Biology, Doctor of Philosophy

St. John's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


The Department of Biological Sciences offers both M.S. and Ph.D. degree programs focusing on Cell and Molecular Biology. Approximately 40 graduate students of diverse backgrounds are enrolled in these programs at any one time. The relatively small size of our program encourages intensive faculty/student interaction in both the classroom and laboratory. In many cases, the laboratory setting includes undergraduates, M.S. students, and doctoral students guided by postdoctoral fellows as well as faculty, creating a dynamic environment with intellectual exchange occurring at many levels.

Students in these programs master the foundational principles of biochemistry and cell/molecular biology; understand the mechanisms by which the scientific process advances the state of knowledge in biology; and effectively communicate ideas and experimental results.

Department Contact
Rachel Zufferey
Director of Graduate Studies
St. Albert Hall, Room 258

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Applicants to both the master's and doctoral programs must have completed an undergraduate major in one of the biological sciences or a related discipline. One semester of either genetics, molecular biology, or biochemistry is required, and a semester of each is highly recommended. In addition, applicants must have completed one year each of inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, mathematics through introductory calculus, and preferably one or more courses in an area of biology in which the student hopes ultimately to specialize. While all prerequisite courses should have been completed prior to commencing graduate studies, the department may allow a student to make up limited deficiencies during the first year of study. Foreign-born applicants who have not earned a U.S. degree will also be required to present evidence of proficiency in English such as satisfactory scores on the TOEFL test.

Applicants to the Doctor of Philosophy program must present:

  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate (and any graduate) work
  • Evidence of successful completion of the baccalaureate degree, having achieved an overall cumulative index of B +, as well as a B or better average in Biology and the cognate sciences (including Chemistry and Physics)
  • Evidence of an overall cumulative index of B + or better in graduate work, if applicable
  • Satisfactory scores on the Graduate Record Examination, general (Official score reports must be submitted.); the subject test may be either (a) Biology or (b) Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology
  • Three satisfactory letters of reference from science faculty in the applicant's most recent program of study
  • A one-page essay describing the candidate's interests, career goals, and special aptitudes

Graduate Admission Information
Robert Medrano, Director
Office of Graduate Admission


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Career Outcomes

Graduates of our Ph.D. program accept research/teaching positions at the college and university level or are often employed at managerial levels in industry or government. The department has organized its courses to provide students with a broad-based background in biology with an emphasis on cell and molecular biology and to prepare them for advanced study and research in several areas including intracellular trafficking, signal transduction and cellular responses to stress, including aging and programmed cell death.

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Additional Information

Fellowship and Graduate Assistantship Opportunities

University Doctoral Fellowships and Doctoral Fellowships are available to qualified students matriculated in the Ph.D. program. University Doctoral Fellowships require no service and provide remission of tuition for 30 graduate credits and fees, plus a stipend. Doctoral Fellowships, providing tuition remission for 24 credits and a stipend, require 8-12 hours per week of service to the Department of Biological Sciences. Both awards include a dependency allowance of $500 per dependent per year. Women doctoral students are eligible for prestigious Clare Boothe Luce Fellowships, awarded on the basis of academic merit to women who expect to pursue university careers.

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Success Story

Sai Phyo, class of 2015, is an international student from Burma majoring in biology. He came to the United States in the fall of 2011 to pursue his dream: to become a pediatrician.