Biology

Doctoral Program

 

The doctoral program emphasizes empirical and theoretical approaches to biological research. Students are required to integrate basic skills in biology with focal studies in an emphasis area. The program is designed to provide research experience and training appropriate for advanced positions in academic research and teaching, government and public agencies, and industry.

Ph.D. Admission Requirements
Application forms are available online here. Additional materials describing the department and its graduate programs can be requested from Maryann Hempen (mhempen@jinx.umsl.edu).

Applicants from the U.S. must submit completed application and personal data forms, which are available on line at the link above. Three letters of recommendation from faculty members at previously attended colleges or universities, or other people qualified to assess the applicants' capabilities for graduate study, should be sent directly to the UMSL Graduate Admissions Office, 217 Millennium Student Center, One University Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63121-4499. Transcripts of all post-secondary academic work should also be sent to the Graduate Admissions Office. In addition, applicants to the Ph.D. program must submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical).

Applicants from outside the U.S. must submit completed application and personal data forms, which are available on line at the link above. Three letters of recommendation from faculty members at previously attended colleges or universities, or other people qualified to assess the applicants' capabilities for graduate study, should be sent directly to the Office of International Student and Scholar Services, University of Missouri-St. Louis, One University Blvd. (221), 261 Millennium Student Center, St. Louis, MO 63121-4499. Transcripts of all post-secondary academic work should also be sent to the Office of International Student and Scholar Services. In addition, applicants to the Ph.D. program must submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores (Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical).

Admission normally requires a minimum grade point average of 3.0 in biology and 3.0 overall, as well as an appropriate background for graduate work in biology, including courses in genetics, biochemistry, evolution, organic chemistry, college physics, and calculus. Statistics is strongly recommended.

All foreign applicants, except those from countries where English is the primary language, must take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) Examination. The minimal TOEFL score is 550 (paper based test), or 213 (computer based test), or 80 (internet based test). The University requires all incoming foreign students to take an English language exam during orientation week and may require additional courses in English during the first year of graduate study.

Applications to graduate programs are evaluated by the Graduate Committee, which makes recommendations to the Dean of the Graduate School for admission. Applicants may be invited for interviews, at the department's expense when at all possible, during February and early March. Students are also encouraged to arrange their own visits to the department at other times.

Students who are interested in the Ph.D. program or Thesis Master's option with an emphasis in the Ecology, Evolution, Systematics program are strongly urged to contact faculty in their field of interest to determine whether there is a mutual interest.  Students who are interested in the Ph.D. program or Thesis Master's option with an emphasis in the Cellular, Molecular Biology program will typically do rotations in the laboratories of interested faculty before choosing a thesis advisor.

Ph.D. degree requirements

University-wide requirements are determined by the Graduate Faculty of UM-St. Louis. For a detailed description of these requirements, see http://www.umsl.edu/bulletin/grad_study.html#phd. The Ph.D. requires 60 graduate credit hours. At least 30 of the 60 hours must be taken at the 5000 or 6000 level. With the explicit consent of the advisory committee, students may take for graduate credit up to 3 credit hours of 3000 level courses in allied departments. Courses in biology at the 3000 level and below are not available for graduate credit. At least 31 of the 60 hours must be taken while in residence at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Departmental requirements are determined by the faculty in Biology, and are outlined in the Bulletin (http://www.umsl.edu/bulletin/as/biology.html). The requirements for all Ph.D. students include:

30 hours of graduate research

30 hours of course work, including

a) at least 6 credits of Biology 6889 (graduate seminar)

b) one credit of Ethics in Biology (to be taken the first semester)

c) Biometry (Biology 4122) or an equivalent undergraduate course in statistics This requirement is normally waived if the student has already taken an undergraduate course in statistics and received a B- or higher. Bioinformatics can also be substituted for Biometry.

