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Program of Study

The Division of Biological Sciences offers a Doctoral (Ph.D.) degree program of study in biological sciences. The Ph.D. degree program includes formal coursework, mentored research, and professional development activities.

Timelines

Median years required to complete a doctorate in the Division of Biological Sciences is 5.4 years. The following are typical target deadlines for Ph.D. candidates.

  • Coursework: Years 1-2
  • Lab rotations: Year 1
  • Qualifying Exam: Year 1
  • Comprehensive Exam: Year 2
  • Dissertation Research and Committee Meetings: Years 1-5
  • Dissertation Defense: Year 5

Coursework

The Graduate School requires a minimum of 72 credit hours for completion of the Doctoral degree. Fifteen (15) of the 72 hours are composed of formal coursework at the 8000 or 9000 level, including Professional Survival Skills (BIO_SC 8050), and a course in ethics. The remainder of the 72 hours is made up of seminars and thesis research. Otherwise, students design their program of study based on their research interest and in consultation with their faculty advisor (see some sample programs of study).

Guest access to the Catalog and Schedule of Classes, from which current courses offered by the Division can be viewed, is available from myZou.

Research Rotations

Graduate students are encouraged to complete research rotations in two to three labs during their first year of training. Rotations, which may last between two to four months, are designed to acquaint students with the diverse research strengths in the Division and the different techniques of established investigators in different areas of biology. Students, in consultation with faculty, choose the specific labs in which they want to do a rotation. Rotations can be done in labs of adjunct faculty members both on and off campus.

Examinations

Doctoral students are required to take and pass a Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam.

Teaching Experience and Training

Graduate students are encouraged, but not required, to gain teaching experience as part of their graduate program of study. Teaching assistantships are available to support teaching efforts.

The Division of Biological Science offers College Science Teaching (Bio_Sc 8724), a graduate-level course that addresses learner characteristics, teaching strategies, and research findings related to teaching science at the post-secondary level. Students with a strong interest in teaching have the option of obtaining a Minor in College Teaching from the Graduate School’s Preparing Future Faculty program.

Additional Certifications

Students can obtain a number of additional graduate-level certifications, including Graduate Certificates in Conservation Biology and Science Outreach.

The Graduate School lists additional stand-alone and degree-dependent graduate certificates available.

Kate Hertweck, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow, National Evolutionary Synthesis Center

Dr. Kate Hertweck

“My graduate career at MU provided access to the resources necessary for me to experience a breadth of experimental and theoretical approaches. Interactions with a variety of scientists from different departments and topic areas allowed me to embrace cutting-edge research, and equipped me well to land my dream postdoc at an evolutionary biology synthesis center.”

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First artificial chromosomes in plants

Developed by Dr. James Birchler, these engineered mini-chromosomes can be designed to specification, with the potential of genes or entire biochemical pathways added or removed as needed. In addition to shedding light on the behavior of chromosomes, artificial chromosomes also have potential applications in agriculture, biotechnology, and the pharmaceutical industry.

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