Ph.D Program in Biology

Our PhD program accepts students possessing Bachelors or Masters degrees who are planning a career in science. The purpose of our PhD program is to prepare highly qualified scientists who have excellent up-to-date training in the fields of biology or bioinformatics, who are actively involved in scientific research, are capable of making significant contributions to their scientific field, possess all the necessary skills for effective oral and written communication with colleagues, and can successfully compete in the job market for postdoctoral and research scientist level positions in academia and science-related industries. We currently have approximately 100 PhD students in the Biology PhD program of the School of Biological Sciences. Of recent PhD graduates, 70% are currently employed as postdoctoral researchers in academia, 9% as government scientists, 9% as industry scientists, 4% as instructors, and 9% are enrolled in further professional training. The average number of journal publications is 3.9 per student and the average number of presentations at conferences around the world is 4.3 per student.

Areas of concentration:

  • Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior including population and evolutionary ecology; community ecology; aquatic chemical ecology; ecological genomics; sensory ecology; evolution of development, behavior, and sociality; biological oceanography; environmental microbiology; theoretical ecology.
  • Molecular and Cell Biology including eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell biology; molecular physiology; molecular biophysics and structural biology; animal, plant, and microbial molecular genetics; human genomics; molecular evolution.
  • Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (with available M.S. and interdepartmental PhD programs in Bioinformatics) focusing on DNA and protein sequence analysis; comparative genomic analysis; macromolecular structure modeling including protein-protein, protein-nucleic acid, and protein-small molecule interactions; molecular evolution.

Ph.D. Program Overview:

Coursework / Lab Rotations / Teach
$ 24,000
Coursework / Thesis Research / Qualifying Exams
Thesis Research
$ 25,000
Thesis Research
Thesis Research, Writing and Defense

The PhD in Biology is a research-based degree involving deep immersion in a topic within biology with mentoring from an advisor and thesis committee with expertise in the field of study. Coursework is typically completed within the first 2 years (18 credit hours). Students who have previously earned an M.S. degree or taken graduate courses elsewhere can negotiate up to 9 transfer credit hours upon entering our program. Selection of a thesis advisor is made in discussion with our faculty and/or via lab rotations during the first year, and the composition of the thesis committee is established by the student by the end of the first year.

PhD students in the School of Biological Sciences are each supported by a stipend and do not pay tuition, only modest fees each semester. Stipend support comes from teaching or research assistantships which complement research training towards the PhD. Whether PhD stipends are earned from research or teaching assistantships after the first year is decided in consultation with a student's thesis advisor and the graduate committee. Our base PhD stipend increases from the initial $24,000 to $25,000 upon successful completion of the qualifying exam which is administered by the student's thesis committee in two parts, as a written exam followed by an oral exam. Several fellowships are available which can supplement the PhD stipend. Some PhD students require additional time beyond the 5th year to complete their thesis, in which case the base stipend returns to $24,000.

Further Funding:
Please take some time to review our funding opportunities and fellowships.

Choosing between the Masters and Ph.D. Program:
Our graduate program is primarily focused on the PhD which prepares students for careers in scientific research and employment in academia, industry, or government. We encourage potential applicants to the PhD program to directly contact individual faculty members whose research may appeal to them to discuss research interests and future opportunities. Students who are not yet sure of their interest in scientific research or are interested in other kinds of professional development should consider the M.S. degree in Biology or Bioinformatics. However, we accept only a small number of M.S. Biology students each year - typically those in special career circumstances with a prior relationship to our program and faculty. Admission decisions are made by our graduate committee (composed of Biology faculty) in consultation with all of the faculty in the School of Biological Sciences.