Graduate Students are required to complete at least 13.5 cus. A minimum of seven (7) courses are needed to fulfill the course requirements (see list below). An additional 6.5 credits are fulfilled by a series of rotations and independent research beginning in the first semester.
Students may request a waiver of one or more required courses and take substitute courses as recommended by the Advising Assessment Committee. The decision to grant a waiver of a required course will be dependent upon the student's experience as well as their research interest.
The Advising Committee may recommend additional course work depending upon each student’s strengths and weaknesses.
Students must take BIOL 7000 in fall of the first year and BIOL 6010 in spring of the second year, 2 Core Courses, and 3 Electives. The Advising/Assessment Committee will assist students in determining courses as well as selections for lab rotations.
- BIOL 7000 – Advanced Topics in Current Biological Research (fall only)
- BIOL 6010 – Communication for Biologists (spring only)
Core courses (2 of the classes below)
- BIOL 5022 – Cell Signaling (fall only)
- BIOL 5220 – Human Evolutionary Genomics (spring odd years)
- BIOL 5231 – Genome Science and Genomic Medicine (spring only)
- BIOL 5233 – The Genetics of Adaptation: How sex, conflict, and pathogens shape modern genomes (spring only)
- BIOL 5234 – Epigenetics (spring only)
- BIOL 5240 – Genetic Analysis (spring even years)
- BIOL 5410 – Evolutionary Biology (spring only)
- BIOL 5430 – Evolution and Ecology of Infectious Diseases (fall only)
- BIOL 5517 – Theoretical Population Biology (spring only)
- BIOM 6000 – Cell Biology (fall only)
Elective Courses (Students select 3 elective courses and are strongly encouraged to take one elective course outside of their research area).
- BIOL 5010 – Advanced Cell Biology
- BIOL 5016 – Molecular Mechanisms of Infectious Disease Biology
- BIOL 5022 – Cell Signaling
- BIOL 5024 – Cell Motility and Cytoskeleton
- BIOL 5026 – Chromosomes and the Cell Cycle
- BIOL 5116 – Neural Circuits for Survival
- BIOL 5220 – Human Evolutionary Genomics (not offered every year)
- BIOL 5231 – Genome Sciences and Genomic Medicine
- BIOL 5233 – The Genetics of Adaptation: How Sex, Conflict, and Pathogens Shape Modern Genomes
- BIOL 5234 – Epigenetics
- BIOL 5235 – The RNA World: A Functional and Computational Analysis (not offered every year)
- BIOL 5240 – Genetic Analysis
- BIOL 5244 – Epigenetics of Human Health and Disease (not offered every year)
- BIOL 5310 – Molecular Physiology
- BIOL 5314 – Molecular Evolution of Physiological Functions
- BIOL 5318 – Integrative Physiology and Biomechanics of the Muscular System
- BIOL 5430 – Evolution and Ecology of Infectious Diseases
- BIOL 5510 – Statistics for Biologists
(Students without a strong background in Statistics will be required to take this course.)
- BIOL 5517 – Theoretical Population Biology
- BIOL 5535 – Introduction to Computational Biology and Biological Modeling
- BIOL 5536 – Fundamentals of Computational Biology
- BIOL 5600 – Field Botany
- BIOL 5615 – Freshwater Ecology
- BIOL 5669 – Plant Physiology Through Space and Time
- BIOL 5710 – Topics in Prokaryotic Biology: From Molecules to Microbiomes
- BIOM 5550 – Regulation of the Genome
- BIOM 6010 – Cell Biology
- CAMB 5110 – Principles of Development
- CAMB 5500 – Genetic Principles
- CAMB 7520 – Genomics
- GCB 5350 – Introduction to Bioinformatics
- IMUN 5060 – Immune Mechanisms
- NGG 5720 – Electrical Language of Cells
- NGG 5730 – Systems Neuroscience
- STAT 5100 – Probability
Students can also take courses from the Biomedical Graduate Studies Program in the Medical School as part of the electives with permission of the Advising Committee.
Graduate students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 in each academic year. A grade of C in a course, while passing, does not constitute satisfactory progress.
Courses as Recommended by Graduate Students
- CIT 5900 – learn to program in Java and Python; good for learning how to properly write code
- BIOL 5220 – particularly helpful for anyone interested in genetics, genomics, evolution, and computational biology, but students from most biological disciplines will be able to get something useful out of the course.
- BIOL 5024 – Cell motility and cytoskeleton
- BMB 5090 – Structural and Mechanistic Biochemistry
- BE 5460 – Fundamental Techniques of Imaging
Additional Information on Graduate Work
Students will also be expected to do research during the summer months.
Once a student has completed coursework as stated by the advising committee, program requirements such as lab rotations, teaching duties, and passed Candidacy Exam, the student is on dissertation status. Students will automatically be registered for BIOL 9995 – Dissertation each semester.
First year students funded by Educational Fellowships may take up to 8 course units (CUs): 4 in the fall semester and 4 in the spring semester. These course units include lab rotations taken as BIOL 9999 Independent Study.
Usually, second-year students are funded by Teaching Fellowships. If continued coursework is necessary, students funded by teaching fellowships can take up to 3 course units per semester, including research work done as an Independent Study (BIOL 9999).
Students funded by other means, such as Research Fellowships or Training Grants, take 4 course units for the fall and spring semesters for a total of 8 courses unit per year.
Advanced students are registered for BIOL 9995 – Dissertation. In addition to BIOL 9995, advanced students are allowed to take one additional course per semester under the current tuition structure. Course can be for credit or as an audit.
A typical academic plan for a Biology Graduate student is as follows:
First Year – Fall Semester (3.5 CUs)
- BIOL 7000 – Topics in Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology (Required)
- BIOM 6010 – Cell Biology or other core course
- BIOL 5510 or other elective
- BIOL 9999 – First Lab Rotation (0.5 CU)
First Year – Spring Semester (4 CUs)
- BIOL 5240 – Genetic Analysis or
- Elective Courses, encouraged to take one course outside of research area.
- BIOL 9999 – Second Lab Rotation (.5 CU)
- BIOL 9999 – Third Lab Rotation (.5 CU)
First Year – Summer
- Start of thesis research
Second Year - Fall Semester (3 CUs)
- Additional course work as recommended by the Advising Committee
- BIOL 9999 – Independent Research in lab of advisor.
- Teaching Requirement
Second Year – Spring Semester (3 CUs)
- BIOL 6010 – Communication for Biologists (required)
- Any additional courses as determined by the Advising Committee
- BIOL 9999 - Continued research work
- Teaching Requirement
May or June in Second Year
- Candidacy Exam
Third Year and Beyond
Drop/Request takes place during the early weeks of each semester. Please check Academic Calendar for deadlines. All changes, including lab rotations, must be discussed with either an advisor or the Advising Committee. When changing courses, please notify the department coordinator accordingly.
For unfinished coursework, students may consider the possibility of taking an Incomplete. The student must discuss this with the course instructor as only the professor can issue the incomplete grade. The policy on Incompletes as issued by the Graduate Division of Arts and Sciences (GAS) is that the instructor can permit an extension up to one year. The student must complete the coursework no later than one year after the official ending of the course. Any course which is still incomplete after one year from its official ending, the grade will remain as an "incomplete" and shall not be credited towards a degree.
For information, students can log into Path@Penn using their PennKey and password. Path@Penn provides a secure access to:
- Billing and financial information
- Course schedules and academic record
- Updating address information
- Student health insurance information