• NSMIT (MyNSM)

Graduate Programs Overview : Requirements

The Department of Biology and Biochemistry offers graduate programs in Biochemistry and in Biology (MS and PhD degrees in both). The graduate program in Biology has two degree tracks: the Cell and Molecular Biology degree track, and the Ecology and Evolution degree track. In addition, in collaboration with the Chemistry Department an interdisciplinary program in Chemical Biology is offered. The graduate programs and degree tracks mirror the organization of the department into three divisions: Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, and Ecology and Evolution. Each division has similar, although not identical, requirements for its MS and PhD degrees. Each division has a Policy Leader, who is a faculty member whose responsibilities include overseeing the progress of students before they have chosen a thesis or dissertation advisor. An overview of the requirements for the MS and PhD degrees in the programs in Biochemistry and in Biology (Cell and Molecular Biology degree track, and Ecology and Evolution degree track) is given below.

Course requirements differ somewhat among the divisions, so that entering students should have chosen a division before arrival. A change in division, if deemed desirable by a student, should be discussed with the appropriate Policy Leader and made during graduate student orientation so that students can be enrolled in the appropriate courses.

A description of the various requirements follows. They are then listed with their respective deadlines.

  • Thesis or dissertation advisor
    Students must enter into a mutual agreement with a regular or jointly appointed faculty member of the department who will be responsible for directing the student's research. The advisor (also called the major professor) will normally provide support for his/her students from research grants, usually after the first year in the program.
  • Thesis or dissertation committee
    Students are responsible for getting appropriate faculty members and "outside" individuals to serve, with the advisor, as members of the student's committee. Details of committee composition are in the requirements of the respective divisions.
  • Program of studies (Biochemistry only)
    Students must provide background information, courses taken/to be taken, a brief description of the proposed research, and other items. See biochemistry requirements for details.
  • Laboratory rotations
    Students in all divisions are required to carry out research work in two different laboratories, usually those of faculty members in the student's division. One of these rotations typically will be in the laboratory of the faculty member later named the student's advisor.
  • First year evaluations
    The student's progress will be evaluated using criteria such as courses taken and grades earned, attendance/participation in seminars, reports from laboratory rotation advisors, and acceptance into a laboratory (advisor chosen).
  • Written comprehensive examination (Biochemistry only)
    Students must pass a written examination to test mastery of the fundamentals of biochemical sciences.
  • Qualifying examination
    PhD students in all divisions must submit a written research proposal (dissertation proposal in the the Ecology and Evolution division) and defend it orally. In the Ecology and Evolution division, a written examination is also required. This is the major examination for those seeking the PhD. See the requirements of the respective divisions for details.
  • Defense of thesis or dissertation
    All students must defend orally the thesis or dissertation after it has been deemed acceptable for defense by the student's thesis or dissertation committee.

Comparative chart of SOME of the requirements for the 3 divisions (details can be found on the requirements page of each Division).

Requirement Biochemistry Cell and Molecular Ecology and Evolution
Core courses in the first year
  • Graduate Biochemistry
    (4 half-semester courses spread over the first 2 years)
    (BCHS6226,6227,6228,6229)
  • Molecular Genetics (BIOL6371-Spring)
  • Advanced Cell Biology (BIOL6307 - Fall)
  • Biostatistics (Ph.D.)
  • 1 Formal Graduate Course
Elective formal courses (total)
  • 4 credit hrs (all to be BCHS) (M.S.)
  • 8 credit hrs (4 to be BCHS) (Ph.D.)
  • 1 graduate level course (M.S.)
  • 3 graduate level courses (Ph.D.)
  • 3 graduate level courses (M.S.)
  • 4 graduate level courses (Ph.D.)
Seminar courses
  • 1 per semester
  • 1 per academic year
  • 1 per academic year
Laboratory rotations
  • 2 in the first year
  • register for BCHS 6230,6231
  • 2 in the first year
  • register in appropriate Special Problems courses
  • 2 in the first year unless enter with adivisor chosen
  • register in appropriate Special Problems courses

 Choose adivisor
Form Committee
1st year evaluation

  • End of second semester (not counting summer)
  • End of second semester (not counting summer)
  • End of second semester (not counting summer)
Program of Studies
  • End of Second Semester
    (not counting Summer)
  • N/A
  • N/A
Written comprehensive exam
  • End of Second Semester
    (not counting Summer)
  • N/A
  • N/A
Qualifying Exam (Ph.D.)
  • Proposal topic different from graduate research topic - to be approved by Nov. 1 of the 4th or 5th semester (fall or spring entry, respectively)
  • Written proposal due the following February 1
  • Oral exam to be taken by end of the Spring emester
  • Proposal topic different from graduate research topic - to be approved by Nov. 1 of the 4th or 5th semester (fall or spring entry, respectively)
  • Written proposal due the following February 1
  • Oral exam to be taken by end of the Spring semester
  • Written exam in question format
  • Dissertation proposal due on February 1 of the 4th or 5th semester (fall and spring entry, respectively)
  • Oral exam to be taken by end of the Spring semester
Thesis or Dissertation
  • Seminar prior to defense of thesis or dissertation
  • Defense of thesis or dissertation
  • Seminar prior to defense of thesis or dissertation
  • Defense of thesis or dissertation
  • Defense of Thesis or dissertation