Dissertation and Defense

All DMS students should carefully follow the procedures and deadlines outlined below. If you have any questions, please contact dmsphddefense@hms.harvard.edu.  

Writing the Dissertation

Formatting your Dissertation

Dissertations should be submitted in their final format, in accordance with the guidelines listed on the GSAS Formatting Your Dissertation website. The Registrar’s Office will review the document for formatting compliance. Formatting errors may prevent the conferral of the degree and the student may need to apply for the next available degree period. A sample dissertation as well as the Top Ten Common Errors are provided for your convenience.

LaTex Dissertation Template
GSAS Sample Dissertation
Dissertation Writing Tips from DMS Alumni
DMS Alumni Dissertations on DASH

Writing Resources

Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) If your dissertation includes previously published works, it is recommended that authors consult their publishing agreements directly to determine whether and to what extent they may have transferred exclusive rights under copyright. The Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) and Copyright First Responders are available to help the your determine whether you have retained the necessary rights or requires permission.  osc@harvard.edu

GSAS Fellowships and Writing Center
Offers individual writing consultations and workshops. They also run the Writing Oasis whicch provides a space for accountability, productivity, and peer support.

Academic Resource Center
ARC offers individual coaching, Dissertation Writers Accountability Groups, and many other helpful workshops.

DMS Dissertation Guidelines

The dissertation must show original treatment of a fitting subject, contain a scholarly review of the pertinent literature, give evidence of independent research, and be clearly, logically, and carefully written. Students are expected to give a public seminar on their dissertation research.  

The Ph.D. dissertation is expected to contain a substantial amount of independent research work of publishable quality. In addition to chapters of research, each dissertation must contain Introduction and Conclusion chapters that present the themes of the dissertation and summarize the accomplishments. In some cases, the student has done all of the work in the dissertation; more often portions of the dissertation result from collaborative research. In all dissertations containing collaborative results, the dissertation should indicate concisely who contributed the work.  

For example, a chapter containing multi‐authored, published work must include a complete reference and a brief description of the candidateʹs and the colleaguesʹ contributions. For work that is not published but which resulted from multiple researchers, the contributors must be named and respective attributions made clearly. This policy allows stylistic flexibility; depending on the amount of collaborative work in the dissertation and the status of publication(s), the attributions can be together at the end of either the Acknowledgments or Introduction sections of the dissertation or before each relevant chapter.  

It is permissible for more than one student to include work from the same collaboration or publication as long as the required attributions are clear, justified, and complete.  

Individual chapters can be that of published articles as long as there are comprehensive Introduction and Conclusion chapters written by the student. Use of actual reprints as a chapter is not permissible. A word document of the published article must be used in place of a reprint as pages in the dissertation must be consecutively numbered. It is recommended that authors consult their publishing agreements directly to determine whether and to what extent they may have transferred exclusive rights under copyright. The Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) is available to help the author determine whether they has retained the necessary rights or requires permission. Please note, however, OSC and the Copyright First Responders are not able to assist with the permissions process itself.

 

Defense Format

Logistics
Overall, students should reserve 3 hours for their defense: 1 hour for the public seminar and up to 2 hours for the private examination. The title, time, date and place of the exam will be posted on the DMS website and will be announced by email to members of the DMS community 2 weeks in advance of the defense.

  • To book a room (or two rooms), e-mail the Room Scheduling Office at room_scheduling@hms.harvard.edu or submit the request online at https://roomscheduling.hms.harvard.edu.  Contact Ellen Adams at 617-432-2020 with any additional questions.
  • If the room does not have a projector: Contact Audio Visual Communications (AVC) Scheduling at AVC@hms.harvard.edu at least one week prior to your defense to reserve an LCD Projector. Specify that you are in the Division of Medical Sciences. AVC staff will deliver it, set it up, and pick it up after your defense. When contacting AVC, please include the date, start and end times for scheduling purposes as well as your name, program, phone, and e-mail address.
  • If your defense committee members require parking, please contact your department/advisor or program office for parking; DMS cannot provide assistance in this matter.

DMS Remote Defense Policy and Tips

Public Seminar

The public seminar lasts no longer than 1 hour, which includes time for the advisor’s introduction, the student’s oral presentation and acknowledgements, and time for audience questions and answers.  The Defense Committee is required to attend the public seminar; however, it is customary for members of the defense committee to hold their questions until the private oral exam.

