For a better experience, click the Compatibility Mode icon above to turn off Compatibility Mode, which is only for viewing older websites.

Doctorate in Biological Sciences

The PhD in Biological Sciences is the terminal degree for students who wish to eventually pursue a leadership role in academic, governmental or industrial settings. To take on these roles, it is essential that each student have an advanced understanding of subjects related to their specialty. The core curriculum during the first year of study provides a strong background in the advanced concepts of relevant disciplines. In addition, readings and research methods provide students with the critical reading and writing skills required for the PhD candidacy examination.

The second year provides a range of more advanced and specialized topics as elective courses. This core sequence is reviewed by individual research committees, so that they can recommend specific courses based on each student’s background and needs. Drexel University College of Medicine classes may be taken as electives with the approval of the Research Committee.

Graduate Handbook [ PDF ]

General Requirements

Students are required to complete a total of 90 credits for degree completion. In accordance with University policy, the student’s Dissertation Research Committee will determine the specific number of courses and research credits required for each student. At the end of the first or second year, students will take the PhD candidacy examination to become a doctoral candidate. After successful completion of the candidacy examination, students will devote their efforts to the completion of an original research project. The results of the student’s research are expected to be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The student’s faculty adviser and Dissertation Research Committee guide progress towards these degree requirements.

Learn more in the Course Catalog


  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology
  • Conservation
  • Development & Aging
  • Ecology
  • Epigenetics
  • Evolution
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology
  • Neurobiology
  • Neuroimmunology
  • Stem cell biology

Mileposts in the PhD Program

  • Rotations: In-coming first year PhD students who were not directly recruited into a faculty member’s lab will undertake three lab rotations prior to selecting their PhD adviser. Rotating students will be required to do three rotations, based on the availability of research labs and the student’s scientific interests. Each rotation must occur in a separate laboratory.
  • Pre-candidacy research performance: Prior to their PhD candidacy exam, first and second year graduate students are expected to meet quarterly with their research advisers to discuss their overall research performance and goals. PhD students and their advisers are expected to complete a research performance evaluation form (below) at the end of each term.
  • Dissertation Adviser: Students should identify a dissertation advisor by the end of the spring quarter of the first-year.
  • Committee: The Dissertation Research Committee should be constituted by the end of the first year.
  • Coursework: Required coursework must be completed within the first two years of study.
  • Candidacy Exam: The Candidacy examination must be successfully completed by the end of the summer quarter of the second-year.
  • Dissertation: It is anticipated that each PhD student will complete their dissertation defense within five years. Drexel University requires that the dissertation be finished within seven years.
  • Forms: All PhD forms may be obtained at Drexel's Office of Graduate Studies. Download a precandidacy research evaluation form [PDF].

Teaching Fellow Policy

The College of Arts and Sciences regards training in pedagogy and instruction to be core to the mission of doctoral education.  Therefore, all PhD students in the College are required to perform significant teaching duties (defined over multiple terms) during their pursuit of their degree. These activities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Supervising teaching labs
  • Running course recitations
  • Teaching as the primary instructor
  • Running student seminars
  • Training junior researchers in core research methods
  • Running or actively participating in pedagogical seminars or conferences

Alternate fulfillment of this requirement is at the discretion of the program director and the head of the student's home department.

For information on course scheduling or waiving specific course requirements, please contact the graduate adviser:

Kathleen Pelusi

Learn more about the degree in the Course Catalog