THESIS MILESTONES

  1. Admission to the LNDS
  2. By the end of the first year of your thesis – Provide the composition of your Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC)
  3. Intermediate (Midterm) evaluation – What to expect and how to prepare
  4. Points to keep in mind over the second half of your thesis project – Towards the preparation of your thesis manuscript
  5. Thesis defense procedures – To be read well in advance to avoid surprises …
1. Admission to the LNDS

The enrollment to the host university and faculty of your thesis director is usually the first path of your thesis endeavor. Please follow the information to know the pathway and what to do to enroll as
a) PhD student at UNIGE or UNIL and
b) in the LNDS as doctoral program

2. By the end of the first year of your thesis – TAC

Around the end of the first year of the PhD studies, the composition of the Thesis advisory committee (TAC) needs to be communicated to the doctoral program.
The TAC participates in the intermediate evaluation as well as in the PhD exams according to the modalities in force at the faculty of enrollment of the PhD candidate. In agreement with the candidate, the thesis director is responsible for constituting a TAC no later than 12 months after the admission of the PhD candidate into the doctoral program. The TAC consists of a president or a representative of the doctoral program (where appropriate at UNIGE), and at least two experts holding a doctoral degree, who are active in research and independent of the PhD candidate’s thesis project, and at least one of whom is external to the thesis director’s department. The Scientific Committee validates the composition of the TAC and designates the person who chairs it. This person is chosen from among the full or associate professors of the partner faculties of the Doctorate in Neuroscience. The thesis director and, if applicable, the thesis co-director participate in the TAC in a consulting role.

The TAC composition must be communicated to the LNDS coordinator, using the official form below, at the latest 2 months before the intermediate evaluation session to allow for sufficient time to prepare the session and the TAC members.

Form to submit TAC composition

3. Intermediate (Midterm) evaluation
Goal

The intermediate evaluations are organized by each PhD candidate who has been working on the project for 2-3 semesters, but not later than 18 months after the reception of LNDS acceptance letter. The goal is to evaluate the first part of the thesis project. Eventually, the thesis advisory committee (TAC) can make suggestions on the continuation of the project and publications. Ideally, the candidate has achieved at least 9 study credits (ECTS) around the time point of the midterm evaluation; please check with the LNDS coordinator to receive your recap.

Format

The evaluation session lasts ~2 hours, for details check the section “Oral presentation” below. The intermediate evaluation is based on:
• the quality of the report provided by the candidate,
• the quality of the oral presentation of the candidate,
• understanding of the field of research (literature, methodology, importance of the work, limits, etc.),
• the originality and the advance of the experimental work,
• the projects formulated for the continuation of the thesis work.

In addition, the TAC asserts on the potential for publication of the results in the form of original articles in international journals with editorial policy, and makes recommendations thereon. In the end of the evaluation session and after deliberation, the TAC issues its conclusions, recommendations and other remarks in a report (MidtermPV) signed by the parties and transmitted to the LNDS.

Template for TAC report

Progress reports

At least one month before the exam, the PhD candidate and the thesis director are asked to submit a report to the LNDS coordinator by e-mail, using the templates below. These reports (together with some procedural information) are collectively forwarded to the TAC members by the LNDS coordinator.

The candidate’s report should describe how the thesis project has evolved so far and the plans and timeline for the remainder of the thesis duration. The thesis project description (max 10 pages plus references) should be organized as follow:

  • Aim of the project: 0.5 to 1 page
  • Background: 2 to 3 pages
  • Already published results (if applicable) and on-going work: 2 to 5 pages
  • Perspectives and timeline for completion and defense: 1 to 1.5 pages
  • References

The thesis director’s report should describe the progress of the student, both academically and project-related, and the state of the student’s publications.

Both the candidate and the thesis director can report any minor or major problems and describe in detail what these problems are. Yet, there will also be the possibility to discuss problems with the TAC in private during the evaluation session (see section “Oral presentation” below). The reports and presentation should be in English.

Oral presentation

The presentation of the candidate should not last more than 30 minutes, and elaborate on the thesis project, goals, hypotheses, methods and results obtained so far. During the following discussion (moderated by the jury president/ LNDS representative),  the TAC members will pose questions, e.g. on the research plan, results obtained, the next project steps and timeline towards PhD completion, as well as on the state of publication(s). Questions can also touch topics beyond the actual thesis topics in order to evaluate the candidate’s general state of knowledge in neuroscience.

