During the third, fourth and fifth years of the program, the student devotes the bulk of his/her time to original research and to preparation of the doctoral thesis.
Identification of the Mentor and Research Area. Mentors are typically chosen at the beginning of the second year, but no later than the end of the second year. Once a thesis mentor is identified, research toward the thesis begins. In the third year and thereafter, the student is engaged in full-time laboratory research in the mentor's laboratory. If a fellowship grant is not obtained, students are supported by the mentor from third year onward. For advice on picking a graduate advisor, click here for Ben Barres' editorial in Neuron.
Thesis Advisory Committee. This is formed in the third year and includes at least three IPN faculty members with expertise in areas relevant to the student's research and an established scientist from another institution. The outside thesis member is sometimes identified later than the members from Georgetown. The thesis mentor is not part of the Thesis Advisory Committee, but attends the meetings and helps the student.
The student's committee members must be approved by the Student Advisory Committee. After approval, the members of the thesis committee designate a chair of the committee who helps the student facilitate the meeting. The student meets with his/her Advisory Committee at least once a year to discuss and evaluate research progress The meetings should take place immediately following the annual Student Seminar talk by the student.
GSAS Thesis Proposal. A thesis proposal is prepared during the third year and must be submitted to the GSAS via the IPN's Program Coordinator. This short proposal defines an original and significant research problem, assesses the research literature critically, suggests feasible experimental approaches to the problem and presents any available preliminary data in support of the approach. The thesis proposal should be presented to the thesis advisory committee at its first meeting in the third year, typically coinciding with the Student Seminar talk in the spring. A form for the thesis proposal can be found here. This form, signed by the thesis committee and IPN Program Director will be submitted to the Graduate School by the IPN Program Coordinator. The proposal, with any recommended modification, should be formally accepted by the Thesis Advisory Committee not later than the end of the third year, and added to the student's file.
Thereafter, the student meets with his/her Advisory Committee at least once a year to discuss and evaluate research progress and modify the initial proposal if required. It is highly recommended that meetings are held just after the Student Seminar talk with another meeting scheduled ~5 months later, if necessary. These meetings are an opportunity to present data and get feedback from the committee with regard to the direction and progress of the project. The student is encouraged to prepare an agenda and a short handout. The only role of the committee chair is to aid the student in efficiently running the meeting.