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PhD written qualifying exam

Students must demonstrate competency in all three areas of food science before taking the PhD Written Qualifying Examination in their disciplinary specialty. Such competency is usually demonstrated by having an average grade of B or better in the three required courses Food Chemistry Fundamentals (16:400:513), Food Biology Fundamentals (16:400:514), and Food Engineering Fundamentals (16:400:515). Students must obtain written permission from their major advisor (expressed by letter or email to the Graduate Program Director) before taking this examination. Written examinations may be taken in any one of the disciplinary areas: food chemistry, food biology, or food engineering. Students may choose the disciplinary area in which they wish to be examined.

All food science graduate students must pass their written qualifying exam by their fifth semester.

Food Biology Qualifier

The Food Biology qualifying exam is held twice a year in January and June. Six weeks prior to the exam, the exam committee chair solicits questions from the Food Science Graduate Program members. Members submit at least one question based on a topic area that is described by one or more peer reviewed publications. The exam chair, in consultation with program members, selects eight questions for the exam. One month prior to the exam, students are provided with the publications from which the questions are based. Students are provided with the questions on the day of the exam and must answer 5 of 8 questions. The exam last 8 hours. The passing grade for the exam is 75% (average grade of the 5 questions answered). Students are provided with their grades within 3 weeks on completing the exam. A student that does not score 75% on their first attempt, may sit for the exam one additional time before dismissal from the program. The exam committee reserves the right to modify the re-examination conditions, e.g. allowing remediation using a smaller set of questions, etc.

Food Chemistry Qualifier

The written qualifying examination for food chemistry is in the format of cumulative exam. Its purpose is to evaluate students’ ability of critical thinking, critical analysis of the knowledge, design and solving food chemistry problems.

The cumulative exam is held six times a year as per the schedule below. Exams are held on the second Saturday morning of the designated month from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm. Each student has total 9 chances, and has to pass 5 exams before failing 5 exams. Once a student starts the cumulative exam process, they must take 9 consecutive exams. Students can start taking the cumulative exam at any time, but since all food science graduate students must pass their written qualifying exam by their fifth semester, this means that food chemistry PhD students must start the cumulative exam testing no later than the beginning of their third semester.

Each exam consists of questions based on readings from books or recent journal articles, and includes questions from only one faculty member. Only Pass or Fail (with 70% as the pass grade) will be given.

The professor for that months exam will provide the scope of the exam 5 pm on the Thursday before each exam. The students should sign up for the exam one week ahead. Please email Debbie Koch at to sign up for the exam. Students can withdraw before taking the first exam.

The current schedule is:

2021 2022
Date Name Date Name
02/13/2021 T. Hartman 02/12/2022 T. Hartman
03/13/2021 C. T. Ho 03/12/2022 C. T. Ho
06/12/2021 K. Schaich 06/11/2022 K. Schaich
09/11/2021 R. Ludescher 09/10/2022 R. Ludescher
10/09/2021 Q. Huang 10/08/2022 Q. Huang
11/13/2021 K. Yam 11/12/2022 K. Yam

Food Engineering Qualifier

The purpose of the written qualifying exam for food engineering is to determine whether the candidate demonstrates the intellectual ability of a PhD and is capable of conceiving, organizing, proposing and conducting high quality independent research.

The Engineering Qualifying exam will be held up to two times a year, depending upon need. Students are expected to have a 3.25 grade point average or above in graduate courses but may be permitted to take the Qualifying Exam with a 3.0 grade point average or above if approved by the Qualifying Exam Chair and Graduate Program Director. Application must be made to take the exam and a letter (e-mail) of recommendation from the advisor must be sent to the Graduate Program Director and Qualifying Exam Chair. The students should sign up for the exam two months in advance, but can withdraw up to two weeks before the exam (with legitimate reason) by sending emails to the Qualifying Exam Chair and Graduate Program Director. If a student fails the Exam, he/she may take the exam one more time. This second exam would be in the next exam cycle.

The Qualifying exam is intended to test a student’s knowledge of the science and engineering of food systems and the student’s ability to extend the knowledge and apply it to research. The following subject areas serve as the basis for the Engineering Qualifying Exam: Transport phenomena, Food processing technologies, Food materials and interface engineering, Food Reaction engineering, including processing and post-processing stability, Quantitative methods in Food Engineering.

All members of the faculty may participate in recommending materials in the above subjects. Qualifying Exam Chair carefully selects the recommended materials for the exam.

Two manuscripts will be presented to the student four weeks before the exam. Additional questions/assignments based on the manuscript’s content may be included. The manuscripts given the student will not require detailed knowledge of a specific subject but represent typical experimental or theoretical research problem in the field of food engineering. The student shall choose one of these manuscripts to review. After analyzing the problem, the student will present his/her analysis of the problem in front of the Food Engineering Qualifying exam committee. Additionally, the student will be required to answer questions which apply knowledge from the Food Engineering curriculum.

The Qualifying Exam shall be given as an oral exam by a committee of three members of the food engineering faculty. Each member of the committee will vote pass or fail on the student’s performance on the Exam, with the majority determining the result. If the student is retaking the exam, a discussion should take place to consider the overall performance of the student as a graduate student at Rutgers, before making a final decision. Students failing the exam may only retake the exam one time.