Student Support

All Biology Graduate students are supported for a minimum of five (5) years either by educational fellowships, teaching assistantships, research fellowships, training grants, or external funding. Students must be in good academic standing (above 3.0 GPA) with research proceeding at a satisfactory pace to receive this support. The department coordinator will provide confirmation of your support and stipend at the beginning of each academic year.

First-year students are supported by Educational Fellowships. This is a non-service award that covers stipend, tuition, general fees, and health insurance premiums.

Second-year students are usually covered by Teaching Assistantships, which requires teaching labs and/or recitation sessions during the fall and spring semesters. This year of service will fulfill the program's teaching requirement, if completed according to the guidelines explained in the Teaching Requirement section of this manual.

Again, the Teaching Assistantship pays stipend, tuition, general fees, and health insurance premiums.

In some cases, second-year students receive funding from other sources, such as research fellowships or training grants, from either external or internal sources. In these cases, it is possible for students to postpone fulfilling their teaching requirement until later in their academic career. Approval for this postponement and/or waiver of TA requirement (1 semester only) must be obtained from the Advising and Assessment Committee.

By the third year, most students are supported by their thesis advisors through research fellowships.  The length of time that a student receives funding through a research fellowship is determined by the advisor and the terms of the fellowship. 

In cases where research fellowships or other funding mechanisms are not available, It is possible that students in years 3 through 5 will continue to receive funding through teaching assistantships.  However, it is encouraged that students seek out individual funding opportunities.  

Penn is now offering subsidies to offset the costs of dental insurance.  Student must enroll in the Penn Dental plan by end of September (exact date can be found on website).  Credit for 1/2 of the premium will be applied to October Bursar bill.  Information on dental insurance subsidies can be found at the Graduate Student website under Resources.

Bursar bills should be referred to the Biology Business Office, 212 Goddard Labs, so that they may be reviewed and processed for payment, if appropriate. However, students are responsible for any portion of the bill that is not covered under the funding award, such as personal expenses.

The University will levy late fees on any unpaid balances. Please resolve any billing issue early as to avoid late fees or other difficulties, such as course registration. All late fees that are levied on unpaid personal expenses are the student's responsibility and will not be waived. Any late fee that is levied on tuition, general fees or health insurance premiums can be considered for waiver and should be brought to the attention of the department coordinator or the Biology Business Office. The University will place a hold on student accounts if the Bursar bill is not paid.


William H. Telfer Graduate Travel Fellowship

This Fellowship is made possible by a trust established in honor of the late Dr. William Telfer, a distinguished professor in this department.   It is open to graduate students matriculating in the Biology Graduate Group who are on dissertation status and preferably in their fourth or fifth year of study.  The purpose of this competitive fellowship is to facilitate graduate student travel to national and international conferences for the purpose of presenting their research.   The student must give a presentation (poster or talk) at the conference.

In order to apply for the Telfer Graduate Travel Fellowship, students must submit the following to the Biology Graduate Group Coordinator:

1. Nomination Form - please contact the department coordinator for this form.

2.  Statement on how the funds will be used and why this conference is important to the student's research project (1 to 2 pages in length).

3. Current CV

4.  Two recommendation letters - one from thesis advisor and another one from a member of the thesis committee.

A faculty committee will review applications for the Telfer Graduate Travel Fellowship.  These awards are modest in financial terms and intended to cover a portion of the travel costs.  Although the award amount will depend on the financial performance of the principal, it is anticipated that four (4) $500 fellowships will be granted each year.



Graduate students who are not being supported by a pre-doctoral training grant have research funds from the Biology Business Office totalling a maximum of $250 per academic year.  This account allows for students to obtain research supplies.  Students must consult with the Business Office prior to making any purchase in order to confirm that the purchase is allowed to be made with student budget funds.   Purchases must be related to research or studies.  If allowed as a purchase under the student budget, the item must then be purchased through the Business Office.


Tax Information

The payroll tax structure for graduate students is complicated. Providing detailed tax information in this manual may lead to numerous misunderstandings. In order to prevent this, Biology Graduate students are encouraged to visit the Biology Business Office, 212 Goddard Labs, to discuss the taxable status of their stipends. The Graduate Student Center Tax Information site provides links to various resources regarding filing of taxes.