Rules and Regulations
Governing the Graduate Program: Department of Mathematics

The Department of Mathematics offers the following graduate degrees:

  1. Master of Science in Mathematics (thesis option)
  2. Master of Applied Mathematics (non-thesis option)
  3. Master of Science in Statistics (thesis option)
  4. Master of Probability and Statistics (non-thesis option)
  5. Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics

For all these degrees, the rules and regulations of the Graduate School apply, subject to the amendments contained in this document. These amendments will apply to students entering the degree programs in Fall 2003 or later.

Admission to the graduate degree programs in mathematics and statistics is based on the applicant's undergraduate record (and previous graduate record, if any) as well as on letters of recommendation from former teachers and scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test. International applicants are required to submit scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). An undergraduate degree in mathematics is not required, but sound mathematical preparation is generally expected for all the degree programs. Applicants with insufficient preparation in undergraduate mathematics will be considered, but may be required to complete remedial course work early in the program. The Master of Probability and Statistics program is open to students majoring in a wide range of areas in which statistics is applied. Applicants should have passed the equivalent of the STAT-3600/3610 course sequence.

All applications for admission to the graduate degree programs in mathematics and statistics will be reviewed by the departmental Graduate Studies Committee, which makes recommendations to the Department Chair. Decisions regarding admission to and continuation in those programs are independent of any offers of financial support or employment as a graduate teaching assistant.

I. Rules and Regulations for Master's Degree Students

All graduate school rules and regulations for the Master's degree apply, as set forth in the current version of the Auburn University bulletin. The bulletin is available online (click on "The Graduate School").

The main requirements for Master's degree students are (1) to complete the course work specified in an approved plan of study, (2) to carry out a research project (and write a thesis if required), and (3) to pass a comprehensive final examination.

I.1. Advisory Committee and Plan of Study

As soon as feasible after enrollment in a Master's degree program, the student should ask a faculty member to serve as his or her advisor (major professor). Upon recommendation by the advisor, the Department Chair will appoint an advisory committee, normally consisting of three faculty members, including the advisor as chair. The student will work with the advisory committee to develop a plan of study and submit it to the Graduate School for approval. This process should occur during the first semester of enrollment in the Master's degree program.

I.2. Research Project (and Thesis, if Required)

Every Master's degree student will carry out a research project under the direction of his or her advisor. Depending on the degree option, the student may or may not be required to write a thesis, based on the results of the completed research project. All pertinent graduate school regulations apply. The Master of Science degrees in Mathematics and Statistics require a thesis; the Master's degrees in Applied Mathematics and Probability and Statistics do not require a thesis.

I.3. Final Examination

Every Master's degree student must pass a comprehensive final examination. This is an oral examination, conducted by the student's advisory committee and covering the student's course work in the chosen field of study as well as his or her research project (and thesis, if applicable). The student's advisory committee may also require a written examination. All pertinent graduate school regulations apply.

II. Rules and Regulations for Doctoral Students

All graduate school rules and regulations for the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree apply, as set forth in the current version of the Auburn University bulletin. The bulletin is available online (click on "The Graduate School").

The main requirements for Ph.D. students are (1) to complete the course work specified in an approved plan of study, (2) to pass a general doctoral examination, consisting of written prelims and an oral exam, (3) to conduct independent research and write a dissertation, and (4) to pass a final doctoral examination.

II.1. Advisory Committee and Plan of Study

As soon as feasible after enrollment in the Ph.D. program, the student should ask a faculty member to serve as his or her advisor (major professor). In consultation with the Department Chair, the student and advisor will select an advisory committee, consisting of at least four faculty members, including the advisor as chair. The advisor and at least one additional committee member must be members of the Graduate Faculty. The student will work with the advisory committee to develop a plan of study and submit it to the Graduate School for approval. This process should occur during the first year of enrollment in the Ph.D. program.

II.2. General Doctoral Examination

The general doctoral examination consists of written and oral testing in the student's field of study by the student's advisory committee. The purpose of the examination is to test the student's mastery of the broad body of knowledge in the chosen field; to review the proposed independent research; and to assess the student's grasp of the relevant research methods and literature. The Department of Mathematics requires all Ph.D. students to pass three departmentally administered written examinations ("preliminary examinations"; or "prelims"); see Item II.4 for details. These exams are normally counted as the written portion of the general doctoral examination. (The student's advisory committee is free to require an additional written exam.) The oral portion of the general doctoral examination is conducted by the student's advisory committee, in accordance with pertinent graduate school regulations.

II.3. Dissertation and Final Doctoral Examination

Every Ph.D. student is required to write a doctoral dissertation, based on independent and original research in the chosen field of study, conducted under the direction of the student's advisor. All pertinent graduate school regulations apply. The final doctoral examination (generally oral) occurs after a draft of the dissertation has been approved by the Graduate School. The examination, which includes general testing in the student's field of study as well as a defense of the dissertation, is conducted by the student's advisory committee. A representative of the Graduate School (the "outside reader") participates. All pertinent graduate school regulations apply.

II.4. Preliminary Examinations

All Ph.D. students must pass three departmentally administered written examinations ("preliminary examinations" or "prelims").  A failed prelim in any subject may be repeated, but no more than onceNo more than four failed prelims are allowed in all.  (The clauses in italics are effective Fall 2012 and do not apply to students who entered the doctoral program prior to Fall 2012.)