Emphasis area requirements: Each Ph.D. student is associated either with the Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) emphasis area, or the Ecology, Evolution and Systematics (EES) emphasis area. Each of these areas has its own course requirements in addition to the University-wide, and department-wide requirements listed above.

EES:

Biology 5312 Theory of Systematics (3 credit hours)
Biology 6182 Advanced Population Biology (3 credit hours)
Biology 5192 Community Ecology (3 credit hours)

Cell and Molecular Biology:

Three of the following:
BIOL 6602, Advanced Molecular Biology (3 credit hours)
BIOL 6612, Advanced Molecular Genetics of Bacteria (3 credit hours)
BIOL 6615, Advanced Biotechnology Laboratory II (4 credit hours)
BIOL 6622, Advanced Molecular Cell Biology (3 credit hours)
BIOL 6632, Advanced Nucleic Acid Structure and Function (3 credit hours)
BIOL 6642, Advanced Plant Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering (3 credit hours)

An equivalent graduate level course at another university may be substituted for one of the required courses, if approved by the Graduate Director.

Transfer credit

Credit may be given for graduate work completed at another institution, up to a total of 15 credit hours (i.e., half of the required courses). Graduate credit for course work transferred from another program is subject to approval by the graduate committee and by the Graduate School. The request to transfer graduate credits should be presented as a letter to the Director of Graduate Studies in Biology, listing the course titles, number of credit hours, course level, and the institution. The transfer must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies who will then forward the request to the Graduate School.

[12 hours of formal course work required by the student's emphasis area at the time a student is admitted to the Ph.D. program. ]

Maximum number of credit hours

The maximum number of credit hours that may be applied toward the 60-hour requirement is limited as stated below:

Biology 6889, Graduate Seminar: 10 hours
Biology 6905, Graduate Research: 30 hours

A combination of 6 total credit hours of the following:
Biology 5059, Topics in Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
Biology 5069, Topics in Cellular and Molecular Biology
Biology 5079, Topics in Floristic Taxonomy

Qualifying Examination
Students must pass a qualifying examination no later than the end of the summer following their second year. Doctoral students who have earned an M.S. degree previously may be encouraged to take the examination in their first year. The structure of the qualifying exam differs for CMB and EES students; see the program requirements for details. A student who fails to complete the qualifying exam on schedule will be placed on academic probation for the fall term of year three, and risks being dismissed from the graduate program. If the student fails the qualifying exam, he/she will be placed on probation, but will be permitted to take the exam one more time, at the end of the first semester of year three.  

Admission to Candidacy
To be admitted to candidacy, students must satisfy the requirements of the Graduate School (
http://www.umsl.edu/bulletin/grad_study.html#phd
), which includes passing all qualifying examinations and completing all required course work. Once a student is admitted to candidacy, the student only needs to register for one credit hour for full-time status; this should provide a strong financial incentive to complete the course work and qualifying exam on time.


Dissertation Proposal
All students must present a written dissertation proposal to their dissertation committee and defend it orally no later than the end of the summer following their third year, but preferably earlier. The proposal is not a contract, but is designed to give the student extensive feedback on the design and feasibility of the proposed dissertation project; it will be most valuable if conducted before the student has invested considerable time and money in the project. A student who fails to complete the proposal defense on schedule will be placed on academic probation for one term, and risks being dismissed from the graduate program. Normally doctoral students may not enroll in more than 4 credits of graduate research (Biology 6905) before they have received approval for their dissertation proposal. See also
http://www.umsl.edu/~biology/programs/CMB%20Diss%20Prop%20Jan%202008.htm
for information on the structure of the proposal.

Dissertation
A dissertation embodying the results of original research shall be submitted to and approved by the Department of Biology and the Graduate School. The general regulations of the Graduate School concerning the preparation of the dissertation must be met. These rules include a public oral defense of the written dissertation. Dissertations are to be presented in a style appropriate for one or more publications in scientific journals.


Teaching
At least one semester of supervised teaching is required of all doctoral students.
All students are required to meet annually with their academic committee.