Comprehensive Exam

General Information

  • The Cell and Developmental Biology program has an “on-topic” comprehensive exam, consisting of two parts: 

    Written research proposal in the area of predicted future thesis work (12 double-spaced pages, in the format of an NIH predoctoral fellowship (F31) application.) 

    Oral defense of proposal (2-3 hours)


  • Student must be in good academic standing (minimum GPA = 3.0)
  • Student must have completed first and second year courses before taking the exam


  • Form a thesis/exam committee—early spring semester of second year
  • Submit formal Abstract and Specific Aims for proposed work and Request for Comprehensive Examination Form—end of spring semester of second year
  • Submit written research proposal and assurance form—summer following second year
  • Take oral examination of research proposal—summer following second year
  • Satisfactory completion of comprehensive exam—not later than end of fall semester of third year

Exam committee

  • No fewer than four (4) members of the Graduate Faculty
  • At least three (3) graduate faculty must be University of Iowa tenure-track faculty and
  • At least two (2) of the faculty members must hold an appointment in CDB and must be University of Iowa tenure-track faculty
  • Note: This committee will become the student’s thesis committee, following replacement of the exam committee chairperson with the thesis advisor.