Ph.D. in Biology

The PhD program provides both a broad background knowledge base and an in-depth study of a specialized area of biology. The program emphasizes close interaction between graduate students and faculty in developing the intellectual and experimental skills required for creative independent research.


To be considered for admission to the doctoral program, a student must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, preferably in a biological science. Individuals with degrees in other natural sciences may be considered, depending on their interests and background.

Our priority deadline is December 15 with rolling admissions until March 15, based on space available. We only admit degree program students for fall semesters. The general Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) are required, and international applicants must demonstrate English proficiency. For more information about the application process, visit the admissions section of our web page.

Academic Requirements

PhD students entering with a bachelor’s degree are required to complete 30 semester hours of graduate level coursework, 20 of which must be taken for a letter grade.  Of the 20 semester hours taken for a letter grade, 12 semester hours will consist of the following REQUIRED courses: BIOL 7382 Research Problem Solving, Scientific Writing and Communication (4 SH), and two out of following four discipline-specific courses: BIOL 6303 Neurobiology and Behavior (4 SH), BIOL 6399 Dynamics of Microbial Ecology (4 SH), BIOL 6401 Research Methods and Critical Analysis in Molecular Cell Biology (4 SH), and BIOL 6403 Ecology and Evolution (4 SH).

A minimum GPA of 3.000 for all graduate work is required for the award of the PhD degree. All regulations of the Graduate School regarding maintenance of academic standing apply. Requirements for students entering with a master’s degree depend on the recommendations of the doctoral dissertation adviser and examination committees.

Qualifying Examination

The PhD Candidacy Examination consists of both written and oral examinations, with the written examination preceding the oral examination. The written examination is intended to evaluate the student’s knowledge at the graduate level. This examination covers both basic principles and knowledge of current literature in selected areas of biology related to the student’s specialization. The oral examination, or the PhD research proposal defense, is intended to ascertain the student’s readiness to pursue a research program in the area chosen and focuses on areas related to the research proposal. The schedule for the written examination is set by the Graduate Committee of the department and, in general, follows the completion of the majority of the required course work. The oral examination is to be completed within six months after the completion of the written examination. A student must successfully complete the written examination and the oral research proposal defense to be a PhD candidate.


The dissertation is the most important part of the PhD degree and must be an original and independent scientific study. The dissertation adviser and student work closely to develop the problem and arrange for a PhD dissertation committee of at least five members. One member must be an acknowledged expert from outside the University.

Residency Requirement

After admittance to doctoral candidacy, the student may satisfy the residence requirement through one year (or two 6-month periods) of full-time graduate work on campus.