Note: The LNDS expects candidates to be able to discuss multidisciplinary neuroscience research with colleagues coming from different research backgrounds.

Before the TAC deliberates, the PhD student and the supervisor are heard separately by the committee. The possible evaluations of the evaluation are “sufficient” or “insufficient”. If the progress of the thesis project or/and the oral presentation of the PhD candidate are deemed insufficient, the PhD candidate can present him-/herself to a second and final intermediate evaluation. This second evaluation must take place between three and six months after the first one.

4. Over the second half of your thesis
Writing and formatting your thesis document

Please find the information concerning your host university in the following documents. The links to templates cited therein can be found under the section “Thesis defense procedures”. Please make sure to look up the adequate information concerning your university and faculty of enrollment!

Here is also a link to the free software to help you with grammar and style checking during thesis (and paper) writing.

Comment on: Writing a thesis based on peer-reviewed articles

If you have at least one original research article published or accepted for publication in a major peer-reviewed journal you can replace content chapters, and/or the methods and results section of your thesis with these articles. Your contribution must be significant for an article to be considered as part of your thesis. Reviews cannot be used to replace any part of your thesis.  Each thesis project is different. Sometimes, a chain of experiments leads to a publication in a high-impact journal; sometimes a discovery is dispersed across several publications ….

Please talk to your thesis director about your concept of the thesis manuscript, and contact to LNDS coordinator to inquire on specific aspects and in case of doubts whether your work is eligible for a thesis based on articles.

5. Thesis defense procedures
General information

The thesis defense / PhD exam usually takes place between 3-5 years after the enrollment in the doctoral program. Please carefully read the documents below listing details on the end-of-thesis and defense procedures as they differ between the host university (UNIGE or UNIL) and faculty of attachment of the PhD candidate.
The PhD exam procedure consists of two parts: a private and a public defense of the thesis work. The exam is conducted in accordance with the rules that are in place at the university and faculty where the PhD candidate is enrolled. Documents will need to be submitted for the preparation of the exams as detailed in the following paragraphs.

Please see the guidelines below complementing the LNDS rules.

For questions and COVID-related changes and updates please contact the LNDS coordinator well in advance of your planned thesis submission.

(New) Thesis procedures @ UNIGE

NOTE: THE PROCEDURES DETAILED BELOW APPLY BY DEFAULT TO PHD CANDIDATES ENROLLED SINCE THE AUTUMN SEMESTER 2021 (A2021) OR LATER. IF YOU ENROLLED @UNIGE BEFORE A2021, PLEASE SEE BELOW FOR THE “OLD” UNIGE THESIS PROCEDURES AND CONTACT THE LNDS COORDINATOR WITH QUESTIONS.

Private defense: No later than 3 weeks before the scheduled private defense date, the PhD candidate submits the thesis manuscript to the TAC. In the defense session, the TAC makes an assessment of the quality of the PhD candidate’s personal contribution to the presented work as well as his/her knowledge. The possible evaluation outcomes are “sufficient” or “insufficient”. In case of failure (“insufficient”), the candidate may organize a second private defense. The TAC may also suggest modifications to the thesis manuscript. Any changes must be completed before the public defense of the thesis. The private defense is held at least 6 weeks before the public defense.

Template for private defense report to be filled and signed by all jury members during the private exam. The original must be sent to the student secretariat of the faculty of enrollment of the candidate (jury signatures must be original, no copies are accepted) and a copy to the LNDS coordinator to receive your LNDS thesis (Covid update: scanned documents accepted until further notice)

Public defense of the thesis – Procedure: No later than 6 weeks before the scheduled public defense date, the PhD candidate submits a proposal for the composition of the thesis jury.
No later than 5 weeks prior to the scheduled defense date, the PhD candidate submits his/her thesis manuscript to the director and, if applicable, to the co-director of the thesis and to the other members of the thesis jury for assessment.

Template for thesis title page (MED & SCI)
Template for thesis title page (FPSE)

No later than 6 weeks prior to the scheduled defense date, the PhD candidate registers for the thesis defense at his/her faculty, providing the following information:
– date, time and place of the public defense
– an electronic copy of the thesis manuscript
– the exam protocol of the private defense
– the composition of the thesis jury, including the professional address of each member and his/her function
– a summary of the ECTS credits obtained in the doctoral program.

