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Doctoral Program Description

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 are expected to begin doing research immediately in their first year, under the guidance of an advisor. Coursework blends regular classes with seminars, and is typically performed during the first 4 semesters. A written and oral qualifying exam occurs sometime after year 2. Following a successful qualifying exam, research becomes the primary 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.

Master's Program Description

Biology offers a research-focused Master's degree, termed a thesis M.S. This program is designed for students who want to gain research experience but are not ready for, or are not yet committed to, the extended level of research required for a Ph.D. A key requirement is that a faculty member is interested and has a project in mind that fits the time scale of a Master's degree. Thesis M.S. students typically aim to complete their degree in 2 to 3 years.

Biology also offers a primarily coursework-based Master's degree, called a non-thesis M.S., designed for students seeking additional exposure and training in sub-disciplines within Biology but without the emphasis placed on original research by the thesis M.S. or Ph.D. degree.

Application Requirements for the Thesis Master's and Doctoral Programs

Note: the GRE is not required for admission to the Biology Graduate Program. The ApplyYourself website will prompt you to answer if you have taken, or will take, the GRE. This does not mean that you must eventually supply GRE scores. The Biology Graduate Affairs Committee will not require GRE scores to evaluate applications and will base admissions decisions on other information provided in the application.

  • Bacherlor's degree from an accredited academic institution. Note that a Master's Degree is not required for application to the Ph.D. program.
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
    Please submit a standard professional CV with contact information and educational and employment histories. In addition, please provide the following information as applicable:
    • a list of coursework or scientific training that does not appear on your transcript, but will be completed before entering the UK graduate program
    • a list of academic honors
    • a list of scientific publications or presentations
    • other experiences or responsibilities in science-related activities, such as outreach or volunteer work.
  • Personal Statement.
    Please provide a statement that addresses the following points, with separate subheadings for each question.  How much space you devote to each subsection is up to you, but the total length should not exceed ~2-3 single-spaced pages:
  1. Describe your motivation for pursuing a M.S. or PhD in biology. What are your career goals and how will a graduate education in Biology at the University of Kentucky help you achieve these goals?
  1. Describe how your experiences up to this point have prepared you to engage in graduate research. This can include prior research experiences, but also any other relevant experiences that have helped you develop as a scientist (e.g., internships, volunteer work, a particular course, etc.). Given these strengths, what areas do you feel you need to improve during your graduate training?
  1. Describe your research interests. What biological questions most interest you and what types of approaches could you use to answer them? What UK Biology research faculty are of interest to you and why?
  1. (Optional) Describe any special circumstances that are relevant to how you handle academic, professional, or personal challenges.
  • Three letters of recommendation
    In order to make your letters most effective in describing your qualities an application, please instruct your letter writers to address as many of the following points as they can in their letters.
    • How long, how well, and in what way have you known the applicant?
    • How would you rank the applicant's biology knowledge and training in comparison with other students you have taught?
    • Does the applicant have the motivation to complete a Ph.D.?
    • Is the applicant mature and professional?
    • How well-developed are the applicant's laboratory, teaching, and computing skills?
    • How well does the applicant get along with peers and with faculty?
    • Is the applicant a person of integrity?
  • Prior to submitting this application, please review the Biology Department website for information about the Biology Graduate Program. It is important to review the research programs of our faculty for compatibility with your own interests and to consider the graduate training options offered. For those interested in the research degrees, we recommend you contact individual faculty members of interest as part of the application process.
  • Application Deadline: December 15
    Thesis M.S. and Ph.D. students are admitted for a ​Fall semester start date. Application review will begin shortly after December 15; students are encouraged to apply by this date to ensure full consideration for admission.

Non-thesis Master's Application Requirements

Admission into the non-thesis M.S. program is a separate process from the thesis M.S. program. Applicants to the non-thesis M.S. program are recommended to have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher to receive competitive consideration. In addition, applicants will include the following:

  • Two letters of reference that attest to their qualities as a student.
  • A personal statement that explains how a non-thesis Master’s in Biology will help prepare the applicant for their subsequent career plans.
  • Application Deadline:
    • Applications for a Fall semester start will be considered as they are received up until July 1 of that year.
    • Applications for a Spring semester start will be considered as they are received until November 15 of the previous calendar year.
    • When submitting an application through the ApplyYourself website, be sure to select the non-thesis Master’s option.

Any questions regarding the UK Graduate School application processes should be directed to the Graduate School

Should you experience any technical problems with ApplyYourself, please direct your question to the Graduate School.

Decisions on admission will be made continuously. Accepted students are responsible for tuition, as no financial assistance from Biology will be offered at the time of admission. Tuition and Mandatory Fees. Please consult for other sources of aid.