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A&S—Biological Sciences

Graduate education in the biological sciences provides individuals with the training, guidance, experience, and opportunity to participate in research that enables their transition from being students of biological knowledge to being fully participating members of their profession. The Department of Biological Sciences offers the degree of Doctor of Philosophy via two areas of concentration:

Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB)
Ecology and Evolution (E&E)

Contact Information

Department Chair: Paula Grabowski, PhD
Main Office: A234 Langley Hall
412-624-4350
Fax: 412-624-4759
E-mail: biophd@pitt.edu
http://www.biology.pitt.edu/

Additional information concerning the department’s graduate programs may be obtained from the University of Pittsburgh, Department of Biological Sciences, Graduate Administrator, A234 Langley Hall, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Phone: 412-624-4268. Fax: 412-624-4759. E-mail: biophd@pitt.edu.

Admissions

Admissions to our graduate programs are competitive, and applications must meet minimum standards (http://www.biology.pitt.edu/graduate/how-apply). Applications should be submitted via online at http.//app.applyyourself.com/?id=up-as. Applications are considered for matriculation for the fall term beginning July 1, and must be completed by January 4 for applicants residing within the United States and December 11 for international applicants.

Financial Assistance

Graduate students receive a competitive stipend, health insurance, tuition waivers, and other financial assistance.

Requirements for the PhD

A PhD in biological sciences involves four or more years of study and requires the completion of 72 credits. Specific requirements are as follow:

  • Graduate Courses. Students in both the MCDB and EE programs are required to take 4 graduate-level courses within the first two years (http://www.biology.pitt.edu/graduate/courses).

  • Seminar Courses. MCDB students take two semesters of Biological Sciences Seminar (BIOSC 2450) in the first year.  EE students take two semesters of Seminar in Ecology (BIOSC 2540) in the first two years.

  • Communications workshops. Students must complete three 1-credit Communication in the Biological Sciences workshops, one each in Grants, Papers, and Seminars.

  • Research Rotations. Both MCDB and EE students perform research
    rotations in the first year in at least two (EE) or three (MCDB) different labs.
  • Research Ethics. Students must complete a workshop in the ethical performance of scientific research in the first year.

  • Seminars. MCDB and EE students must attend the weekly MCDB Student
    Research Seminar (BIOSC 2050) and EE Student Research Seminar (BIOSC 2050), respectively. After the first year, students must present their
    research at these seminars once per year. Students must also attend
    the weekly Departmental Seminar presented by outside scholars.

  • Preliminary Review. Advancement to the second year of study
    requires successful completion of courses with an overall average of B
    or better, satisfactory performance in research rotations and the
    identification of a research mentor.

  • Dissertation Research. MCDB students choose a dissertation advisor
    by the end of the second semester. Typically, students in the E&E
    program identify a research advisor prior to entry. Each student also
    has a Dissertation Committee made up of three other members of
    Department and an outside member and must meet with this committee at
    least once a year. Students are expected to establish their
    dissertation research topic during the second year.

  • Comprehensive Exam. Taken in the second year, this is designed to test a student's general knowledge of MCDB or EE and their detailed knowledge of one particular area.

  • Teaching. Each student must act as a Teaching Assistant for one semester. Students may teach more than this in particular if they take part in the Teaching Minor Program (see below).

  • Admission to Candidacy for the PhD Degree. This is based upon
    research performance and satisfactory completion of the comprehensive
    exam. Admission to candidacy is decided at a special overview meeting
    of the Dissertation Committee.

  • PhD Defense. The PhD is awarded following successful defense of the
    dissertation with a public seminar and satisfaction of all other University, department, and program requirements.

Teaching Minor Program

The department offers graduate students an optional minor in teaching that provides exposure to various methodologies and teaching philosophies. Students hoping for a career in education are strongly encouraged to enroll for this minor degree but it is available to all students studying for a PhD. The teaching minor is available to students in both programs and does not alter any of the program requirements for a PhD degree. Required coursework: FACDEV 2200 (3 credits), BIOSC 2972 (7 credits over four semesters), and Completion of Teacher Dossier.

Non-Continuing Master's Degree

The Department does not offer a master's degree program. However, if a student does not complete all of the requirements for the PhD degree (for example, because they fail the comprehensive exam) they may petition the Graduate Program Oversight Committee (GPOC) to be allowed to apply for a non-continuing Master of Sciences (MS) degree.

The department offers graduate students an optional minor in teaching that provides exposure to various methodologies and teaching philosophies. Students hoping for a career in education are strongly encouraged to enroll for this minor degree but it is available to all students studying for a PhD. The teaching minor is available to students in both programs and does not alter any of the program requirements for a PhD degree. Required coursework: FACDEV 2200 (3 credits), BIOSC 2972 (7 credits over four semesters), and Completion of Teaching Dossier.

Course Listings

Faculty

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