Private Examination

A private examination follows the public seminar.  Dissertation advisors may be present, but they must not participate in the exam (e.g., answer questions posed by the committee). Initially, the student will be asked to leave the room for a few minutes. During this time, the committee will discuss the merits of the dissertation, any issues with the dissertation, and areas they may want to focus on during the exam.  The student is then asked back into the room for the exam. Each member of the defense committee will direct detailed technical questions as well as broader questions on the conclusions, impact, and limitations of the research to the candidate based on their review of the dissertation and presentation of the seminar. The Defense Chair will moderate the discussion between the panel and the student. 

At the end of the examination, the student is once again asked to step out of the room for several minutes.  The Committee will discuss any revisions needed for the dissertation and whether these revisions need to be reviewed and by whom.  Once the committee determines the outcomes, the student will be asked back into the room and the Committee provides the student with any [minor] changes needed to the dissertation. While it is extremely rare for the student to fail at this stage, the committee will provide recommendations to the student on their research, communication skills, and development as a scientist, as well as delineating the required changes to the dissertation.

 

Defense Committee

The student and the student's dissertation advisor must select at least four examining committee members: an examination chair (who is a member of the dissertation advisory committee), and three examiners.

The student, arranges the date, time, and place of the examination and seminar after contacting the examination committee. At least four weeks before the scheduled date, the student submits the Program Approval and Proposed Examiners forms and Dissertation Information sheet to the Division of Medical Sciences, along with an abstract and title page.

 

The Director of Academic Administration of the Division of Medical Sciences, the student’s dissertation advisor and the Program Head will approve the members from a list submitted by the candidate and his or her advisor (the Proposed Examiners form).

The exam committee should be assembled as follows:

Exam Chair: The chair of the exam committee must be a Division of Medical Sciences faculty member and be a member of the student’s Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC). None of the members other than the chair may have served on the student’s DAC.

Examiner 1: In addition to the chair, at least one examiner must be a Division of Medical Sciences faculty member.

Examiner 2: To broaden the examination and enhance its significance, one member of the examination committee must be from outside Harvard University.

Examiner 3: Faculty member from any institution.

  1. The dissertation advisor is not eligible to be an examiner or the chair, but usually attends the exam ex officio.
  2. All proposed examiners must be the rank of assistant professor or higher at an academic institution.
  3. Past collaborators and co-authors are usually not appropriate to be examiners. It is the student’s responsibility to indicate any possible relationship of this kind. Faculty members who have collaborated with the student or the student’s advisor on the student’s area of research within the past five years may not serve on the exam committee. Faculty with whom the student has done a regular laboratory rotation in the process of selecting the dissertation laboratory are eligible if there are no other collaborations. Students may therefore petition DMS to approve examiners whose collaboration with the student or advisor was not directly related to the dissertation research.
  4. Emeritus Faculty may not serve on a student's examining committee unless that student has been under the supervision of that faculty member, e.g. the dissertation advisory committee.
  5. If the student’s non-Harvard examiner is a former Harvard professor, then the following requirements must be met before s/he is eligible to serve on the committee as an external examiner:
    • the faculty member should have served in their post-Harvard position for at least one year
    • the faculty member should have not participated directly with the student in any other capacity (e.g. as a program advisor, dissertation advisory committee member, qualifying exam committee member) during her/his time at Harvard.
  6. An alternate examiner may be requested by the student, the dissertation advisor, the program, or the Division. If an alternate examiner is selected, the alternate must be available to attend the seminar and defense, and must receive and read a copy of the dissertation.
  7. All exceptions to these rules must be approved by the Director of Academic Administration of the Division of Medical Sciences.

 

Students must distribute a copy of the dissertation to the members of the dissertation examination committee not less than 14 days before the examination. The candidate should consult with the members of the dissertation examination committee to determine if they prefer an electronic or physical copy. Should the dissertation be delivered late to the readers, the examination will be rescheduled unless other arrangements are agreed upon with the chair of the exam and examiners.

 

The examination committee chair does not function as a voting examiner but may participate in the questioning of the candidate. They are responsible for:

  1. contacting all readers not less than 72 hours before the examination to determine whether they find the dissertation generally acceptable. If one or more reader feel that there are substantive deficiencies that must be remedied to make the dissertation acceptable, the chair must contact or meet with the readers, the dissertation advisor, and the candidate to discuss the situation and decide whether to proceed with the examination. The Director of Graduate Studies of the Division of Medical Sciences and the chair of the student’s Ph.D. program should be contacted immediately and kept apprised of the committee’s decisions.
  2. making sure that corrections to the dissertation are clearly defined and are carried out and approved in a timely fashion. A specific deadline for completion of corrections must be given to the student.
  3. getting the dissertation examiners to sign the acceptance certificate at the end of the examination if the student successfully completes the examination.
  4. immediately notifying DMS whether the student has passed his/ her dissertation defense examination and is thus eligible for the Ph.D.
  5. returning all student documents to the Division of Medical Sciences immediately following the examination.
  6. if the defense is not successful, the chair of the exam must provide a thorough report to DMS and the student’s program head detailing the areas of substantial deficiency of the dissertation.

