Ph.D. in Biological Sciences requirements

The Graduate School requires at least 30 credits at the 7000 level or higher exclusive of BIO999X (Doctoral Dissertation Research of which 30 credits are required). A full plan of study including any additional courses will be decided on by the advisor and the student and reviewed and approved by the student's dissertation committee.

The Graduate School allows a maximum of 30 credits of BIO 7996 Directed Research. Additionally, all Ph.D. students must take BIO 8995 Graduate Seminar (two credits per semester) for two semesters and BIO 9996 Lab Rotation (two credits per semester) for at least one semester in their first year.

Core course requirements may be waived for a student if the student has demonstrated experience in and mastery of the topic. The graduate officer and graduate committee chair will review requests for waivers. Waivers do not release the student from the minimum Graduate School course requirements.

Present qualifying exam regulations and scheduling will be followed.

All first-year students will be advised by the graduate officer and/or the graduate committee chair.

Qualifying exam

Ph.D. students are required to pass qualifying examinations before advancing to candidacy for a Ph.D. The qualifying examinations are administered in two parts. The first part of the qualifying examination is a written test, which is taken by all students. Students may take the written qualifying exam in July of their first year, November of their second year, or April of their second year.

The decision of when to take the exam is made jointly by the student and the advisor. The student's complete Dissertation Advisory Committee will administer the written qualifying exam. A list of examination topics will be generated by the Advisory Committee and submitted to the student two months before the scheduled exam.

Each of the four topics will be graded anonymously by two two committee members on a pass/fail basis. Each student must pass a minimum of three topics. If a student does not pass the minimum number of topics, he or she must retake the exam during the next qualifying exam period (July, November, April).

Students who pass the written qualifying examination will take the oral examination within a year of successful completion of the written qualifying exam. Students are expected to complete a written prospectus of their thesis research. This prospectus will be in the form of a grant proposal. The oral examination will include, but not be limited to, a defense of the prospectus.

The examiners will be members of the student's graduate committee. The oral examination will be graded on a pass/fail basis. Students who do not pass the first oral examination must retake the examination within the following semester. Successful completion of the written and oral exams fulfills the qualifying exam requirements for Ph.D. candidacy.

Major requirements

View full degree and course requirements

Molecular biology and biotechnology division

The following sequence is required.

Course # Title Credits Term
BIO 6540 Genetic Analysis


BIO 6510 Molecular Interactions 1 Fall
BIO 6530 Protein Structure & Dynamics 1 Winter
BIO 6520 Gene Expression Manipulation 1 Winter
BIO 6700 Responsible Conduct Research  1 Fall
BIO 7300 Communication of Research 2 Winter

Additionally, students must take at least two of the following lab courses.

Course # Title Credits Term
BIO 7520 Nucleic Acids Lab 2 Fall
BIO 7530 Proteins Lab 2 Winter
BIO 7560 Microscopy & Imaging  2 Winter

Note: With additional credits from the following courses to make up at least 30 credits of 7000 above (or from additional Biological Sciences or non-department courses with graduate officer permission).

Course # Title Credits
BIO 6000 Molecular Cell Biology I 3
BIO 6010 Molecular Cell Biology II 3
BIO 7020 Comprehensive Virology 3
BIO 7040 Signal Transduction Mechanisms 3
BIO 7045 Biometry 4
BIO 7180 Membrane Biology 3
BIO 7240 Molecular Systems Biology 3
BIO 7500 Prokaryotic Gene Expression and Function 3
BIO 7510 Eukaryotic Gene Structure and Function 3
BIO 7610 Infections and Innate Immunity 3

Ecology and evolutionary biology division

Ecology concentration

At least four of the following courses.

Course # Title Credits
BIO 7045 Biometry 4
BIO 7110 Aquatic Ecology 4
BIO 7440 Terrestrial Ecology 4
BIO 7490 Population and Community Ecology 3
BIO 7540 Ecosystem and Landscape Ecology 3

Evolution concentration

At least four of the following courses.

Course # Title Credits
BIO 7045 Biometry 4
BIO 6060 Molecular Evolution 3
BIO 6090 Population Genetics 3
BIO 7150 Genomics 3
BIO 7280 Bioinformatics 3

Additional courses to augment a student's specialty

Course # Title Credits
BIO 5620 Developmental Biology 3
BIO 6000 Molecular Cell Biology I 3
BIO 7090 Molecular Basis of Development 3
BIO 7060 Evolutionary and Developmental Biology 3
BIO 7120 Molecular Basis of Plant Development 3
BIO 7180 Field Investigations in Biological Sciences 3

Cellular, developmental, and neurobiology division

At least 12 credits of the following courses.

Course # Title Credits
BIO 5080 Cellular Basis of Animal Behavior 3
BIO 5620 Developmental Biology 3
BIO 6000 Molecular Cell Biology I 3
BIO 6010 Molecular Cell Biology II 3
BIO 6510 Molecular Interactions 1
BIO 6520 Gene Expressions Manipulation 1
BIO 6530 Protein Structure & Dynamics 1
BIO 6690 Special Topics Neurobiology  3
BIO 7045 Biometry 4
BIO 7090 Molecular Basis of Development 3
BIO 7300 Communication of Research  2
BIO 7520 Nucleic Acids Lab 2
BIO 7530 Proteins Lab  2
BIO 7560 Microscopy and Imaging 2
BIO 7660 Neural Signaling in Health and Disease 3
BIO 7890 Neuroplasticity  3