Life as a Third Year and Above Student

During years three and beyond, students will continue to take the required coursework with full-time enrollment through your expected graduation term. You will also be required to do a research presentation and annually meet with your thesis committee to track and work on your progress to degree completion. 

Coursework Research PresentationsAnnual Thesis Reviews |


Upon your advancement to candidacy, you will continue to take courses to fulfill that will give you credit for the research and lab work you conduct during years three and beyond. You'll be required to maintain good standing by building progress towards the completion of your dissertation. Your faculty advisor will assign a grade based on your academic progress. See the Acadamic Progress and Timeline section for more details. These are the courses you will continue to take:

  • PLANTBI 292, Research Review in Plant and Microbial Biology
    Lectures, reports, and discussions on current research in plant and microbial biology. Sections are operated independently and directed toward different topics. This course formalizes the group lab meetings and provides credit for your work. 
  • PLANTBI 298, Plant Biology Group Studies
    Advanced study of research topics which will vary semester to semester. Enrollment in more than one section permitted
  • PLANTBI 299, Independent Research Student
    This course provides you course credit for the dissertation research and work you do individually with your respective labs.

Research Presentations

All graduate students are strongly encouraged to present their research annually from the third year and beyond in a public forum. There are several events hosted by the PMB department throughout the year to allow graduate students the opportunity to present their research. 

Graduate students are expected to attend the Plant & Microbial Biology (PMB) Department retreat at least once during their graduate studies. Students are encouraged to attend both the Plant & Microbial Biology Department retreat and the Graduate Group in Microbiology retreat and present their research. Students are also highly encouraged to present during the PMB Department student/postdoc seminar series. 

There are also opportunities outside of PMB events such as national and international conferences to present research. Students are encouraged to attend and present at outside conferences and can seek funding opportunities from the department and university. There are two funding sources available for attending and presenting at conferences: 1) PMB Travel Grant and 2) Graduate Division’s Conference Travel Grant. 

Annual Thesis Reviews

After they advance to doctoral candidacy, students must meet annually with their thesis committee. PMB and GGM students receive mentoring from all members of their thesis committee during the thesis committee meeting. The goal is to have all thesis committee members present at  the meeting. If a committee member is unable to attend, it is the responsibility of the student  either to reschedule the meeting or to meet with that individual faculty member separately. At each meeting the student presents the research accomplished to date and outlines plans for work to be completed during the coming year. 

Once all committee members are present the student will briefly leave the room so that the dissertation chair can provide other members of the committee with a verbal evaluation of the student’s progress to date, identifying both the student’s strengths and any areas in which the student can improve. This information will help the committee members to provide advice more effectively to the student. 

The student will provide a focused summary of their research progress as well as any technical difficulties they have encountered. During this time, the full committee will provide comments and advice on the research and will help to set goals for the coming year. 

Toward the end of the meeting, the faculty mentor will leave the room and any remaining issues will be discussed with the student in the absence of the faculty mentor. This portion of the thesis committee meeting is intended to facilitate interactions with the other committee members and provide the student with an opportunity to identify any issues that might have been difficult to discuss in the presence of the faculty mentor. 

The thesis committee evaluates the student’s progress to their degree and sets specific goals that can be reasonably accomplished within the normative time-to-degree of five years. The thesis committee meeting is summarized via the DCR and Annual Thesis Review Form.

Students who are found deficient in holding their annual thesis committee meetings and completing the forms place their satisfactory standing and funding at risk. 

Students are to meet with their thesis committee within the fall and spring semester periods. All fifth-year students must plan to hold their thesis committee meeting in the fall semester of their fifth year in order to adequately discuss a timeline to graduation. 

Annual Thesis Committee Meetings Timeline:

Year in Program Meeting Dates Items to Complete
3rd year mid-August to the following July 
Meeting & Annual Progress Report
4th year mid-August to the following July 
Meeting & Annual Progress Report
5th year Fall semester Meeting & Annual Progress Report
6th year Fall to spring semesters Meeting, Annual Progress Report, and, if necessary, Extension Petition

After the meeting and to complete your academic progress requirement for the year, you must:

Submit the signed 1) DCR and Annual Thesis Review form into the  2) PMB Annual Academic Progress Report  (also found in the Graduate Student Resources page)

Policy on Time to Degree and Seventh Year Extensions

All students who are admitted to graduate study in the Department of Plant & Microbial Biology (PMB) and the Graduate Group in Microbiology (GGM) should aim to complete the Ph.D. degree in five years.

Extensions to continue in the Graduate Program beyond the fifth year and until the end of the sixth year (summer of the sixth year) will be automatically granted if the student, the faculty mentor, and thesis committee are in agreement. If there is a disagreement on the extension within the thesis committee or if the student disagrees with the thesis committee decision, the case will need to be referred to the Head Graduate Advisor. All fifth-year students must plan to hold their thesis committee meeting in the fall semester of their fifth year unless the fourth year meeting was held in the spring semester. At this meeting a timeline to graduation must be discussed.

If a student is unable to complete his/her degree by the summer (August) dissertation filing date of their sixth year, continuation in the graduate program will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Head Graduate Advisor and Chair(s) upon petition by the student’s faculty mentor and the student.