 

Dissertation Acceptance Certificate and Record of Final Examination

The examination committee chair is provided with two forms that should be completed following the examination.

 

  1. The Dissertation Acceptance Certificate must be signed by all readers if the candidate passes the

examination. The certificate should be returned promptly to the Division for submission to the Registrar when any necessary changes to the dissertation are completed (see below). An electronic copy of the certificate is emailed to the student once they receive a clear pass. The student must then digitally attached the certificate to the first page of the final dissertation and submit it electronically to the registrar’s office online (see below).

 

2. The Record of Final Ph.D. Examination indicates the outcome of the examination and is completed by the examination committee chair. It should be submitted to the Division, where it will be filed as the official record of the examination. If there are revisions to the dissertation that require approval of the examiners before the dissertation is formally accepted, an itemized list of the corrections should be given to the student and noted in the Record of Final Examination Form. In addition, the chair should request that corrections be submitted within a reasonable period, normally one month unless corrections are extensive.

 

Defense Deadlines and Forms

November 2021 Checklist

A DAC Report stating that you have the permission to write your dissertation must be on file with DMS. Students are expected to defend within 6 months of being given permission to write.

Packet Meeting with DMS: Students must sign up for a packet meeting through this Calendly link: https://calendly.com/dms-4/packet-meeting-1. In this meeting we will go over the steps, forms and guidelines for finishing up your degree

 

August 2, 2021

Online Degree Application deadline for November Degrees.

 

Apply through your "My Program" on my.Harvard.edu. Detailed instructions on how to apply can be found in the Knowledge Center.

 

The application opens on July 1.

 

Four weeks before defense date

Forms Due to the DMS Office

Program Approval Form

Dissertation Examination Information Sheet

Dissertation Abstract & Title Page: must be emailed as one Word document (see sample). 

Post-defense survey

 

Please email forms to dmsphddefense@hms.harvard.edu

 

16 days before the defense date

Dissertation Review Meeting
Students must sign up for a dissertation review meeting through this Calendly link:: https://calendly.com/dms-4/dissertationreview. In this meeting we will check your meets GSAS formatting requirements, review final steps of submitting the dissertation, and answer questions about the defense itself.

Two weeks before the defense date

Deliver dissertation to the examination committee.

 

Please reach out to the committee members well in advance to see if they prefer an electronic or physical version.

 

September 1, 2021

 

Dissertation defense must not be later than this date.

 

September 8, 2021

 

 

 

September 9, 2021

Online submission of Final Dissertation due to the Registrar’s Office

Submit your dissertation to ProQuest ETD (under the Medical Sciences Department/Program).

If submitted BY September 8, registration, tuition and student health fee for the fall term and tuition will be cancelled. Student Health Insurance Plan will be retroactively cancelled back to the last day of the prior term of coverage (July 31), and the student will be billed for any medical costs incurred during this period.

 

If submitted on September 9 only , student’s health fees remain ON the student account and student retains HUHS/Blue Cross Blue Shield health coverage through January 31 (requires advisor’s prior approval).

 

November 9, 2021

Degree conferral date

March 2022

A DAC Report stating that you have the permission to write your dissertation must be on file with DMS. Students are expected to defend within 6 months of being given permission to write.

Packet Meeting with DMS: Students must sign up for a packet meeting through this Calendly link: https://calendly.com/dms-4/packet-meeting-1. In this meeting we will go over the steps, forms and guidelines for finishing up your degree

 

 

 

 

December 1, 2021

Online Degree Application deadline for March Degrees.

 

Apply through your "My Program" on my.Harvard.edu. Detailed instructions on how to apply can be found in the Knowledge Center.

 

The application opens on November 10th

 

 

 

Four weeks before defense date

Forms Due to the DMS Office

Program Approval Form

Dissertation Examination Information Sheet

Dissertation Abstract & Title Page: must be emailed as one Word document (see sample). 

