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Please refer to the COVID-19 resources page in the BME graduate handbook for temporary changes to some policies and practices. All final oral exams in fall 2020 must be held virtually and all paperwork should be submitted to The Graduate School is not open for in-person submissions. 

Students complete their dissertation defense (or final oral exam) typically at the end of their fifth year. The Graduate School provides critical information regarding deadlines, paperwork, and scheduling. Students file to graduate in their final semester. The Graduate School typically hosts workshops that are helpful and recommended.

Effective fall 2020, all graduate students must hold their defense at least two weeks prior to the submission deadline. Please see the Graduate School's key dates page to learn the exact deadline for holding your defense. 

DocuSign versions of the Request for Final Oral Form and the Report of Dissertation Committee form are available to you. More information is included in the sections below. Should you need to use non-DocuSign digital forms, find them here

Dissertation Defense Step-by-Step

 Before Your Defense

  1. Has your committee membership changed since you advanced to candidacy? 
    1. Check your committee membership here. If it is correct, skip to number 2. If it is not correct, learn how to change your committee membership below. 
    2. If you need to change your committee membership, submit a request to the Graduate School to formally change your committee membership at least 30 days prior to your final oral exam. If you are within 30 days, additional permissions and a petition may be required. Email the Graduate Coordinator to use the DocuSign version of this form. 
  2. Review the Graduate School website. 
    1. The Graduate School has critical information regarding deadlines, paperwork, and scheduling. Try to review this at least one semester before your defense.
  3. Meet with your supervisor. 
    1. Discuss your plan to defend and any important requirements/expectations for your defense.
  4. File to graduate. 
    1. At the beginning of your final semester, you must file to graduate to let the Graduate School know you will finish your degree. The application for graduation is typically available on the first class day of the semester. 
  5. Schedule your defense. Contact your committee members to let them know when you hope to defend and ask them for their availability. You must defend at least 2 weeks prior to the submission deadline in your final semester. 
    1. When you've determined a date, you must submit the Request for Final Oral Form to the Graduate School at least two weeks in advance of the date of your defense. Access the DocuSign version of the Request for Final Oral form here. When the form is completed, you will receive a notification from DocuSign. Download the form and submit it to
    2. After you submit the Request for Final Oral form to the Graduate School, you should include one copy each of the dissertation abstract, title page, doctoral committee membership page, a table of contents, and lists of tables and figures to Bob Penman at the Graduate School for a format check. 
    3. The Request for Final Oral form is the official mechanism for scheduling your defense with the Graduate School. Scheduling changes may take place as needed prior to submitting the form. If you need to change the date or time of your defense after the form is submitted, please contact the Graduate Coordinator.
    4. You may use the BME Room Reservation system to reserve space for your defense. You are encouraged to reserve the room 30 minutes to one hour prior to your defense start time. All defenses in fall 2020 are virtual. 
  6. Send your dissertation to your committee. 
    1. Once your supervisor approves, send your dissertation to the rest of your committee at least 4 weeks prior to your final oral exam. 
  7. Contact the Graduate Coordinator
    1. During COVID-19 related closures, defenses may be open or closed. You are not required to hold an open defense.  
    2. Send the date and time of the defense, the title of your dissertation, an abstract, and whether your defense will be open or closed to the Graduate Coordinator. 
      1. OPEN DEFENSE: An invitation to your defense, along with your abstract, will be distributed to the BME graduate student body, the Graduate Studies Committee, and the letter writers from your application to the program. If you do not wish for your letter writers to be notified, please express objection in writing to the Graduate Coordinator. For an open defense, the Graduate Coordinator will set up a Qualtrics RSVP form and include the link in your invitation. Only those who RSVP will receive the Zoom link. If you opt for an open defense, set up your Zoom link in advance and send it to the Graduate Coordinator. The link will be distributed to those who RSVP within 24 hours before your defense. 
      2. CLOSED DEFENSE: You are responsible for creating your Zoom link and distributing it to your committee and whomever else you'd like to invite. No mass invitation will be sent to the student body nor the Graduate Studies Committee. 
  8. Prepare your presentation. Most students will use PowerPoint or a similar program to present. Discuss format and style with your supervisor.
  9. Prepare forms. As of fall 2020, there is only one form you need to have signed at your defense - the Report of Dissertation Committee form. You have two options for collecting signatures on this form:
    1. The report of dissertation committee form will be emailed to you by the Graduate School about one week prior to your defense. Download this partially completed form and circulate it for digital signatures.
    2. OR use the DocuSign version of the report of dissertation committee form to collect signatures. Three steps are required for this form:
      1. On the first page, you need to designate signers, including your advisor, all committee members, and the GSC Chair Dr. Tim Yeh. 
      2. On the second page, fill in your EID and dissertation title and any other required fields, and click Submit. 
      3. IMPORTANT: After clicking submit, the form will route back to you. You will need to click the Release button in the form to send the form to your committee for signature. We recommend releasing the form either right before or right after your defense so your committee can easily find the request in their inboxes.
  10. Learning Outcomes Forms will be circulated to your committee by the Graduate Coordinator via DocuSign. You do not need to take any action for the learning outcomes forms. If needed, the paper version of the form is available here. 
  11. Confirm with your committee
    1. Be sure to confirm your committee's attendance and send a reminder at least a few days in advance. Committee participation is set by the Graduate School at N-1. The Graduate School does not distinguish between virtual and in-person participation. 