A student at the end of the spring semester of their 6th year or 12th semester must submit a petition to the Head Graduate Advisor if they anticipate their degree will not be completed by the August dissertation filing date of their sixth year. A separate letter from the student’s faculty mentor must also be submitted. The student must also have a current Annual Thesis Review report on file with the Graduate Student Services Office. Any petition must state what circumstances have emerged that make timely completion of the degree impossible, outline a precise schedule for completion, and a statement on how the student will be financially supported.

The decision to grant extensions is the responsibility of the Head Graduate Advisor and Chair(s) and will require appropriate faculty mentor support and documented special circumstances.

Examples would include illnesses, approved leaves, change of faculty mentor, a fourth rotation, approved parental accommodations, and scientific problems unforeseen at the annual fifth- or sixth-year thesis committee meetings. In order for an extension to be considered, the faculty mentor and the student must be in agreement with the proposed extension. A meeting between the Head Graduate Advisor, Chair(s), faculty mentor and student may be requested prior to any approval.

Final Year and Graduation

Students are encouraged to start planning their graduation at least one full term (5-6 months) prior to their expected graduation term (e.g  for Spring 2023, start planning Fall 2022). In order to graduate, you need to obtain the signatures of your committee members and file the dissertation, in the proper format, with the Graduate Division. Upon approval of the dissertation by the thesis committee and Graduate Division, students are awarded the doctoral degree. There is no formal defense of the completed dissertation; however, students are required to publicly present a talk about their research in the final year. Students give a finishing talk in the last semester of their graduate career and before leaving the department. 

Outlined below are a list of items to consider and review as you plan for your graduation:

Department Requirements 

Review completion of department requirements (e.g courses, teaching, seminars, etc.) on an ongoing basis. Review your academic progress report (APR) in CalCentral. If anything is missing or looks incorrect, please let the Graduate Advisor know so they can resolve it.

Committee Meeting 

It is important to have a committee meeting to clarify expectations and set up a timeline for graduation. This can include conversations about when drafts of the dissertation are due, receiving signatures from committee members, etc. Make sure your dissertation committee members accurately reflect what is listed on CalCentral. If you need to make a change, submit the higher degree committee eForm via CalCentral at least 2 months prior to the filing deadline.

Dissertation Deadlines, Writing and Filing Guidelines

It is very important to review and follow the Graduate Division’s dissertation writing and filing guidelines. Pay close attention to the policy and procedure for previously published and co-authored material, including allowing sufficient time for submission and review. 

There are fall, spring and summer dissertation filing deadlines. You must have all requirements submitted by the deadline which is generally the last day of the semester or summer term. You can review the exact dates on the Graduate Division website. Students registered in the immediately-preceding spring semester, and who are otherwise eligible for filing fee status in the fall, may file their dissertation by the final day of the summer term (filing deadline) without registering for any summer units.

International student students must consult with the Berkeley International Office (BIO) for summer filing options so that specific enrollment and visa requirements are met. In certain cases, international students may need to register for 1 unit during the summer to file their dissertation. 


Discuss your final year/term funding plan with your Faculty Advisor and communicate plans to the Graduate Advisor to coordinate any adjustments, if needed. 

Filing Fee Status

To file the dissertation a student must be a registered student (enrolled in units and paid registration tuition/fees) OR be on filing fee status. Review the filing fee status policy and procedure. Students on filing fee status are not eligible to receive university funding or hold academic appointments because they are not registered. Students who have been advised by their faculty member to explore filing fee status should discuss options with the Graduate Advisor as going on filing fee status impacts health insurance, access to services, and funding options. If a junior specialist appt. or other position needs to be requested for a student on filing fee status, the faculty member will need to work directly with Human Resources.

International Students

Please consult with the Berkeley International Office (BIO) regarding your graduation timeline and post-graduation options, particularly in regards to summer filing options and understanding your employment options post-graduation. 

Certificate of Completion, Diplomas, and Transcripts

The certificate of completion acts as the official documentation that you have completed your degree prior to the conferral date and degree posting on your academic records. For example, if you filed on November 1, 2022 you will receive a Fall 2022 degree with a conferral date of December 16, 2022. The certificate confirms that you have met all requirements for the Ph.D. and can be used for employment purposes or anywhere else that needs to verify your degree. A certificate of completion will automatically be generated and sent to you via email once you complete the following:

  • All steps in the filing process have been completed (surveys, signatures, and ProQuest upload & approval).
  • All requirements have been met on the Academic Progress Report (APR). 

Degrees are posted on the official transcript approximately three months after the end of the term. Diplomas are mailed to students after a month of the degree posting. 

Mailing Address

Be sure to update your home and mailing address in CalCentral to ensure your diploma, transcripts, and other exit documents are sent to the correct address.

Student Billing and Accounts 

Review your billing and account statements. Students must have a zero balance in order to have their degree awarded and receive their transcripts.

Health Insurance Coverage

Review your health insurance coverage and options post-graduation on the University Health Services (UHS) website.


Your access to bMail and bConnected will eventually expire upon graduation. Please review the grace period allowed by CalNet to ensure you are prepared for the closing of your email account.

Finishing Talk

Talk to your faculty advisor and select a date and reserve a room to give your finishing talk (and reception) to the department community. Traditionally, faculty advisors send an email invitation to the department community. 

Graduate Student Departure Checklist


Rausser College of Natural Resources holds commencement activities in the spring semester only. Commencement registration generally opens in March and closes in April. It is best to speak with your faculty advisor on when it is appropriate for you to participate in the graduation ceremony. Details on registration, tickets, commencement dates, etc. are available and updated annually on the Rausser College Commencement website.