Apr 18, 2024  
Graduate Catalog | 2016-2017 
Graduate Catalog | 2016-2017 Previous Edition

Biology, Ph.D.

The Ph.D. in Biology Program has as its intellectual focus an interdisciplinary synthesis of the biological sciences and related biotechnology. In addition to a vigorous research concentration, the program emphasizes the importance of relevant coursework. All students are required to complete a series of core courses related to the interdisciplinary nature of the program. Students must choose the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCD) concentration or the Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology (E3B) concentration before selecting elective courses. The cornerstone of the program is the student’s research dissertation. Each dissertation is expected to be a significant scientific contribution based on independent and original research, leading to publications in national/international peer-reviewed journals.

For further information, please see the department website at biologicalsciences.uncc.edu.

Admission Requirements

Applicants will be evaluated in a holistic manner to identify those who have the greatest potential for success. In addition to the general requirements for admission to the Graduate School, to begin study toward the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Biology, students admitted to the program should have:

  1. A B.S. or B.A. degree from an accredited university.
  2. An overall grade point average of at least 3.0 out of 4.0. Additionally, applicants must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in biology, 3.0 in chemistry, and 3.0 in mathematics.
  3. A score on the Graduate Record Examination General Test in at least the 65th percentile (average for the verbal, quantitative, and analytical sections).
  4. A minimum of 24 hours in biology, including at least one course in genetics, physiology, and cell/molecular biology. Additionally, applicants should have one year each of general chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Applicants with academic deficiencies may be admitted on the condition that any deficiencies are corrected during the first year of graduate study. The Graduate Ph.D. Committee will determine the remediation necessary for identified deficiencies.
  5. A score of at least 100 on the Internet-based, 220 on the computer-based, or 557 on the paper-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), or a minimum overall band score of 6.5 on the IELTS, for applicants whose native language is not English. Students who do not pass this examination must pass ENGL 1100 (English as a Foreign Language) with a grade of C or above. In addition, these students who will be involved in any instructional activity (e.g., teaching assistants) will be required to be evaluated by the English Language Training Institute at UNC Charlotte prior to the beginning of the first semester of study.
  6. Three letters of reference, at least two of which must be from faculty members.

Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. acknowledges the value of coursework as background and preparation for research, but the primary emphasis of the program is on the development of research skills and the completion of a research project on a significant problem in the biological sciences or related biotechnology.

The program requires 72 post-baccalaureate credit hours.  All students are required to take a general curriculum that includes a sequence of courses as shown below. 

Concentration Course

Select one of the following, based on concentration:

Concentration Elective Courses

Students should select a minimum of 9 credit hours of elective courses; to be determined in consultation with the student’s Dissertation Committee, but typically will consist of at least three 3 credit hour courses from either the MCD or E3B concentration.  At least half the total elective hours, including the concentration requirement must be at the 8000-level.  Elective courses outside the concentration may be substituted upon approval from the Supervisory Committee and Graduate Program Director.

Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Concentration Elective Courses

Select from the following:


Grade Requirements

Students must maintain a cumulative average of 3.0 in all coursework taken for graduate credit. Lab rotations and the dissertation research are graded on a Pass/Unsatisfactory basis and therefore are not included in the cumulative average. An accumulation of one C grade results in suspension from the program; two C grades results in termination of enrollment in the graduate program. If students make a grade of U in any course, enrollment in the program is terminated.

Transfer Credit

Only courses with grades of A or B may be accepted for transfer credit; courses graded IP/P typically cannot be transferred among graduate programs.  Although the maximum amount of credit past the baccalaureate degree that a Ph.D. student may count towards the doctorate is 30 credit hours, only courses appropriate for the program and curriculum in which the student is enrolled may be transferred.  This should be determined by the student’s Dissertation Committee and approved by the Graduate Program Director, before the request is submitted to the Graduate School.  This rule applies whether the courses were taken at UNC Charlotte or elsewhere, and whether a Master’s degree was earned or not.  However, no more than six hours taken when the student was in post-baccalaureate (non-degree seeking) status may be applied toward the doctoral degree.

