Doctor of Philosophy Program in Biology

The department accepts a limited number of outstanding students into the Ph.D. program, which is a full-time program. The Ph.D. degree is a research degree. To qualify for the doctorate, a student must satisfactorily complete graduate studies totaling at least 72 points (at least 36 in residence at New York University), pass a qualifying examination, and present an acceptable dissertation. Doctoral students are also offered the opportunity to teach at the college level via teaching adjunct positions within the department. This is a valuable skill and studies have shown that this can also enhance a PhD student's abilities as a scientist.

Course of Study: Students are required to complete 72 graduate credits. At least 32 of these credits must be in courses and tutorials. The remaining credits may be selected from Journal Clubs, Predoctoral Colloquia, Reading and Research courses. Doctoral students entering the PhD program meet with the Director of Graduate Studies to personalize the courses they take in their first year. In addition all students are required to complete the following core curriculum:

Bio Core 3: Molecules and Cells/Discussion-Based BIOL-GA.2003
Bio Core 4: Genes, Systems and Evolution/Discussion-Based BIOL-GA.2004
The Art of Scientific Investigation BIOL-GA.3001
Statistics in Biology BIOL-GA.2030

Doctoral students must also satisfactorily complete, during the first year of residence, the required Predoctoral Colloquium: Laboratory Rotation (BIOL-GA.3034-3035) and are required to participate in Predoctoral Colloquium: Graduate Student Seminar (BIOL-GA.3015) every semester.

Students with an interest in developmental genetics should complete Developmental Systems 1 and 2 BIOL-GA.2130 and BIOL-GA.2131, and all courses that doctoral students are required to complete. Further information on developmental genetics can be obtained from Professor Stephen J. Small.

All doctoral students must maintain an average of B or better.

Qualifying Examination/Admission to Candidacy: The written Ph.D. qualifying examination (preliminary examination) is generally taken in the spring semester of a student’s first year. The examination consists of two parts: a written research proposal and an oral presentation of the proposal that is defended before a committee of three faculty members. Committee members are assigned to each student by the Director of Graduate studies, Ph.D. program, in collaboration with the instructors of record from Bio Core III and IV. The proposal may not be in the area of the student’s rotation research, potential thesis research, or any previous research experience.  The student is required to check suitability of a proposed topic with the Director of Graduate Studies if there is any potential overlap with previous research.  This examination tests the student’s skills in scientific writing, reasoning, analysis and interpretation of data in the literature, integration of scientific concepts, and creativity in the design of new experiments. 

By the end of the spring semester of their first year, doctoral students must secure a faculty sponsor in whose lab they will conduct their thesis research. A thesis proposal should be presented to the thesis advisory committee (three faculty members from within the department and one external examiner) and defended orally before June 15 of the second year. When Ph.D. students pass their thesis proposal examination, they become Ph.D. candidates.

Doctoral Dissertation: The plan of study and the dissertation research are formulated in consultation with the faculty sponsor and the research advisory committee. The dissertation must represent original, independent research in a significant area of biology at a level comparable to research published in recognized journals or as professional monographs. When the dissertation is completed and has been approved by the sponsor and by the research advisory committee, the candidate defends the results of the research before a faculty committee and invited outside examiners with expertise in the field of research. No less than six months may lapse between the oral proposal examination and the dissertation defense.