Apr 12, 2024  
2016-2017 Graduate Bulletin 
2016-2017 Graduate Bulletin [ARCHIVED BULLETIN]

Biological Sciences, Ph.D.

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The Faculty of Biological Science offers a program of study leading to the Ph.D. in biology. This degree program focuses on research, obtaining an in-depth understanding of a particular field within the biological sciences, and writing scientific reports. It is designed to give students the background and experience to work as independent scientists. The Ph.D. in Biology requires 72 hours of course work with no more than 40 percent at the 6000 level.

Those wishing to pursue this degree program must apply through the Graduate School. Applicants should have significant training in biology (e.g. biology, biochemistry, biophysics, etc.) either at the undergraduate or M.S. level, general chemistry and at least one semester of organic chemistry, basic physics, and math through calculus. Admittance is also contingent upon acceptance into a faculty member’s lab, so applicants should contact faculty involved in the research areas of interest.

Degree Specifications

Course Work

72 hours with no more than 40 percent at the 6000 level. For students already holding a M.S. degree, some of the M.S. course work hours may be applied toward the Ph.D. degree. The departmental Graduate Committee will determine what M.S. course work can applied to the Ph.D. degree. Applied course work must also be approved by the Graduate School.

Graduate Seminar: 12-18 hours  
Class Work: 18-24 hours in area of specialization.  
Research/Dissertation Courses: 36 hours  
Total: 72 hours  


An advisory committee chaired by the faculty member supervising the research should be formed at the end of the third semester. It should have three members of the graduate faculty and one member from outside of the department.


Students must spend at least two consecutive academic years in full-time residency.

Qualifying Exams

Following successful completion of class work, and not later than 30 months after entering the program, a student must qualify for Ph.D. candidacy by passing a set of qualifying exams. Students entering the program with a M.S. degree will take these exams within 20 months of entering the program. The exam will include both written and oral segments. Should the student fail the exam, the student has the option to be examined a second and final time. Failure of the second exam will result in dismissal from the Ph.D. track. The written exam consists of questions submitted by the graduate faculty and will be evaluated by the departmental Graduate Committee. After the written exam is passed, an oral exam based on the student’s dissertation research proposal will be administered by the student’s advisory committee, which will then recommend or deny Ph.D. candidacy, subject to approval by the Dean of the Graduate School. The committee must be formed prior to the qualifying exams, and must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.


Each Ph.D. candidate must complete a dissertation based on the results of their research, thus demonstrating the student’s ability to conduct independent investigation in the selected areas of specialization. The research should be of adequate originality and quality to be recognized by the faculty as meeting criteria applied for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The dissertation must follow the general procedures and format approved by the Graduate School. The dissertation must also be presented to the student’s full committee for review and examination.

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense consists of a departmental seminar that details the results of the research, followed by an oral examination before the advisory committee. The examination will include a defense of the dissertation and questioning in areas related to the research. Upon approval of the dissertation and successful completion of the oral examination, the advisory committee will recommend the candidate to the Dean of the Graduate School for the Ph.D. degree.

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