Dec 04, 2023  
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog 
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Biological Sciences, (PhD)

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PhD Degree Program

Program objectives are: (1) understand biological principles, concepts, and theories, and in-depth knowledge in a chosen specialty; (2) develop expertise in experimental design, data analysis, and oral and written presentation of research results; and (3) become competitive for professional positions in the biological sciences.

Program Admission

  1. Application to The University of Memphis Graduate School. Application can be made on-line ( and
  2. Official transcripts of all previous academic coursework must be sent directly to The University of Memphis Graduate Admissions from the issuing institution. Prospective doctoral students must hold either an MS or a BS from an accredited institution. An overall minimum grade point average of 3.00 (on a 4.0 scale) for students with a BS or MS degree is usually competitive. Applicants whose highest degree is from a foreign institution must have their credentials evaluated by any credentialing agency listed on the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services’ website. The course-by-course report is required.
    1. Applicants must have satisfactorily completed (“C” or better) four upper division courses within the following six areas: Ecology, Genetics, Cell Biology, Microbiology, Physiology, and Evolution.
    2. Applicants must also have satisfactorily completed (“C” or better) seven courses within the following nine areas: General Chemistry I, General Chemistry II, Organic Chemistry I, Organic Chemistry II, Biochemistry, Physics I, Physics II, Calculus, and Statistics. Other courses in the sciences may substitute for these requirements.
  3. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is required and scores for the Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical Writing sections are an important factor in the admission process. GRE scores should be submitted directly to The University of Memphis Graduate Admissions by the testing agency.
  4. Department of Biological Sciences Graduate School Application, to be submitted in an online fillable form (
  5. A written letter from a prospective advisor within the Department of Biological Sciences that states that he/she will accept the applicant and how the student will be funded while in the program must be submitted to the Department of Biological Sciences. Applicants for the doctoral degree are expected to have made prior contact with potential research advisors in the department’s graduate program. This is a critical first step; no applicants will be accepted to the Department without an advisor. Faculty research interests are listed on the departmental website; applicants are encouraged to interact directly with those faculty members who have research interests that match their own interests.
  6. Two letters of recommendation from persons capable of assessing the applicant’s suitability for graduate work in biology must be submitted to the Department of Biological Sciences.
  7. International students for whom English is not their native language must submit proof that they have taken the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL); acceptable minimums are 550 for paper-based (PBT) and 79 for internet-based (IBT) exams. International applicants for Graduate Teaching Assistantships in the Department of Biological Sciences must obtain a score of 26 or higher on the spoken English component of the TOEFL iBT. Alternatively, applicants must take the SPEAK test (Speaking Proficiency English Assessment Kit) and obtain a score of 50 or higher in order to be appointed as a Teaching Assistant. The SPEAK test is The University of Memphis version of the TSE (Test of Spoken English), which was produced by Educational Testing Service.

Program Requirements

  1. A minimum of three academic years (72 credit hours) beyond the baccalaureate degree is required. A student entering the PhD program with a MS degree may be awarded 30 semester hours toward the 72 hours requirement. A minimum of 30 semester hours must be taken in residence.
  2. BIOL 8000 , BIOL 8004 , BIOL 8004 , BIOL 8092 , BIOL 8103 , BIOL 8200 , BIOL 8600 , and BIOL 9000 . BIOL 8000  must be completed during the first year of residence. Attendance at departmental seminars is mandatory. Up to nine hours of BIOL 8092 , and five hours of BIOL 8200  can be counted toward the degree requirements. Eighteen credit hours of BIOL 9000  must be completed during the program; no more than 18 hours will be counted toward the degree.
  3. Foreign Language and Research - Students are required to demonstrate competence in a foreign language or research tool, or both. Completion of this requirement will be determined by each student’s advisory committee.
  4. Becoming a Ph.D. Candidate is a two-step process that is usually completed by the end of the third year.
    1. A written and oral presentation of the student’s Research Prospectus will be made. Details of the plan of research must be approved by the advisory committee prior to collection of data.
    2. All students are required to take and pass a written and oral Comprehensive Examination administered by the student’s advisory committee before the end of their sixth semester in residence. The scope of the examination is broad and includes a review of general biological principles.
  5. A dissertation will be required of all candidates for the doctoral degree. The dissertation must show a mastery of the techniques of scientific research, and it must be a distinct and new contribution to the body of scientific knowledge. The student’s Advisory Committee must approve the topic, prospectus, and the final dissertation. At least 18 hours of research and dissertation credit (BIOL 9000 ) must be completed during the graduate program; no more than 18 hours will be counted toward the degree. NOTE: Students should familiarize themselves with the Thesis/Dissertation Preparation Guide before starting to write.
  6. A minimum of one published or fully accepted paper in a national or international peer reviewed scientific journal approved by the advisory committee is required.
  7. Dissertation Defense and Final Examination - The final examination will be conducted by the student’s advisory committee. The committee will consist, insofar as possible, of the same persons involved in the specialized knowledge examination. The final examination will be an oral defense of the dissertation and will be announced and open to the public. Upon successful completion of the examination and all degree requirements, the committee will recommend awarding the PhD.

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