PMB Graduate Program Degree Requirements

> See the PMB graduate student handbook (pdf) for full details on degree requirements.

Coursework and thesis credits

54 credit hours total required

  • 30 course credits (9 hours of required courses, 21 credits of supporting courses)
  • 24 thesis credits

Check the PMB student resources page for course options.

Research experience

Research experiences provide opportunities for you to identify a thesis project, an advisor, and committee members, as well as to develop research skills and gain exposure to a variety of research topics and techniques that will help you in advancing your research and academic goals.

During your first semester in the PMB Ph.D. program, you must complete research rotations or another substantive activity that provides connections beyond your home lab. Both rotations and other activities for making connections outside of your advisor’s lab must be approved by the DGS.

Professional development

Professional development is central to graduate success. You develop professionally through courses, research, and interaction with others at the University. However, it also is valuable to engage in activities that are specifically aimed at professional development, and the PMB program requires that you do so. There are several ways to fulfill this requirement: courses (e.g., GRAD 8101 Preparing Future Faculty, CFAN 8101 Professional Skills for Plant Scientists, BIOL 5701 Science Communication, BIOL 8100 Improvisation for Scientists), workshops (e.g., career development, research group management, teaching skills, writing skills, leadership development), or internships in industry.

Teaching experience

PMB students are required to participate in at least one semester-length teaching experience (20 hours/week). These teaching assistantships may involve courses at the graduate or undergraduate level in the fields of cell biology, genetics, developmental biology, botany, plant function, biostatistics.


Each student works with his or her advisor to select a committee of four faculty members, with approval by the Director of Graduate Studies. This committee provides guidance and scientific expertise as they monitor the student’s progress and administer exams.

Students must pass three examinations to obtain a Ph.D. degree:

  • Written preliminary examination: spring semester, second year
    Students must write an original research proposal. Most often this proposal is about or related to students' planned thesis research. This proposal is graded by three members of the student's advisory committee and serves as the written preliminary examination.
  • Oral preliminary examination: prior to fall semester, third year
    Students must defend their written preliminary proposal with their advisory committee. Students must be prepared to field general questions designed to evaluate their breadth of knowledge.
  • Final Ph.D. oral examination (defense)
    Three members of the student’s committee serve as primary readers/reviewers of the completed thesis and certify that it is ready for defense. The student must present a public research seminar and pass a private oral examination with all members of the student’s committee.
Publication of thesis research

Ph.D. theses must encompass substantial and novel research of high significance. Prior to their final defense, students are encouraged (but not required) to be the first author on publication(s) in peer-reviewed journals within their research field.