The decision to enter graduate school is a decision to commit to a rigorous advanced scientific training program. Requirements for the Ph.D. include course work, participation in seminars relevant to the field of research, successful completion of an oral qualifying examination, one year of teaching experience, and completion of a research dissertation under faculty guidance.

The First Year
Upon arriving at Texas A&M, we help you get acclimated to life in College Station and in the Department of Biology. You will meet your fellow entering students, who will undoubtedly be a source of friendship and moral support during graduate school and beyond. You also are introduced to our faculty and staff, who will help you become an integral part of our Department.

First year studies primarily involve coursework related to your chosen field. By the end of the first year, our students draw up a personalized degree plan with the help of an initial guidance committee. Laboratory rotations are completed by end of the first year, and students identify the lab in which they will carry out their dissertation research.

The Second Year
During the second year, students complete required coursework and focus on learning the techniques they

Biology professor Mike Smotherman and graduate student, Grace Smarsh, discuss lab results. Photo courtesy of TAMU College of Science.

will be using to carry out their research. By the end of their second year, students are expected to have formally defined their research plan. Comprehensive written and oral qualifying exams are administered by the student’s dissertation committee members, and must be completed before the beginning of the third year. Passing the qualifying exam marks the student’s advancement to candidacy, and the remainder of graduate studies consists of dissertation research.

Third Year and Beyond
During their third and fourth years, students carry out the research that will form the body of their dissertation. Coursework is limited to seminars and special topics courses related to their research. As a part of their training, students will make presentations of their research project to their peers, attend seminars and participate in journal clubs. To complete the requirements for a Ph.D., students prepare and defend their dissertation in a public presentation. This is typically completed at the end of the fifth year, although some students complete sooner and some later than this.