Faculty contacts:
Medicine
Sciences
FPSE

No later than 3 weeks prior to the scheduled defense date, the thesis director must send the thesis report(s) to the Dean’s office / Student secretariat∙ of the Faculty of enrollment of the PhD candidate. The report must have been approved and signed by all members of the jury, and conclude that the thesis can be defended to the thesis jury. Any modifications to the thesis manuscript that are proposed by the jury must be completed before the defense.

Template for thesis reports to faculty

Public defense of the thesis – Evaluation: During the defense, the thesis is evaluated by the jury, which assesses the PhD candidate’s scientific research, as well as the quality of the manuscript and of the oral presentation. The possible evaluation outcomes are “accepted” or “refused” in the Faculties of Medicine and Science, or are expressed by an average mark between 0 and 6 in the Faculty of Psychology and Education. The outcome “accepted” or a mark equal to or higher than 4 is necessary for the successful completion of the doctoral exam.

Faculty of Medicine or Sciences: Template for public defense report. Must be filled and signed by all jury members. Please send the original to the secretariat of your faculty after the exam (and a scan to the LNDS coordinator). Jury signatures must be original, no copies are accepted (Note: Scanned documents accepted until further notice!)

FPSE: Template for public defense report. Must be filled and signed by all jury members. Please send the original to the secretariat of your faculty after the exam (and a scan to the LNDS coordinator). Jury signatures must be original, no copies are accepted (Note: Scanned documents accepted until further notice!)

Following the public defense, the thesis must be submitted to the UNIGE university library (incl. the imprimatur page) and your PhD imploma must be ordered. These last steps must be completed within 6 months after the public thesis defense.

Some more links potentially useful:
Before the public defense
After the public defense incl. thesis deposit at to the UNIGE library

Thesis procedures @ UNIL

Private defense: No later than 5 weeks prior to the scheduled date of the private defense “séance d’épreuve” (FBM) or the thesis colloquium (SSP), the PhD candidate submits to the Thesis Office of his/her faculty of enrollment:
– date, time, and place of the private defense
– an electronic copy of the thesis manuscript
– the composition of the thesis jury as defined, including the professional address of each member and his/her function
– a summary of the ECTS credits obtained in the doctoral program.

Template for thesis jury announcement to FBM
Information for SSP students
Thesis procedures @FBM and @SSP compared: an overview done by LNDS
Short check-list provided by the FBM thesis office listing documents for thesis submission

Template for thesis title page @ FBM
Template for thesis title page @ SSP

No later than 5 weeks prior to the private defense, the PhD candidate sends to each member of the jury a copy of his/her thesis manuscript. With exception of the president, each member of the jury produces a report in which his/her opinion of the work is presented. These reports must be sent to the Thesis Office of the faculty of enrollment no later than one week before the private defense session (thesis colloquium). At the end of the defense, the thesis jury deliberates and provides its assessment of the thesis work according to the rules in force at the faculty of enrollment of the PhD candidate.

Template for thesis reports to faculty

For PhD candidates enrolled at the FBM, the jury assigns a grade to the thesis manuscript, the quality of the candidate’s personal work, as well as the quality of his/her presentation and knowledge. This evaluation is expressed by three marks between 0 and 6. Each of the three scores must be equal to or greater than 4 to pass the private defense.

For PhD candidates enrolled at the SSP, the jury may:
– accept the manuscript
– accept the manuscript with some reworking
– refuse the manuscript as is and schedule a second thesis colloquium within 6 months
– reject the thesis.

Public defense of the thesis: Upon successful completion of the private defense, the thesis director (at the FBM) or the Dean’s Office (at the SSP) sets the date and place of the public defense in agreement with the thesis jury and the PhD candidate. The public thesis defense takes place at least 3 weeks and at most 6 months after the private defense session. The thesis jury decides whether the thesis defense was successful.

Following the public defense, the thesis incl. the imprimatur page must be submitted to the university library (BCU) and your PhD degree must be ordered by filling the template in MyUNIL. In addition, one printed thesis copy must be sent to the FBM Thesis office. These last steps must be completed within 6 months after the public thesis defense.

Old thesis defense procedures @ UNIGE

Please find in the document “What to do and to keep in mind” all information needed towards the end of your thesis @ UNIGE (deadlines, addresses etc).

The documents and protocol templates cited can be found here (under the section of the “new” thesis procedures @ UNIGE that automatically apply to PhD students enrolled since A2021 or later.

Please do not hesitate to contact the LNDS coordinator with questions; we are currently in a transition phase between the old and the new UNIGE thesis procedures ….
Please see below a little comparison of old and new to clarify differences …