Post-defense survey

 

Please email forms to dmsphddefense@hms.harvard.edu

 

 

 

16 days before the defense date

Dissertation Review Meeting
Students must sign up for a dissertation review meeting through this Calendly link:: https://calendly.com/dms-4/dissertationreview. In this meeting we will check your meets GSAS formatting requirements, review final steps of submitting the dissertation, and answer questions about the defense itself.

Two weeks before the defense date

Deliver dissertation to the examination committee.

 

Please reach out to the committee members well in advance to see if they prefer an electronic or physical version.

 

January 11, 2022

 

Dissertation defense must not be later than this date.

 

 

January 18, 2022

 

Online submission of Final Dissertation due to the Registrar’s Office

Submit your dissertation to ProQuest ETD (under the Medical Sciences Department/Program).

 

March 8, 2022

Degree conferral date

May 2022

A DAC Report stating that you have the permission to write your dissertation must be on file with DMS. Students are expected to defend within 6 months of being given permission to write.

Packet Meeting with DMS: Students must sign up for a packet meeting through this Calendly link: https://calendly.com/dms-4/packet-meeting-1. In this meeting we will go over the steps, forms and guidelines for finishing up your degree

 

April 1, 2022

Online Degree Application deadline for May Degrees.

 

Apply through your "My Program" on my.Harvard.edu. Detailed instructions on how to apply can be found in the Knowledge Center.

 

The application opens on March 9th

 

Four weeks before defense date

Forms Due to the DMS Office

Program Approval Form

Dissertation Examination Information Sheet

Dissertation Abstract & Title Page: must be emailed as one Word document (see sample).

Post-defense survey

 

Please email forms to dmsphddefense@hms.harvard.edu

 

16 days before the defense date

Dissertation Review Meeting
Students must sign up for a dissertation review meeting through this Calendly link:: https://calendly.com/dms-4/dissertationreview. In this meeting we will check your meets GSAS formatting requirements, review final steps of submitting the dissertation, and answer questions about the defense itself.

Two weeks before the defense date

Deliver dissertation to the examination committee.

 

Please reach out to the committee members well in advance to see if they prefer an electronic or physical version.

 

May 5, 2022

 

Dissertation defense must not be later than this date.

May 12, 2022

 

Online submission of Final Dissertation due to the Registrar’s Office

Submit your dissertation to ProQuest ETD (under the Medical Sciences Department/Program).

May Degree WITHOUT Spring Tuition - You must submit the final dissertation before the first day of spring classes. Tuition/Heath Insurance will be terminated as of January 31. You must notify jane_riccardi@hms.harvard.edu and dmsaccounting@hms.harvard.edu.

May Degree with Spring Tuition – You must submit the final dissertation by May 12, 2022.

 

May 26, 2022

Degree conferral date

Stipend, Registration and Health Insurance

2021-2022

Stipend

If a student defends their dissertation before the 15th of the month, the stipend will be terminated at the end of that month. If the student defends on or after the 15th, the next month’s stipend will be the final month the student is paid, at the discretion of their advisor.

Students are encouraged to speak to their advisors directly about how they should be paid as they complete their graduate work. If an advisor wishes to pay the student for an additional month, beyond what has been explained above, the advisor must notify David Jablon via email as early as possible. David can be reached at dmsaccounting@hms.harvard.edu.

For administrative reasons, a stipend cannot be issued to a student after their graduation date. If you defended and received a clear pass, you can no longer remain an enrolled DMS student for the upcoming semester.

Registration & Health Insurance

Please review the HUSHP graduating students website: https://hushp.harvard.edu/graduating-students

November Degree:
Health Insurance
– Coverage ends on July 31, 2021
Registration – Previous spring semester.

Students who are uncertain whether they will finish in time for a November degree are encouraged to register for the fall term to avoid late registration fees if they miss the degree deadlines. If they then do finish in time their registration for the term will be cancelled.

November Degree with fall term health insurance:
To receive health insurance through the fall semester, you need to do the following:

    • Have your advisor agree to pay for health insurance through the fall semester and contact David Jablon (dmsaccounting@hms.harvard.edu /617-432- 2602 ) to notify him.
    • Complete the online check-in process for the fall term through your my.harvard.edu portal.
    • Submit your dissertation online to the registrar through the registrar’s website ON September 9, 2021 ONLY

March Degree:
Health Insurance
– Coverage ends on January 31, 2022
Registration – Register for the fall semester

Students who are uncertain whether they will finish in time for a March degree are encouraged to register for the spring term to avoid late registration fees if they miss the degree deadlines. If they then do finish in time their registration for the term will be cancelled.

