Prospective Students

The Department of Biology offers degree programs leading to both the Master of Arts (MA) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Graduate training is available across the full spectrum of modern biological investigation from molecular biology to ecosystems, unified by a strong focus on the evolutionary underpinnings of life at these different levels. Faculty members are grouped into four primary research areas, each of which has a corresponding graduate curriculum and seminar series.

Students may take advantage of the full breadth of training in modern biology offered in the department through their choice of elective courses, teaching experiences, and department-wide seminars. Through these as well as the career presentations and opportunities for networking offered by the Biology Graduate Student Association and the Graduate Women in Science and Engineering (GWISE) group, graduate students in biology enjoy a highly interactive environment and training that provides excellent preparation for a variety of careers in the biological sciences. While many recent PhD graduates seek a traditional academic career, an increasing number find careers in biotechnology, government agencies, and a wide range of non-governmental organizations.

Graduate training can be pursued in each of the following areas:

Biology faculty are also involved in several other interdisciplinary graduate programs, including Bioinformatics; BiogeoscienceNeuroscience; and Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry.

For more information on our graduate program, contact Meredith Canode, Graduate Program Director for the Biology Department, at

Current Students

The goal of the Biology Department at Boston University is to train students at the highest level in one of three broad sub-fields within modern Biology. Upon completion of the PhD, students should be prepared for post-graduate training and to eventually assume teaching and/or research positions in academia, industry, government, or non-profit agencies.

Expectations for satisfactory progress for all graduate students.

Learning Outcome 1: Demonstrate academic mastery in one of three areas of Biology—Ecology, Evolution & Behavior; Neurobiology; or Cellular & Molecular Biology.

Learning Outcome 2: Attain research expertise, including grand writing experience, and complete original research that advances a specific field of study within one of three broad subject areas represented in the department—Ecology, Behavior & Evolution; Neurobiology; or Cellular & Molecular Biology.

Learning Outcome 3: Attain teaching experience and expertise in one of three broad areas of BiologyEcology, Behavior & Evolution; Neurobiology; or Cellular & Molecular Biology.

Learning Outcome 4: Attain the skills and qualifications needed for employment in an academic, government or private sector position related to the life sciences.

Degree Requirements

PhD in Biology

The PhD in Biology is a research degree requiring graduate-level coursework, completion of a dissertation, and two semesters of participation in teaching (usually as a teaching fellow in laboratory or discussion sections of lecture courses led by Biology faculty). For most students, this typically involves five or more years of full-time study. The Biology Department guarantees academic year support for five years for all PhD students, contingent on satisfactory performance in the program.

Students admitted with a bachelor’s degree complete the equivalent of 16 full-semester courses with a B or better grade point average. At least eight of these courses are lecture, laboratory, or seminar courses; students enroll in directed research for the remaining credits. For students admitted with a master’s degree, the requirement is eight full-semester courses, of which four are lecture, laboratory, or seminar courses. Seminars generally count for half a course; thus two are required to replace a full-semester course.

Details of the graduate curriculum are planned in consultation with the major professor and advisory committee. Certain core courses are required in the Cell & Molecular Biology and Neurobiology programs, with the remaining courses chosen as electives. For more details, see the individual graduate program areas: 1) Cell & Molecular Biology; 2) Neurobiology; 3) Ecology, Behavior & Evolution; or 4) Marine Biology. With departmental approval, a student may register for courses at the Boston University School of Medicine or School of Public Health and may cross-register for graduate-level courses at Boston College, Brandeis University, and Tufts University. Visit the GRS Bulletin to view procedures for cross-registration.

The Biology Department does not require mastery of a foreign language for the PhD, but students involved in international fieldwork may be encouraged to complete language training.

MA in Biology

The Department of Biology offers both research and non-research MA degree programs. The non-research MA can be completed in a year and a summer, whereas the research MA typically requires two years to complete a research project and thesis. In both programs, students are assigned to a faculty advisor in their area of interest at the time of acceptance. The Biology Department does not guarantee financial support for MA students.

In either MA program, students complete eight semester courses with a B or better grade point average. For the non-research degree, all courses must be lecture, laboratory, or seminar courses. In addition, the student completes a review paper on a topic chosen in consultation with the faculty advisor. For the research degree, at least five courses must be lecture, laboratory, or seminar courses. The remaining courses may be satisfied by research credits.

BA/MA in Biotechnology

The BA/MA in Biotechnology is a five-year program open to Boston University undergraduates pursuing a BA in Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. Students earn both degrees by completing a total of 38 courses that comprise many of the elements of standard degree programs in biology and chemistry, augmented by advanced-level courses in recombinant DNA techniques, molecular cell biology, and protein technology. View a more detailed description of the program on the CAS Bulletin website. Further information may also be obtained from the Undergraduate Program Specialist for the Department of Biology.