Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree Program

As of 1 August, 2014, this version of Graduate Study Program and Procedures is a DRAFT version, in revision and review, to be finalized in September, 2014. Any statements, rules, or regulations in this version are temporary and non-binding. If you have any questions about the Graduate Study Program and Procedures during this time period, please contact your advisor or call the EEB office (504) 865-5191.

top ⇑PhD Graduate Student Requirements and Timeline

NOTE: Students admitted to the PhD program in the EEB Department are eligible for five years of support (including TAs, RAs, fellowships) contingent on satisfactory progress towards the degree, and may receive a sixth year of support with satisfactory demonstration of need (to student’s dissertation committee, and approval of the departmental Graduate Affairs Committee. The EEB department and SSE require successful defense of the dissertation by the end of year seven.


Graduate annual review form (Deadline April 1st)
Note: A copy of the graduate annual review form MUST be taken to every committee meeting including the prospectus defense, for committee member review, until graduation. The student should receive feedback from the primary advisor on the form annually.


  • 48 semester hours coursework, majority in EEB, 24 max transfer credits, 9 hours per semester for full time.
  • AND additional requirements with semester by which student should have completed them:

By 1st semester:

By 2nd semester:

By 3rd semester:

  • First committee meeting
  • Pre-prospectus document (limit 2 pages)
  • Identification external committee member
  • Thesis Committee Approval Form, Signed and Submitted (form signed)

By 4th semester:

  • Pass on Comprehensive Examination - GRE subject test (Letter stating this fact must be included in your file; coordinate with the Graduate Committee)
  • Journal Club (2nd semester)

**If satisfactory progress towards meeting the requirements recommended by the 4th semester is not being made, the graduate committee may recommend departure from the PhD track after consultation with the student's committee.

By 5th semester:

  • Second Committee Meeting (the qualifying exam counts as a second committee meeting)
  • Prospectus (limit 5 pages; submitted to committee four weeks prior to qualifying exam)
  • Qualifying Exam (can include defense of prospectus and general questions based on deficiencies determined by GRE and thesis committee)
  • Prospectus Approval Exam Form (signed by committee members at the exam – bring with you to your prospectus!)
  • SSE Recommendation for Approval of Dissertation Prospectus(Similar to Prospectus Approval Exam Form but must be sent to Stephanie Borrego in SSE – bring with you to your prospectus!)
  • Graduate Degree Qualifying Exam Form(signed by committee members at your thesis prospectus - bring with you to your prospectus!)
  • Admission to Candidacy Form(SSE; This is a form the department chair signs, and includes certification that the student has done a year of residency (SSE requirement), language (not required by EE Biology), Preliminary Exam, and Qualifying exam and successful Qualifying exam and Prospectus Defense)

By 6th semester:

  • Advancement to Candidacy (see checklist above)

**If satisfactory progress towards meeting the requirements recommended by the 4th semester is not being made, the graduate committee may recommend departure from the PhD track after consultation with the student's committee.


Must register for 3 hours per semester of dissertation research to maintain full-time status until graduation.

By 7th semester:

  • Third Committee Meeting

By 9th semester:

  • Fourth Committee Meeting (required only if dissertation defense is not scheduled for the 10th semester)

By 10th semester:

By 11th semester:

  • Fifth Committee Meeting (required only if dissertation not scheduled for 12th semester)

By 12th semester:

  • Dissertation Defense (see checklist above)

**All students are eligible for support through their 12th semester. Defense of the dissertation no later than the 12th semester is highly recommended.

By 13th semester:

  • Sixth Committee Meeting (required only if dissertation not scheduled for 14th semester)

By 14th semester:

  • Dissertation Defense (see checklist above)

**The SSE deadline for completion of the PhD is the 14th semester. All students who have not defended by the 14th semester will not be eligible to receive a PhD.

top ⇑Ph.D. Graduate Student Requirement Details

Categories of Admission and Support

The Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) offers a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Regular degree students admitted into the graduate program to pursue this degree ordinarily enter the program with financial support.

The sources of financial support and terms of support for Ph.D. students in the EEB Department vary, but normally students can expect (1) a tuition waiver, and (2) departmental support for five years (including teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or fellowships), renewable annually, as long as the student is making satisfactory progress toward the degree. Support will not be available in any form past seven years. The EEB department, in consultation with the EEB Graduate Studies Committee and student’s advisor, may terminate financial support for a student who is not making satisfactory progress towards the degree.

Most students are admitted without qualifications, but provisional or probationary admission is possible in rare cases. Provisional admission may be granted to students who have not completed all application requirements. Probationary admission may be granted conditionally with requirements the applicant must fulfill in the first semester or year of graduate enrollment in order to have the probationary non-degree status changed to regular degree status.

