Year One

  • Familiarize yourself with the requirements for the program while taking the Introduction to Graduate Research in Biology course in the fall.
  • Meet with your advisor to determine your coursework plan, being sure to fit in your required courses in preparation for the qualifying exams.
  • If you are rotating, complete rotations and join a lab.
  • Once you have a lab, you should spend time reading deeply in the field and learning the techniques used in the lab.
  • Begin starting to pull together ideas and directions for your dissertation.
  • Colloquia, journal clubs, biolunch, and other seminar series are all excellent ways to broaden your thinking, acquire new knowledge, and meet people.


Year Two

  • In this year you should be completing the remainder of your coursework, and especially the coursework needed for your qualifying exam.
  • If you’ve had an especially strong background coming into the program, you may choose to take the qualifying exam in the fall semester of your second year.
  • By the spring of your second year, you should be formalizing the ideas for your dissertation and working towards a draft of a dissertation proposal, and beginning to gather preliminary data that can be used in the proposal defense and eventual thesis.
  • You must form a dissertation committee in consultation with your advisor, filing the appropriate form to the graduate school.
  • Your first committee meeting must be held by the end of the spring semester. Your proposal ideas should be well-developed at this point; present initial ideas to your committee. In this and all following years of the program, at least one committee meeting is required each year.
  • Complete your annual progress form and have your advisor sign it on behalf of your committee, who must meet to discuss your progress.


Year Three

  • You must complete the qualifying exam in the fall semester, if you did not complete it earlier.
  • By the end of the spring semester, you must have defended your dissertation proposal with your committee. You may defend this proposal earlier than the spring semester if you choose to.
  • Following the milestones of passing the qualifying exam and completing your 30 credits of primary coursework, you should apply for candidacy status. Make sure that all needed forms are on file with the graduate school.
  • You should complete any remaining electives or courses, transitioning into graduate research credits.
  • You should be making progress on your research in accordance with your advisor’s and committee’s expectations and guidance.
  • Complete your annual progress form and have your advisor sign it after meeting with your advisory committee to discuss your progress.


Years Four (and Five)

  • Complete your dissertation research.
  • Keep your committee informed of your progress and any problems or setbacks you are facing.
  • You must hold at least one committee meeting a year and submit your annual evaluation forms.
  • It is a very good idea to write as you go along; writing an entire dissertation in your final year can make for a tough final year, and publishing early and regularly makes you more competitive for positions after your degree.
  • Submit your dissertation draft to your committee for comments and revisions following grad school deadlines.
  • Defend your dissertation.