May Degree:
Health Insurance
– Coverage ends on July 31, 2022
Registration – Register for the spring semester

May Degree WITHOUT spring tuition, you will not register for the spring semester, and your health insurance coverage will end as of January 31, 2022. You must submit your approved dissertation to the Registrar’s Office online before the first day of spring classes  (January 23, 2022).

International Students

International students should consult with Jennifer Havlicek from the Harvard International Office (HIO) regarding their visa status. 

Students can find infromation regarding OPT here: https://hio.harvard.edu/stem-opt

For immigration purposes, a student is done once they have completed all degree requirements, so a student who has submitted their final thesis copy to the registrar cannot maintain their immigration status after that. When applying for OPT the dissertation submission date is what should be considered.

BBS Subject Area Change

Change of Subject Request Form (BBS Students Only)

If you would like to switch their subject area be changed from Biological and Biomedical Sciences to one of the following areas. To do so they must fill out the Change of Subject Request Form and return it to dmsphddefense@hms.harvard.edu (DMS will secure the Chair signature).

  • Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
  • Cell Biology
  • Developmental and Regenerative Biology
  • Genetics and Genomics
  • Microbiology and Immunobiology
  • Human Biology and Translational Medicine
  • Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Dissertation Submission

Dissertation Acceptance Certificate

Following the examination, the candidate must, with the help of the dissertation advisor, make any necessary corrections to the dissertation.  If corrections require review, those revisions should be approved by the examination committee chair or by a faculty member designated by the committee chair, who will then notify the Division of Medical Sciences in writing that all revisions are complete.   

If no corrections are required or once the corrections are complete, the DMS office will email student an electronic copy of your Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC). Please attach this DAC to your dissertation right before your title page with a blank page immediately following the DAC. No page number should be assigned to this page.  

Submission

Before submitting your dissertation, review your final copy and make sure it abides by all of the formatting requirements set by the GSAS.   Students can embargo​​ their dissertation for six months, one year, two years, or more. Embargo periods over two years requires a signed approval of delayed release form.

The dissertation must be submitted electronically through ProQuest ETD to the FAS Registrar’s Office for approval in order to receive the degree. Dissertations must be received by 11:59 PM on the deadline date for the given degree period. No extensions to this deadline are provided. Any supplemental material or copyright permissions should be included in the submission. Please see the GSAS website on dissertation submission or the tutorial on the homepage of the ProQuest ETD submission tool for additional information. 

Tips: 

  • For  Department/Program please select "Medical Sciences"
  • Harvard asks students to enter their dissertation committee members as it appears on their signature page. You should enter your defense committee members and exclude your advisor.

ETDS screen shot

After Submission

Once the dissertation is submitted, you will receive an initial email stating that the dissertation has been received. The Registrar’s Office will review the document for formatting compliance and you will then receive a second email once your dissertation has been approved. Any required changes or corrections will be communicated to the you and must be resolved before the degree can be conferred. You will have up to one week past the submission deadline to submit any corrections requested by the Registrar’s Office.   

Diploma

November Degree deadline for diploma name and mailing address: Wednesday, October 12th, 2021 at 11:59pm EDT

Make changes to your diploma name via the personal informaiton tab in my.harvard.  Edit your diploma mailing address. If you do not add a diploma mailing address, your diploma will be mailed to your permanent address. You can edit the address as many times as needed until the deadline. We will begin to mail diplomas after the November 10 degree conferral. If you need assistance, please email enrollment@fas.harvard.edu.  

Email

HUIT policies on what happens to Harvard accounts and online access after leaving the University

Immediately, you lose access to:

  • Zoom
  • Harvard Library
  • VPN
  • Adobe Software and Creative Cloud Storage

365* days after the last day as an active student**, you lose access to:

  • Office 365 email, calendar, ProPlus, Sharepoint, OneDrive
  • Google Mail, Google Drive and Google Apps (for g.harvard and college.harvard accounts)
  • FAS Account, including unix homedir

*365 days for Class of 2021 only - this will be reviewed for subsequent years

** Students are considered to be no longer active on  their degree conferral date, so it’s the same for all degree candidates with each period Nov/March/May.

Alumni.Harvard Email Forwarding Address and the Harvard Alumni Association

Register with Alumni.Harvard, a secure, password-protected portal that offers alumni free email forwarding service and access to the interactive alumni directory and networking tool as well as other services of the Harvard Alumni Association.