsibility to complete the adequate forms and prepare for the examination within the allotted time period.  Failure to take the examination within this time period will be considered as a failed attempt.  One re-examination may be administered no sooner than three months and no later than one year after the original examination date.  If a student is not able to pass the comprehensive examination, the student will be recommended for dismissal from the program or the committee might also recommend the student pursue a Master’s in Passing.