Visual Sciences

Weiming Mao, PhD, Graduate Advisor

Center for BioHealth 449 | Phone: 817-735-0564 | E-mail:

The graduate training program in Visual Sciences is designed to provide the students with knowledge, skills, and technical experience to prepare them for a research career in industry or academia. Students will undertake advanced courses in vision-related topics including: the normal structure and function of the eye, ocular diseases (such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, inherited retinal degenerations, proliferative retinal diseases, and cataracts), ocular pharmacology, and bioinformatics. Active participation in visual sciences journal clubs and visual sciences seminars is also required. Students will also be involved in in-depth basic research training utilizing genetic, molecular, cellular, biochemical, physiological, and pharmacological approaches in laboratories of university-affiliated vision experts in order to complete major requirements for master’s or doctoral degrees. In order to accomplish these, students are encouraged to acquire a broad based knowledge from various disciplines in the institution and laboratories which can then be applied towards vision research.

Like other interdisciplinary programs, the Visual Science program is intended to provide the student with a repertoire of courses and training from various basic science disciplines. It is the responsibility of the student’s mentor and advisory committee to direct the student to make the best choices among these courses and training in order to select those that will best fit the specific research project the student is interested in. To reflect this policy, at least 2 members of the advisory committee in addition to the mentor should be directly involved in eye or vision-related research. The advisory committee could also include adjunct faculty from industry involved in eye research.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination within the discipline of Visual Sciences must be successfully completed prior to concluding 72 semester credit hours (SCH). Students are encouraged to take the written qualifying exam in the first semester of their second year and the oral qualifying exam in the second semester of their second year. The main goal of the examination is to ensure that each doctoral student has a broad knowledge base and has mastered the fundamental principles of biomedical sciences. The qualifying examination consists of written and oral phases. The examination will be directed mainly towards the didactic coursework of the student but understanding of general research techniques in biomedical research will be included. The student is expected to become knowledgeable in these areas via individual reading of textbooks and scientific literature, coursework, seminar attendance, and/or journal club discussions. During the first month of the semester in which the examination is to be taken, the student will submit a written request and meet with the graduate advisor for Visual Sciences to discuss the format of the examination. The initial phase of the qualifying examination consists of a set of written questions administered by an Examination Committee (EC) appointed by the graduate advisor. The student’s major professor may not sit on the EC. The student may meet with members of EC prior to the examination to discuss the topics and the examination schedule. Each examination answer will be graded independently by at least two EC members who are experts in the subject area. Within 4 weeks of passing the written examination, the chair of the EC will schedule the oral examination. The oral examination will consist of questions that further explore the student’s answers in the written examination, as well as questions on additional topics deemed appropriate by the EC. The student’s major professor may be present during the oral examination but will not participate in the examination or vote on the outcome. A university committee member must be in attendance for the oral phase of the examination. The qualifying examination will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis. In the written examination, 70% or higher comprises a passing grade. A student who passes both phases will receive a passing mark while failure in both phases will result in a failing mark. A student must pass the written portion before proceeding to the oral part of the examination. A student who passes the written phase but fails the oral phase will be required to retake the oral portion. Two attempts to pass the qualifying examination will be allowed. Failure to pass the qualifying examination after 2 attempts will result in dismissal from the doctoral program. In this case, a student may be allowed to complete the requirements
for a Master of Science degree. Following the submission of an approved research proposal, the student is advanced to candidacy.


This page was last modified on April 27, 2018