Ph.D. Requirements

Ph.D. Program
Current Students

Introduction

The Ph.D. Program in Biological Sciences can be described in terms of 4 components: course work, qualifying examinations, teaching, and research. For further treatment of this topic consult the Graduate Student Handbook 

Course Work 

  • The Core Course in cell and molecular biology (G6001 - G6002 - G6003). Two semesters of this intensive course (in six to seven half-semester modules) cover genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology, structural biochemistry, neurobiology, immunology, and computational biology.
  • Pre-research Seminars (G9301): Faculty describe and discuss their current research.
  • Ethics: discussions on the conduct of science. Starting in 2010-2011, Research Ethics is offered in the Fall semester: BIOETHICS K4450 Research Ethics
  • Students must take the equivalent of two semesters of college-level math (Statistics and/or Calculus) if it was not taken previously. Students who have not fulfilled this requirement prior to enrollment are required to make up those undergraduate courses. Students may take more advanced mathematics, statistics or computer science courses as electives as needed to support their specific research interests.
  • Attendance at the weekly Departmental colloquium (outside speakers) is required. Seminars are usually held Mondays and Wednesdays at noon in Room 700 Fairchild.
  • Two approved graduate seminar courses. No more than one of the two elective courses may have a grade of "B-" and the average must be "B" or higher. Students entering the program with a Masters degree may be exempted from one elective course if they have taken a relevant PhD level course in their Masters program. A description of the course should be given to the Director of Graduate Studies for approval. For a list of elective courses go to pre-approved elective courses. Additional courses may also be allowed subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Qualifying Exams 

Qualifying Exam Part I: Successful completion of the Core Course sequence.(G6001, G6002, G6003).
Qualifying Exam Part II: a written research proposal describing an intended thesis project (~10 double-spaced pages) followed by an oral defense before a 2-person faculty committee. This exam may take place during the Spring semester of the second year. It must be completed by June 30th during of the summer of the second year, Qualifying Exam Part II Form

Teaching 

Experience in teaching is deemed an important and essential part of Ph.D. training. Two semesters are required for most students. Assignments include leading a recitation section and supervising a laboratory section. Extra credit is given for more demanding assignments. Students are given a short workshop in teaching technique at the start of this training. More information on teaching can be found in the Graduate Student Handbook. Here is a list of TA jobs available for Graduate Students.

Research 

Research constitutes the single most important component of the training program. Laboratory rotations begin in the first semester of the first year. Two or three rotations are strongly encouraged, but not required. A rotation period constitutes either an entire semester (i.e., Fall or Spring Semester) or the Summer term of the first academic year (i.e., mid-May to September). Thus, by the start of the second year, students will have settled into laboratories for their thesis research.
Back to Top 

Student Advisory Committees 

Starting in the second year (spring semester) or the fall semester of the third year, each student meets with an advisory committee consisting of their research sponsor plus two other faculty. This committee stays with the student until the completion of the program, the defense of the thesis.

Time to Degree 

First Year

Fall

Core I class - BIOL G6001, G6002
BIOL W4400 Computational Genomics - Choice 1 of 2 to fulfill core requirement for Genomics for advanced computational bio students.
Pre-research seminar - BIOL G9301
Rotation 1
Bioethics (BIET) K4450 Research Ethics (recommended to complete in the second year) 
1st Residence Unit (call #99991)

Spring

Core II class - Biol G6003 (with G6001, G6002 and Genomics completes Qualifying Exam 1)
BIOL W4510 Genomics of Gene Regulation - Choice 2 of 2 to fulfill Core requirement for Genomics for less advanced computational bio students.
Rotation 2
Elective (1 of 2)
2nd Residence Unit (call #99991)

Summer

Statistics or Calculus if needed
Rotation 3 (if needed) or Research in permanent lab

Second Year

Fall

Elective (2 of 2)
Teaching (1 of 2)
Research
Bioethics (BIET) K4450 Research Ethics (recommended to complete in the second year) 
3rd Residence Unit (call #99991)

Spring

BIOL G6300 Writing for the Biological Sciences
Elective (if needed)
Teaching (2 of 2, must be completed by the end of the third year)
Research
4th Residence Unit (call #99991)
Qualifying Exam 2 - link to form - must be completed by June 30th during of the summer of the second year

Apply for MA degree - link to application 
Students must complete the Masters Degree requirements by the end of the Second Year.

Summer

Research

Third Year

Fall

Complete Electives (if needed)
Research
5th Residence Unit (call #99991)
Qualifying Exam 2 - link to form - must be completed by December 31 of the Third Year

Spring

Complete Electives (if needed)
Research
6th and last Residence Unit (call #99991)

Apply for MPhil degree - link to program checklist - link to GSAS application 
Students must complete the Masters of Philosophy requirements by the end of the Fourth Year.

Summer

Research

Fourth Year

Fall, Spring

Research
Student Seminars (Fridays 5 pm, Room 700 Fairchild)
Extended Residence Unit
Annual Committee Meeting - link to form

Summer

Research

Fifth Year & Beyond

Fall, Spring

Research
Extended Residence Unit
Committee Meeting every 6 months - link to form

Summer

Research

Planning for Dissertation Defense 

Apply for Dissertation Defense - link to application
Distribute Dissertation to Committee Members 
Thesis Defense
Deposit Thesis

Departmental Retreat

Every other year, the entire department spends a weekend in the mountains discussing research projects. The most recent Mini-Symposium Retreat took place at Dolce Palisades, now HNA Palisades Conference Center.

Business Office

Department of Biological Sciences
500 Fairchild Center
Mail Code 2401
Columbia University
1212 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027

Academic Office

Department of Biological Sciences
600 Fairchild Center
Mail Code 2402
Columbia University
1212 Amsterdam Avenue
New York, NY 10027
biology@columbia.edu
212 854-4581