|General Degree Requirements
|Graduate Student Handbook||
Students in the doctoral program receive three degrees in the course of
fulfilling the Ph.D. requirements in the Department of Biological Sciences: the
Master's of Arts, the Master of Philosophy, and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees.
For the M.A. Degree
Residence Units: Four.
Languages: Non-native speakers must demonstrate proficiency in English or
complete International Teaching Fellows Training by the American Language
Examinations: Satisfactory completion of part I of the Qualifying Examination.
Part I: successful completion of all sections of the Core Course sequence BIOL
G6001, G6002, G6003 with a grade of B or higher.
BIOL G6001 Graduate Core Course I - section 1: Genetics & section 2:
BIOL G6002x Graduate Core Course II - section 1: Eukaryotic Gene Expression
& section 2: Protein Thermodynamics
BIOL G6003y Graduate Core Course III - section 1; Cell Biology & section 2:
If a grade in any one section is below B, the student must take a course as determined
by the core section instructor or Director of Graduate Studies to make up for
the inadequate core section grade.
Mathematics: 2 semesters of college-level math, generally including
single-variable calculus and statistics. Required if students have not had
previous math courses as determined by the Director of Graduate Studies.
Students are required to take a course in statistics if they have not
previously taken such a course.
Completion of the Research Ethics course, BIOETHICS K4450 Research Ethics. Completion
of the Pre-research seminar course, BIOL G9301. Completion of up to three research rotations, and choice of a lab
for thesis research. Multiple rotations
are not required when a thesis lab is chosen early.
Completion of all sections of the Core Course sequence
as described above represents the equivalent of a comprehensive exam for the
purposes of the University requirements for the M.A. degree.
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For the M.Phil Degree
Units: Six (Two beyond the four required for the M.A.).
Graduate biology courses: Required courses include BIOL G6001-G6002-G6003
(the Core Course sequence, required for the M.A.); G9301 (Pre-Research
Seminar); BIOETHICS K4450 Research Ethics; and two graduate-level elective
courses approved by the department. The two elective courses must be at the
G4000-level or above, and must be taken for letter grades; one may be in
physics, chemistry or mathematics. No more than one of the two elective courses
may have a grade of "B-" and the average must be "B" (3.0)
completion of part II of the Qualifying Examination: preparation of a written
thesis proposal and the oral defense of the proposal before a Ph.D. advisory
committee, to be completed by the end of the Fall semester of the third year.
In the student's spring semester of the second year or fall semester of the
third year, a Ph.D. advisory committee consisting of three faculty members is
assigned to each student, generally based upon consultation with the student
and sponsor. Each committee is appointed by the Graduate Student Advisor in
consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and consists of the
student's sponsor and two other faculty members in the Department's training
program. The student's sponsor does not participate in the verbal defense of
the thesis proposal, but does participate in all subsequent meetings. Passing
of the Qualifying Exam Part II (i.e.,
successful verbal defense of the thesis proposal) is verified via submission of
the faculty evaluation form to the departmental office (600 Fairchild).
Teaching requirement: Participation in the instructional and/or research
activities of the department for a minimum of one year. All students gain
teaching experience as part of their graduate training. Two semesters of
teaching are usually required, which typically includes assisting in
undergraduate laboratory or lecture courses. Teaching activities require about
5-10 hours per week.
Satisfactory work in thesis lab.
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Advisory committee meetings: Each Ph.D. advisory committee meets with the
student at least once each year to discuss the progress of the student's
research and continues in this capacity until the Ph.D. degree is granted.
Conduct of the meeting is verified via a form submitted to the departmental
office (600 Fairchild). A revised thesis proposal is required at the meeting
conducted during the fourth year of residence unless the student has a
peer-reviewed paper submitted or accepted for publication. Advisory committee meetings are required
biannually after the end of the fourth year if the advisory committee has
concerns that the student will not be ready to complete the Ph.D. degree by
roughly the end of the sixth year in residence.
For the Ph.D. Degree
and Defense: All students are required to present and defend a
dissertation. Each student meets with his or her Ph.D. advisory committee
at least once each year, as detailed above, to discuss the progress of the
student's research and continues to do so until the thesis defense. The
thesis defense consists of a public presentation of the work in a forty-five
minute seminar. This seminar is followed by an examination related to the
thesis work of the candidate by the thesis committee, which consists of the
three members of the Ph.D. advisory committee and two outside faculty members,
generally including one from another institution. It is expected that the
thesis defense will occur before the end of the sixth year of graduate study at
A student must be registered for a
Resident Unit or for Extended Resident Unit for the term in which the
dissertation is distributed to the defense committee. See the Dissertation Office rules for
Registration and Application for Ph.D. Defense.
See the Dissertation Office website for
Dates and Deadlines for deposit deadlines and degree dates.
