Progression through the master of science program is signaled by two milestone events, the comprehensive exam and the thesis defense, which serve to assess the student’s attainment of degree competencies and demarcate his or her development as a scholar and researcher.
The comprehensive exam is the first master of science program milestone, which serves to evaluate the breadth of the student’s knowledge of the discipline and appraise the student’s achievement during the first year of graduate study. Satisfactory performance in the comprehensive exam is indicative of the student’s potential to complete the program and earn a MS in human genetics. The format of the exam is an oral presentation by the student of a recent research article from the primary literature. The presentation serves as a launching pad for an oral examination covering the body of knowledge required of a master of science student who has completed the core curriculum. Materials and example papers are provided to aid in preparing for the comprehensive exam.
The second and final milestone in the master of science program, and the culmination of the research project, is the construction and public defense of a thesis document. The thesis defense serves to evaluate the candidate’s achievement of all degree competencies, indicating that the candidate is fully prepared for a career in laboratory or analytic research or to continue on to a terminal degree program.
The graduation checklist enumerates the MS degree requirements, including the milestones.
The Graduate School of Public Health and the University of Pittsburgh maintain requirements for the composition of examination committees. See the student handbook for specific committee membership requirements. Typically the comprehensive examination committee is identical or almost identical to the thesis advisory committee.