Progress and Forms

Biology Graduate Student Guidelines

Department of Biology Graduate Student Guidelines

Major milestones during graduate school include Supervisory Committee formation, submission of a research proposal leading up to the General Exam, and submission of a thesis leading up to the Final Exam. Students must meet annually with their committee, and this meeting requires a research update, a report from the student, and a report from the committee.



Requirements checklist

Requirement Deadline
TA 2 quarters Graduation
Prescription letter requirements From initial meeting with Graduate Program Committee Term of general exam
60 credits prior to candidacy, including 18 graded credits at 400- or 500- level; register for 600-level research credits Term of general exam
27 credits as PhD candidate, register for 800-level research credits Graduation

Supervisory committee formation

  • Chair = biology faculty and graduate faculty with endorsement to chair
  • >3 members Biology faculty (regular, research, emeritus, joint, adjunct, or affiliate), and at least half regular Biology faculty
  • >2 members and majority of committee graduate faculty with endorsement to chair
  • GSR = Graduate School Representative, a graduate faculty member with endorsement to chair who does NOT have a primary or joint appointment in Biology
Autumn 2nd year

General exam

  • Meet collectively with your committee in autumn. Bring the Pre-General Exam Report for committee members to fill in. Based on conversation at this meeting, prepare a 1-page summary of how you will prepare for the exam (for instance, what you will read and topics to study) and circulate this to the committee for comment.
  • As you are reading, convert some of these ideas and background into a research proposal (5-8 pages, or as recommended by your committee). Focus on conceptual synthesis, broad significance, and research design and analysis. 3 weeks prior to the general exam, send out your research proposal. Remind committee members to get written comments back to you within ONE WEEK (they voted on this).
  • Set a date/time and get a room early. Schedule your exam online.
  • Do a mock oral exam – this is not required but highly encouraged to get more of a “feel” for the process. Select grads who have already taken exams from your committee members to impersonate them and ask likely questions.
  • At the real exam, spend 20-30 minutes presenting your proposal, then up to a total of 3 hrs answering questions.
You may provide General Exam Report forms to your committee members, so that they can provide some written feedback on your exam to aid future progress in graduate school. Realistically, you might encourage committee members to provide their comments a few days after the exam, so they don’t have to be writing during the exam, and you have a little distance from the event. These forms were developed by Bio grads.

Spring 2nd year: Request exam and warrant online at least 1 week ahead of time. Return warrant to Graduate Program Administrator. 

Retakes must occur within 3 months.

Research proposal

3 weeks before exam

Annual committee meeting. You must meet with your committee annually.  For faculty that are on sabbatical, they may Skype or conference call into the meeting.  There are 3 documents each year:

Provide the Research Progress and Annual Report to your committee ahead of time.
Every year. Bring all 3 documents to Graduate Program Administrator
Graduate Student Symposium organized by… 3rd years
Research presentations Request departmental travel funds if not covered by grant


Determine a Reading Committee (3 committee members) and tell Graduate Program Administrator. Write. Receive feedback. Revise. Only the title and signature pages require special grad school formatting. Two print copies are required by the grad school.

Dissertation draft 6 weeks before exam. Turn in dissertation before the end of thee quarter in which you defended.

Final exam

Schedule your exam online


Set date, time, room 3 weeks before exam

General exam

DEADLINE:  The General Exam should be taken no later than Spring Quarter of the second year in residence.  If you are asked to retake the exam, the repeat examination should take place within three months.  If necessary this repeat exam may take place no more than three months after the end of the third year. Some key reminders:
  • Taken only after the official establishment of the supervisory committee.
  • Your committee chair should not chair the exam – select another person from within your committee.
  • At least 18 quarter credits of numerically graded course work and 60 regular credits must be taken prior to taking the General Exam. 
  • If you have a TA or RA appointment, register for 10 credits.  In the quarter that you will be taking your exam you must be registered for no less than 2 credits.  This also applies during Summer Quarter when registration is normally optional.  Student loans may require 5 credits during summer.
  • You and your committee members must agree upon a date, time and place (usually Kincaid 502, A042C or Hitchcock 312) for your exam.

Schedule your General Exam and request the warrant online.  Within a few days the Graduate Program Administrator (GPA, Marissa Heringer) will approve the exam date, time and place online.  An online Warrant will be generated for the GPA to print off along with the form that the Graduate School Repreentative (GSR) fills out.  Pick these up from the GPA before the exam. The system will also send an email to each member of your Supervisory Committee concerning your exam. After the exam bring the signed warrant back to the GPA, who then enters the exam outcome online.  Your signed Warrant stays in your file in the department.

After the general exam, register for Biology 800. You need 27 credits of Biology 800 in order to take your Final exam.

Final exam

Reading Committee: As you near the completion of the dissertation and before scheduling the Final Examination, a Reading Committee is selected to read and report on the dissertation.  Your research supervisor will help you to select 3 members of your Supervisory Committee to make up a Dissertation Reading Committee. Email the names of faculty members chosen to the Graduate Program Administrator (GPA, Marissa Heringer).  She will set up your reading committee online.  When the committee has been approved, an appointment letter will be emailed to the student and to all members of the Reading Committee from the Graduate School.

Application for the Final Exam  (make sure you have 27 credits of Biology 800)

1. At least Five weeks before the Final Examination give your Reading Committee a draft of your thesis. The thesis must be submitted to the Reading Committee at a reasonable time.  If the Reading Committee feels you are ready to take your final exam go to the next step.

2. Three weeks before the Final Exam contact all your Supervisory Committee members including the outside member and agree on an exam date, time and room.  To find a room, work with Gretchen Shirley-Bellande to reserve an academic room.  Popular rooms include are PAB A110, A114, Fishery Building 102, K-069, and HCK 132.  Pick a final title for the thesis.  Request your Final Exam and warrant online. Within a few days the GPA will approve the exam date, time and room online (graduate school must check your transcript first).  An online Warrant will be generated for the GPA to print, along with the form that the GSR fills out (they should be emailed about printing their own off but faculty do not read all their emails). The GPA will get these to you a week before the exam.  The system will also send an email to each member of your Supervisory Committee concerning your exam.

3.  After the exam bring the signed warrant back to the GPA, who approves your passing of the exam online.  Your signed Warrant stays in your file in the department.

4.  The reading committee typically requires revisions of your dissertation draft.  Once you have made the necessary revisions, you will need to give the final version to your committee members.  You are now required to get the signatures of all your Reading Committee members verifying that they have seen and approved the FINAL version of your dissertation.  The Final Signature Page must be completed BEFORE the graduate school will accept your dissertation and grant you your degree.  It means that you have to schedule the extra time it takes for the Reading Committee members to look over the final version and for you to get their signatures.

5.  The Graduate School recently removed stringent formatting requirements.  Students only need the title and signature pages reviewed prior to final submission.  These pages should now be sent by email to Graduate Enrollment Management Services (GEMS) at  They will review and reply to these requests within 5 business days.

6.  To receive your degree for the quarter you take the exam, everything must be turned in by the last day of exams for that quarter.  IF YOU DO NOT SUBMIT THE DISSERTATION BY THE LAST DAY OF THE QUARTER, REGISTRATION (2 credits) WILL BE REQUIRED FOR THE FOLLOWING QUARTER

TA job descriptions

TA job descriptions for the coming quarter.

Science Positive blog

Science Positive is a variety show covering the different interests and research of a broadly integrative biology department's graduate students. Expect photos, critiques and notices of new peer-reviewed research, audio presentations, and occasional reports about our own research. Individual students are responsible for their own confidentiality requirements.