Doctor of Philosophy in Biology

The Faculty of Biological Science offers a program of study leading to the Ph.D. in biology. Course requirements are designed to provide a breadth of knowledge in the field of biology. An in-depth understanding of one area of specialization is achieved through elective courses, independent study, and dissertation research. Students in the Ph.D. program are initially advised by the departmental Graduate Advisor. By the end of the third semester of full-time study, the student must select a supervising professor and advisory committee. The advisory committee will be chaired by the supervising professor and will include two other members of the graduate faculty.

Residency Requirements

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

Course Requirements

For students without a master’s degree, course work for the Ph.D. in biology consists of 72 credit hours, including six elective courses and Seminar in Biology (9 hours). The remaining hours will be selected from Directed Doctoral Readings, Research Experience, and Dissertation Research.

For students already holding a Master’s degree, a variable number of hours may be applied toward the Ph.D. degree as determined by the Departmental Graduate Committee and approved by the Graduate School.

Qualifying Examinations

Following successful completion of course requirements and not later than 30 months after entering the program, a student must qualify for Ph.D. candidacy by passing a set of qualifying examinations. Students entering the program with a master’s degree will take these examinations within 20 months. The examinations will include both written and oral segments. In the event of failure, the examinations may be retaken once. The written examination consists of questions submitted by the graduate faculty and will be evaluated by the departmental Graduate Committee. After the written examination is passed, an oral examination 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. Upon admission to candidacy and presentation of an acceptable research proposal, two additional members shall be added to the student’s advisory committee, with the approval of the Graduate Dean. At least one of these two members must come from outside the department.


Each Ph.D. candidate must write a dissertation on the results of their research, thus demonstrating the student’s ability to conduct independent investigation in the selected areas of specialization. Candidates are expected to make adequate progress toward their degree each semester that they are enrolled in the program. The dissertation must follow the general procedures and format approved by the Graduate School and must be presented to the full advisory committee for review and examination.

Each Ph.D. candidate will present a seminar on their research to the university community, followed by a final oral examination before the advisory committee. The examination will include a defense of the dissertation and questioning in areas related to the research. Upon acceptance 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.