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Biology, Doctor of Philosophy

The Ph.D. program in Biology at St. John’s delivers comprehensive knowledge of the biological sciences, with an emphasis on cell and molecular biology.

Earn a Ph.D. in Biology at St. John's University in New York City!

The Ph.D. program in Biology at St. John’s delivers comprehensive knowledge of the biological sciences, with an emphasis on cell and molecular biology. You join accomplished, dedicated, and internationally-known faculty mentors to conduct cutting-edge research, across areas of biology that include cancer biology, neuroscience, epigenetics, evolutionary and developmental biology, and plant and environmental sciences. Most of the research projects in the department are funded by federal research grants, and funds are available to support students who present research at national and international conferences. The Department of Biological Sciences also hosts weekly seminar series, offering you the opportunity to meet and learn from experts at top research institutions.

Graduates with a Ph.D. in Biology from St. John’s have gone on to pursue research careers at leading universities and medical centers, including: Harvard University; Rockefeller University; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT); and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Many of our graduates have also founds success in industry settings, as faculty members on the college and university level, in patent law, or in scientific publishing.

Department Faculty

Please see a list of our Biological Sciences faculty.

Department Contact

Yong Yu, Ph.D.
Director of Graduate Studies
[email protected]

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Degree Type
Area of Interest
Science & Mathematics
Associated Colleges or Schools
Program Location
  • Queens Campus
Required Credit Hours


Application Requirements

To apply to the Ph.D. program in Biology, you must have completed an undergraduate major in one of the biological sciences or a related discipline. One semester of genetics, molecular biology, or biochemistry is required, and a semester of each is highly recommended. In addition, you must have completed one year each of inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, and mathematics through introductory calculus. We prefer applicants to have completed one or more courses in an area of biology in which you hope to focus your doctoral research. Although you should complete all prerequisite courses prior to enrollment in the program, the department may allow you to make up limited deficiencies during your first year of graduate study. International students who have not received a U.S. degree will also be required to present either TOEFL or IELTS scores as evidence of English proficiency.

Applicants to the Doctor of Philosophy program must also present:

  • Official transcripts of all undergraduate (and any previous graduate) work.
  • Evidence of successful completion of a bachelor’s degree with an overall cumulative index of 3.0, along with a 3.5 or higher average in biology, chemistry, and physics courses.
  • Evidence of an overall cumulative index of 3.0 or higher in graduate work, if applicable.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score reports are optional for this program. 
  • Three satisfactory letters of reference from science faculty in your most recent program of study.
  • A one-page essay describing your interests, career goals, and special aptitudes.

Application Deadlines

  • Applications received by February 1 will be given priority consideration for fall admission. 
  • Applications received by October 1 will be given priority consideration for spring admission. 

Office of Graduate Admission
[email protected]


Degree Requirements

Academic Curriculum: The academic curriculum consists of a minimum of 60 credits beyond the B.S. degree, or 32 credits beyond the M.S. degree. The core curriculum consists of Biology 207, 208, 212 and at least two research rotations (BIO 550 and 551). You have the option of completing a third research rotation (BIO 552). In each of these rotations, you will gain hands-on experience with the specific techniques and research approaches of individual faculty.

Qualifying Examination: In your third of fourth semester of doctoral study, you’ll register to take an oral qualifying examination that will test your basic knowledge of material from the core courses and how it relates to your chosen area of research, which you should establish by this time. Once you successfully complete the qualifying examination, you’ll proceed to the doctoral research level.

Upper-Level Courses: As part of your doctoral training, you’ll complete a series of upper-level, specialized research courses leading to the development of your doctoral dissertation, along with advanced seminars in which you’ll examine specific research questions through experimental literature. You’ll select these courses in consultation with faculty advisors according to your individual career goals and interests.

Comprehensive Examination: You should schedule your doctoral comprehensive examination with your committee as early during your fourth year as possible. This oral examination is administered by the thesis committee (chosen by you and your mentor) to review your thesis proposal, considering both the methodological soundness of your proposed research and its significance to the field.

Research and Dissertation: As a doctoral student, you will be required to take a minimum six credits of Doctoral Research (BIO 950) and submit a dissertation. You may not count more than 15 credits of Doctoral Research (BIO 950) towards the completion of your degree. Upon the recommendation of your advisor, you may take Special Research (BIO 352 or BIO 353) as preparation for your dissertation research, submitting a written report for each semester that you enroll in this course. Your dissertation should embody the results of significant original research, which has been accepted for publication in two peer-reviewed scientific journals. These publications must be included in your dissertation. You will defend your dissertation in a final oral examination before a faculty committee, demonstrating your ability to communicate in both oral and written presentations with clarity, organization, and accuracy.

Time Limit: You must complete all requirements for the degree within seven years from the date you matriculate into the doctoral program. You may not receive degree credit for courses older than seven years.

Transfer Credit: You may seek admission to the Ph.D. program after having successfully completed some graduate work at another accredited institution. You may request transfer of credit for this work, provided that you have not used it to fulfill requirements of another degree.

Career Outcomes

With a Ph.D. in Biology from St. John’s University, you’ll be well-qualified for research and teaching positions at the college and university level, or research and managerial careers in industry or government. The Department of Biological Sciences organizes its course offerings to provide you with comprehensive understanding of biology, with an emphasis on cell and molecular biology.

Additional Information

Doctoral Fellowship and Graduate Assistantship Opportunities

A limited number of Graduate Assistantships and Doctoral Fellowships are granted to various academic departments within each school and college of the University. Graduate Assistantships are also available in administrative departments. All students interested in applying for an assistantship must complete the online Graduate Assistant or Doctoral Fellowship application. Visit Graduate Assistantships and Fellowships to learn more. 

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