Selection of Advisor

Usually, a student will be accepted into a specific research laboratory. If not done prior to the application acceptance, the student must have a major adviser by the end of the first semester in residence, based upon mutual agreement. Students are encouraged to visit with each faculty member prior to selecting a major advisor to acquaint themselves with the department’s research programs. Visit the graduate faculty page to learn more about their research. Selection of the major advisor will be made on the basis of the student's interest, the availability of faculty members, and a common desire of the student and professor to work together on a program which will enable the student to attain the desired degree.

The major advisor will be responsible for directing the student's program of study and thesis research. If a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA) is assigned to a specific research project, the project leader will be the major advisor of the GRA.

Selection of Graduate Committee

Major advisors and graduate students will select faculty members for the student’s graduate committee based on faculty availability, expertise, interests and potential to contribute to the student’s research and graduate education. The graduate committee participates in directing the program of study, research, thesis defense, and publication.

Communication and Conflict Resolution

Students are encouraged to discuss problems, disagreements and other issues with the major professor. Additional input can be sought from members of the student’s graduate committee. If further resolution is required, students should discuss concerns with the department head or departmental graduate program director. The department does not typically allow students to transfer between labs and major advisors. Transfer to another lab within the department will only occur through agreement of the faculty members involved and the department head. Transfer to another lab may result in loss of assistantship.

Master’s Degree Requirements and Examinations

  • 24 months of full-time study, completing a minimum of 30 semester graduate credits; 16 didactic, 4 MICR 790 Professional Development, and 6-10 MICR 798 Thesis credits, and whatever electives agreed upon with the advisory committee for the plan of study – microbiology courses offered
  • Overall GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • A research-based thesis and a final oral defense
  • Public seminar of thesis research – one credit MICR 790 Graduate Seminar required

The M.S. degree in microbiology requires a research-based thesis, a public seminar to present the thesis research, and a final oral defense of the thesis. All members of the graduate faculty are invited to the oral defense, although the student’s supervisory committee will assess the candidate’s performance.

Suggested Timeline for M.S. Degree

To facilitate timely completion of the M.S. program, all students will be evaluated by the graduate faculty throughout their programs. A formal evaluation of progress will be completed by the end of the first year. Additional documentation of evaluations may be requested at any time by the advisor, supervisory committee, and/or the graduate faculty. Refer to the Graduate Bulletin credit load policy. To guide students and advisors on program progress, milestones for specific tasks essential to the timely completion of their M.S. degree are identified below:

First Semester

  • With the major advisor, begin to form a thesis committee
  • Submit a plan of study that must be approved by the student’s thesis committee, Department, and the Graduate School.

Second Semester

  • Thesis project proposal submitted to the supervisory committee. Refer to the Graduate School criteria for the M.S. thesis proposal format:

Summer Semesters

  • Maintain adequate progress toward the M.S. degree.

Third Semester

  • Meet with the supervisory committee and report up-to-date results.

Fourth Semester

  • In cooperation with the thesis committee, schedule thesis defense at least two weeks before defense date (request to schedule examination).
  • The completed thesis must be submitted to the thesis committee at least one week before the defense.
  • Present final public seminar defending thesis research (typically, immediately before the thesis committee defense).
  • Conduct defense.
  • In cooperation with the Graduate School, submit final draft of thesis.

Doctoral Degree Requirements and Examinations

  • Not fewer than 90 semester graduate credits
    • If the student has a relevant, completed M.S., 30 credits from the M.S. count towards the 90 total credits
    • Of the 90 credits, a minimum of 27 credits must be in courses other than seminar or research credits, including 22 credits from core subjects
    • 15 of these credits must be at the 700-789 level at NDSU
    • 12 credits may be petitioned for transfer from other graduate programs
    • 4 credits of MICR 790 Professional Development are required during the first two years in residence; PhD candidates are expected to continue to register for MICR 790 Graduate Seminar each semester of their program.
    • Additional credits may be recommended by the supervisory committee
  • Overall GPA of 3.0 or higher
  • Successful completion of written and oral preliminary exams
  • Public seminar of dissertation research (exit seminar)
  • Dissertation and successful oral defense of that research
  • The student and major adviser will prepare a plan of study by the end of the first year in residence. Students with inadequate undergraduate training in microbiology will be required to successfully complete undergraduate courses in microbiology in addition to the credits required for their plan of study.
  • Core courses must be completed before the oral or written preliminary examination may be scheduled. Elective classes may be completed at any time prior to the dissertation defense.
  • Both a written and an oral, comprehensive, preliminary examination must be successfully completed to admit the student of candidacy for the Doctoral degree. These examinations should be taken no later than the end of the third year in residence.
  • After successful completion of the comprehensive written and oral preliminary examinations, the student will be formally admitted to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree. At least one academic semester, and preferably two semesters, shall elapse between the preliminary examinations and the oral defense of the research-based dissertation.
  • This research must represent a significant and novel contribution to the field of molecular pathogenesis. The candidate will present a public seminar based on the dissertation research and will defend the dissertation to the graduate committee and invited faculty members.

