PhD in Biology

The PhD is a research degree and normally necessitates at least four to five years of academic study, including summer work.

Students are assigned to a faculty advisor in the area of special interest at the time of acceptance, or, after short rotations through research groups, a research advisor is chosen. The advisor, along with a thesis committee, directly supervises the student’s progress toward the degree. Together with other faculty appointed with the approval of the Graduate Committee, the advisor ensures that the student meets the degree requirements and that the qualifying and final oral examinations are conducted properly.

Degree Requirements

Students admitted with a bachelor’s degree must complete 16 500-level or above semester courses (64 credits) with a minimum grade point average of 3.0; at least eight of these courses must be lecture, laboratory, or seminar courses. For students admitted with a master’s degree, the requirement is eight semester courses (32 credits), of which four must be lecture, laboratory, or seminar courses.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination must be completed no later than six semesters after matriculation. In most graduate curricula in the department, this consists of a research proposal—often in the form of a grant application—which the student submits to his/her committee and subsequently defends in an oral presentation. In the Cell & Molecular and Neurobiology curricula, this is preceded by a comprehensive written examination testing the student’s general background from coursework. PhD candidates in the post-bachelor’s program may apply for an MA degree upon successfully completing the qualifying examination and 32 lecture or seminar credits.


The dissertation must describe original research carried out by the student in a chosen field of biology; the research should make an important contribution to knowledge of that field. Students must satisfy the student’s dissertation committee that at least part of the dissertation is of sufficient quality to be published in a recognized scientific journal. The results of the dissertation must be presented at a department colloquium.

Residency, Dissertation Prospectus, and Final Oral Examination

See the General Requirements for the PhD.


  • GRS BI 735 Advanced Cell Biology
  • CAS BI 572 Advanced Genetics
  • GRS BI 753 Advanced Molecular Biology
  • GRS BI 607 Animal Behavior
  • CAS BI 508 Behavioral Ecology
  • GRS BI 708 Biochemical and Molecular Aspects of Development
  • GRS BI 621 Biochemistry I
  • GRS BI 622 Biochemistry II (CM)
  • CAS BI 527/528 Biochemistry Laboratory I & II
  • GRS BI 648 Biodiversity and Conservation Biology
  • CAS BI 551 Biology of Stem Cells
  • GRS BI 646 Biology of the Cell Cycle
  • CAS BI 576 Carcinogenesis
  • GRS BI 645 Cellular and Molecular Neurophysiology
  • GRS BI 610 Cellular Aspects of Development and Differentiation
  • CAS BI 563 Chemosensory Biology
  • CAS BI 558 Coastal Biogeochemistry (EBE)
  • GRS BI 655 Developmental Neurobiology
  • CAS BI 504 Evolution
  • CAS BI 532 Field Biology Belize Coral Reefs: Expeditionary Ichthyology (Belize)
  • CAS BI 530 Forest Ecology
  • GRS BI 672 Foundations and Frontiers in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution (EBE)
  • GRS BI 625 General Endocrinology
  • CAS BI 513 Genetics Laboratory
  • GRS MB 721 Graduate Biochemistry
  • GRS BI 671 Graduate Survey in Ecology, Behavior, Evolution, and Marine Biology (EBE)
  • CAS BI 531 Ichthyology: Behavior, Ecology, and Evolutionary Fishes
  • GRS BI 623 Marine Biogeochemistry
  • CAS BI 550 Marine Genomics (EBE)
  • CAS BI 578 Marine Geographic Information Science
  • CAS BI 546 Marine Megafaunal Ecology: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Surrounding Waters
  • CAS BI 523 Marine Urban Ecology (EBE)
  • CAS BI 556 Membrane Biochemistry and Cell Signaling (CM)
  • CAS BI 552 Molecular Biology I
  • CAS BI 553 Molecular Biology II
  • CAS BI 545 Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior
  • CAS BI 599 Neurobiology of Synapses
  • CAS BI 554 Neuroendocrinology
  • GRS BI 614 Ornithology
  • GRS BI 642 Physiology and Biochemistry of Reproduction
  • CAS BI 515 Population Genetics (EBE)
  • CAS BI 581, 582 Seminar: Biology
  • CAS BI 583, 584 Seminar: Progress in Cell and Molecular Biology
  • CAS BI 520 Sensory Neurobiology (PER/Neuro)
  • CAS BI 503 Symbiosis
  • GRS BI 756 Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience
  • GRS BI 720 Terrestrial Biogeochemistry Practicum
  • CAS BI 502 Topics in the Mathematical Structure of Biological Systems
  • CAS BI 569 Tropical Invertebrates

Directed Study or Research

The variable-credit research courses listed below involve reading, laboratory work, and conferences. Instructor’s consent required. Hours arranged.

  • GRS BI 911, 912 Research in Behavior and Ecology
  • GRS BI 927, 928 Research in Biochemistry
  • GRS BI 913, 914 Research in Botany
  • GRS BI 925, 926 Research in Cell and Molecular Biology
  • GRS BI 903, 904 Research in Cellular Morphology
  • GRS BI 933, 934 Research in Developmental Biology
  • GRS BI 941, 942 Research in Evolution
  • GRS BI 945, 946 Research in Forest Ecology
  • GRS BI 929, 930 Research in Genetics
  • GRS BI 909, 910 Research in Invertebrate Zoology and Parasitology
  • GRS BI 937, 938 Research in Marine Biology
  • GRS BI 915, 916 Research in Microbiology
  • GRS BI 939, 940 Research in Neurobiology
  • GRS BI 931, 932 Research in Systems Physiology
  • GRS BI 919, 920 Research in Vertebrate Zoology

Metropolitan College Courses

The following courses are offered in Metropolitan College under the auspices of the Department of Biology and are approved for graduate credit in the MA and PhD programs.

  • MET BI 607 Animal Behavior
  • MET BI 552 Molecular Biology I

Related Courses

A number of related courses in other departments, including non-Arts & Sciences courses (see “Cross-Registration” in the Policies section of this Bulletin), may be selected for graduate credit as part of MA and PhD programs in biology in consultation with major professors. Additional courses may be approved for such credit in special cases.

The following related courses can be taken for graduate credit.

  • GRS MB 722 Advanced Biochemistry
  • GRS CH 621 Biochemistry I
  • GRS CH 622 Biochemistry II
  • ENG BE 550 Bioelectromechanics
  • ENG BF 527 Bioinformatics Applications
  • ENG BF 571 Dynamics of Evolution and Biological Networks
  • GRS PY 681 Electronics for Scientists
  • CAS CN 530 Neural and Computational Models of Vision
  • GRS PS 832 Physiological Psychology
  • CAS CN 510 Principles and Methods of Cognitive and Neural Modeling I
  • GRS CH 722 Protein Chemistry
  • GRS CH 724 Special Topics in Biochemistry