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Biology, Ph.D.

Doctoral studies in biology at Saint Louis University emphasize intensive research training under the direction of a member of the graduate faculty. Once a biology Ph.D. student at SLU successfully completes required coursework and the written and oral qualifying examinations, he or she is expected to design and conduct an original research project and to work independently.

The student will be required to present his or her work at local and/or national professional meetings and may also be expected to seek external funding to support the research project. Ideally, the student's research will result in publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals. 

Curriculum Overview

SLU's Ph.D. in biology requires a minimum of 36 post-baccalaureate credits, with at least 24 credits of coursework and 12 credits of dissertation research.

Careers

Past biology Ph.D. students at SLU have gone on to careers as research scientists, teachers, university faculty, and in various capacities in pharmaceutical companies and government agencies.

Admission Requirements

Suggested courses include: biology (a minimum of eighteen, upper-division credits); chemistry (a minimum of eight, upper-division credits including two semesters of organic chemistry or one semester of organic chemistry and the other of biochemistry); physics (two semesters); mathematics (through a course in calculus). A formal minor is not permitted.

For students interested in ecology, evolution or systematics, additional coursework in some of the following areas is also recommended: genetics, general ecology, evolution, introductory statistics, general botany, and a taxonomically oriented course. For students interested in cell or molecular iology, additional coursework in some of the following areas is recommended: genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, physiology, molecular biology, microbiology or immunology.

Previous laboratory and research experience preferred.

Application Requirements

  • Application form and fee
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Transcript(s)
  • Résumé
  • Goal statement
  • Interview (desired)

Requirements for International Students

All admission policies and requirements for domestic students apply to international students along with the following:

  • Demonstrate English Language Proficiency
  • Proof of financial support must include:
    • A letter of financial support from the person(s) or sponsoring agency funding the time at Saint Louis University
    • A letter from the sponsor's bank verifying that the funds are available and will be so for the duration of study at the University
  • Academic records, in English translation, of students who have undertaken postsecondary studies outside the United States must include the courses taken and/or lectures attended, practical laboratory work, the maximum and minimum grades attainable, the grades earned or the results of all end-of-term examinations, and any honors or degrees received. WES and ECE transcripts are accepted.

Assistantship Application Deadline

Students who want to be considered for an assistantship should submit their application by Dec. 15. Applications submitted after this deadline will be considered if assistantships are available.

Review Process

Faculty committee members examine each applicant's materials and make recommendations. Consideration is given for matching applicant interests with faculty research areas.

Applicants should outline their research goals in their professional goals statement and should identify and correspond with faculty members whose area of research matches their interests early in the application process.

Scholarships, Assistantships and Financial Aid

For priority consideration for a graduate assistantship, apply by the program admission deadlines listed. Fellowships and assistantships provide a stipend and may include health insurance and a tuition scholarship for the duration of the award. 

For more information, visit http://www.slu.edu/financial-aid.

  1. Graduates will be able to critically analyze primary literature articles by evaluating the scientific contributions of peer-reviewed publications in biology.
  2. Graduates will be able to effectively communicate scientific ideas.
  3. Graduates will be able to demonstrate professional integrity.
  4. Graduates will be able to use appropriate instrumentation and analytical methods to collect data.
  5. Graduates will be able to draw statistically valid conclusions from quantitative data.
  6. Graduates will be able to design novel research that advances knowledge of their field.
  7. Graduates will be able to conduct self-directed research.

The program for the Doctor of Philosophy in Biology degree requires a minimum of 36 credits, when pursued from the baccalaureate, including 24 credits of structured coursework and 12 credits of dissertation research. Courses may be chosen from upper-level electives within the Department of Biology or related departments; coursework may be tailored to the research interests in consultation with the advisory committees of students.

