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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.

Students are strongly encouraged to prepare and update written drafts and outlines of their research plans and results from the beginning of their research, i.e. starting in the first year. Ideally, manuscripts will be prepared and submitted for publication before the final year of the Ph.D. When both co-advisors are satisfied with the quantity and quality of the completed research, the research should be assembled into 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:

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).

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)!