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Graduate Program

Doctor of Philosophy

The primary goal of the department's doctoral program is to develop independent, creative research scientists. This is accomplished through research training, graduate-level courses, seminars, and teaching experience. Entering students are assigned an advisory committee of three faculty members who work with the student to plan a suitable program based on the student's experience and interests.

During the first year, students become familiar with research opportunities in the department by doing short research rotations with various faculty members. This experience in expected to lead to the selection of a research focus for the Ph.D. thesis, and it also sets the stage for cross-disciplinary approaches to the thesis topic that is pursued. First- and second-year students usually take some graduate courses that are selected in consultation with the advisory committee, in addition to one required course (either Biology 243, Topics in Molecular and Cell Biology or Biology 244, Topics in Evolutionary Ecology). Recommended programs of study and relevant courses can be found on the web pages for each of the six concentration areas:

Graduate credit for a course requires a grade of B- or better. A list of biology department undergraduate and graduate courses can be found by selecting the Courses button from the sidebar.

Most students complete the requirement for teaching experience in the first year by serving as paid teaching assistants in undergraduate courses for two semesters.

Throughout the year, graduate students benefit from a variety of seminars on current research that are presented by faculty, other graduate students, and invited speakers.

Students are formally admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. based upon satisfactory performance in course work, research, and teaching activities, and upon successful completion of a two-part qualifying procedure. The first part is a written comprehensive examination generally taken at the end of the second year. The second part is the writing and oral defense of a research proposal that is expected to be the basis of the student's doctoral thesis. After qualifying, usually by the beginning of the third year, the principal requirements for the Ph.D. are the completion of original and publishable research and the preparation and defense of a thesis dissertation based upon that research.