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Division of Natural Sciences & MathematicsDepartment of Biological Sciences

Graduate Admissions & Financial Aid

Doctoral Program (PhD)

How to apply to the graduate program


The PhD degree in biology involves course work and original research using state-of-the-art techniques and facilities. Students also have the opportunity to develop teaching skills in a variety of undergraduate teaching labs. All students are expected to publish their work in peer reviewed scientific journals.

The PhD research effort typically requires four to five years. Students begin their research with a faculty advisor in the first year. In consultation with the advisor and Thesis Committee, the student develops a plan for an independent research project that culminates in a written thesis, public seminar and oral thesis defense.

Financial support

Typically, students are provided full tuition waiver and nine-month stipend via graduate teaching assistant (GTA) or graduate research assistant (GRA) positions. Most students work extensively on their thesis research during academic breaks and during the summers with support from their faculty advisor's research grants.

Requirements for completion of the PhD degree

The major requirements for completion of the PhD degree are 90 quarter hours of graduate course work and research credit and successful presentation and defense of the PhD thesis.

Course work

For the PhD a total of 90 quarter hours are required. Up to 10 quarter hours of graduate credit (or a blanket transfer of 45 quarter hours if a master's degree had been earned prior to enrolling in our PhD program) may be accepted as transfer credit with approval of the Departmental Graduate Committee and the Office of Graduate Studies. The 90 quarter hours include a combination of course work and research credit.

Advancement to candidacy

PhD students are required to pass both the qualifying exam and research proposal exam to advance to candidacy. Failure to complete exams by the required deadlines may result in loss of GTA support and/or dismissal from the program. PhD Candidacy Exams are described in the Graduate Student Handbook.

Research & thesis

A research project is designed in consultation with the major advisor and Thesis Committee. The degree requires a written thesis, public seminar and oral defense. The research is expected to be novel and appropriate for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

General expectations

Graduate students must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 and make adequate progress on research as assessed by the advisor and Thesis Committee. All graduate students are required to attend all departmental seminars. Attendance at seminars is only excused for teaching conflicts. In addition, students who are supported by a GTA position are expected to fulfill all obligations required of the GTA appointment.