Graduate Programs

Ph.D. Degree

Degree Requirements

General Information

The degree requires 90 credit hours with 32-40 required course credits (depending on the choice of track) and 12 credits in a minor. Disciplines included in the program are anatomy, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, biostatistics, cell biology, chemistry, immunology, materials science engineering, mechanical engineering, microbiology, molecular biology, pathology, physics, and physiology.

The three Ph.D. tracks contain courses in biostatistics, research ethics, research communications, and effective teaching methods. The two courses in biostatistics emphasize the important role of appropriate statistical methods used in biological research. The research ethics course addresses the importance of a strong ethical approach to the scientific method and human and animal research. Research Communications is a multidisciplinary course that will increase the ability of the student to write and review scientific papers. The teaching methods courses recognize that most of our students will ultimately teach in an academic environment and may have no previous course work in education. In addition, students are required to participate as tutors in IU’s problem-based learning program for dental students.

All general requirements of IU’s University Graduate School apply to the Ph.D. in Dental Science Program, plus specific requirements of the program as outlined in the core curricula below. All Ph.D. work offered in partial fulfillment of degree requirements must either be completed within seven consecutive calendar years of the passing of the qualifying examination or be revalidated. Any student whose candidacy lapses will be required to apply to the University Graduate School for reinstatement before further work toward the degree may formally be done. To be reinstated to candidacy in the University Graduate School, the student must: (1) obtain permission of the program director; (2) fulfill the program requirements in effect at the time of the application for reinstatement; (3) pass a current Ph.D. qualifying examination or its equivalent (defined in advance); and (4) request reinstatement to candidacy from the dean. Such reinstatement, if granted, is valid for a period of three years, during which time the candidate must enroll each semester for a minimum of 1 credit hour.

English Proficiency

Students who are nonnative speakers of English must take the English for Academic Purposes (EAP) Placement Test at the beginning of their dental school program. This test is offered on the IUPUI campus by the EAP Program in the Department of English. Students must satisfactorily complete all English courses required as a result of performance on the EAP test before a certificate or degree can be awarded. The required English courses must be completed during the first year of study.

For more information, visit the EAP Program’s Web site:

Continuing Enrollment

Students who have passed the qualifying examination must enroll each semester (excluding summer sessions) for any remaining required course work or dissertation credits. Once such students have accumulated 90 credit hours in completed course work and deferred dissertation credits, they must enroll for a minimum of 1 hour of graduate credit each semester (excluding summer sessions) until the degree is completed. Failure to meet this requirement will automatically terminate the student’s enrollment in the degree program.

A candidate who will be graduating in June, July, or August of any year must enroll in a minimum of 1 hour of credit in either the current or immediately preceding summer session.


The minor consists of 12 credit hours in any one of the advanced basic science courses (anatomy, biochemistry, biomedical engineering, chemistry, materials science engineering, mechanical engineering, microbiology and immunology, pathology, pharmacology, physics, physiology, life science) or their equivalents, as approved by the student’s advisory committee and the chairperson of the minor department. Credit hours for the required courses may not count toward the minor courses.

Other Courses

Selection of other courses is determined by requirements of the chosen minor, research committee, and/or advisory committee.

Teaching Experience

All students participate in the predoctoral dental curriculum by tutoring in small, problem-based learning (PBL) groups for a total of two PBL blocks after successful completion of the IU School of Dentistry tutor-training program. All students receiving stipends or tuition support from the school must tutor for an additional one or two blocks per year. Students who are nonnative speakers of English must be tested for oral English language competency before they are given any appointment having direct student contact. Students’ oral language proficiency will be assessed using the SPEAK Test, a pronunciation test that is also offered by the EAP Program. If the results of the SPEAK test indicate that the student must take one or more English courses, these courses must be paid for by the student and must be satisfactorily completed before the student will be allowed to teach.

For more information, visit the EAP Program’s Web site:

Students are required to enroll in the IUPUI Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program.


Laboratory Rotations—R957 Introduction to Research in Oral Biology (3 cr.); at least three separate rotations (two to four months each) conducting small projects in the laboratories of IU graduate faculty members. Projects will be graded. Students in all tracks enroll in this course. It is expected that the student will choose a dissertation advisor (mentor) from these faculty members.

Laboratory Research—R958 Research: Oral Biology (1-12 cr. hrs./semester); G930 Research: Preventive Dentistry (1-12 cr. hrs./semester); or G921 Research: Dental Materials (1-12 cr. hrs./semester). Credit for research is directly related to the writing and defense of a Ph.D. dissertation.

