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 expertise. Students have considerable latitude to devise their own training and integration is a common element of that training. The three degree programs (see menu on left) emphasize different kinds of training, but generally blend regular coursework both within and outside the Department, formal seminar courses, opportunities to attend research talks by visiting speakers or Biology faculty and students, and informal events with a scientific focus. Students also can hone their skills at teaching at several different levels. The Department has a growing outreach and community engagement program (link). Finally, students in our two research-oriented degree programs (PhD and thesis MS) especially spend considerable time engaging in research. The research opportunities for biologists at the University of Kentucky are rich. There are multiple ways to interact with colleagues within Biology, but also in the Colleges of Medicine and Agriculture. There is a lot going on here and ambitious students can flourish as a result!
Biology has a diverse and active group of graduate student researchers working with many of the faculty. For prospective students, your engagement in our research begins before you even apply, and we encourage you to gain as much information as you can about the likely research you will be doing and the opportunities available to enrich it. Mentorship by a faculty member is an essential element of how we train students in research. We encourage prospective students to begin engaging with likely mentors early. Most students stay with that person after arriving and some chose mentors by the end of their first year. When a student has developed substantially new interests, shifting mentors is accommodated as well. Some students are even co-advised.
The mentor is the primary, day-to-day source of advice about a student’s research. Officially, the student’s committee is charged with guiding all the training, including coursework, seminars, other types of training, and the research project. Ideally by the start of the 2nd year, each student, in consultation with his/her mentor, selects a thesis committee composed of 3 (MS students) or 4 (PhD students) faculty members. The Committee then provides academic guidance, administers the required Qualifying exam & Dissertation exams and provides regular (at least yearly) feedback on research progress.
All students must meet the basic requirements of the Graduate School and the Biology Graduate Program for successful completion of their degree. The degrees (see choices in menu to the left) differ in their requirements, but Biology has added only a few requirements to the Graduate School’s basic program. This gives students enormous flexibility in crafting their own training. For example, PhD students must take 36 hrs of coursework before taking their qualifying exam; only a 1hr, first semester seminar course is specified so the rest of those hours are flexible and can include research hours. Similarly, the format of the qualifying exam varies across the department. Individual mentors have developed preferred methods of achieving these requirements, which then are typically discussed with the student by the advisory committee. In addition to the formal graduate committee, MS and PhD students may also participate in broader group training based on related research interests. Formal training groups (see below) and research clusters of faculty provide a variety of additional training options, including organizing course selection, offering journal clubs or forums for research presentations, arranging research rotations, collaborating on projects, assisting in research grant preparation, or promoting professional development in other ways. Participation in such training groups or clusters is optional and events sponsored by such groups are open to all students. Students should view faculty web pages to learn in what ways potential mentors are associated with training groups or cooperate with other faculty to train students.
During your time as a student, you may have questions that need to be addressed. 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 can provide help with student funding through fellowships and assistantships. The DGS also monitors each student’s progress toward the degree and their compliance with the Biology Department and the University of Kentucky Graduate School rules and regulations.
A major activity for most Biology students is teaching in our undergraduate courses and labs. The Associate Chair
for Instruction oversees professional training for new teaching assistants and coordinates our extensive network of graduate student-led undergraduate instruction.
To learn more about the formal training groups and their respective programs, you can follow these links:
To learn more about how specific potential mentors train students, either see their web page
or contact them directly.