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Residence at the University is required for each advanced degree and is completed through the accumulation of Residence Units during the autumn and spring terms. The Residence Unit, rather than registration for individual courses, provides the basis for tuition charges. Two Residence Units are required for the Master of Arts degree and six Residence Units, including the two for the M.A. degree, are required for the Master of Philosophy degree. The residence requirement for the Doctor of Philosophy degree is satisfied by the six Residence Units earned for the Master of Philosophy degree. An M.A. will be awarded in the Fall of the third year of study to those students who have completed 2 full satisfactory calendar years of study. This requirement includes completion of the Qualifying Exam Part II and satisfactory research performance.
Students must complete all academic requirements, as well as residence requirements, within four consecutive terms for the M.A. degree (except in designated part-time M.A. programs described under Master of Arts Degree, below) within four calendar years for the M.Phil. Degree, and within seven calendar years for the Ph.D. degree. A student transferring with the M.A. degree, or the equivalent, from another university must, if granted standing, complete all the requirements for the M.Phil. degree within no more than three years and all the requirements for the Ph.D. degree within no more than six years.
The student must have satisfied the academic requirements in force at the time a degree is awarded. Accordingly, if the student takes more than the normal time to complete requirements for any degree, he or she may be required to satisfy increased or changed requirements.
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Continuous registration until completion of all requirements is obligatory for each degree except for requirements completed extra muros (see Doctor of Philosophy Degree, below).
After completing the appropriate number of Residence Units, students are required to register for Extended Residence for any term in which (a) they hold a fellowship of University appointment or (b) they are completing a degree requirement such as course work, language or qualifying examinations, deposit of an essay, or the defense of dissertation. Students who neither hold a fellowship or a University appointment nor are completing a degree requirement can satisfy the continuous registration requirement and maintain their status as graduate students by registering for Matriculation and Facilities, which allows them to make use of various University facilities. (Exception: a student may defend a dissertation or deposit an essay while registered for Matriculation and Facilities if registered for a Residence Unit or Extended Residence in the immediately preceding term. However, any student holding a fellowship or University appointment must register for Extended Residence for th at term.) Students are exempted from the requirement to register continuously only when granted a leave of absence.
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Leave of Absence
A student who must interrupt studies for a compelling reason – for example, sustained ill health – may be granted a leave of absence for a stated period, usually not to exceed one year. During the period of leave, a studen t may not use University facilities. Forms requesting leaves of absence may be obtained in the Office of Student Affairs, 107 Low Memorial Library.
If a leave is granted, the fact is entered on the student’s permanent academic record. The period of a leave of absence is not counted as part of the time allowed for the completion of degree requirements.
Students on leaves of absence may be eligible to defer payment of University loans and National Direct Student Loans. Consult the Office of Student Affairs, 107 Low Memorial Library, for further information.
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A student who leaves the University without obtaining a leave of absence, or who fails to pay the Matriculation and Facilities fee, is not usually readmitted. The special approval of the Dean, contingent upon the merits of the student’s request and the recommendation of the department, is required for readmission.
If a student wishes to apply for readmission, he or she must submit the application to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Office of Student Affairs at least four weeks before the first day of registration for the term in which he or she wishes to resume studies. If readmitted, the student becomes subject to all current requirements, as interpreted by the Dean to fit the student’s case. Because an unauthorized absence does not relieve a student of the obligation to register continuously until the completion of all degree requirements, readmitted students are also required to pay the Matriculation and Facilities fee for each term of absence after June 1972, ordinarily for a maximum of eight terms. (Students who are absent for more than eight terms and who continued to work toward the degree during the entire period are liable for additional payment.)
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A satisfactory rate of progress toward a higher degree is required at all times. A department or doctoral program subcommittee has an absolute right to terminate a student’s candidacy at any time for academic reasons, or t o deny the student readmission.
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Advanced standing is limited to students who, upon entrance to the Graduate School, have completed the requirements for either an appropriate M.A. degree or the equivalent, or an appropriate professional degree, at Columbia or elsewhere. On the basis of such work a maximum of two Residence Units may be accepted for credit toward the M. Phil. and Ph.D. degrees. Usually, work is accepted for credit when a) it has contributed directly and substantially to the fulfillment of t he requirements for the M. Phil. and Ph.D. degrees and b) it meets departmental standards. Students granted advanced standing under the foregoing provisions are not eligible to receive the M.A. degree from Columbia.
Exceptions to the regulation on advanced standing may be granted for students who transfer from other graduate programs within Columbia University. Such students may offer a maximum of 30 points in fulfillment of no more than two Residence Units, provided that the candidate does not offer the courses toward another degree. No more than one such Residence Unit may be credited toward the M.A. degree and no more than one toward the M. Phil. and Ph.D. degrees.
Students transferring from institutions outside of Columbia who have not completed an appropriate M.A. degree program or the equivalent, or an appropriate professional degree, are not eligible for advanced standing.