The Ph.D. program is designed to foster the development of scientists capable of doing advanced biological research. It offers students research opportunities in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology; Genetics; and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. All faculty in the department share a common interest in genetic processes, and students benefit from the resulting high degree of interaction and cooperation among laboratories. In addition, the Biology Department is only a five minute walk from the Medical Center, which is home to the Departments of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Microbiology and Immunology, Neurobiology and Anatomy, Physiology, the Cancer Center, and the Center for Aging and Developmental Biology. The physical closeness of these groups facilitates intellectual exchange and collaboration among the graduate programs of the basic and biomedical disciplines.
Each student rotates in three laboratories in the first year, at the end of which he/she chooses a faculty advisor by mutual agreement. Students also take 5-6 courses over their first two years, selected according to background and research interests, and serve as a teaching assistant for two semesters in order to gain teaching experience. Qualifying examinations are normally taken at the end of the second year. After passing the qualifying examination, students form a thesis committee to help guide them in their research. Completion of the Ph.D. usually takes 5-6 years. Financial support, health benefits, and tuition scholarships are provided to all Ph.D. students in good standing.
Communication and interaction are essential parts of being a scientist, and students benefit from multiple opportunities to attend seminars by distinguished outside speakers, participate in formal and informal journal clubs and discussion groups, and present their research to their peers.
The department also awards a Master of Science degree. The M.S. degree is usually offered under Plan B (dissertation not required). The department does not offer financial support to master's students. Students may apply for financial aid through the University Financial Aid Office. 30 graduate credits and a written comprehensive exam are required for the master's. Courses are chosen according to the student's interests.