Research and Teaching
Research and Thesis Adviser
New students are encouraged to begin research projects as soon as possible. In some cases, the initial project becomes the thesis topic, but many students work on several smaller projects before beginning the subject of their dissertation. Graduate students are expected to continue their research and training during the summer at Princeton, in the field, or at another laboratory. In addition, students are encouraged to attend the meetings of scientific societies.
Generally by the end of the second semester, and certainly by the end of the first academic year, each student settles on a permanent adviser who will supervise work on the thesis.
Each graduate student normally teaches for one or two terms in an undergraduate laboratory course. This gives a helpful foretaste of an important aspect of an academic career.
The general examination is normally taken toward the end of the second year of study. However, there is no prejudice against taking the examination after only one year of study if a student feels prepared. The student takes the general examination in October, January, or May.
The general examination consists of an oral examination, about two or three hours in length, conducted by the student's dissertation committee, which is chosen in advance by the student and the adviser. The dissertation committee is normally composed of Princeton faculty members and frequently includes members of other departments within the University. Should the student's areas of study warrant it, members of other institutions with special competence are invited to sit with the dissertation committee.
The student submits a written review of background information relevant to the thesis topic, as well as a thesis proposal detailing research objectives, preliminary progress and future plans. Questions during the oral examination focus on the thesis topic but also cover all relevant areas.
After the general examination, the dissertation committee continues to meet with the graduate student at least once a year to discuss the student's research. The student is expected to prepare a short written summary of his or her work before each of these meetings. As the final step in the graduate program, the committee will evaluate the dissertation and conduct the final public oral examination for the Ph.D. Normally, degree requirements are completed in four of five years.
Students must have at least one academic year of full-time residence at Princeton before standing for the general examination.