At Your Defense

  1. Arrive early. Set up the room and media, and greet your committee and attendees. 
  2. Distribute forms and paperwork from step 9
    1. Have the appropriate documents to acquire all of the necessary signatures. The Report of Dissertation Committee form will be sent directly to you, your supervisor, and the Graduate Coordinator via email one week prior to your defense. Please check with your supervisor to ensure this is brought to your defense and all signatures are acquired. Distribute one Learning Outcomes form to each committee member. This must be completed and returned to the Graduate Coordinator after the defense.
  3. Conduct your defense
    1. The process can take up to a few hours, including the presentation, questions, and deliberation.
  4. Acquire signatures
    1. If you have successfully defended, acquire signatures for your forms. Collect signatures for the Report of Dissertation Committee form and ask each member to complete the Learning Outcomes Form.
    2. Signatures on the Report of Dissertation Committee form may be electronic. Be sure the signatures meet Graduate School requirements
    3. Authorized designees. If the GSC Chair (Dr. Yeh) is unavailable for signature, the BME Graduate Advisor (Dr. Dunn) or BME Department Chair (Dr. Sakiyama-Elbert) may sign instead.

Immediately After Your Defense

  1. Check in with the Graduate Coordinator
    1. Bring your signed paperwork to the Graduate Coordinator so copies may be made for your and the department's records. 
  2. Upload your dissertation
    1. You must upload your dissertation to the Texas Digital Library by the Graduate School's deadline. Your dissertation must be uploaded prior to submitting final paperwork to the Graduate School.
  3. Submit your paperwork
    1. Submit your final paperwork to the Graduate School via email to All documents must be received by the Graduate School by their established deadline. Late paperwork will prevent you from graduating.


The Cockrell School of Engineering hosts one commencement ceremony each spring. Students who graduated in the summer or fall semesters prior to the ceremony and those who have applied to graduate in the spring may participate. Learn more here about the Cockrell School of Engineering Commencement Ceremony. Effective spring 2020, the Cockrell School will hold a separate ceremony for MS and PhD students. Graduate students will not be eligible to attend the larger ceremony at the Frank Erwin Center, which is now for undergraduate students only. 

The Graduate School hosts one convocation ceremony each spring. Students who graduated in the summer or fall semesters prior to the ceremony and those who have applied to graduate in the spring may participate. Learn more here about the Graduate School Convocation Ceremony

Regalia must be purchased or rented for the ceremonies and details for required regalia can be found online at the links for each ceremony. You can purchase or rent regalia at the University Co-op. Check the co-op site for details and deadlines.

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