MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Advisory Committee

MS students form their advisory committee once they have chosen their advisor.

The Advisory Committee bears the primary responsibility for monitoring the student's progress until all degree requirements are met and assists in: 

  • Selection of courses
  • Development of a research program

The committee consists of at least five members, including the student's advisor who chairs the committee, chosen to assure representation by faculty competent in the student's major area of research.

Helpful forms:

  • Advisory Committee Form 
  • Changes to the Composition of the Advisory Committee Form 
  • Pre-Meeting Progress Update to be submitted five days before the meeting 
  • Committee Meeting Report 

Advisory Committee Meetings

  • To remain in good academic standing, students are required to meet with their Advisory Committee soon after it is approved (within three months) and at least once every six months thereafter.
  • At least four committee members must be present at the meeting or attend by video/call-in.
  • Students are expected to provide their committee with a pre-meeting progress update at least five days before their meeting.
  • During the meeting, the committee completes part A of the committee meeting report and each member should sign the report form whether present or not for the meeting.
  • After the meeting the student completes the student's response to the committee's recommendations in part B of the committee meeting report
  • Within 10 business days from the date of the meeting, the student submits the pre-meeting progress update and the committee meeting report to all members of the Advisory Committee, and to . The meeting will be recorded only if a report is received.

Candidacy Petition

Students are expected to submit their petition to candidacy for the Master of Science Degree by the end of their first summer term

The petition contains:


Within two years after advancement to candidacy, with approval of the Advisory Committee, the student will write and defend their thesis.

The student must be in good academic standing in order to request the defense of the thesis.

The following documents must be submitted to Academic Affairs:

  • Thesis abstract for distribution in GSBS Essential. (the abstract should be in MS Word -- not a PDF)
  • Electronic version of your thesis for anti-plagiarism check that includes complete thesis/dissertation without the references.
  • PDF of the draft of your thesis for formatting check – include all pages. (i.e., signature page, title page, abstract, acknowledgements, table of contents, figures, figure legends, references, vita, etc.) See thesis examples here.
  • PDF of your updated CV. (please include your publications, presentations, awards, etc.)
  • Submit a complete draft of the thesis to each member of the Advisory Committee before they sign the Petition for Defense form. Please allow at least a week for your committee members to review your draft.
  • The thesis defense will be held no sooner than two weeks or later than three months after the Petition for Defense form is submitted to Academic Affairs ( ) and approved by the Deans.
  • Once the petition for defense has been approved, you will receive exit documents from Bunny Perez.
  • Click for a handy graduation checklist.


MS Defense Guidelines


To evaluate:

  • Understanding of the thesis research
  • Ability to report information in a well-organized and interesting form

Presentation Details

  • 45- to 60-minute public presentation of the research project
    • Detailed description of the background
    • Rationale
    • Materials and Methods
    • Results and Conclusions

Following the presentation, the student will respond to questions from the audience.

Advisory Committee Examination and Results

  • The student's Advisor will serve as moderator of the examination.
  • The student will be expected to respond to questions from those GSBS faculty attending on any aspect of the written thesis or the material presented at the seminar.
  • After the defense, the student will meet privately with the Advisory Committee to discuss the results.
  • The Advisory Committee will determine what recommendation to make to the Deans and the Academic Standards Committee
    • Unconditional Pass
    • Conditional Pass
      • Additional research
      • Modifications to the thesis
      • And/or another defense

  • Click for Evaluation of the MS Defense Performance Form

Submit final thesis (approved by your committee) and exit forms to Academic Affairs

Schedule an exit interview with  Dr. Kelly Moore.

  • We're always trying to think of ways we can improve and love to get feedback from you on your GSBS experience
  • The timing is up to you— either before or after your defense -- just contact Dr. Moore to set up an appointment
  • You don't have to prepare anything ahead of time and meetings usually last 20-30 minutes 

Upcoming Deadlines

A word of advice: Try not to wait until the last possible date to complete your requirements.  The entire process will be less stressful for you and your committee if you give yourself extra time to get things done.

Upcoming Deadlines


Spring 2019

Summer 2019

Fall 2019

Submit Request for Defense form, abstract and draft of thesis to Academic Affairs




Defend thesis




Submit final thesis and exit forms to OAA (this is the only true "drop dead" deadline)*




Formal graduation ceremony (attendance is optional)




A list of exit forms will be sent via email notification.

  • Alumni information (online)
  • Application for graduation (done online through myUTH)
  • Exit clearance form
  • Digital Commons upload instructions

Miscellaneous Information


The MS degree will be awarded when the student has:

  • Completed all courses listed in the student's program of work
  • Successfully completed the MS defense
  • Submitted the final thesis, approved by the Advisory Committee, to Academic Affairs for the Deans signature
  • Completed all exit forms

The degree will be issued as of the final day of the semester in which all degree requirements have been met

The MS degree must be completed within three years of registration in the Graduate School. Students may continue registration after the three-year limit only with the expressed written permission of the Deans.