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The Department of Biological Sciences is the focal point for research in the Life Sciences at the University of Notre Dame. The Graduate Program in Biological Sciences encompasses the broad scope of biological inquiry with several areas of study in the Biomedical Sciences, Global Health, and Ecology, Evolution & the Environment (EEE). This uncommon level of wide-ranging yet integrative biological inquiry provides an extraordinary environment for learning, innovation and collaboration.
The program provides a wide choice of faculty advisors, many of who lead their disciplines by serving as officers of professional societies, on journal editorial boards, study sections, scientific advisory boards and as consultants for various organizations. Many are recipients of prestigious awards and several are elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). This vibrant research community continues to expand its faculty, both within the department and with associated faculty at the Indiana University School of Medicine at South Bend adjacent to the Notre Dame campus, and other departments at Notre Dame.
The department is home to over 140 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and is housed mainly in the Galvin Life Sciences Building at the center of the Notre Dame campus.
For the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences, each student is expected to complete a 60-credit hour program. This requirement is composed of at least 24 credit hours of course work and the remainder as dissertation research. Through the combination of coursework (24 credit hours above) and non-curricular activities, students demonstrate competency in the following six areas:
- Foundational Knowledge: Students demonstrate adequate foundational knowledge of discipline. The Graduate Advisory Committee and/or major advisor may require student to complete one or more foundational knowledge courses.
- Advanced Discipline Knowledge: Students must demonstrate adequate advanced knowledge of discipline. The majority of formal courses will be taken in this area. Specific course requirements will be set by the Graduate Advisory Committee.
- Professional Skills and Development: Students must demonstrate proficiency in proposal development, manuscript preparation, experimental design, and oral presentation. These skills can be acquired through formal course instruction, workshops, or informal instruction by graduate mentor. Proficiency will be determined by the Graduate Advisory Committee.
- Research Tools: Students must demonstrate proficiency of specific research tools as indicated by the Graduate Advisory Committee. Other skills can be acquired through formal course instruction, workshops, or informal instruction by the graduate mentor.
- Trans/Interdisciplinary Thinking: Students must engage in some form of trans- or inter-disciplinary thinking. This skill can be acquired through formal course instruction, workshops, or enrollment in an inter-disciplinary seminar course. Fulfillment of the requirement will be determined by the Graduate Advisory Committee.
- Ethics: Students must complete one formal course or workshop in Ethics training. This requirement may or may not count towards the credit hour requirements depending on the course/workshop that is completed. Any student supported on NSF or NIH funding must complete Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) training as offered through the Graduate School.
Students must pass a comprehensive written exam over foundational and advanced discipline knowledge.
Students must pass an oral candidacy exam that includes writing and defense of a scientific research proposal. The proposal rigor and format should meet the requirements of an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant in the Directorate for Biological Sciences or in the format of an NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA).
Students must pass a dissertation defense. When the research is completed, the student writes the dissertation, which is then read by the adviser and the students advisory committee. Upon approval, the student gives a final public oral presentation of the research, followed by an oral examination/defense of the research to the advisory committee.
- one completed Graduate School application form
- one un-official transcript from each postsecondary institution attended – college, university, or seminary
- verbal, quantitative, and analytical scores in the General Test of the Graduate Record Examination
- three letters of recommendation from former undergraduate or graduate instructors particularly qualified to attest to the applicant’s qualifications for graduate study
- a personal Statement of Intent detailing graduate plans and expectations (see below for details)
- Curriculum vitae
- scores from the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or IELTS if English is not the applicant’s native language or was not the language of instruction for the baccalaureate degree. For the TOEFL, we expect international applicants to have a total score of 250 or above on the CBT or 600 on the paper test. On the TOEFL IBT, the minimum score is a total of 80 points, with a minimum of 23 on the Speaking section. If you are taking the IELTS, the minimum score is 7.0.
The University offers five types of support to full-time graduate students: fellowships, teaching and research assistantships, tuition scholarships, training grant scholarships, and grants-in-aid. All assistantships and fellowships provide a full tuition scholarship. A 12-month stipend is $28,840.
University Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis. Most graduate students are supported as teaching assistants (TAs) or research assistants (RAs). A student supported by a teaching assistantship will perform duties involving classroom or laboratory teaching. A student supported by a research assistantship is supported by sponsored research grants or internal funds to the faculty advisor. All graduate students are expected to conduct research and complete coursework as required by the program, no matter the source of the support (fellowship, TA, or RA).