The PhD degree is largely about conducting research and developing your skills as a professional biologist. A substantial emphasis is placed on publishing results in high-quality journals, presentations at conferences, and grant support of the research. The department supports PhD students with a teaching or research assistantship, tuition waiver, and health benefits as long as students make acceptable progress toward the degree.
Many PhD students enter the program with a MS degree, but some students enter from a BS degree with research experience and exceptional GRE scores, GPA, and letters. Because students work closely with a faculty advisor, it is essential that a consenting advisor is identified in the letter of application. Applications are submitted online and require a well-written letter of application, GPA>3.0, GRE>300 (a minimum of 50th percentile is required in both sections), and three strong and explanatory letters of recommendation. Applications are due January 15 and enrollment starts in fall semesters. Before applying, we strongly encourage you to read this.
The PhD degree requires 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree, including up to 30 credit hours that can be transferred from a MS degree. Formal course work required includes 12 credit hours of core courses, 20 credit hours of elective courses, and 15 hours of dissertation research. The remaining credit hours may consist of additional electives, doctoral research, and a maximum of 12 credit hours of directed research and independent study. All together there must be at least 27 hours of formal course work exclusive of independent study.
Four major official milestones exist during a PhD degree:
- A program of study, approved by the advisory committee. This lays out the courses to be taken.
- The written qualifying exam. This exam is written and graded by the advisory committee and occurs after courses are completed.
- The oral candidacy exam. This exam is conducted by the advisory committee immediately following the public dissertation proposal defense. Upon successful completion of this exam, a student need only enroll in 3 credit hours to be full-time and can now begin accruing dissertation credit hours.
- The dissertation defense. This is a public presentation of the dissertation research, followed by an examination by the advisory committee about the dissertation.
To download the PhD handbook, click here.