Special (non-degree) students may take a maximum total of nine semester hours without planning to pursue a graduate degree. Special students may reapply to the Graduate Studies Program in the School of Science and Engineering for admission into a regular degree program.

top ⇑Faculty Advisor

The student will consult his/her advisor in order to develop a course of study and to gain the advisor's approval for course registration. The faculty advisor must be a full time tenured or tenure-track member of the department.

Potential applicants must communicate with a prospective advisor prior to making application to the Graduate Studies Program in the School of Science and Engineering, because admission to the EEB graduate program depends upon a faculty member agreeing to supervise the student's graduate program, including the dissertation research and composition. In those instances where interdisciplinary research is proposed, a second faculty member in another department or at another institution may serve as a co-advisor; such an arrangement must be approved by the student’s EEB advisor as part of the application process.

top ⇑Entrance Interview

During the first semester of enrollment, ideally by the first week of classes, each entering graduate student interviews with the faculty advisor (Graduate Studies Committee Chair substitutes if an advisor has not been arranged) and two other full time EEB tenured or tenure-track faculty members. The purpose of the interview is to review the student’s prior coursework, discuss research interests and degree goals, and ensure that the student understands departmental graduate study procedures and requirements. The entrance interview committee will provide the student during this interview with a printed copy of this document (Graduate Student Requirements) and the Annual Report Form. Recommendations for coursework to address deficiencies or to enhance the student's program may be made during the interview. Download Entrance Interview Form.

top ⇑Annual Report and Progress

All graduate students who have been enrolled in the EEB Department for at least one semester must fill out and submit the cumulative annual report form that describes progress made during the previous calendar year (see Graduate Student Annual Report Form). Copies of this report must be submitted by April 1st to the student's dissertation advisor for faculty review; the student's dissertation advisor will then sign, comment, and file the completed form annually with the departmental secretary as part of departmental records. The Graduate Studies Committee and departmental faculty will review the annual reports to determine whether each student's progress has been satisfactory. Continued unsatisfactory progress is sufficient cause to revoke a teaching assistantship or terminate a student from the graduate program. Download Graduate Student Annual Report Form.

top ⇑Journal Club

All doctoral students must successfully complete two semesters of EBIO 6810 – Journal Review in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (“Journal Club”). The course is offered each fall semester. Thus, Ph.D. students are expected to complete this requirement during their first two years of study.

top ⇑Foreign Language

No foreign language is required, but a student's dissertation committee may require demonstration of proficiency in one or more languages within guidelines established by the Graduate Studies Program in the School of Science and Engineering. Any such language requirement must be fulfilled prior to the qualifying examination for the Ph.D. degree.

top ⇑General Course Requirements

A total of 48 semester hours of approved graduate course work must be completed for the doctoral degree, and a majority of these credits earned at Tulane must be in the EEB Department. A maximum of 24 semester hours of transfer credit are allowed. These credits must be approved by the Chair of the EEB department and the Graduate Studies Program in the School of Science and Engineering, and they must have been acquired within six years of the first date of graduate registration at Tulane. For further information see below (Continuing Registration) and the Graduate Catalog of the School of Science and Engineering.

top ⇑Continuing Registration and Quality of Work Requirements

As described in the School of Science and Engineering (SSE) guidelines, a student admitted to an SSE graduate degree program, including any in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, must maintain continuous registration up to and including the semester during which the degree is awarded. To meet this requirement Ph.D. students who have not yet been advanced to candidacy must register for at least nine credit hours each fall and spring semester. These credits can be achieved through graduate-level coursework and/or registration for Graduate Research (EBIO 7990, up to nine credits per semester). After advancement to candidacy, doctoral students must register for a minimum of three credit hours of Dissertation Research (EBIO 9990) to maintain continuous registration. All students are responsible for all applicable fees each semester.

The maximum tenure for doctoral students is seven years, but students are not generally supported financially by the department beyond six years. Students exceeding these maximum tenure limits must petition the Graduate Studies Committee for an extension in order to continue their enrollment in the program. The entire dissertation committee must ratify the extension in the case of Ph.D. students.

As stipulated by the SSE guidelines, graduate students in EE Biology are expected to earn a grade-point average of at least 3.0 (B). By earning one B- grade a student is immediately considered for probation by the Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, in consultation with the appropriate department/program (the Graduate Studies Committee, in the case of EE Biology). If a student receives two grades of B-, or one grade less than B-, during his/her tenure in the SSE graduate program, the student is placed on probation and considered for dismissal from the program by the Associate Dean in consultation with the appropriate department/program. The terms of the probation are to be worked out by the department/program in consultation with the Associate Dean.

top ⇑Comprehensive Examination

All Ph.D. degree students must take and pass the Comprehensive Examination focusing on Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Successful performance on the Comprehensive Examination is required for advancement to degree candidacy. Download Comprehensive Examination Form.