In order to retain financial support from the department, a student must pass at least two prelims by the end of his or her second year in the graduate program and must pass all three prelims by the end of the third year.  In order to remain enrolled in the graduate program, a student must pass all three prelims by the end of the fourth year.  (A Ph.D. student who entered the graduate program at Auburn as a master's student is allowed an additional year to meet each of the above requirements.)

II.4.1. Prelim Subjects

Each prelim is based on the material covered in a two-semester sequence of graduate-level courses. The course sequences must be chosen from the following groups, with no two chosen from the same group.

  1. Real Analysis I/II (MATH-7200/7210); Functions of a Complex Variable I/II (MATH-7230/7240)

  2. Algebra I/II (MATH-7310/7320); Matrices I/II (MATH-7370/7380)

  3. Topology I/II (MATH-7500/7510); Axiomatic Set Theory I/II (MATH-7150/7160); Discrete Geometry and Convexity I/II (MATH-7110/7120)

  4. Graph Theory (MATH-6750/7750); Combinatorial Designs (MATH-6770/7740)

  5. Numerical Analysis (any two of MATH-7600/7610/7620); Modern Stochastic Processes I/II (MATH-7800/7810); Advanced Theory of Ordinary Differential Equations I/II (MATH-7280/7290); Partial Differential Equations I/II (MATH-7440/7450); Computational and Applied Algebra (any two: MATH-7180/7190/7720/7730)

  6. Statistics (STAT 7600/7610)

With the approval of his or her advisory committee, a student may petition the Graduate Studies Committee to approve any two-semester sequence of graduate-level courses to meet the prelim requirement of a Prelim Group specified by the student's committee.

For each course sequence that can serve as the basis of a preliminary examination, a syllabus with textbook references and sample exams will be kept on file. These files will be available to students preparing for the exams. Students are not required to take the respective course sequence before attempting a prelim.

II.4.2. Prelim Administration

All preliminary examinations are departmentally administered, usually in April/May or August/September of each year (provided there is demand). The Graduate Program Officer (GPO) is responsible for coordination and record-keeping.

Each prelim will be designed, administered, and graded by a committee of at least three faculty members, knowledgeable in the respective field. Under normal circumstances, this committee will be comprised of faculty members who regularly teach the course sequence that the exam is based upon and will be chaired by the faculty member who last taught the sequence. The committee will be appointed by the GPO, upon recommendation by the faculty involved. A typical exam should take a capable student about three hours to complete (although up to four hours may be allowed). The committee members will grade the exam and review the results; the committee chair will report the consensus grades (high pass, pass, fail) to the GPO. The GPO will record the grades and keep copies of the individual exams in the student's file. A student will be able to review his/her exams.

The GPO and the Graduate Studies Committee will periodically review the results of the preliminary examinations, in order to assess the effectiveness of the prelim process.

II.5. Foreign Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement for the Ph.D. degree in Mathematics.

III. Rules and Regulations for Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs)

Graduate teaching assistantships (normally academic-year, one-third time appointments) are generally available to graduate students enrolled in degree programs offered by the department. All pertinent graduate school regulations apply. Students are selected on the basis of academic performance, knowledge of specific subject matter, and ability to communicate effectively in English in a classroom environment. Students whose native language is not English are expected to pass the Test of Spoken English (TSE) or graduate-school approved equivalent before they are entrusted with teaching duties. Appointments are renewed on an annual basis. Reappointment is contingent upon adequate performance of duties and normal progress towards a graduate degree.

III.1. Normal Academic Progress

A graduate student is normally expected to complete eighteen semester credit hours of graduate-level course work towards the degree during his or her first year in the program and at least twelve hours in each subsequent year, until all course work specified in the student's approved plan of study is completed. (In any event, the Graduate School requires that a GTA be registered for at least one course during each term of employment.)

III.2. Time Limits

All time limits for the completion of degree programs, as imposed by the Graduate School and published in the AU Bulletin, apply.

The department normally expects students to complete a master's degree program within two years, the doctoral degree program within six years; students starting at the master's level and continuing at the doctoral level should be able to complete both programs within seven years. Graduate teaching assistantships are usually awarded only within these time limits. Exceptions may be granted, upon consideration by the Graduate Studies Committee, but will depend on several factors, including progress towards a degree, departmental needs, and availability of funds. Continuation in a degree program does not require continued employment as a GTA, but certain benefits, such as tuition waivers or in-state tuition rates, may not be available to graduate students without GTA appointments.

III.3. Summer Appointments

Graduate teaching assistantships are normally awarded for the nine-month academic year; summer employment is contingent upon the availability of funds and cannot be guaranteed. Graduate students are selected for summer teaching on the basis of their performance as GTAs and their academic progress and achievements.

IV. Program Assessment

The entire departmental graduate program is monitored by the Graduate Program Officer (GPO) and the Graduate Studies Committee. The GPO and the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee will periodically report to the Department Chair. As deemed appropriate, the Department Chair will bring committee reports and recommendations before the departmental Graduate Faculty. Every three to five years, the Graduate Studies Committee will undertake a comprehensive program review to assess whether goals and objectives are being met.

Last updated: 10/08/2012