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The Graduate Program

The graduate program in the Department of Biological Sciences is designed to prepare students for careers in teaching and research. Critical thinking skills and technical expertise are achieved primarily through dissertation research beginning with a firm foundation of course work and seminars.

There are two pathways to enter the Department of Biological Sciences. Students may be admitted directly to the department, or admitted through the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP). During the first year students are engaged in course work, but also gain valuable experience in research and identify their area of interest by completing research rotations. Students will typically finalize their selection of a mentor and begin research in the lab of their choice by May of their first year. Specific requirements for completion of the Ph.D. degree in Biological Sciences continue in ensuing years, as detailed in the Program and Requirements section.

Since the field of biology is broad, ranging from molecules and cells to organisms and ecosystems, the research interests of the faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences and the course offerings within the department are extremely diverse. Flexibility is the key, allowing students to pursue individual interests and complete the requirements for graduation by taking specialized courses in the Department of Biological Sciences or other departments at Vanderbilt. In addition, the Department of Biological Sciences offers training in teaching, since graduate students serve as teaching assistants for two or more semesters in the course of their graduate training.