G901 Dissertation Research. Once 90 total credits have been accumulated in the appropriate areas, students may enroll in this course for a maximum of six semesters until the dissertation is complete. Students must be enrolled for at least 1 credit hour each semester.

Research Credits

46 minimum (Oral Biology Track), 38 minimum (Preventive Dentistry Track), 39 minimum (Dental Biomaterials Track).

Student Advisory Committee

The student chooses the advisory committee, usually by the end of the first spring semester following enrollment in the program. The initial committee is composed of three members of the dental school faculty, two of whom must be members of the University Graduate School faculty ( Generally, one member is also the student’s intended dissertation mentor. This committee is responsible for monitoring the student’s progress and for advising the student with regard to all matters associated with the graduate program.

Prior to the student’s qualifying exam (generally by the second summer following enrollment), two additional advisory committee members will be added from the student’s minor field and/or from the general area in which the student has decided to conduct his or her dissertation research. This committee of five serves as the qualifying exam committee, with a member other than the dissertation mentor serving as chairperson.

Qualifying Examination for Admission to Candidacy

The qualifying exam consists of two parts: (1) writing and presenting an oral defense of a research proposal ; and (2) sitting for a written exam.

Research Proposal

The student chooses, with the help and approval of the advisory committee chairperson, a topic for a grant proposal to be written and defended as part of the qualifying exam. This is usually done by the end of the second spring semester following enrollment. The topic may be in the area of the student’s intended dissertation research but cannot be prepared as a requirement for another course.

Students should begin with an outline for a proposal that is approved by the committee chairperson. After approval, the student writes a proposal in the style of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 grant proposal including the following sections: Summary, Specific Aims, Background and Significance, Research Design and Methods, Literature Cited, and Budget, but with the length reduced to a maximum of 15 single-spaced, 12-point font pages for the following sections: Summary, Specific Aims, Background and Significance, and Research Design and Methods. There are no page limits for the Literature Cited and Budget sections. The proposal, once written to the satisfaction of the student, is submitted to the committee chairperson, who distributes copies to the rest of the committee. The committee decides whether the proposal is defensible or in need of revisions prior to the defense. Upon final approval, a time is set for the student to defend the proposal in the presence of the committee.

The defense of the proposal consists of a 30- to 45-minute presentation of the proposed work by the student, followed by a one- to three-hour oral examination consisting of questions arising from the proposal, the student’s presentation, or answers to initial questions. Satisfactory defense of the proposal will be followed by a written exam at a date and time convenient to the members of the committee and student (within 60 days after the proposal defense). Students who do not satisfactorily complete the proposal defense may be allowed to retake it with the permission of the advisory committee.

Written Examination

Each member of the advisory committee submits a comprehensive question in his or her area(s) of expertise to the committee chairperson, who then collates the questions from all five committee members. The exam package is handed to the student on the morning of the exam. The student is provided a room in which to complete the examination, preferably in a typed format. No notes or any other study aids are permitted during the exam, which is expected to be completed within eight hours. The entire exam is returned to the chairperson, who distributes the answers to individual committee members for correction, usually within a week. Students who do not satisfactorily complete the written exam may be allowed to retake it once with the permission of the advisory committee. In addition, students who fail both components of the qualifying exam are normally allowed to retake the exam once. The qualifying exam must be completed at least eight months before the degree is awarded.

Admission to Candidacy

The student advisory committee submits a Nomination to Candidacy form to the University Graduate School after the student has completed all required didactic courses and passed the qualifying exam.

Research Committee

Members of the advisory committee may continue to serve as members of the student’s research committee. However, the latter committee is chaired by the student’s research advisor, who must be a member of the University Graduate School faculty with endorsement to direct doctoral committees (see The research committee is composed of two other members of the University Graduate School faculty in the School of Dentistry, a member of the University Graduate School faculty outside of the School of Dentistry (generally a member of the minor department), and an expert in the student’s field of research outside of Indiana University. The outside member must meet the requirements of membership. At least half of the members of the research committee must be members of the University Graduate School faculty with endorsement; others may be members either with or without endorsement.

The research committee is responsible for supervising the student’s research, reading the dissertation and providing scientific and editorial comments on its content, and conducting the final examination (defense of dissertation). The research committee, except for the outside member, typically meets formally with the student twice annually to assess progress and make appropriate suggestions. During one of these assessments, most likely during the third or fourth year but usually at least six months prior to completion of the dissertation, the student gives a 45–50-minute presentation open to all dental school faculty. The dissertation defense consists of a 45–50-minute presentation open to all university faculty followed by a one- to three-hour oral examination on the dissertation that is open to the research committee only.

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