Ph.D. in Biological Science

Professor and student looking at specimen in lab. Containers of bright green liquid line the wall in the background.

About this Program

The Department of Biology in the College of Liberal Arts offers the Ph.D. in Biological Science. It prepares graduates for various academic, industrial, or governmental professional positions that include but are not limited to freshwater biology, medicine, education, molecular genetics, ecology, and conservation biology.

UM students have access to a diversity of courses and a great variety of habitats in North Mississippi for both laboratory and field studies, including a 740-acre field station, a national forest, and flood-control reservoirs. 

Our research faculty are conducting frontline research in many areas of biology, including

  • microbiology,
  • symbiosis and species interactions,
  • biodiversity and conservation,
  • cell and molecular biology,
  • physiology,
  • neuroscience and behavior, and
  • omics and systems biology.

Their research has attracted an unprecedented level of funding and created many research opportunities for students to actively participate in scientific discoveries and innovation.

Our goal is to form a close, uplifting community dedicated to supporting your academic journey, unleashing your potential and creativity, and helping you realize your dreams. We do this not only in the classrooms and research labs, but also in the broader public sphere, e.g., inspiring K-12 students to pursue science, joining forces with farmers for sustainable agriculture and food security, and working with citizen scientists to monitor and protect our natural environment. 

If you are interested in biological sciences and want to make transformative changes in your lifetime, it is the perfect time to join the UM biology family.

On this Page…

    Program Information

    Program Type

    Doctorate Program

    Area of Study

    Sciences, Mathematics, and Technology


    Ph.D. in Biological Science

    Program Location


    Required Credit Hours


    Program Details


    The Department of Biology welcomes applications to the Ph.D. program from students who have identified a member of the graduate faculty to be their major advisor and from students who wish to explore three labs (rotation system) before deciding on a major advisor by the end of their first year in the program. 

    Student applications include the following materials, with additional details on the department website.

    1. Complete the Graduate School’s Online Application.  
    2. Pay the application fee ($50). 
    3. Submit official transcripts.
    4. International applicants whose first language is not English may be required to submit scores from an acceptable English language proficiency test.
    5. Upload Supplemental Application materials for the Department of Biology to the link provided on the online application.
    • Statement of background and future goals. In this 1-2 page document, describe any prior research experience, relevant coursework, motivation for pursuing this graduate degree, and how it relates to your career goals.
    • Statement of research interests. Use this statement to express your future interests and ideas, discuss potential projects, or your goals for the rotation program with three faculty members.
    • Resume or CV
    • Two letters of recommendation. Provide contact information for two recommenders.

    Ph.D. student with a specific major advisor

    Applicants identify in the statement of research interests the name of the faculty advisor who has agreed to accept them in the lab. The advisor will place a letter of support in the applicant’s file.

    Ph.D. student in the rotation system

    Applicants to the rotating program contact potential faculty before applying and gain approval from at least three faculty for their rotation. The goals of the rotation will be included in the statement of research interests. If admitted, the Graduate Program Coordinator will serve as the student’s temporary advisor for the first year and will establish a rotation plan in consultation with the student and faculty. 

    Students in the Ph.D. program complete 54 credit hours, including:

    • at least 24 hours of formal courses
    • 18 dissertation hours 
    • Bisc 691. Seminar course taken during the two semesters in which they present research seminars. 

    Students complete a research prospectus, a dissertation based on potentially publishable research, two research seminars (one of which is part of the defense), and an oral examination.

    Students in the Department of Biology are typically supported through departmental teaching assistantships or through research assistantships from individual faculty. The current 9-month stipend for Teaching Assistants is $22,000 for students in the Ph.D. program. Stipend amounts for Research Assistants are determined by the sponsoring faculty member.  

    Students with a graduate assistantship funded in the Department of Biology receive a scholarship that covers some or all of the tuition and non-residency fee, if applicable, for regular semesters and subsidized health insurance.

    To qualify for assistantships, the applicant must be admitted to the graduate program. All components of the application are used to determine eligibility for assistantships. These assistantships are competitive and the Department of Biology recommends that applicants have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 and/or a strong research background to qualify.

    Students may also compete for summer teaching or research assistantships to supplement 9-month stipends. The department also provides a few scholarships for graduate students in either the M.S. or Ph.D. programs and are based on academic excellence.

    • Wayne Alexander Graduate Student Scholarship
    • Steve and Mary Ann Cockerham Liberal Arts Graduate Student Scholarship
    • McRight Biology and Speech Pathology Scholarship
    • The Doctors Wong-Bridges Biology Scholarship for molecular or cellular research

    The Graduate School’s financial aid webpage lists a variety of funding possibilities, including summer support and a recruiting fellowship program that promotes academic excellence and access to graduate education to groups who are historically underrepresented.  

    The Department of Biology is located in Shoemaker Hall, a five-story building on the main Oxford campus that includes the Pullen Herbarium and other scientific collections. Individual research faculty occupy laboratories that are equipped with instrumentation and facilities to support a range of life sciences research from molecular and cell biology through ecosystem ecology.

    Biology research is supported by

    Biology faculty and students collaborate with a number of units on and off campus, including

    • National Center for Physical Acoustics,
    • Research Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences,
    • National Center for Natural Products Research,
    • School of Engineering,
    • National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering, 
    • Department of BioMolecular Sciences in the School of Pharmacy,
    • USDA National Sedimentation Laboratory,
    • Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and 
    • University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

    DIRECT Program

    The Diversifying Interdisciplinary Research Expertise through Community Building and Training (DIRECT) Program is a National Institutes of Health funded program offering financial, technical, operational, and professional resources for Ph.D. students interested in careers in the biomedical field. DIRECT trainees receive annual stipends, fully paid tuition, health insurance, conference travel support, and childcare cost reimbursement. The program emphasizes cohort building, mentoring, networking, and skill development.

    Jason Dale Hoeksema

    We’re Here to Help!

    If you have any questions about the Ph.D. in Biological Science, don’t hesitate to get in touch!

    Jason Dale Hoeksema

    Professor of Biology

    Next Steps

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