A PhD student must complete a dissertation. The dissertation must represent an original contribution to applied mathematics, pure mathematics, or statistics, and must be of such quality as to be publishable in an appropriate professional journal. A final public oral examination devoted to the defense and evaluation of the dissertation is administered after the dissertation has been approved by the dissertation committee.
The dissertation supervisor (also called the Major Professor) supervises the latter stages of a student's work towards the PhD. The Major Professor must have been a member of the student's oral examination committee. The Major Professor must also be a member of the Graduate Faculty at a level appropriate for directing doctoral research. A student normally selects a Major Professor on the basis of interest in the subject in which the Major Professor works and compatibility, and by mutual agreement: the Major Professor must also agree to serve as dissertation supervisor. Usually, a student will get to know the graduate faculty by taking courses with them, particularly at the 600-level and beyond; these courses also help the student decide the particular field in which he or she wishes to work, and whether he or she works well with a particular professor.
The dissertation committee has the responsibility of determining whether the dissertation is acceptable for the PhD. The student must keep in contact with all members of the committee, as they cannot be expected to approve the dissertation without adequate time to read it. It is the student's responsibility to make sure that all deadlines set forth by the Graduate School are met, and that the dissertation meets the specifications required by the Graduate School. The Graduate School has a handbook, Guidelines for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations, that specifies the formatting and other matters concerning the dissertation. This Guidelines for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations handbook is available at the Graduate School forms and resources web page.