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 700 in fall of the first year and BIOL 608 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 700 – Introduction to Biological Research (fall only)
- BIOL 608 – Writing and Presenting in Biology (spring only)
Core courses (2 of the classes below)
- BIOL 410 – Advanced Evolution (fall odd years)
- BIOL 411 – Evolutionary Ecology or BIOL 417 – Theoretical Population Biology
- BIOM 600 – Cell Biology
- BIOL 540 – Genetic Analysis (spring even years)
Elective Courses (Students select 3 elective courses and are strongly encouraged to take one elective course outside of their research area).
- BIOL 446 – Statistics for Biologists
(Students without a strong background in Statistics will be required to take this course.)
- BIOL 400 – Field Botany
- BIOL 404 – Immunology
- BIOL 406 – Molecular Mechanisms of Infectious Disease Biology
- BIOL 410 – Advanced Evolution
- BIOL 411 – Evolutionary Ecology
- BIOL 415 – Freshwater Ecology
- BIOL 417 – Theoretical Population Biology
- BIOL 430 – Evolution and Ecology of Infectious Diseases
- BIOL 431 – Genome Sciences and Genomic Medicine
- BIOL 433 – The Genetics of Adaptation: How Sex, Conflict, and Pathogens Shape Modern Genomes
- BIOL 436 – Molecular Physiology
- BIOL 437 – Introduction to Computational Biology and Biological Modeling
- BIOL 438 – Integrative Physiology and Biomechanics of the Muscular System
- BIOL 444 – Molecular Evolution of Physiological Functions
- BIOL 456 – Neural Circuits for Survival
- BIOL 466 – Molecular Genetics of Neurological Disease
- BIOL 469 – Plant Physiology Through Space and Time
- BIOL 475 – Topics in Prokaryotic Biology: From Molecules to Microbiomes
- BIOL 480 – Advanced Cell Biology
- BIOL 482 – Cell Signaling
- BIOL 483 – Epigenetics
- BIOL 484 – Cell Motility and Cytoskeleton
- BIOL 485 – The RNA World: A Functional and Computational Analysis (not offered every year)
- BIOL 486 – Chromosomes and the Cell Cycle
- BIOL 493 – Epigenetics of Human Health and Disease (not offered every year)
- BIOL 522 – Human Evolutionary Genomics (not offered every year)
- BIOL 537 – Advanced Computational Biology
- BIOL 540 – Genetic Analysis
- BIOL 610 – Advanced Topics in Evolution (not offered every year)
- BIOM 555 – Regulation of the Genome
- BIOM 600 – Cell Biology
- CAMB 511 – Principles of Development
- CAMB 550 – Genetic Principles
- CAMB 752 – Genomics
- GCB 535 – Introduction to Bioinformatics
- IMUN 506 – Immune Mechanisms
- NGG 572 – Neuroscience Core II
- STAT 430 – 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
- BIOL 410 – Advanced Evolution- recommended for anybody at all interested in incorporating evolution or population genetics into their research. This course covers evolution and population biology from both a mathematical and conceptual perspective. Gives a foundation that is required to understand any topics in the field of evolution.
- BIOL 411 – Evolutionary Ecology - Definitely recommended for anybody interested in social evolution. Less so for strict population biology. Advanced topics in the evolution of behavior, mutualism, competition, etc.
- STAT 512 – Recommended if you are looking to build upon an already strong math and statistics background. Dr. Warren Ewens is a famously terrific professor.
- CIT 590 – learn to program in Java and Python; good for learning how to properly write code
- ESE 302 (changed to ESE 402 in 2019) – any spatial interests; difficult and time consuming but a good introduction.
- BIOL 522 – 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 484 – Cell motility and cytoskeleton
- BMB 509 – Structural and Mechanistic Biochemistry
- BE 547 – Fundamental Techniques of Imaging
Additional Information on Graduate Work
In addition to course 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 995 – 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 999 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 999).
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 995 – Dissertation. In addition to BIOL 995, 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 700 – Topics in Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology (Required)
- BIOM 600 – Cell Biology or BIOL 410 – Advanced Evolution
- BIOL 446 or other elective
- BIOL 999 – First Lab Rotation (.5 CU)
First Year – Spring Semester (4 CUs)
- BIOL 540 – Genetic Systems or
- Elective Courses, encouraged to take one course outside of research area.
- BIOL 999 – Second Lab Rotation (.5 CU)
- BIOL 999 – 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 999 – Independent Research in lab of advisor.
- Teaching Requirement
Second Year – Spring Semester (3 CUs)
- BIOL 608 – Writing and Presenting in Biology (required)
- Any additional courses as determined by the Advising Committee
- BIOL 999 - 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 the Penn InTouch system by using their PennKey and password. Penn InTouch provides a secure access to:
- Billing and financial information
- Course schedules and academic record
- Updating address information
- Student health insurance information