Graduate Bulletin

Fall 2021

Dissertation Examining Committee

The dissertation must be approved by a dissertation examining committee, appointed by the dean of the Graduate School upon recommendation of the graduate program director. The dissertation examining committee should be constituted such that it can provide both independent evaluation and expert advice on the dissertation. The overriding purpose for service on a dissertation examining committee is the development of the student and their dissertation project. Other professional interests that committee members may have in the dissertation work of students (including intellectual property or publication interests) must be secondary to the interests of the student.

  • The Dissertation Examining Committee must include, but is not limited to, the following:
    • Two faculty members internal to the program (e.g. the dissertation advisor and defense chairperson)
    • One member external to the program
    • One member who may be either internal or external to the program
  • The outside member should have expertise in the student’s research field so as to be able to understand, criticize, and contribute to the dissertation, as well as to judge the quality and significance of the research.
  • The dissertation advisor cannot serve as chairperson of the examining committee nor as the external member of the examining committee.
  • The chairperson must be a member of the program.
  • In order to provide an objective evaluation of the dissertation, no member of the dissertation committee may have a personal relationship with the student, such as a family or romantic relationship.
  • When a financial, professional, or intellectual property relationship exists between the student and a committee member(s) that may pose a conflict of interest, written explanation must be sent to the Dean of the Graduate School for review and approval.
  • Changes to the committees must be approved in writing.
  • A faculty member who leaves a program may continue to serve as an inside member on any dissertation committees to which they were already appointed prior to leaving the program.
  • A faculty member or former student who leaves a program can serve as an outside member for any student who matriculates into the program after the faculty member or former student has left the program.

If a student's dissertation advisor leaves Stony Brook, that person may continue the research direction of the dissertation or thesis. Advisors who have left must still comply with the policies of Stony Brook University, including the requirement that their service on the dissertation committee serves the interests of the student. In such cases, a co-advisor should be appointed from the academic department. The student will then have two advisors, one an official member of the Stony Brook faculty who will be available to the student for research and administrative matters, and the ex-Stony Brook advisor. 

Individuals who are listed as members of the faculty of the graduate program in the Graduate Bulletin may serve as internal members of the committee. Committee members who are not listed as program faculty but are affiliated with a graduate program may be classified either as internal or external members of a Dissertation Examining Committee. It is the decision of the graduate program to determine whether these individuals should be considered an internal or external committee member, but such individuals may serve only one of these roles for all committees within any one program.

At the program's discretion, committee members may participate in a dissertation defense using Skype or video conferencing. However, a minimum of three committee members must be physically present at the defense, one of whom MUST be the chair. Additionally, the student should be physically present at their dissertation defense.  A list of those members who will be Skyping in must be indicated on the Defense Committee Appointment form and sent to the Graduate School prior to the defense date. No extensions or exceptions will be granted to the signature page submission deadline due to a Skyping committee member. Students should plan their dissertations accordingly and with ample time to obtain all committee member signatures to meet this deadline.

Requests for the committee approval must be sent to the Graduate School four weeks prior to the date of the defense. Dissertation Examining Committee forms are completed and submitted by programs.