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Department of Biology
Doctor of Philosophy

Doctor of Philosophy—Purdue University

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), the highest earned degree conferred by Purdue University, can be pursued in the Department of Biology through Purdue University, West Lafayette. The doctoral degree is restricted to those scholars who have demonstrated superior ability in a recognized academic discipline. The Ph.D. degree is not awarded on the basis of time spent in residence or following the completion of any specific number of formal courses, nor is the degree granted on the basis of miscellaneous course studies and research effort. The entire Ph.D. program must be rationally related, should be highly research oriented, and should culminate in a thesis of scholarly merit indicative of the candidate’s ability to conduct original research in a recognized field of specialization.

Ph.D. programs are directed by professors who work in close association with selected graduate students. In practice, doctoral programs are composed of formal courses, guided individual study in a chosen field or discipline, study in such cognate subjects as may be required by the candidate’s advisory committee, and original research that serves as the basis of a scholarly thesis.

As part of their graduate training, all Ph.D. candidates are expected to teach at least quarter time for one year.

Ninety (90) credit hours of registration are required for the Ph.D. degree. Students entering with advanced standing from another graduate school are given residence credit commensurate with the graduate work accomplished.

Fields of Study

Ph.D. degrees are offered in most of the fields described for the M.S. degree. Until a major professor is named, a student is counseled by a temporary advisor. In order to help familiarize students with the department and to assist the student in the selection of a major professor, a series of laboratory rotations is available.

Admission and Qualifying Examination

To enter the Ph.D. program, a student must satisfy the admission requirements for the M.S. with thesis option and also take a qualifying examination at the end of the first year of graduate study. The examination areas are as follows: (1) biochemistry and molecular biology, (2) cell and developmental biology, (3) neuroscience.  Faculty from each examination committee determines the format and the material associated with the individual examination.

Plan of Study

Each prospective candidate for the doctoral degree, with the approval of the head of the Department of Biology, shall select a major professor from the department who will act as the chairperson of the student’s advisory committee and who will direct the research. The student, in consultation with the major professor, will arrange an advisory committee of at least four faculty members (including the major professor) who have been approved to guide graduate students.

The plan of study shall include a primary area and related area or areas. The plan will be appropriate to meet the needs of the student in a chosen field as determined by the advisory committee. The Graduate School of Purdue University does not impose any minimum number of required course credit hours, but the plan shall specify the area or field of interest in which the student proposes to study and to conduct research. The plan will include the specific courses that the student is expected to complete, all specific course and language (if any) requirements, and 2 credit hours of BIOL 69600 Seminar.

The department or school head, the school dean, and the associate dean of the Graduate School at Purdue University, West Lafayette, must approve the plan of study. The graduate school dean reserves the right to refer any or all plans of study to the Purdue Graduate Council for review and approval when deemed advisable. The Graduate Council has the final authority to supervise the quality of all graduate programs.

Preliminary Examination

After the student has completed most of the formal study to the satisfaction of the advisory committee and met any language requirement(s), the student becomes eligible to take the preliminary examinations. Preliminary examinations must be taken within one year of, and at least six months after passing the qualifying examination.  Moreover, preliminary examinations must be taken six months after selection of their Advisory Committee and no later than May of the second year. The results of these written and oral examinations will be reported to the graduate school by the examining committee with an appropriate recommendation for the student’s admission to candidacy, continued preparatory study, or discontinuation. The graduate school associate dean reserves the right to appoint additional members to the preliminary examining committee. The dean must be informed of the date and place of the examination and the membership of the examining committee at least two weeks before the examination. No examining committee shall have fewer than three faculty members.

The examining committee will conduct the written preliminary examination. In some cases, parts of the examination may be delegated to certain other staff members, but the final responsibility for the examination rests with the student’s examining committee.

If the student does not pass the preliminary examinations, at least one semester must elapse before reexamination. Should the preliminary examinations be failed twice, the student may not be given a third examination, except upon the recommendation of the examining committee and with special approval of the Graduate Council.

Ph.D. Dissertation

After admission to candidacy, the candidate must devote at least two semesters to research before the final examination.

The special research carried on as part of the doctoral work is expected to make a definite contribution to the candidate’s chosen field of knowledge–a contribution of sufficient importance to merit publication. Each candidate must, therefore, prepare a dissertation showing the research results.

After the research has been completed and the dissertion written, the candidate shall be given a final examination in which the candidate defends the dissertation and demonstrates to the examining committee all of the capabilities for which the Doctor of Philosophy degree is awarded. The examining committee shall consist of no fewer than four members. The dean of the graduate school reserves the right to appoint additional committee members and must be informed of the place and time of the final examination at least two weeks in advance.

Doctor of Philosophy—Indiana University

The Ph.D. degree conferred by Indiana University can be pursued under the direction of faculty in the Department of Biology who hold adjunct appointments with departments or programs in the Indiana University School of Medicine. All Indiana University doctoral degrees require 90 credit hours of registration; specific course and examination requirements vary with the department or program in which the student is enrolled. Contact the graduate program director in the Department of Biology for additional information.