The following requirements govern which courses may be counted toward a degree:

  • At least 20 credits of structured courses (these do not include BIOL 6970 Research Topics and/or BIOL 6980 Graduate Reading Course.
  • At least 14 credits (exclusive of dissertation) must be 5000- and 6000- level courses.
  • At least 12 credits (exclusive of dissertation) of the total program must be from the Department of Biology.
  • No more than 4 credits of BIOL 6970 Research Topics and/or BIOL 6980 Graduate Reading Course.
  • 12 credits exactly of BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research.
  • Students must be enrolled in a course (even if it is for zero credits) every fall and spring semester to maintain standing in the program; students on 11-month assistantships must also enroll during the summer.
Required Courses
BIOL 5800Research Colloquium (taken twice for 1 credit hour each time)2
BIOL 5860Scientific Communication1
Dissertation Research12
BIOL 6990
Dissertation Research (taken over multiple semesters)
Seminars
BIOL 6810Departmental Seminar (must be taken each semester enrolled)0
Take two semesters of the following:
BIOL 5820Graduate Seminar in Cell and Molecular Regulation (two semesters total; may be taken for 1-2 credits)2-4
or BIOL 5840 Graduate Seminar in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics
Elective Courses
Elective Courses17-19
Total Credits36

Elective Courses

Electives can be selected from any 4000-level or higher courses in Biology or related areas (subject to limits on 4000-level, 5970, and 5980 credit hours). Among the courses that can be taken as electives are:

BIOL 4090Plant Ecology3
BIOL 4100Natural History of Vertebrates4
BIOL 4120Field Botany5
BIOL 4130Field Mammalogy5
BIOL 4140Field Ornithology5
BIOL 4160Microbial Ecology and Molecular Evolution4
BIOL 4200Aquatic Ecology4
BIOL 4260Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles4
BIOL 4280Biology of Fishes4
BIOL 4320Cave Biology4
BIOL 4330Spring Flora of the Ozarks4
BIOL 4360Animal Behavior3
BIOL 4370Animal Behavior Lab1
BIOL 4410Comparative Animal Physiology3
BIOL 4440Vertebrate Histology: Structure and Function of Tissues4
BIOL 4480Conservation Biology3
BIOL 4510Behavioral Endocrinology3
BIOL 4540Human Systemic Physiology3
BIOL 4640General Microbiology3
BIOL 4650General Microbiology Laboratory2
BIOL 4720Cancer Biology3
BIOL 4910Internship in Conservation1-6
BIOL 4912Internship in Plant Science1-3
BIOL 5000Problems in Vertebrate Morphology2-5
BIOL 5030Genomics3
BIOL 5050Molecular Techniques Lab2
BIOL 5070Advanced Biological Chemistry3
BIOL 5080Advanced Cell Biology3
BIOL 5090Biometry4
BIOL 5190Geographic Information Systems in Biology3
BIOL 5350Current Topics in Cell Biology2
BIOL 5400Problems in Genetics1-4
BIOL 5480Conservation Biology3
BIOL 5550Advanced Ecology3
BIOL 5560Advanced Evolution3
BIOL 5610Principles of Develop Biology3
BIOL 5630Concepts of Immunobiology3
BIOL 5640Advanced Microbiology3
BIOL 5670Advanced Population Biology3
BIOL 5700Advanced Molecular Biology3
BIOL 5780Molecular Phylogenetic Analysis3
BIOL 5820Graduate Seminar in Cell and Molecular Regulation1-2
BIOL 5840Graduate Seminar in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics2
BIOL 6150Neural Basis of Behavior3

Non-Course Requirements

New Ph.D. degree students who enter the program with a B.S. or B.A. degree may take the written preliminary exam the first or second spring semester they are in the program. New Ph.D. students who enter the program with a master’s degree are required to take the written preliminary exam the first spring semester they are at SLU.

All doctoral students must pass written and oral exams to advance to candidacy; these are typically attempted at the end of the second and third semesters, respectively. All doctoral students must also complete one year of teaching. This can be accomplished by serving as a graduate teaching assistant, by completing two semesters of a practicum in a teaching course, or by other teaching experience approved by the student's committee and the department chair.

Continuation Standards

Students must maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 in all graduate/professional courses.

Roadmaps are recommended semester-by-semester plans of study for programs and assume full-time enrollment unless otherwise noted.  

Courses and milestones designated as critical (marked with !) must be completed in the semester listed to ensure a timely graduation. Transfer credit may change the roadmap.

This roadmap should not be used in the place of regular academic advising appointments. All students are encouraged to meet with their advisor/mentor each semester.  Requirements, course availability and sequencing are subject to change.

