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Frequently Asked Questions

How many people are in the UO Department of Biology?

We currently have 101 Ph.D. students, 5 MS students, and 42 BGMP (MS internship) students. There are 57 research-active faculty and 14 faculty instructors who teach undergraduate courses. In addition to Biology professors, our students work with principal investigators in many departments, including Chemistry and Biochemistry, Psychology, Human Physiology, Computer Science, Environmental Studies, Physics, Math, Geography, and Anthropology.


Does the department provide funding to PhD students?

Yes, all PhD students receive an annual stipend, a tuition waiver, and health insurance. There are also several training grants available to Ph.D. students in the Department of Biology. For more information, see FUNDING. Master’s students (MS) may be supported on teaching or research contracts (at the same rate as the PhD students), but funding is not guaranteed for MS students.


How much is the stipend?

The 2020/21 graduate stipend is $27,247 paid over 12 months. Many of our students report that this level of funding is more than adequate to support a student in graduate school in Eugene. When comparing stipends for different programs, be sure to consider the cost-of-living in those cities (search ‘COLA calculator’ for help with this). In addition to the stipend, PhD students and MS students who are on a contract (teaching, research, administrative) or are on a training grant receive a tuition waiver and health insurance during the terms that they are paid by the university.


How do I choose a lab to work in?

PhD students rotate through three research labs during their first year. Lab rotations help students identify the laboratory in which they will pursue their dissertation research. We are proud to be an interdisciplinary research program and believe that many different perspectives and approaches lead to faster and more accurate answers and solutions.  Rotations with faculty members outside of the research institute in which a student is admitted, are encouraged. Only PhD students complete rotations. Master’s students are admitted directly into a lab when they are offered admission.


Why do we do lab rotations?

Although many students enter with research interests and a preference for a research adviser, these preferences often change after starting graduate school. To assist students in making these decisions, new graduate students rotate through three laboratories during their first year. The purpose of these rotations is to offer a relaxed intellectual atmosphere in which students can be introduced to research, exposed to a laboratory environment, and become familiar with various experimental techniques and philosophies. The rotations also help students identify a laboratory and supervisor for their dissertation research.


How much time is spent in the lab?

This depends on the expectations of the advisor, as well as the efficiency and productivity of the student. Research should be considered a full-time job if you expect to complete your graduate work in a reasonable amount of time. We do not have a part-time graduate program.


What are the coursework requirements?

There are relatively few required course requirements for the PhD program in Biology. Each incoming student meets with a faculty committee that recommends specific courses based on the student’s background and goals. Recommendations generally include traditional courses in biology and related subject areas, as well as for-credit, non-graded activities such as journal clubs, seminars, and research. Specific graded course requirements vary by research institute or program, but typically do not exceed three, one-term courses. All students participate in journal clubs and seminars each term during the academic year and take part in research throughout the year (including summer).

Master’s students will need to meet the minimum requirements for graduation established by the UO Graduate School. The specific courses are determined by the student and their advisor.


How much time is spent teaching?

Each PhD student is required to be a teaching assistant for three terms. This requirement is usually completed during the first year. Course assignments are based on what courses are scheduled to be taught as well as the student’s experience and background.  Some students teach additional terms because they wish to gain more experience (particularly if it fits with their career goals) or if they join a lab with limited funding options.

There is no teaching requirement for master’s students. Teaching assistantships are given to master’s students whenever they are available so that they can receive pay and benefits while in the program.


What are the minimum GPA and GRE scores for admission?

As of Fall 2017, we no longer use the GRE. You should not send your scores to the Department of Biology and there is not a place to put your scores on the application.

The Admissions Committee bases its decisions on a combined assessment of the letters of recommendation, research experience, personal statement, grades, answers provided to questions on the application, and an interview. The GPA is just one component of a larger view of the applicant’s potential for success and there is no minimum GPA required for application.


Do you accept international students?

Yes, we accept both domestic and international students. See Details for International Applications.


How long does it typically take to complete the program?

Students typically complete the PhD program in 5-6 years. Master’s students usually finish in 2 years.


Should I contact faculty members directly?

Contacting faculty prior to or during application is not required for PhD applicants, however it is encouraged.  Not all faculty will respond to inquiries, but if you have a strong interest in a particular lab you should persist!  Do your homework – be explicit about what in relation to their lab or research appeals to you and how that might align with your own research interests.  Keep emails professional, friendly, and concise.  Even if you don’t get a response, you can still make a good impression!

Master’s degree students are admitted directly into a lab, therefore contacting faculty is essential to a successful application!


What transcripts are necessary to apply?

Applicants will need to submit:

  • an unofficial copy of their most current undergraduate transcript
  • transcripts for any post-bac or graduate coursework

Transcripts from schools other than where you earned your Bachelor’s Degree are not required.  If you are invited to interview, you will need to provide official transcripts as indicated above.

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