Program Structure


Three or more faculty members will serve as an advisory committee for each incoming graduate student. This committee will advise the student on coursework and research opportunities, and review his or her progress until a preliminary examination committee is selected. Background deficiencies (if any) will be identified by the committee, and appropriate means for taking care of them will be prescribed. The advisory committee will meet with each student early in his or her first semester in the program and subsequently as necessary.


All students in our graduate program are supported by University Fellowships, National Science Foundation Fellowships, or Graduate Teaching Assistantships. These awards carry a stipend and a waiver of tuition and fees. Summer support is provided by the graduate program and/or faculty research support. Prospective graduate students who are U. S. citizens are encouraged to apply for national fellowships that provide additional support.


New students are encouraged to begin research projects as soon as possible. In some cases, an initial project develops into a thesis topic. Students will normally begin a research project by their second semester in residence.

Graduate students are expected to continue their research and training during the summer on campus, in the field, or at another laboratory. Although most students pursue summer research, some students also take advantage of advanced research courses offered in the summer at various research institutions around the country.

Course Work

There are no rigid course requirements. In the first year, students develop a plan of coursework in consultation with their advisory committee. By the end of the third semester, each student will be expected to have attained proficiency in his or her broad field of interest. Proficiencies may be demonstrated either through appropriate coursework or by examination. A grade of B or higher is required in all coursework taken for graduate credit.

In addition to the coursework, students are expected to participate in the program's graduate seminars. These seminars, taken for credit (Bio 243, 244), meet weekly during the academic year and focus on topics of current interest within the graduate program. The Graduate Seminar in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is specifically designed to address important topics for our students and constitutes the focal point of the coursework within the program. Recent topics have included concepts in biomechanics, the biology of clonal organisms, quantitative genetics, pollination biology, systematics, plant ecological genetics, and sexual selection theory.

Students will normally register each semester for the maximum number of course/research credits until they have accumulated the number of credits necessary for the degree. For full-time students, this number is 4 for fellowship holders, 3 for teaching assistants. Appropriate course offerings are available in biology, geology, psychology, applied mathematics, mathematics, and computer science.


All students will normally be required to teach for two terms in an undergraduate course to fulfill degree teaching requirements. The teaching requirement may be fulfilled only by assisting in courses in which graduate students conduct a discussion or laboratory section, and possibly present a small number of lectures.


Qualifying examination. At an early stage in the Ph. D. program, normally not later than the end of the fourth semester, the student will take an oral qualifying examination. The primary purpose in the examination is to determine whether or not the student has the motivation, intellectual capacity, curiosity, educational background, and the technical skills necessary to pursue the Ph.D. program successfully. At least two weeks prior to this examination the student will submit a written thesis proposal to the examination committee. This document will form the main basis for discussion in the examination, although there are no formal restrictions on the extent or range of questions asked of the candidate. The examination committee consists of the thesis advisor and three additional members of the Program faculty (or faculty of other Graduate Programs). A student who fails may be permitted to take a second examination, but not sooner than six months or later than a year from the date of the first examination. The preliminary examination committee will continue to guide the student and insofar as practical, will act as the thesis committee.

Thesis Defense

After completion of all designated work and submission of an acceptable thesis, the student will deliver an oral, public presentation followed by a defense to members of the thesis committee and other faculty members who choose to participate.