The Doctorate (Ph.D.)
The Ph.D. is the main graduate degree program in Biology. It provides the training necessary for a student to become an independent professional scholar in the life sciences with the skills to carry out their own original research and to educate others. Student growth is an emphasis of the program. Offers to enter the Ph.D. program are based on the applicant's potential as a scientist and educator. New students arrive and are expected to begin doing research immediately. Coursework blends regular classes, seminars, and research hours and is the focus during the first 4 semesters, with the mix depending on the level of prior coursework a student has had. A written and oral qualifying exam occurs sometime in years 2 or 3 depending on the mentor, the committee, and, if relevant, the Training Group. Following a successful qualifying exam, research becomes the dominant focus of a student's time. Once a significant body of original research has been achieved, a Ph.D. candidate writes a dissertation and defends it before a public audience and a committee of faculty members.
Biology has a few program-wide requirements for the Ph.D. and additional types of activities may be expected of the student by the student's mentor and advisory committee. Some of these are formalized in specific training programs, which also may determine the nature of the written and oral exams.
All incoming research students (Ph.D. and thesis Master's) are required to take a seminar called "Orientation to Being a Graduate Student" in their first year, usually the first semester. The course covers ethical issues, publication, grant-writing, and other general skills about professional conduct in Biology.
All students are required to attend the Biology Department weekly seminar when possible.
4th year students are to give a public seminar to the Department on the state of their dissertation research. In the past this has been organized as a Departmental retreat and is a fantastic event for fostering interactions between faculty and students.
Ph.D. students are encouraged to publish their findings, and are required to have at least one paper in review before defending their thesis. When students publish a paper, we celebrate it!
Faculty members interact in mutliple ways to train students, and the Department has a rich array of events designed to expand student training. Training groups have formed to facilitate and organize some of these opportunities.
PhD students are supported on fellowship, teaching assistantship, or research assistantship, and we do not accept a student without also being able to offer them some type of support. Generally, this support lasts up to 5 years, and often students can get additional support after that time depnding on their situation. Such support is conditional on a student making progress toward their degree. Support comes with a stipend, tuition, and health insurance. Current stipends start at $21,500/year for a 9-month appointment.