Degree Requirements and Sequence of Events

All students are required to complete a series of core courses related to the interdisciplinary nature of the program.  Students will choose the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCD) concentration or the Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology (E3B) concentration.  The Ph.D. acknowledges the value of course work as background and preparatory for research, but the primary emphasis of the program is on the development of research skills, the completion of a research project, and publications in peer-reviewed journals on a significant problem in the biological sciences.

Appropriate progression through the doctoral program requires that students meet the Progression Deadlines outlined below. If a student cannot meet a required deadline, they should submit a one -time one-semester Request for Extension.

Failure to meet progression deadlines without approved extensions may negatively influence the ability to receive financial aid and can result in termination from the program.

Doctoral students are required to complete a Student Progression Report at the end of each semester after final grades have been assigned and before the beginning of the next semester of graduate study. The form must be signed and dated by the student and the Dissertation Advisor and submitted to the Graduate Coordinator.

Please note: These requirements are subject to change. Students will be held to the requirements in place when they matriculate into the program.


1. Plan of Study:
The program requires 72 post baccalaureate credit hours in the following categories:

  • 9 credit hours of required core curriculum (BIOL 8101 Hypothesis Testing, BIOL 8102 Advanced Cellular and Molecular Biology, BIOL 8140 Evolutionary Biology)
  • 3 credit hours of required concentration core elective (for MCD concentration: BIOL 8270 Biological Pathways and Metabolism; for E3B concentration BIOL 8241 Environmental Biology)
  • 2 credit hours of Responsible Conduct of Research course (either BIOL 8260 Careers in Bioscience: Professional Development and Responsible Conduct or GRAD 8002 Responsible Conduct of Research)
  • 2 credit hours of Seminar (BIOL 8201) 
  • minimum of 9 credit hours of additional electives with at least half at the 8000 level
  • minimum of 18 credit hours of Doctoral Dissertation Research

All students are required to take a core sequence of required courses as shown below. Substitutions of a course for another course in the same Department may be requested. All substitutions must be approved by the student's dissertation committee and the departmental Graduate Committee prior to registration for the course. A list and description of courses can be found at (Courses).


A typical sequence of study would be:

Year 1: 

  • Fall--BIOL 8101 Hypothesis Testing (3 hours),  BIOL 8260 Careers in Bioscience (2 hours), BIOL 8999 Research and Thesis or BIOL 8800 Laboratory Research Rotation if needed. 
  • Spring--BIOL 8102 Advanced Cellular and Molecular Biology (3 hours), BIOL 8140 Evolutionary Biology (3 hours), BIOL 8201 Seminar (1 hour), BIOL 8999 Research and Thesis or BIOL 8800 Laboratory Research Rotation if needed. 
  • Select Dissertation Advisor by end of 2nd semester; notify Coordinator if the Advisor is different from the advisor initally matched at the start of the program. A Dissertation Advisor can dismiss a student at any time because of poor performance under their direction or failure to demonstrate timely progression towards the degree. If a student is dismissed by his/her Dissertation Advisor, it is the student’s responsibility to arrange for a replacement advisor within 4 months. If no faculty member has agreed to serve as the Major Advisor within the designated time period, the student will be terminated from the program. The student must notify the Graduate Coordinator of the new Major Advisor using the Appointment of Doctoral Committee form 

Year 2:

  • Either BIOL 8241 Environmental Biology (E3B core, 3 hours) or BIOL 8270 Biological Pathways and Metabolism (MCD core, 3 hours). BIOL 8201 Seminar (Spring, 1 hour). Electives; 9 credit hours minimum (at least half of the 9 credits must be from 8000-level courses) to be selected by students in consultation with their major advisor and Dissertation Committee; BIOL 8999 Research and Thesis.
  • Establish Dissertation Committee (by end of 3rd semester) Appointment of Doctoral Committee (complete and submit to Graduate Coordinator). The student and his/her Committee must meet by the end of the 3rd semester to set a timeline for the Qualifying Exam. The student is required to meet with the Dissertation Committee once a year. This provides the Committee with an opportunity to give input for the student’s research and spot deficiencies, if any, in his/her course of conducting dissertation research.
  • Program of Study/Curriculum Contract approved by Dissertation Committee (complete and submit both parts to Graduate Coordinator) 
    • Plan of Study for MCD concentration or Plan of Study for E3B concentration. Plan of Study MCD or Plan of Study E3B form may be requested from the Biology Graduate Coordinator
    • Curriculum Contract Page 2 The curriculum contract page 2 includes the 5 areas of study for the written component of the Qualifying Exam:
      • two areas associated with the required Ph.D. core curriculum (see list of 50 Core Area Choices)
      • one area of the student’s specific research interest and thesis research
      • one area selected by the student’s Major Advisor or Dissertation committee typically related to elective coursework and thesis research concentration of the student
      • one area selected by the student typically related to elective coursework and thesis research concentration of the student.

