Dissertation Committee Formation and Proposal

Dissertation Committee Formation

At least one month before the thesis proposal, the student must have their Dissertation Committee approved by both the Robotics Grad Chair and Rackham.

The completed Dissertation Committee Form should be sent by email to the Robotics Grad Coordinator. If requesting a committee member outside of U-M their CV as well as a short statement describing their expertise in the dissertation topic must accompany the Dissertation Committee Form.

In collaboration with the Dissertation Chair(s), the student forms a Dissertation Committee following specific guidelines regarding the composition of the Committee. A Robotics Ph.D. student’s dissertation committee first must satisfy Rackham’s Guidelines for Dissertation Committees

Robotics Institute Dissertation Committee formation rules:

  1. The committee must consist of four or more members; at least two of the members must be affiliated with the Robotics program.
  2. The Research Advisor will serve as Chair of the dissertation committee. The research advisor must be a Core Member of the Robotics Faculty. It is customary for the co-advisor (if applicable) to serve on the dissertation committee.
  3. One of the Committee members must be designated as “cognate member.” Cognate members must be a tenured-track faculty in a Rackham graduate program and be primarily engaged in a research area outside of the candidate’s. The cognate member may or may not be a member of the Robotics faculty.
  4. The Robotics Graduate Program Chair must approve the thesis committee.   

Thesis Proposal

When the student is ready to complete the Research Thesis Proposal, the student must complete the following:

  1. Schedule an oral presentation with the Dissertation Committee.
  2. Submit the written thesis proposal (~10-15 pages) to the Dissertation Committee at least two weeks in advance of the oral presentation.  

During the Thesis Proposal presentation, the student should:

  1. Precisely identify and describe the area of research. 
  2. Demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the area including mastery of the literature on the subject area. 
  3. Give a general description of the research problem to be addressed.
  4. Provide an outline of the methodology to be utilized. 

During and after the Thesis Proposal presentation, the Dissertation Committee will explore the proposed research with the student in order to provide guidance and make an evaluation of its suitability. The committee will determine if the student has or does not have an acceptable proposal. 

The Ph.D. Thesis Proposal Form must be completed and returned to the Graduate Coordinator after the Thesis Proposal.

Additionally, as noted in the graduate program manual:

Failure to have an acceptable proposal requires revising the proposal and within 12 months presenting another formal oral presentation that is deemed satisfactory by the committee.

Students entering the Ph.D. Program without a relevant Master’s degree must write and orally present the Research Thesis Proposal within 48 months of entry. Students entering with a relevant Master’s degree must present within 36 months. Insufficient research progress could potentially result in the student being placed on academic probation.