MD Anderson Cancer Center - UTHealth
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Students in the Medical Physics (MP) Program are required to take an on-topic candidacy exam in which the research proposal is based on the student's intended dissertation project.  

Please note, however, that students who joined the program prior to 05/01/2016 are "grandfathered" and may choose either the MP on-topic format or the GSBS off-topic exam format.

The Medical Physics Candidacy Exam Committee (MPCEC) is a four-member committee of faculty members with research specialties in imaging and therapy physics who are charged with ensuring consistency among candidacy exams and representation of both program specialties. All PhD Examination Committees must include one member of the MPCEC from each specialty. These faculty do not count as examiners from outside the student's major discipline.

The MP on-topic format follows the GSBS on-topic exam format with the additional specifications below. Note that the overall duration of the examination is three hours.

Students must develop a Significant Aims page, including a clear and scientifically significant hypothesis that is to be tested through 2-4 Specific Aims. The Specific Aims page should be reviewed and approved by the Advisory Committee before it is submitted to the GSBS Academic Standards Committee as part of the Petition for the PhD Candidacy Examination. The student's Mentor and Advisory Committee may help guide development of the hypothesis and aims but must ensure that the proposal contains original material that is developed by the student. The student will independently prepare a six-page proposal in the style of an NIH R21 that will include the following sections:

Preliminary data are not required for this proposal, but may be included if available. Students can also generate model figures to illustrate prior or expected results or include properly referenced data from other published work. The six-page proposal must be given to members of the Examining Committee at least four weeks prior to the exam.

The depth component of the candidacy exam will be assessed through a one-hour oral examination following the presentation of the student's proposed work (also of one hour's duration). It will be incumbent upon the Examining Committee to test the student's depth of knowledge on his/her proposed research topic, including the rationale for the research project, background, technical approaches, experimental strategies, interpretation of results, pitfalls, feasibility, and significance; as well as the extent to which the student has developed his/her own ideas.

The student's knowledge and understanding of subject areas in the Medical Physics curriculum (diagnostic imaging, therapeutic, nuclear, and medical health physics) will be assessed through an oral examination. also approximately one hour in length, following the completion of the depth component. It is expected that students will exhibit reasonable understanding and competency across the field, with sufficient knowledge to find a solution or develop a rational approach to answering questions posed by the examiners..

Scientific Writing (GS21 1152) is now a required course in the Medical Physics curriculum. Students must take this course prior to the candidacy exam and develop an off-topic research proposal as part of the course.

A student's performance on breadth and depth components will be graded separately as pass/fail. Students must pass both components, but only the component(s) deemed unacceptable by the PhD Examining Committee will be subject to re-examination.