Biology, PhD

The Biology Graduate Program represents many areas of biology, and interactions with a diverse group of colleagues provide opportunities to broaden every student’s thinking and make connections between different fields and scientific approaches. Areas of research include microbiology, cell biology, development, physiology, neuroscience, animal behavior, plant biology, genetics, computational biology, evolution, ecology and biodiversity. 

Each entering graduate student has the freedom to pursue topics ranging from the behavior of molecules to that of cells, organisms, genomes, and ecosystems. We encourage students to get broad exposure through lab rotations with any faculty member in the Biology Graduate Group. As students focus on more specific research interests, they tailor their graduate education accordingly, choosing courses from different departments and schools at Penn as appropriate.

Students complete most of their course work and lab rotations in the first year and then start their thesis research in the second year while completing their teaching requirement and preparing for their candidacy exams.  Students are then fully focused on thesis research by the end of the second year.  Students still have the option of taking additional courses in advanced years in order to enhance their graduate research.

View the University’s Academic Requirements for PhD Degrees.

Required Courses

The total course units for graduation in this program is 20.

Foundation Course
BIOL 700Advanced Topics in Current Biological Research1
Writing Course
BIOL 607Writing for Biologists1
Core Courses
Select two of the following:2
Advanced Evolution
Evolutionary Ecology
Theoretical Population Biology
Genetic Analysis
Cell Biology
Electives
Select three electives 13
1

See the website for a list of electives: http://www.bio.upenn.edu/graduate/handbook/academic-topics/course-requirements


The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2018 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.

Sample Plan of Study

Year 1
Fall
Advanced Topics in Current Biological Research
Cell Biology
Advanced Evolution
Statistics for Biologists (or other elective)
Independent Study and Research
Spring
Genetic Analysis
Evolutionary Ecology
Theoretical Population Biology
Electives
Independent Study and Research
Independent Study and Research
Summer
Thesis Research
Year 2
Fall
Additional Coursework
Independent Study and Research
Teaching Requirement
Spring
Additional Coursework
Writing for Biologists
Independent Study and Research
Teaching Requirement
Summer
Candidacy Exam
Year 3 and Beyond
Dissertation