Earn your PhD in Integrated Biology (iBio)

The department expects new PhD candidates to do three research rotations in different labs of interest during their first fall semester. Students consult with their temporary advisors and with prospective faculty research advisors before identifying their rotation preferences, which are scheduled through mutual agreement between the student and the lab. Arrangements for the first rotation are usually made over the summer. Following each rotation, students prepare and are evaluated on short presentations on the goals and results of their work.

During the first year, students are required to enroll in the department's COSMOS (Concepts, Models and Systems in Biology) seminar. In the fall, this consists of a weekly research seminar series given by more senior students (second year and beyond). First-year students are required to attend and observe but do not present themselves during that first fall offering. In the spring, COSMOS consists of a seminar course in which a broad research topic is discussed at many different levels of analysis, model and non-model systems, and techniques. While pursuing doctoral research in their chosen thesis lab in subsequent years, students are required to enroll in other seminar courses (three or more) that have a significant writing component, advanced lecture courses, and big data/informatics courses. The PhD program in integrated biology requires a total of 72 semester hours of coursework and research credits.

At the end of the first year, students take a qualifying exam consisting of several essay questions covering major topics in the four research foci of the Department of Biology: cell and developmental biology, evolution and ecology, genetics, and neurobiology. During the spring semester of the second year, students assemble a thesis committee and prepare a grant application-style document that serves as a prospectus of their planned thesis research. They are aided in this by the Writing in the Natural Sciences course, which provides feedback and instruction on effective scientific writing skills. Students submit this document to, and defend it orally in front of, their thesis committee. Together, the written document and the oral defense of it comprises the comprehensive exam. After passing the comprehensive exam, students advance to full candidacy for the PhD. Students must also demonstrate teaching skills by assisting in instruction as teaching assistants for at least two semesters.

The program culminates in the student’s preparation of a dissertation based on original, independent research. Once the thesis committee approves of both this written dissertation and the oral defense, the PhD degree will be awarded.

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Portrait of Marlys Boote

Marlys Boote

Graduate Program Coordinator
Bryan Phillips portrait

Bryan Phillips