Thesis Defense and Graduation Preparation


When a student receives approval from the thesis committee to defend their thesis, it is time to prepare for graduation. The student should notify the department coordinator of plans to defend and graduate.

The first step is to schedule the defense, making sure that all committee members are available on that date and time.  The student should review the graduation calendar published by the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences (GAS) when scheduling the defense. It is helpful to know the graduation deadlines when discussing plans with the committee.

Please note that one member can attend through online video conferencing (such as Zoom).  If this option is being used, the student must notify the department coordinator at least two weeks in advance.  This is to ensure the availability of the appropriate equipment and computing staff for set-up on that date and time.

After determining the time and date when all committee members are available, the student must arrange for a seminar room for this presentation. Students can reserve this room through online Room Reservation Request Form handled by the Biology Academic Office.  Students must notify the department coordinator of the time, date, and title of Dissertation; a notice will then be sent to the Biology Department staff and faculty.

The written dissertation must be submitted to the thesis committee for their review a full two-weeks prior to the public defense and oral examination. If this thesis is not submitted in a timely manner, the committee has the right to postpone the defense until a later date. Please note that the postponement in the defense meeting may adversely affect the expected graduation date.

Dissertations must be formatted to specifications as stated in the Doctoral Dissertation Manual. The student must review this manual prior to submission to the committee as well as to the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences.

Students have found this website helpful when writing their dissertation - University of Michigan Research Guides

The final examination consists of two parts: a public presentation of research and a private oral examination given by the thesis committee immediately after the presentation. Students should allow at least three hours for completion of both the public presentation and private oral examination. All forms required for depositing the dissertation will be submitted electronically.

Once the defense has been scheduled, the student can apply for graduation; website for the Graduation Application is  Information on the graduation process can be found at the Provost's Dissertation Resources web page. In addition to the graduation application link, this web page provides informaton on the rules and regulations pertaining to the awarding of degrees, the graduation calendar, the dissertation manual, information about the deposit of dissertations, fees, and the graduation ceremonies.

Once a student applies for graduation, the department coordinator will review the student's record and, if the graduation requirements will be completed in time for that graduation cycle, the application will be approved. The coordinator will work with the student on fulfilling the requirements stated below.

The University's publication requirement is satisfied when the dissertation has been submitted online to ProQuest's ETD Administrator so that the dissertation is placed in the University Library as part of the permanent collection.  Instructions for the online submission of a thesis will be given to the student at the time of the graduation application.

Penn also requires open access publication of dissertations which provide a much wider audience for the student's work, can help to market the student's ideas to potential employers, and can make plagiarism or theft much easier to detect.  The open access dissertation, published in the University institutional repository, Scholarly Commons, will be available via the Internet, including full text searching through search engines, such as Google.  The same legal and copyright protections pertain to open access publication as to traditional hardcopy publication.   The University permits delay of traditional and open access publications as necessary.  The delay of publication (also known as "embargo") policy can be found in the Dissertation Manual.   Students should discuss with their advisor whether a delay in publication is necessary or advisable.

For students who defend early in the graduation cycle, the deposit of dissertation must take place one month after the defense date.


Degrees are awarded three times per year – May, August, and December. Commencement ceremonies are held in May. Those who defend in the May and June are welcome to attend the May ceremony, even though their official graduation date will be in August. Other August graduates as well as the December graduates will be invited to participate in the graduate ceremonies held in May of the following year.

Bursar Bill

Bursar accounts must be up to date prior to graduation. Students cannot deposit their dissertation with money still due to the University. Please review your bill as part of the graduation preparation process. Bills can be viewed online through the Penn Portal. The link is under the Financial Information topic on the Portal. To view financial information, students must enter their PennKey and password.

Students with questions about bills can see the department coordinator or the Business Office for assistance and details.