Anatomical Sciences

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The Department of Anatomical Sciences, within the Health Sciences Center, offers a multidisciplinary graduate program leading to the Ph.D. degree. Students receive comprehensive training to prepare them for teaching and research in the areas of evolutionary morphology, systematics, functional morphology, musculoskeletal biology, and vertebrate paleontology. Graduate students are guided through a program of courses designed for their particular needs. In this regard, the Department of Anatomical Sciences interacts not only with other departments in the School of Medicine but also with those in the College of Arts and Sciences (e.g., Anthropology, Geosciences, and Ecology and Evolution), as well as other regional doctoral programs (City University of New York, American Museum of Natural History, Richard Gilder Graduate School).

The program trains students in the analysis and interpretation of gross vertebrate structure with the goal of testing hypotheses in systematics, paleocology and adaptation. Training and research focus on applying an evolutionary perspective to the study of morphology, including functional morphology and phylogenetic systematics. Field-based projects for the discovery of new fossils are typically underway every year. Both the locomotor and the craniodental anatomical systems are regions of current interest and investigation within the program. Several faculty in the department specialize in the application of experimental and quantitative techniques to the analysis of the relationship between form and function. Studies of skeletal adaptations are also facilitated by collaboration with the Musculoskeletal Research Laboratory of the Department of Orthopaedics. Questions of systematics are approached at different levels, ranging from alpha taxonomy to higher-order relationships and we provide training and contemporary methods for phylogenetic systematics and biogeography. Students in the program have the opportunity to master a variety of research methods and analytical strategies: electromyography, cineradiography, kinematics and kinetics, in vivo bone strain measurement, , quantitative morphology including scaling (allometry) and multivariate morphometrics, phylogenetic systematics, biogeography, scanning electron microscopy and tandem-scanning, CT-based anatomical reconstructions, reflected-light microscopy, behavioral ecology, and principles of paleontological fieldwork.

A. Formal Course Requirements

The following courses are required for all students in the program:

  1. Evolutionary Anatomy (Anatomy and Embryology )  HBA 541 (8 credits, fall)
  2. Statistics course approved by the advisor or department.
  3. Integrity in Science GRD 500 (1 credit, spring),
    required by the Graduate School
  4. Practicum in Teaching (HBA 695, 1-4 credits)

In addition, students are required to take three elective courses chosen in consultation with the student's advisor. These are typically selected from among those given by the Department of Anatomical Sciences or other departments at Stony Brook University. However, with approval of the student's advisor and the Graduate Program Director, elective courses may also be taken at other institutions. Click here to see a what a typical schedule might look like

Examples electives include: 
Anatomy Department Electives 

  1. Studies in Functional Morphology HBA 566 (2 credits, spring, even years)
  2. Primate Evolution HBA 564 (4 credits, spring, even years)
  3. Human Evolution HBA 565 (4 credits, fall, even years)
  4. Comparative Anatomy of Primates HBA 582 (4 credits, spring)
  5. Aspects of Animal Mechanics HBA 563 (2 credits, spring, odd years)
  6. Vertebrate Evolution HBA 550 (4 credits, spring, odd years)
  7. Systematics, Biogeography and Comparative Methods HBA 551, (4 credits, spring, even years)

Example Non-Anatomy Department Electives: 

  1. Principles of Evolution BEE 551 (4 credits, fall),
  2. Macroevolution BEE 561 (3 credits, spring, odd years),
  3. Geometric Morphometrics BEE 564 (3 credits, fall, even years)
  4. Molecular Evolution BEE 565 (3 credits, spring, odd years)
  5. Multivariate Analysis in Biology BEE 553 (3 credits, fall)
  6. Graduate Genetics BGE 510 (3 credits, spring)
  7. Principles of Development MCB 657 (3 credits, fall)

Depending on a student’s area of specialization, he/she may be required to take additional courses, to be determined in consultation with the advisor. A student must achieve a grade of B or higher in each of the required courses, and must maintain a B average or higher in all elective courses (note, as stated above, 3 electives are a required component of the Ph.D. program).

B. Preliminary Examination

Upon completion of formal courses (normally at the beginning of the fourth semester), each student is given an oral preliminary examination. Depending on the area of concentration, the examination covers human anatomy, embryology and one or more elective topics (e.g., vertebrate evolution).

C. Advancement to Candidacy

The faculty will recommend a student to the Graduate School for advancement to candidacy upon satisfactory completion of all required coursework and the preliminary examination. The student then becomes a formal candidate for the Ph.D.

D. Dissertation Proposal Examination

Following advancement to candidacy a student must select a dissertation committee consisting of at least 3 members of the Department of Anatomical Sciences (one of whom is the student’s advisor), and at least one person from outside the department (either at Stony Brook University or another institution). Students must formally present a list of his/her committee members to the Graduate Program Director. In consultation with this committee the student prepares a dissertation proposal. The dissertation proposal examination consists of an oral presentation of this proposal to the department as a whole, followed by an oral defense before the dissertation committee. The student must make the proposal available to the committee at least 3 weeks prior to the defense and to the faculty at large (by depositing it with the Graduate Program Coordinator), 2 weeks prior to the defense. This examination must occur no later than twelve months after passing the oral preliminary examination. Change to this deadline requires a formal petition to the faculty and is only granted under extenuating circumstances.

E. Ph.D. Dissertation

Students complete their dissertation research in Years 4 and 5. Students, under the supervision of his/her Dissertation Committee, perform the research leading to the preparation of their written dissertation. The dissertation must contain the results of an original and significant investigation.

F. Dissertation Defense

Following completion of the dissertation, and with the approval of the dissertation committee, a student must present his/her findings in a formal public oral defense. The student must make the written dissertation available to the dissertation committee at least 3 weeks prior to the defense and to the faculty at large (by depositing it with the Graduate Program Coordinator), 2 weeks prior to the defense. The defense is not chaired by the student's advisor, but rather by another member of the dissertation committee. Following the oral presentation of results and questioning by the audience, the student defends his/her results before the dissertation committee.

G. Teaching Requirement

Every student is required to teach medical human gross anatomy (HBA 531) at least once before graduation. In addition, students receiving a teaching assistantship are required to teach.

H. Residence Requirement

The University requires at least two consecutive semesters of full-time graduate study. Generally, the demands of the course of study necessitate a longer period of residence. However, pursuit of a degree on a part-time basis will be considered under special circumstances.

  • A bachelor’s degree typically in a field with ties to research in our department.
  • Letters of reference.
  • Results of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test and TOEFL for non-native speakers of English.
  • Acceptance by the Department of Anatomical Sciences and by the Graduate School.


Our students are supported by a variety of resources.  One of these is the Gabor Inke Fund, a special fund for the Department of Anatomical Sciences managed by the Stony Brook Foundation.  This fund was created by Professor Gabor Inke as a gift to the department.  Several of our students are also receipients of graduate fellowships from Stony Brook University's Turkana Basin Institute.  Recent recipients are Matthew Borths and Joseph Sertich.  Many of our students are also supported by funds from the National Science Foundation through awards to our faculty or directly to the students.  Current students holding National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships are Matthew Borths and Sara Burch.

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