Doctor of Philosophy in Biological Sciences

John-Mary Vianney, Ph.D.

What IS IT?

The Doctor of Philosophy program in the Department of Biological Sciences offers a unique combination of traditional rigorous research experiences, breadth of coursework and training in effective communication and teaching of scientific concepts. This program is specifically designed for students who wish to pursue careers in the biological sciences that require excellence in both teaching and research. Students who earn their PhDs in our program typically go on to postdoctoral research positions and careers in academia or industry. Through in-depth research experiences with a faculty mentor, and preparation of an independent dissertation and peer-reviewed publications, students gain experiences that prepare them for careers involving experimental design, hypothesis testing, grant writing, team leadership and scientific communication in biological sciences.

Most PhD students are funded through teaching assistantships, which cover full-time tuition in the fall and spring semesters and an academic-year stipend.


The doctoral program offers students options to prepare for various career goals such as:

  • You want a graduate research experience with one of our dedicated faculty mentors
  • You want to develop research independence
  • You want to become proficient at developing hypotheses and thinking about experimental design
  • You want to conduct laboratory or field studies and gain experience analyzing and interpreting data
  • You want to improve your scientific writing skills and prepare your work for peer-reviewed publication
  • You want experience presenting your work at professional conferences in your field
  • You want to improve your grantsmanship skills
  • You are interested in a career that involves teaching and you value diverse teaching experiences, including the potential to serve as an instructor-of-record for a course
  • You want more upper-level course experience focused in a particular area
  • You are interested in postdoctoral positions and a career that requires a PhD
  • Pending approval from your faculty mentor, you are currently a full-time employee, and a PhD will open up promotion possibilities at your job


This program is open to applicants who meet the following:

  • You have already identified and communicated with a WMU faculty member who agrees to support your graduate research in their group.  This may be a commitment for your entire degree period or just for a first-semester rotation. Take a look at the list of faculty mentors and their areas of research expertise and reach out to faculty directly who are working in areas that interest you.
  • You graduated with your B.S. degree (and possibly Master's degree) in Biological Sciences or a closely related field, or intend to graduate prior to the start of your graduate work (i.e. you can apply in the last spring semester of your B.S. degree to begin the PhD program the following summer or fall)
  • You have not already earned a PhD
  • You earned a minimum GPA of 3.25 during your B.S. degree
  • You apply by the February 1 deadline at 11:59 pm ET for admission. There is one application deadline per year. See requirements below.


Admission is contingent upon meeting the following eligibility requirements:

1.     Apply for admission to the PhD program in biological sciences by clicking the Apply Now button below.  If applicable, select the term after your anticipated undergraduate graduation term on your application. (If you graduate with your B.S. in Spring 2021, list Fall 2021 as the start term on your application.

For your application, you must provide the following:

  • Completed application with personal statement addressing why you want to enroll in the PhD program and the faculty mentor(s) with whom you intend to work
  • Three letters of recommendation
  • Official transcript from undergraduate institution(s). For WMU students only, you may include an unofficial transcript instead.
  • Resume
  • Application fee
  • GRE scores are not required for admission

  • For international students, you must include IELTS (minimum score of 6.5) or TOEFL (minimum scores of 80 (paper) or 550 (internet) with your application

Decisions on admission are made about one month after applications are due.  For questions about the admissions process, contact Biology Graduate Admissions.

2.    Once you are admitted, you will be required to respond to accept admission and participate in a New Graduate Student Orientation immediately preceding the next Fall semester that you are enrolled. The Graduate College will also contact you about other orientation activities and training sessions.

Apply now


The program requires completion of 61 total credit hours

·      Two selected from any of the separate pairs of 6000-level courses listed below, or

·      ANY two of the following 6000-level courses with committee approval (6 credits)


BIOS 6110 — Eukaryotic Cell Biology Credits: 3 hours

BIOS 6120 — Prokaryotic Cell Biology Credits: 3 hours


BIOS 6130 — Animal Physiology Credits: 3 hours

BIOS 6140 — Plant Physiology Credits: 3 hours


BIOS 6150 — Ecology Credits: 3 hours

BIOS 6160 — Evolution Credits: 3 hours 

  • 3 semesters of Biological Sciences Colloquium (3 credits)

BIOS 6050 — Biological Sciences Colloquium Credit: 1 hour each

  • 19 credit hours of other elective courses. You will select elective courses that support your research experience and career goals.  Work with you faulty mentor and committee to select courses that are best suited to your needs. The majority of these credits will come from research activities, enrolled as BIOS 6010 with your faculty mentor.  Electives can also be selected from BIOS 5000 and 6000-level courses, or other cognate courses. Contact the Graduate Advisor for the Department of Biological Sciences for help enrolling.  For course information, please view the graduate catalog.
  • 1 semester or summer-intensive of teaching instruction (3 credits)

SCI 6180 - Teaching and Learning in the College Science Classroom Credit: 3 hours

  • 30 credit hours of research and dissertation credits

BIOS 7350 - Graduate Research (15 hours) and

BIOS 7300 - Doctoral Dissertation (at least 15 hours)


research requirements and timeline for the phd

All required forms are located at the Graduate College website.

When you are starting your program:

  • Identify your faculty mentor no later than the end of your first semester
  • Identify your committee members and hold your first committee meeting by your second semester (before March 1)
  • Fill out Permanent Program of Study form at the end of your second semester
  • Fill out Delayed Tuition Remission form by the TAU-suggested deadline, usually March for Summer I credits and May for Summer II credits
  • Enroll in courses for spring and fall by the earliest date possible each semester (March for Fall, October for Spring semester)
  • Apply for Graduate College Awards (deadlines vary)

When you are close to completing your program:

  • Apply to graduate by February 1 for summer I, summer II and fall graduations; October 1 for spring graduation.
  • Submit dissertation 2 weeks before your defense to your committee members
  • Defend thesis according to Graduate College Website deadlines (usually around 7 weeks before the end of the semester)
  • Submit dissertation to Graduate College for deadline as specified by the graduate college (usually 6 weeks before the end of the semester)


Additional program information can be found here.



If you are interested in the ongoing research in the Department of Biological Sciences, visit this page.  Reach out to faculty members directly to ask whether they are looking for new graduate students and to begin a conversation about conducting research in their group.

If you are a prospective graduate student with a question about the program requirements, application process or general questions about the department contact graduate admissions.

If you have applied to the program and have questions about your application paperwork, please email

Current graduate students at WMU who have questions should contact Dr. Devin Bloom, graduate advisor.