General Schedule 

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
FallCredits
4000/5000 level electives 1 5-6
BIOL 5800 Research Colloquium 1
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
 Credits6-7
Spring
Completion of Written Exams in May  
4000/5000 level electives 3
BIOL 5820
or BIOL 5840
Graduate Seminar in Cell and Molecular Regulation
or Graduate Seminar in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics
1-2
BIOL 5860 Scientific Communication 1
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
 Credits5-6
Summer
BIOL 6970 Research Topics 1
 Credits1
Year Two
Fall
Completion of Oral Exams  
4000/5000 level electives 4-3
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 5800 Research Colloquium 1
 Credits5-4
Spring
4000/5000 level electives 3-2
BIOL 5820
or BIOL 5840
Graduate Seminar in Cell and Molecular Regulation
or Graduate Seminar in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics
2-1
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1
 Credits6-4
Summer
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 2
 Credits2
Year Three
Fall
4000/5000 level electives 2-3
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
 Credits3-4
Spring
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1
 Credits1
Summer
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 2
 Credits2
Year Four
Fall
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1
 Credits1
Spring
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1
 Credits1
Summer
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1
 Credits1
Year Five
Fall
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1
 Credits1
Spring
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1
 Credits1
 Total Credits36
1

A maximum of six hours of 4000-level courses can count toward the Ph.D. 

Sample Schedule Cell/Molecular Biology Focus

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
FallCredits
BIOL 5050 Molecular Techniques Lab 2
BIOL 5700 Advanced Molecular Biology 3
BIOL 5800 Research Colloquium 1
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
 Credits6
Spring
BIOL 5070 Advanced Biological Chemistry 3
BIOL 5820 Graduate Seminar in Cell and Molecular Regulation 2
BIOL 5860 Scientific Communication 1
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
 Credits6
Summer
BIOL 6970 Research Topics 1
 Credits1
Year Two
Fall
BIOL 5030 Genomics 3
BIOL 5640 Advanced Microbiology 3
BIOL 5800 Research Colloquium 1
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
 Credits7
Spring
BIOL 5630 Concepts of Immunobiology 3
BIOL 5820 Graduate Seminar in Cell and Molecular Regulation 1
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
 Credits5
Summer
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 2
 Credits2
Year Three
Fall
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Spring
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Summer
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 2
 Credits2
Year Four
Fall
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Spring
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Summer
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Year Five
Fall
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Spring
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
 Total Credits36
1

After the second year, students should register for dissertation research (BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research (0-6 cr)), 1-3 credits/semester, until 12 credits are reached. After 12 credits have been reached, students should register for 0 hrs of BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research (0-6 cr) each semester until they graduate.

Sample Schedule Ecology/Evolutionary Biology Focus

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
FallCredits
BIOL 5550 Advanced Ecology 3
BIOL 5030 Genomics 3
BIOL 5800 Research Colloquium 1
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
 Credits7
Spring
BIOL 5110 Advanced Sex, Evolution and Behavior 3
BIOL 5840 Graduate Seminar in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 2
BIOL 5860 Scientific Communication 1
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
 Credits6
Summer
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1
 Credits1
Year Two
Fall
BIOL 5480 Conservation Biology 3
BIOL 5560 Advanced Evolution 3
BIOL 5800 Research Colloquium 1
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
 Credits7
Spring
BIOL 5840 Graduate Seminar in Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 2
BIOL 5670 Advanced Population Biology 3
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
BIOL 5810 Department Seminar 0
 Credits6
Summer
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Year Three
Fall
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Spring
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Summer
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Year Four
Fall
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Spring
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Summer
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Year Five
Fall
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1 1
 Credits1
Spring
BIOL 6810 Departmental Seminar 0
BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research 1
 Credits1
 Total Credits36
1

After the second year, students should register for dissertation research (BIOL 6990 Dissertation Research), 1-3 credits/semester, until 12 credits are reached. After 12 credits have been reached, students should register for 0 credits of Dissertation Research (BIOL 6990) each semester until they graduate.

For additional information about our program, please contact:

Jon Fisher, Ph.D.
Biology Graduate Program Coordinator
jonathan.fisher@slu.edu