Year 3: 

  • Completion of Electives; 9 credit hours minimum (at least half of the 9 credits must be from 8000-level courses). Advanced topics courses to be selected by students in consultation with their major advisor and dissertation committee. Although not required BIOL 6800 Tutorial (2 hours) is recommended for students who wish to receive the non-thesis Master's degree while continuing to complete their Ph.D. (see below #7). 
  • Qualifying Examination. The Qualifying Exam consists of a written portion (taken first), followed by an oral portion (taken only after passing the written portion). The written portion of the Qualifying Exam should be taken by the end of the 5th semester of study. All core coursework required for the degree must be completed before the Exam, and elective coursework, with the exception of Dissertation Research, should be nearly completed before taking the Candidacy Exam. Upon successful completion of both written and oral parts complete the Report of Qualifying Exam ... for Doctoral and/or Master's Students (complete and submit to Graduate Coordinator).
  • Submit and defend written Dissertation Research Proposal and have Dissertation Committee approve dissertation topic by no later than the end of 6th semester of study. The dissertation proposal defense occurs separately from the oral Qualifying Exam. Proposal Defense for Doctoral Dissertation and/or Master's Thesis (complete and submit to Graduate Coordinator). Signature sheet for Dissertation Proposal defense (complete, attach to dissertation thesis proposal, and submit to Graduate Coordinator)
  • Dissertation research BIOL 8999 Research and Thesis.
  • The student is required to meet with the Dissertation Committee once a year. This provides the Committee with an opportunity to give input for the student’s research and spot deficiencies, if any, in his/her course of conducting dissertation research.
  • Give a 20 min presentation on research at the departmental weekly seminar in semester following approval of the Thesis Proposal.
  • Ph.D. students may choose to receive the non-thesis M.S. degree while continuing to work toward the doctoral degree provided they have successfully completed the Qualifying Exam and completed at least 30 hours of coursework, including two hours of Tutorial BIOL 6800 culminating in a written assignment developed in consultation with the student’s major advisor.  Obtaining the non-thesis M.S. requires dual enrollment in the Ph.D. and M.S. programs.  Doctoral students can apply for enrollment in the M.S. program after entering the Ph.D. program. See the detailed step by step guide to the nonthesis MS information . 

Years 4 onward:

  • BIOL 8999 Research and Thesis.
  • The student is required to meet with the Dissertation Committee once a year. This provides the Committee with an opportunity to give input for the student’s research and spot deficiencies, if any, in his/her course of conducting dissertation research.

A Dissertation Advisor can dismiss a student at any time because of poor performance under their direction or failure to demonstrate timely progression towards the degree. If a student is dismissed by his/her Dissertation Advisor, it is the student’s responsibility to arrange for a replacement advisor within 4 months. If no faculty member has agreed to serve as the Major Advisor within the designated time period, the student will be terminated from the program. The student must notify the Graduate Coordinator of the new Major Advisor using the Appointment of Doctoral Committee form


2. Proportion of courses open only to graduate students and Electives.
All the basic core courses and seminar courses are open to graduate students only. Lab rotations are restricted to doctoral students. At least half of the minimum 9 credit hours of electives and at least half of the 72 hours applied towards a Ph.D. must be in courses at the 8000 level or higher. The remaining credit hours can be completed in any Dissertation Committee-approved graduate level courses (5000 level or above). Elective course descriptions within the BIOL listing accepted for the E3B and MCD concentrations are described on the Ph.D. courses page. Given the interdisciplinary nature of the program, students are strongly encouraged, in consultation with the major advisor and Dissertation Committee, to take elective courses in STEM-related departments including but not limited to Bioinformatics and Genomics, Nanoscale Science, Chemistry, Biophysics, Engineering, Kinesiology, Geography and Earth Sciences. Upon completion of any such courses, a Special Request form is suggested to ensure that the Graduate School automated system will "recognize" the individual's course of study.


3. Grades required.
A student must maintain a cumulative average of 3.0 in all course work taken for graduate credit. Lab rotations and the doctoral dissertation research will be graded on a Pass/Unsatisfactory basis and therefore will not be included in the cumulative average. An accumulation of two C grades will result in termination of the student's enrollment in the graduate program. If a student makes a grade of U in any course, enrollment in the program will be terminated.


