Our graduate program is designed to teach students the research and communication skills required for a successful career as an independent scientist. The majority of our graduates go on to careers in universities, research institutions, or the biotechnology industry, but a growing number choose areas such as consulting, science writing, technology transfer, and patent law.

The requirements to complete a PhD in Biology are:

  • complete the first-year program
  • complete the Responsible Conduct in Research course
  • pass a qualifying examination
  • serve as a teaching assistant for two semesters
  • defend a thesis of original research 

The first-year program consists of rotations (several weeks spent in the lab environment) to introduce students to labs, and courses to strengthen fundamentals and train students broadly in modern biology. After the first year, graduate students focus almost entirely on research.

During the second year, students are required to take a course in Responsible Conduct in Research (more info will be on the Biology Events Calendar).

The qualifying exam, typically in the second or third year, affords students the opportunity to hone their communication skills and to demonstrate an understanding of the intent and intellectual foundations of their thesis research. Students submit a proposal describing a research project related to their interests and defend this proposal before a small group of faculty.

Learning to communicate effectively is an essential element of success in any career. Graduate students have a great opportunity to improve their communication and interaction skills by serving as teaching assistants for two semesters (typically once in year 2 and once in year 4), as well as presenting their research in formal and informal settings throughout their graduate training.

For Current Students

Information of use for current Biology graduate students: