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Application and Policies

Information on this page pertains only to the Ph.D. program in Biology. Admission to the Biology Graduate Program is normally offered only to those students intending to complete the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Some Ph.D. candidates may choose to complete the Master of Arts degree en route to the doctoral degree.

Eligible Clark University undergraduates may apply to enter the program as master's degree candidates through Clark's Accelerated B.A./Master's Degree Program.

Application Requirements

Application requirements for the Ph.D. program:

  • Completed application form
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary schools attended
  • Three completed confidential recommendation forms
  • Official GRE score reports
  • Official TOEFL score reports for applicants from countries where English is not the primary language
  • Application fee of $50

Download application forms [PDF]

The normal deadline for applications to the Ph.D. Program is Jan. 15, for admission the following September. Occasionally, applicants may be considered at other times during the year, including applications for January admission. Prospective applicants should consult with the Director of Graduate Studies before submitting an application for consideration at a time other than the normal Jan. 15 deadline.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is available to qualified Ph.D. students. This may be in the form of tuition scholarships, teaching assistantships and some research assistantships. Teaching assistantships offer a twelve month stipend and tuition remission. Applicants are considered for assistantships in conjunction with admission. The Department also provides financial support for travel to scientific conferences at which students make presentations. Students are encouraged to seek other funds for support of research and travel expenses.

Eligibility normally lasts five years for students in good standing. Support beyond the fifth year may be requested, up to maximum of seven years total (extensions of support beyond seven years will only be considered under exceptional circumstances). Information on tuition and fees, housing, and scholarships, fellowships and assistantships, can be found in the Graduate Program section of the Academic Catalog.

Residency Requirements

The Graduate School requires a minimum of 16 semester courses in residence for the Ph.D. Courses must be completed with a grade of B- or better to earn graduate credit. The time necessary for completion of the degrees will depend on the student's research and is usually in excess of this minimum. Part-time graduate work is discouraged as it is impractical for a research degree.

Advisory Committee

Early in their first semester, new students should meet with a prospective advisor to discuss possible course requirements and Advisory Committee members. Students may elect to work with any member of the Department faculty, including Adjunct and Affiliate faculty. The responsibilities of the Advisory Committee are: (1) to determine what courses must be taken; (2) to meet at least once a year to assess the student's progress; and (3) to administer the qualifying examination, proposal defense, and thesis defense, and to inform the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee regarding their outcome. The Advisory Committee must include the student's advisor, who serves as Chair of the committee, and at least two full-time faculty members of the Department of Biology (excluding Adjuncts and Affiliates).The advisor may invite additional scholars from within or outside the University to join the Advisory Committee. The advisor submits the proposed Advisory Committee to the Department Chair, who appoints the committee. The Advisory Committee should be chosen and a full committee meeting should be held by the end of the first year of study.



Course Requirements

Each student's Advisory Committee will determine which courses must be taken, based on the student's research interests and prior training. These requirements, as well as the residency requirement, will be met with a grade of B- or better. Grades lower than B- will not be counted towards the degree, and students who accumulate more than two grades lower than B- will not be allowed to continue in the program. In addition to formal courses stipulated by the committee, graduate students are required to enroll in the Graduate Research Seminar (BIOL 350) and attend all departmental seminars.


Graduate Studies Committee

This is a three member committee composed of Biology Department faculty. The Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee keeps records of each graduate student's progress towards the Ph.D. and sends an annual letter to every student informing them of their status. The student's advisor should notify the Chair of the Graduate Studies Committee when Advisory Committee meetings and examinations (see below) are scheduled, and should report their outcome.

Teaching Requirements

Teaching requirements: Students conducting doctoral research are required to assist in the teaching of a course (or courses) for at least two semesters.

The Qualifying Examination

Ph.D. candidates must take a qualifying examination. It is expected that this examination will be completed by the end of the second year in residence. The qualifying examination consists of a series of written examinations on specific subject areas administered by each Advisory Committee member, followed by an oral examination on the same subjects, as well as general subjects in Biology. The Advisory Committee will decide whether the student passes or fails. Students who fail the qualifying examination may, at the discretion of the advisory committee, be given one additional opportunity to take the examination, or may be required to leave the Ph.D. program (it may be possible for some students to complete a masters thesis at this point, with the approval of the advisory committee). Students who fail the qualifying examination twice will be required to leave the Ph.D. program.

M.A. Degree

Ph.D. candidates who write an acceptable thesis, and pass a final oral examination may be awarded the M.A. degree. A master's degree is not a prerequisite for a Ph.D., but a student may choose to write a master's thesis, or the faculty may require that the student do so. A paper accepted by a refereed journal may be submitted in lieu of a thesis with the approval of the Advisory Committee.

Third Year Seminar

Ph.D. candidates must present a departmental seminar during their third year in residence.

The Proposal Defense

Each Ph.D. candidate must pass a proposal defense. It is expected that the proposal defense will normally be taken by the end of the third year, and at least six months after the qualifying examination has been passed. The proposal defense is administered by the Advisory Committee, plus any additional scholars from within or outside the University who might be invited by the Chair of the Advisory Committee to participate. The proposal defense is an oral examination that is based on a written research proposal. The proposal must be delivered to the committee at least two weeks prior to examination.

Ph.D. Dissertation

The Ph.D. dissertation is written under the supervision of the student's advisor, and is based on the student's original research. Formal guides are available on the Office of Graduate Studies and Research web pages.

Papers published in or accepted by a refereed journal may be submitted as part of a thesis with the approval of the Advisory Committee. A copy of the work, in final format and approved by the student's advisor must be submitted to each member of the examining committee and made available to the department faculty as a whole at least one week before the final examination, and at least six weeks prior to commencement.


Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense consists of two parts: a public seminar in which the student presents his or her research, and an oral thesis defense before the Advisory Committee. The examination is conducted by the Advisory Committee, and any additional persons from within or outside of the University whom the Chair of the Advisory Committee may appoint. The Chair of the Department has final approval over the composition of the examining committee. The Chair of the Advisory Committee notifies the Graduate Studies Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School when the defense has been scheduled, and also informs them of the outcome of the Dissertation Defense.

Acceptance of Dissertation

Acceptance of thesis or dissertation: after revisions required by the advisory committee have been made, the thesis or dissertation is submitted to the thesis advisor for final approval and signature. The original copy, bearing the advisor's signature, must be delivered to the University Format Advisor no later than four weeks before Commencement (if the student is participating in Commencement activities). One copy must be submitted to the Biology Department, and another to the thesis advisor. The Biology Department will pay the cost of printing and binding the departmental copy of the thesis, as well as copies for the student and the advisor.

Requests for Continuing Support

At the beginning of the spring semester, the Graduate Studies Committee will send each Ph.D. student a letter that includes a copy of the student's record of progress and form that allows the student to request support as a Teaching Assistant in the coming academic year. Students should update their records, indicate whether or not they desire continuing T.A. support, and return the form to the Graduate Studies Committee by February 15. Students who are requesting support beyond the fifth year should include a statement of progress and a timetable for completion of degree requirements. The Department, through the Graduate Studies Committee, and consultation with the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research, will inform students regarding the availability of T.A. support by the end of the spring semester.


Example Timetable for Ph.D. program*:

Year 1 New graduate student orientation meeting (in the first few weeks of the semester)
Campus-wide orientation for few new graduate students
Meeting with prospective advisor(within first two weeks of the semester)
Selection of Advisory Commitee members
Advisory Committee meeting
Year 2 Qualifying examination
Year 3 Proposal defense
Departmental seminar
Year 4 Advisory Committee meeting
Year 5 Dissertation defense (at least five weeks before commencement, if the student is participating in commencement activities)
Submission of thesis (at least four weeks before commencement, if the student is participating in commencement activities)

*This is an example; it is expected that some students will deviate from the general timetable outlined here.