4. Amount of transfer credit accepted.
Only courses with grades of A or B may be accepted for transfer credit. Courses graded as IP/P cannot be transferred. The amount of credit past the baccalaureate degree that a Ph.D. student may count towards the doctorate is a maximum of 30 credit hours if earned as part of a graduate degree program OR a maximum of 6 credit hours if earned as a post-baccalaureate (non-degree seeking) student. However, only courses appropriate for the program and curriculum in which the student is enrolled may be transferred. This should be determined by the student's Dissertation Committee and approved by the Graduate Coordinator before the request is submitted to the Graduate School. This rule applies whether the courses were taken at UNC Charlotte or elsewhere, and whether a Master's degree was earned or not. Graduate Academic Petition for transfer of credit is available online on the Graduate School website.

If you transferred from the Master's program into the Ph.D. program without earning the Master's degree, please complete the following as soon as possible after starting the doctoral program:

  • Meet with your major advisor and the Graduate Coordinator to discuss the 5000-6000 level courses you want transferred from the Master's program to the Ph.D. program.
  • Submit an Gradute Academic Petition for Transfer of Credit that lists the name and number for each course to be transferred. If approved by the Graduate School, your transcripts will indicate that the course credits have been transferred from one program to another. Course numbering will stay the same (i.e. a 6000-level course taken as a Master's student will transfer to the Ph.D. program as a 6000-level course). Thus:
  • Submit a Graduate Academic Petition to substitute the transferred 6000-level courses for equivalent 8000-level courses. NOTE: Research/Thesis credits cannot be transferred from the Master's to the Ph.D. program. Similarly, no Master's course graded as P/U/IP (i.e. BIOL 6800 Tutorial) can be transferred to the Ph.D..
  • You may remian dual enrolled in the two programs. This is higly advised for obtaining both the non-thesis Masters degree as part of the normal progression of the program.
  • Submit a Graduate Academic Petition to late withdraw from any “IP” research/thesis credit received while in the Master's program.  2 credit hours of Research and Thesis may be used toward the non-thesis MAsters however, so have these changed from IP to P by the Major Advisor. However, because recorded grades of IP remain "open", you must formally terminate any remaining IP credits received while a Master's student before you can graduate from the Doctoral program.

5. Departmental seminars.
Graduate students are required to attend all seminars sponsored by the Department of Biological Sciences.
In addition, each student is required to make a 20 minute presentation on his/her research at the departmental seminar after entering his/her 3rd year in the program. The Graduate Coordinator and departmental seminar coordinator will determine the schedule of student presentations.


6. Advancement to Candidacy.
For Advancement to Candidacy, a student must pass the Qualifying Examination by the end of the 5th semester of graduate study. All coursework required for the degree (with the exception of Dissertation Research) must be completed before taking the Candidancy Exam. A written dissertation research proposal must be defended by no later than the end of the 6th semester of study, and preferably sooner. A student advances to candidacy following approval of the dissertation research propposal by the student’s Dissertation Committee and the Dean of the Graduate School.


7.  Obtaining the Non-thesis M.S. while completing the Ph.D. degree
Ph.D. students may choose to receive the non-thesis M.S. degree while continuing to work toward the doctoral degree provided they have successfully completed the Candidacy Exam and completed at least 30 hours of coursework, including two hours of Tutorial BIOL 6800 culminating in a written assignment developed in consultation with the student’s major advisor.  Obtaining the non-thesis M.S. requires dual enrollment in the Ph.D. and M.S. programs.  Doctoral students can apply for enrollment in the M.S. program after entering the Ph.D. program. Please see the Non-thesis MS information sheet for details.


8. Dissertation.
The doctoral program of study must include a minimum of 18 credit hours of Doctoral Dissertation Research. The student must complete and defend a dissertation based on a research program approved by the student's Dissertation Committee which results in a high quality, original and substantial piece of research and publications accepted in peer reviewed journals. The student must orally present and successfully defend the dissertation to the student's Dissertation Committee in a defense that is open to the public.

Choosing a dissertation defense date should be made in consultation with the Dissertation Committee. The final version of the Dissertation should be given to each Committee member and the Graduate Coordinator at least four weeks prior to the public defense, unless a Committee member indicates that his/her copy may be provided with less time.

A copy of the dissertation must be made available for review by the program doctoral faculty at least two weeks prior to the public defense. Reprints, proofs, or copies of publication(s) reporting results described in the dissertation shall be included in the dissertation as part of the appendix. Except for unusual or extenuating circumstances, publication(s) of original work must be in press or in print by the time of the dissertation defense.


