Wake Forest’s Biology graduate program aims to produce the next generation of outstanding Teacher-Scholars. A combination of coursework, original research, and teaching experience fulfills that goal for our graduate students. Below is a summary of general graduate requirements, with differences for M.S, and Ph.D. students noted. Full details can be found in the Biology Graduate Handbook.
M.S. students are required to fulfill 30 hours of coursework. Of that, 24 hours must be from classes (minimum of 12 hours from graduate-only, 700-level courses), and the remainder may be thesis research hours. Choices of coursework should be made in consultation with the Graduate Advisor and the Advisory Committee.
Ph.D. students have no minimum required number of course hours. Classes taken are selected in consultation with the Advisory Committee, and are focused on acquisition of knowledge to support research and career goals.
The Graduate Advisor and Advisory Committee
Each student must have an Advisor who guides the student’s research. Applicants should familiarize themselves with the research interests and philosophies of the various faculty members to identify potential advisors. Most students enter the graduate program already knowing which lab they will enter, but some students may wish to do a short rotation through 2-3 labs before selecting an Advisor. All rotations must take place during the first semester of graduate study.
The Advisory Committee consists of the graduate Advisor and additional faculty members who provide intellectual assistance during the student’s pursuit of the thesis research. For M.S. students, the Committee consists of at least 3 faculty members. For Ph.D. students, the committee must have at least 5 faculty members, including one member from outside the WFU Biology department.
A prospectus is a formal document that describes the plan for the research, including an appropriate review of the current literature, produced by the student in consultation with his/her graduate advisor. It is subject to approval by the student’s advisory committee according to the timetable described in the Biology Graduate Handbook. It is not necessary to have preliminary data for the prospectus. It is more important that the student has reviewed the current literature, developed testable hypotheses, and outlined a practical and rational series of tests of those hypotheses.
Preliminary Exams for Ph.D. students
Advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree is contingent upon passing the Ph.D. Preliminary Examination that is administered and graded by the student’s Advisory Committee. The preliminary examination is normally given near the end of the student’s second year of graduate study. The Preliminary Exam consists of both written and oral parts, and is intended to demonstrate the student’s mastery of both foundational and area-specific knowledge.
Thesis/Dissertation Preparation and Final Examination
M.S./Ph.D. students must write a thesis/dissertation, give a public seminar describing their research, and successfully defend the thesis/dissertation during an oral examination.
To ensure that all graduate students are making consistent and timely progress toward their degrees, the Graduate Committee and Department Chair review yearly accomplishments, teaching, and advisory committee evaluations. Students update their information using the department’s online information system.
Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)
All incoming M.S. and Ph.D. graduate students in biology must take a 700 level RCR course in the Fall Semester. Ph.D. students are required to take an additional course in the Spring semester.
Most WFU Biology graduate students are supported by a Teaching Assistantship during some or all of their time in the program. Ph.D. students are required to have at least two semesters of teaching experience as part of their degree. All students that will be teaching must complete the WFU Graduate School and the Biology department TA training when they arrive on campus. Students must complete training before entering the classroom. The standard work load for a TA is 15-20 hours per week during the academic year.
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