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Research, Writing, and Defense of Dissertation

Research and Dissertation

The rewarding process of carrying out the interdisciplinary research plan set out in the AIM Thesis Proposal in collaboration with the two co-advisors is the capstone of the AIM Ph.D. program. There will typically be pitfalls, and the final form of the project may well differ from the original plan, but this is the very nature of fundamental research.

When both co-advisors are satisfied with the quantity and quality of the completed research, the student must write a dissertation. The dissertation is a document that describes the entire research project, including scholarly background, methodology of research, and original results. The dissertation must be prepared in accordance with the regulations in the Dissertation Handbook published by the Rackham Graduate School. Examples of actual dissertations written by former AIM Ph.D. students can be found on the Program History page. 

Resources to help start the writing process:

How to Plan Ahead for Your Defense

  1. Review Rackham's Completing the Doctral Degree Requirements webpage.
  2. Choose when you would like to graduate (have your degree conferred.)
  3. Use this year's Defense Dates & Deadlines Timeline Table to choose your latest defense date.
  4. Work backward from the defense date to see if you can make all of the deadlines associated with it.
  5. Use this Ph.D. Dissertation Defense To Do List to keep yourself on track.
  6. Stay in close contact with your committee members and the math-grad-office so everything goes smoothly.

The Dissertation Committee

Rackham requires 4 members to be on the Dissertation Defense committee. Be sure to check that your members meet Rackham's Guidelines for Dissertation Committee member eligibilty. In most cases, there is no change in the makeup of the dissertation committee between the Preliminary exam and the Dissertation Defense. Whether or not there are any changes, the student will need to submit a Dissertation Committee Form (which they can get from the Math Graduate Office) at least 6 months prior to the expected defense date to the Graduate Office. The student will then need to schedule the Dissertation Defense with the committee members and Mathematics Graduate Office (a procedure very similar to scheduling the Preliminary examination).

How to Submit your Dissertation Defense Committee

  1. Talk to potential faculty about serving on your committee following these Rackham Rules.
  2. Your co-advisor will be your 2nd reader.
  3. Deteremine who will be your cognate member.
  4. Ask external members to set up a Guest Account in Wolverine Access.
  5. Complete this Dissertation Committee Form and send it to
  6. Once the math-grad-office has submitted your committee, check your Student Business in Wolverine Access to ensure that it is filed correctly.

Defense of Dissertation

When the dissertation is complete, and at least 6 weeks prior to the defense date, the dissertation should be submitted to the two co-advisors, who will read and evaluate the work. They will both report in writing on the quality of the research and writing to the Graduate staff, who will submit the reports to the AIM Doctoral Committee for approval.

The student will then provide each member of the dissertation committee with a copy of the Ph.D. thesis at least 2 weeks before the date of the defense. Each committee member will evaluate the dissertation prior to the defense, reporting directly to the Rackham Graduate School.

The defense of the thesis is open to the public and is a truly exciting experience. The student should prepare a 50-minute long oral presentation based on the thesis work, and should plan for a wide range of questions from the public as well as from the dissertation committee. The defense may take up to two hours, and the result of the defense will be determined by the dissertation committee at the conclusion. Congratulations, Dr. (your name here)!

How to Set up a Zoom Defense

Be sure to login to Zoom with your umich account.

Set up your Zoom meeting as follows:

  • Passcode - Yes (Be sure to give it to the math-grad-office.)
  • Waiting room - No
  • Alternative Hosts - Your committee members;  After your defense, they need to be able to ask you to leave and discuss amongst the committee.
  • Do not "enable join before host"
  • Mute Participants upon Entry
  • Do not restrict to U-M users or your parents won't be able to get in.
  • You may want to record for posterity's sake - that's up to you.
  • As soon as you open the meeting, click chat and disable chatting between attendees.
  • As soon as you open the meeting, click participants and disable "Allow participants to unmute themselves."