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Training & Degree Requirements


Graduate training in the Biology Graduate Program is diverse, challenging, and rewarding. The Department houses a wide array of research programs covering the breadth of biological organization, from molecules to ecological communities. Training involves opportunities to gain both general knowledge and specialized technical expertise. Students have considerable latitude to devise their own training and integration of different learning formats (coursework, seminars by invited speakers, seminars, courses, and research groups in other departments on campus, benchwork, etc.) is common.

The three degree programs (see menu on left) emphasize different kinds of training, but all allow students to develop multiple skill sets and prepare them for future careers in science. Students in our two research-oriented degree programs (PhD and thesis MS) spend considerable time engaging in primary research. In addition to the broad research interests within the Department of Biology, there are also many research laboratories in the Colleges of Medicine, Engineering, and Agriculture with which students and their mentors may choose to collaborate. The Department also has a growing outreach and community engagement program. There are many ways for ambitious students to make their mark and flourish!


Biology has a diverse and active group of graduate student researchers working with different faculty members. For prospective students, your engagement in our research begins before you even apply! Start by navigating around this website to find information about different laboratories and their research programs. We encourage prospective students to engage with potential mentors early in order to start identifying those that best fit your research interests and mentoring needs. Mentorship by a faculty member is an essential element of how we train students in research, so finding the right mentor is critical to your success. 

Upon acceptance into the Graduate program, some students will join a specific lab immediately while others will rotate in 2-3 labs before choosing a mentor. A student's graduate mentor is their primary, day-to-day source of advice about their research. Officially, the student’s thesis Committee is charged with guiding all graduate training, including coursework, seminars, other types of training, and the research project. In consultation with their mentor, each student selects a thesis Committee composed of 3 (MS students) or 4 (PhD students) faculty members by the start of their 2nd year. The Committee then provides academic guidance, administers the required Qualifying exam & Dissertation exams and meets regularly (at least yearly) to provide feedback on research progress.  

Course Requirements


Coursework requirement (36 credit hours need to sit for qualifying exam*): 

Required: BIO 600, Biology Graduate Student Orientation (or BIO 621 section for 2023 Class)

Required: Graduate Level Statistics Course

Required Seminars: Three BIO 770 seminars.
(Note: Current Research in Biology (Tuesday Seminar) can only count once for this requirement)

Core Courses: Pick at least three.

  • BIO 520: Bioinformatics 
  • BIO 540: Data Wrangling and Visualization (or BIO 580 section for 2023 Class)
  • BIO 602: Practical Microscopy 
  • BIO 507: Sleep and Circadian Rhythms
  • BIO 610: Advanced Vertebrate Endocrinology
  • BIO 647: Advanced Sensory Neurobiology (or BIO 621 section for 2023 Class)
  • BIO 650: Animal Physiology Lab
  • BIO 608: Behavioral Ecology
  • BIO 618: Ecological Genetics
  • BIO 527: Stem Cells, Tissue Engineering and Regeneration
  • BIO 604: Advanced Genetics
  • BIO 629: Developmental Biology
  • BIO XXX: Macroevolution (in development)
  • BIO XXX: Advanced Ecology (in development)
  • BIO XXX: Advanced Neuroscience (in development)

Petitions for course substitutions can be made to the DGS.

*Students entering the program with a M.S. degree from another regionally‐accredited university or the University of Kentucky can apply up to 18 credits to their Ph.D. coursework upon request from the DGS to, and approval by, the graduate school.

Previous Ph.D. requirements (students entering Fall 2022 and earlier)

  1. Four 770 seminar credits
  2. Up to 24 credit hours of BIO 795 can be applied towards the 36 credit hour requirement
  3. No more than 24 credit hours of BIO 795 can be taken overall
  4. 12 credit hours of regular coursework (500, 600, 700 level; can include 770 seminars)


Coursework requirement (30 credit hours): 

  1. Three 770 seminar credits
  2. 12 credits in 600-700 level courses
  3. 16 credits in regular (non research or residency) courses
  4. 16 credits in BIO prefix courses
  5. Up to 14 credits of BIO 795


Coursework requirements (30 credit hours): 

  1. Three 770 seminar credits
  2. 15 credits in 600-700 level courses
  3. 20 credits in regular (non research or residency) courses
  4. 20 credits in BIO prefix courses

Important Resources

For any questions not addressed here, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) is a valuable resource for students seeking information on anything related to progress towards a degree (e.g., course registration, scheduling a defense date). The DGS also monitors each student’s progress toward the degree and their compliance with the rules and regulations of the Biology Department and the University of Kentucky Graduate School. In addition, the DGS can provide help with student funding through fellowships and assistantships.

Most students will have the responsibility of teaching in our undergraduate Biology courses and labs during their graduate career. The Associate Chair for Instruction oversees professional training for new teaching assistants and coordinates all graduate student-led instruction.