Prospective Students

arrow PH. D. Course Requirements
arrow Qualifying Exam (Prelims)
arrow Qualifying Examination Application
arrow Program of Work for Doctoral Degree
arrow Dissertation Proposal
arrow Qualifying Exam Results

PH. D. Course Requirements

a) You are required to take a minimum of three Plant Biology courses with two courses inside your area of study and one outside your area of study. Research courses (BIO 182, 282, 382) cannot be used to fill this requirement. If you did not enter the program with a Master’s Degree, you can expect to take more than four courses.

b) In addition to the aforementioned courses the student must take three hours of BIO 398T - Supervised Teaching in Biological Sciences (Plant Biology). This course must be taken during the student's first semester.

c) Seminar and research courses cannot be used to fulfill the four course minimum requirement.

d) There is no language requirement set by the program. However, a student’s Major Professor or committee may require one.

e) You must take 9 hours during each long semester and 3 during the summer semester to be considered a full-time graduate student.

f) Incomplete courses MUST be completed in the next long semester.

g) Graduate students are expected to receive grades of “A” or “B” in all courses. While “A’s” can cancel “C’s” to keep a grade point average above 3.0 (required), teaching assistantships and fellowships are jeopardized by receiving a grade of “C” in any course. Courses used to fulfill the minimum requirement must be passed with a letter grade of “A” or “B”. The Graduate School does not consider a “C” to be a passing grade.

Qualifying Exam (Prelims)

The qualifying examination is one of the steps that must be completed before a graduate student is admitted to candidacy. THIS EXAM SHOULD BE TAKEN DURING OR AT THE END OF YOUR FOURTH SEMESTER IN GRADUATE SCHOOL.  It can be taken during the summer after the end of the second year, but it is difficult to get a committee together during the summer. The arrangement for, and the taking of, the qualifying exam proceeds as follows:

Arranging for the examination.

YOU should obtain the required QUALIFYING EXAMINATION PACKET from the Graduate Coordinator in BIO 329.

This packet includes:

arrowQualifying Examination Application

arrowProgram of Work for Doctoral Degree

arrowDissertation Proposal

arrowQualifying Exam Results

 Qualifying Examination Application

The student and his supervising professor should discuss which faculty members should serve on the examination committee. The committee must have at least 5 members including:

a) The Supervising Professor (who “run” the exam, but does NOT VOTE on the student’s performance).

b) Three other faculty members in the Plant Biology Graduate Program. These should be chosen so as to be able to provide a breadth of examination on general topics but also be interested in the student’s research. One person should be outside of the student’s area of specialization. For example, a student with molecular – physiological interests would have an organismic person on their committee.

c) An outside member – either a faculty member from another department or from another university. NOTE: If a member is from another university, you must provide a curriculum vitae from the person and have a written statement that the person will not request any funds from the University of Texas. Consequently, it is easier to have the outside member be from EEB, Geology, Chemistry, Anthropology, etc. at UT.

d) You must obtain the approval of your committee composition from the Graduate Adviser.

e) You must ask all of these individuals if they are willing to serve on your committee and set up a date, time and place for the exam. The date and time are determined by when all of the members can meet. You must schedule a three-hour period and a room with the Graduate Coordinator.

Program of Work for Doctoral Degree

On your program of work for courses listed, the course number, title, professor, institution, semester taken and grade should all be completed. Note that coursework is to be divided into MAJOR and SUPPORTING WORK. Your Supervising Professor or the Graduate Adviser can help you classify you coursework. Research courses such as BIO 382 should not be included, nor should courses with a grade of C. However, do include BIO 999R and 999W and indicate that they are to be taken. The Program of Work only lists courses taken in Graduate School at the University of Texas at Austin.

On a separate piece of paper, list advanced biology courses you have taken at other universities, noting the course, year and grade as required for the program of work. The Graduate Adviser has to sign the Program of Work prior to the Qualifying Exam. A copy of the Program of Work and of courses taken elsewhere is to be circulated to all faculty one week before the Qualifying Exam.

Dissertation Proposal

You must also prepare a summary of your proposed research. This should be between 4 and 10 pages long and should include an introduction, problem, proposed methodology, and a brief literature review.

Two weeks before the exam bring the program of work for the doctoral degree and the dissertation proposal to the graduate adviser for approval. After the Graduate Adviser approves the program of work and the dissertation proposal, make a copy for each of your committee members and give it to each member along with the Qualifying Examination Application at least one week (7 days) before the exam. It is a good idea to remind each committee member the day before, or morning of the exam.

 Qualifying Exam Results

Type your name, the date and time of the exam, and the names of the members of the committee on the form and GIVE IT TO YOUR SUPERVISING PROFESSOR AT THE BEGINNING OF THE EXAM. Return it to the Graduate Coordinator after the exam along with a complete copy of your Qualifying Examination Packet.

Exam Content

The exam itself consists of TWO parts.

arrowGeneral Knowledge

arrowDissertation Prospectus

General Knowledge

The first part of the exam will consist of an evaluation of your general knowledge and shall precede that of your research. IT SHALL BE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE EXAMINING COMMITTEE TO ENSURE THAT YOU HAVE A SOUND UNDERSTANDING OF PLANT BIOLOGY. After each member has asked all the questions he wants, voting members decide whether:

arrowTo pass the student with no provisions

arrowTo pass the student with the provision that certain course work be completed

arrowTo fail the student or ask the student to retake the exam at a later date.

All committee members should sign the examination form on which the Supervising Professor writes the decision. If any additional coursework is required, it should be added to the student’s Program of Work for the Doctoral Degree. Once the first part of the examination is completed, the committee can continue with the second part (if there is sufficient time), or adjourn until a date can be scheduled for the second part. If the latter is the case, the form is given to the Graduate Coordinator.

Dissertation Prospectus

The second part of the exam addresses the student’s proposed research program. It allows the committee to become acquainted with the student and their research. If the committee feels that the student can begin to carry out a successful project (i.e. pass the second part of the exam) they would sign the second part of the exam form. The form is then given to the Graduate Coordinator.

Approval of the Graduate Studies Committee

All professors in Plant Biology appointed as members of the graduate faculty, are members of the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC). This committee must vote as to whether or not you should be admitted to candidacy. After the distribution of your program of work and completion of both parts of the exam, if there have been no disapproval’s the vote is taken as positive.


Plant Biology images. (Photo credit: Dr. Z. Jeffrey Chen/University of Texas at Austin; Shutterstock images)