Ph.D. Preliminary Examination

Suggested Timeline for Ph.D. Degree

A student who enters the doctoral program with a Master’s degree will be expected to finish in 3-4 years (4-5 years without). To guide students and advisors on program progress, milestones for specific tasks essential to the timely completion of their doctoral degree are identified below.

  • Advisor selected: upon admission to the program
  • Graduate Committee selected: by the end of the first year in residence
  • Plan of Study approved by the Graduate School: by the end of the first year in residence
  • Committee meetings: annually to track research and academic progress, more often if necessitated by student’s, advisor’s, or committee’s request
  • The written and oral preliminary exam must be attempted after all core courses are successfully completed, preferably by the end of the third year in residence. A request to schedule exam needs to be submitted to the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the exam.
  • The completed dissertation must be submitted to the graduate committee at least one week before the defense. See Graduate School web page for more information.
  • A request to schedule defense needs to be submitted to the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the exam.
  • Exit seminar: a public seminar of the dissertation will be given immediately prior to defense

Click here for information on forms relating to graduation and commencement

Research and Disquisition

Candidates for the M.S. or Ph.D. degree shall prepare a disquisition approved by the major advisor and department head and acceptable to the graduate committee and the Graduate Dean. Disquisition research will entail studies that are consistent with the departmental research mission. The Master’s thesis should demonstrate the student's ability to outline a problem, execute a series of experiments, and summarize her/his findings in a clear and concise written report. The Ph.D. dissertation should demonstrate the student’s ability to identify a problem, formulate hypotheses about the problem, predict the outcome of tests based on the hypothesis, execute a series of experiments to test the hypothesis, and—based on the outcome of the experiments—modify the hypothesis and retest as necessary. In planning experiments and preparation of the disquisition, the student will work closely with the major advisor. All information collected in the laboratory must be recorded in a furnished lab notebook in an approved format that will remain the property of North Dakota State University.

All research involving animal subjects, human subjects, or biohazardous materials (such as infectious agents) require appropriate university committee approval (Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee - IACUC, Institutional Review Board - IRB, or Institutional Biosafety Committee - IBC) prior to conducting the research. The appropriate form(s) should be submitted for approval as soon as your research design is finalized. Your disquisition will not be accepted by the Graduate School without the appropriate IACUC, IRB, or IBC approval, which cannot be obtained retroactively. For forms and additional information, see the following links:

The preparation of a thesis or disquisition to satisfy one of the requirements for an M.S. degree in Microbiology or a Ph.D. degree in Molecular Pathogenesis must conform to a format as outlined by the Graduate School. A well-written disquisition is a must, and each student should work with her/his advisor to ensure that it is suitable for publication. The Graduate School will return substandard work for corrections. The Center for Writers is a resource available on campus to assist students with writing (Center for Writers) and should be used as necessary.

A final draft of the thesis must be submitted to the Graduate School within 12 months of the thesis defense or the final exam must be re-taken.

Scheduling your Defense

It is the graduate student's responsibility to schedule the defense examination and accompanying defense seminar.

Forms to schedule the defense and seminar must be submitted at least two weeks prior to the defense date:

All graduate students are required to provide a public announcement of their defense or exit* seminar to the department two weeks prior to the seminar date. It is each student’s responsibility to ensure this announcement is made. If notice is not made available two weeks in advance, the defense seminar must be rescheduled.

*This would correspond to the day they will submit their defense date and place to the graduate school. However, if their exit seminar is at a time other than the day of the defense, a two week notice will need to be provided before the exit seminar is to be given.