Jun 23, 2024  
2015-2016 Catalog 
2015-2016 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Biological Sciences, Ph.D.

Major Code: 9021 Degree Awarded: Doctor of Philosophy
Age Restriction: N Admission status: graduate 
Delivery Mode/s: classroom only Location/s: main campus
Admission Materials: 3 letters of  recommendation, objectives, GRE  

The doctor of philosophy degree is offered for students who want to carry out advanced research in the biological sciences. A student’s research can encompass any area represented by a faculty member. The objective is to prepare the student at the highest academic level for a productive career in research, teaching and/or administration.

Admission Requirements

A doctoral applicant must have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. For admission, a student should have a superior academic record, with a minimum GPA of 3.0 (on a scale of 4.0) in undergraduate work or 3.2 in graduate work, three letters of recommendation and scores from the GRE (General Test). Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact faculty in the department to identify a prospective advisor.

General admission requirements and the process for applying are presented in the Academic Overview  section. Admission decisions for fall semester enrollment are made by March 1, and for spring semester enrollment by October 1.

Degree Requirements

The doctor of philosophy degree is primarily a research degree and is conferred in recognition of research accomplishments as well as completion of a program of study. Each student must complete an approved program of study, pass a comprehensive written and/or oral examination, write an acceptable research proposal and file a petition for admission to candidacy, complete a program of significant original research, prepare and defend a dissertation concerning the research and present a dissertation seminar. Each candidate is expected to publish major portions of the dissertation in refereed national or international journals.

Each doctoral student must prepare a program of study within one year after entering the program. To assure that the student possesses a satisfactory knowledge of biological principles, the student might be required to take certain courses in biological sciences and related disciplines. The student has an advisory committee appointed by his or her advisor with the approval of the department head. The committee is composed of at least five members: four faculty members (including the advisor) from the department and one faculty member from another academic unit.

The proposal represents the research plan that the student will pursue for the dissertation. It should be written under the close supervision of the advisor, and the proposal must be presented to and approved by the advisory committee.

Doctoral research represents a significant contribution to the knowledge of a particular problem. A student must be prepared to devote considerable time and effort to research. With the advisor’s approval, the student presents the preliminary copies of the dissertation to the advisory committee for critical evaluation. Once the dissertation satisfies the advisory committee, the student then orally defends the work. If the defense is satisfactory, the advisory committee will approve the dissertation once the final revisions are completed.

Prior to graduation, the student must present a dissertation seminar to the faculty and graduate students. General degree requirements are presented in the Academic Overview  section.


The advisor assists the student in devising a program of study, which requires approval by the program of study committee and the department head. The committee and department head must also approve any revision of the program of study.

In developing a program of study, considerable latitude is allowed for course selection and research interests. Appropriate courses can be selected from the offerings of any academic unit in the College of Science, College of Engineering or College of Psychology and Liberal Arts. The student may register for Biological Research Rotation (BIO 5998 ) to learn specific skills and techniques available from the faculty. All doctoral students must elect the Biological Sciences Seminar (BIO 5990 ) every semester it is offered, except for the semester the student presents a dissertation seminar (Biological Research Seminar, BIO 5991  ).

Summary of Program Requirements


  • Formal Coursework Beyond Bachelor’s Degree Credit Hours: 18-42
  • Biological Research Seminar Credit Hours: 1
  • Biological Research Credit Hours: 0-24*
  • Doctoral Dissertation (maximum) Credit Hours: 30

*Inclusion of Biological Research Rotation (BIO 5998 ) is recommended.

A minimum of 73 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree is required. For students entering with a master’s degree, former coursework completed for the master’s degree can fulfill a significant portion of the 18 credit hours of required doctoral coursework. Nonetheless, the student should be prepared to complete some additional coursework.