NOW I AM READY TO GRADUATE WHAT DO I NEED TO DO?

1. See Graduate Coordinator at the end of the semester/summer session BEFORE you plan to graduate to review the process and consult your Degree Works file to ensure all milestones and courses are correct. View the Graduation Checklist for the appropriate semester.

2.  Apply for Graduation. To apply to graduate with a graduate doctoral, master's or graduate certificate degree: Log into my.uncc.edu, select Banner Self-Service, Student Services, Student Records, and Online Graduation Application. Click "Continue" if this is the first time a graduation application has been submitted, or "Create a New Application" if one has been submitted previously. After completing all sections, click the "Submit" button.

  • This form is due by the 8th instructional day of the semester in which you will graduate. If you change your graduation date, you will need to submit a new form.

3. Change of IP grades to P. For individualized instruction courses, such as Research and Thesis BIOL8999, an “IP” grade is received up until the semester in which a student graduates. During the semester in which a student graduates, those grades need to be changed. A copy of your Degree Works audit page will list all such courses which need a grade change. Take the print out to your Advisor and have he/she make changes to each course in the Banner system. If there are additional courses to be changed, consult with the Graduate Coordinator. 

4. Dissertation Oral Presentation and Defense

  • Choosing a Dissertation defense date should be made in consultation with the Dissertation Committee. Work with Ms. Ruthie Mosier in teh departmental office to obtain a suitable room on campus. Work with Ruthie Mosier to print our at least 10 copies of your dissertation presentation announcements and display them prominently around Woodward, Notify the Graduate Coordinator with the date, time, and location of the defense. 
  • The final version of the Dissertation should be given to each Committee member and the Graduate Coordinator at least four weeks prior to the public defense. Complete the initial thesis format appointment by the Graduate School deadline (see Graduation Checklist). If all Committee members and the program coordinator agree to accept a copy with less time, the final version may be submitted up to at least two weeks prior to the public defense. The Dissertation Oral Presentation and Defense must occur at least one week before the deadline set by the Graduate School for the submission of the approved dissertation (see Graduation Checklist). Students are strongly encouraged to schedule the dissertation defense well in advance of the stated deadline, to ensure sufficient time to incorporate revisions to the dissertation required by the Dissertation Committee.
  • IF one of your Committee members must attend the defense remotely please complete the Remote Participation Approval form.
  • Successful completion of Dissertation Oral Presentation and Defense. Defense Report for Doctoral Dissertation and/or Master's Thesis AND Student Learning Outcomes Asessment by each committee member (complete and submit to Graduate Coordinator).  
  • Submit copy of final Dissertation to the Graduate School. Submission and ETD Signature - Dissertation/Thesis. The Dissertation/Thesis Submission Form combined with the ETD Form to accompany your dissertation or thesis submission and the student and committee acknowledgment of electronic document submission.

10. Laboratory research rotations.
Laboratory research rotations allow the student to sample areas of research and become familiar with program faculty. Although not required, each student student can enroll in up to three rotations, each of two hours of course credit, before the end of the 3rd semester of the program. Each rotation will consist of a minimum of 4 weeks, and there is no expectation that the work done during the rotation will result in a publication. Incoming students should establish roations with individual faculty prior to beginning the program.

The purpose of a laboratory rotation is to learn and perform techniques associated with the lab, and to potentially identify a Dissertation Advisor. A typical rotation will involve 5-10 hours per week in the laboratory for a minimum of 4 weeks. Generation of sufficient data to result in publication of a manuscript is not an expectation of a rotation experience. A student must meet with the sponsoring faculty member to determine what will be done during the rotation, i.e. techniques to be learned and identification of the project to be completed. At the end each rotation, the student must write a one page synopsis of the rotation to be signed by the sponsoring faculty member and turned in to the Graduate Coordinator. At the end of rotations, the student must identify a Dissertation Advisor. A rotation does not guarantee placement in a laboratory. It is the student's responsibility to identify a Dissertation Advisor to remain in the program.


11. Teaching
Every student must obtain skills in teaching at least once. This requirement is satisfied by being a Teaching Assistant for one course section.


12. Time limits for completion.
All requirements for the degree must be completed within eight years after first registration as a doctoral student. The student must achieve admission to candidacy within six years after admission to the program and complete all requirements within six years after admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. These time limits are maximums; students will typically be expected to complete all the degree requirements in five years.