Departmental Seminars

Graduate students are expected to attend all seminars sponsored by the Department of Biological Sciences.  In addition, each student is required to make a 20 minute presentation on his/her research at the departmental seminar after entering his/her 2nd year in the program.  The Graduate Program Director will work out the logistics with the department seminar coordinator concerning the arrangement of students’ presentations.

Advancement to Candidacy

For Advancement to Candidacy, students must pass the Qualifying Examination by the end of the 5th semester of study.  The Qualifying Examination can be taken only after all coursework for the degree has been completed, with the exception of the Doctoral Dissertation Research.  Following successful completion of the Qualifying Examination, a dissertation topic is proposed to the student’s Dissertation Committee by the end of the 6th semester of study.  Students advance to candidacy following approval of the proposed dissertation topic by their Dissertation Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School.

Obtaining the Non-Thesis M.S. While Completing the Ph.D. Degree

Ph.D. students may choose to receive the non-thesis M.S. degree while continuing to work toward the doctoral degree provided they have successfully completed the Qualifying Examination and completed at least 30 credit hours of coursework, and two credit hours of BIOL 6800  culminating in a written assignment developed in consultation with the student’s major advisor. Obtaining the non-thesis M.S. requires dual enrollment in the Ph.D. and M.S. programs. Doctoral students can apply for enrollment in the M.S. program after entering the Ph.D. program.

Dissertation Requirement

The doctoral program of study must include a minimum of 18 hours of dissertation credit. Students must complete and defend a dissertation based on a research program approved by their dissertation committee, which results in a high quality, original and substantial piece of research. Students must orally present and successfully defend the dissertation to their dissertation committee in a defense that is open to the public. A copy of the dissertation must be made available for review by the program doctoral faculty at least two weeks prior to the public defense.

UNC Charlotte Residency Requirement

Students must satisfy the UNC Charlotte residency requirement for the program by completing 20 credit hours, either as coursework or research credits.  Residence is considered to be continuous if students are enrolled in one or more courses in successive semesters until 20 credit hours are earned.

Laboratory Research Rotations

Optional laboratory research rotations allow the student to sample areas of research and become familiar with program faculty. Students may engage in a maximum of 3 rotations. Each rotation consists of a minimum of 4 weeks and there is no expectation that the work done during the rotation results in a publication. By the end of their second semester, students must have determined their major advisor. A rotation must have been completed in the advisor’s laboratory.

The purpose of a laboratory rotation is to learn and perform techniques associated with the lab, and to potentially identify a Dissertation Advisor. A typical rotation involves 5-10 hours per week in the laboratory for 4-10 weeks. Students are encouraged to identify a sponsoring faculty member well in advance of the scheduled rotation. Students must meet with the sponsoring faculty member to determine what will be done during the rotation (i.e., techniques to be learned and identification of the project to be completed). At the end of the rotation, students must write a one- to two-page synopsis of the rotation to be signed by the sponsoring faculty member and turned in to the Graduate Program Director.

Student Teaching

Every student must teach at least once. This requirement is satisfied by being a Graduate Teaching Assistant for one course for one semester.

Deadlines/Progression Requirements

  1. A student must have an advisor by no later than the end of the 2nd Semester.
  2. A student must establish their Dissertation Committee by the end of the 3rd Semester.
  3. A student must have a Program of Study/Curriculum Contract approved by the Dissertation Committee by the end of the 3rd Semester.
  4. The student and Dissertation Committee must meet by the end of the 4th Semester to set a timeline for the candidacy exam.
  5. The student is required to meet with their Dissertation Committee at least once a year.
  6. The deadline for completing the candidacy exam is the end of the student’s 5th Semester.
  7. A student must have a Dissertation Proposal approved by their Dissertation Committee by the end of the 6th Semester.

Time Limits for Completion

All requirements for the degree must be completed within eight years after first registration as a doctoral student. Students must achieve admission to candidacy within six years after admission to the program and complete all requirements within six years after admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. These time limits are maxima; students are typically expected to complete the degree requirements within five years.