The Comprehensive Exam is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Biology Subject Test, and each student is responsible for arranging independently to take this exam. Applicants for admission to the graduate program in EEB are encouraged to take the GRE Biology Subject Test before admission into the graduate program. To pass this exam a student must earn a score of at least 700 (or above 65th percentile) on the Biology Subject Test, and 72 (or above 70th percentile) on Ecology and Evolution subscore. The Graduate Studies Committee will review the results of the Biology Subject Test. If the student has not achieved a passing grade by these criteria, the Graduate Studies Committee will make a recommendation to address the deficiency, which could include an oral exam, re-taking the Biology Subject Test, and/or additional coursework. Students must have passed the Comprehensive Exam by the end of the second year of graduate study.

Students who have not taken general courses in Ecology or Evolution as undergraduates are encouraged to enroll in these courses as graduate students at Tulane during their first year of study, prior to taking the Comprehensive Examination. Students are encouraged to meet with their advisor early to discuss methods of preparing for the Comprehensive Examination.

All doctoral students who have passed the Comprehensive Examination and have met all other requirements for the Master's degree are eligible to receive the Master of Science degree. Each eligible student must apply to the Graduate Studies Program in the School of Science and Engineering to receive the degree because it is not granted automatically.

top ⇑Teaching Requirement

All doctoral students in EE Biology must demonstrate teaching competence. This requirement applies to all Ph.D. students, including graduate fellows, research assistants (R.A.s), teaching assistants (T.A.s), and those persons who are self-supported. Download Doctoral Student Teaching Requirement Approval Form.

Several equivalent options are available to fulfill the teaching requirement:

  1. Teach two concurrent, semester-long lab sections of the introductory course (EBIO 1015 – Diversity of Life Lab), which includes lab preparation each week, introductory lectures and the writing and grading of quizzes. Some grading and proctoring of lecture exams may also be assigned.
  2. Teach one, semester-long lab section of General Ecology (EBIO 3045), which includes lab preparation each week, introductory lectures, and the grading of lab reports. Grading of lecture exams is also part of the duties of a TA in the ecology lab.
  3. Act as teaching assistant in one semester of EEBIO 2020: Theory and Methods in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Duties include active participation as a junior instructor in every class meeting ('active participation' includes all assigned reading, facilitating daily group work, and delivering 1-2 mini-lectures per module); development of CREATE rubrics and grading keys, and grading of all four CREATE packets; development of two to three exam questions per exam and grading all exams; develop and teach a module on a topic approved by the instructor.
  4. By special arrangement, take primary responsibility to teach one semester-long lab section in an upper division course, including lab organization and preparation, lab contact time with students (including lab orientation "lectures"), organization of data, and preparation and grading of lab material (quizzes, practical exams, lab reports). Courses that may allow one to fulfill the teaching requirement in this manner depend on enrollment and availability of T.A.s each semester.
  5. Prepare and deliver a total of at least eight regular course lectures, or the equivalent, spread over at least two different courses within the EEB Department, as well as write and grade exam questions covering the relevant material.
  6. Teach an entire course, subject to need for the course and approval by the Chair and the Dean of the School of Science and Engineering. This last option is an unusual situation, typically reserved for students nearing the completion of the Ph.D. degree, and not something that can be counted on by any student. This option clearly would require more work than the other options.

A teaching assistantship in any given semester may involve only grading of lecture section exams for one or more classes for an average of 10-15 hours per week, but this assignment does not satisfy the one-semester teaching requirement for any student (including T.A.s) because of the insufficiently rich pedagogical experience.

top ⇑Dissertation Committee

The faculty advisor and the dissertation committee are selected to guide the student's dissertation research. The faculty advisor serves as Chair of the dissertation committee and ensures that the student develops a course of study that will give proper foundation to the dissertation research, and must be a full time EEB tenured or tenure-track faculty members. The dissertation committee must consist of at least four faculty members, three of whom (including the student's advisor) must be full time members of the EEB Department; and committee members other than the faculty advisor may be full time professors of the practice. The fourth committee member must be from another department or from another institution. Faculty from outside departments may serve as co-advisor, but departmental faculty must administer exams and certify fulfillment of all requirements. One emeritus professor from EEB may serve as a committee member, but he/she may not chair the dissertation committee. Each student must request approval for the composition of the dissertation committee by letter addressed to the Chair of the Department. Download the Thesis Committee Approval Form. Membership in the dissertation committee may be changed, but the student, his/her advisor, and the Chair of the Department must approve each change in its composition by submitting a revised thesis committee approval form.

The dissertation committee should meet for the first time by the end of the student's third semester. The dissertation committee is responsible for monitoring the student's progress until graduation, including administering the qualifying examination, approving the prospectus, reviewing annual progress, accepting the dissertation, and conducting the dissertation defense. Further information is given in the Graduate Catalog of the School of Science and Engineering. Download the Thesis Committee Approval Form.

top ⇑Prospectus

Students should submit a pre-prospectus document (limit 2 pages) to the committee at the first committee meeting. Prior to and in preparation for the qualifying examination, the student should submit a draft of his or her dissertation prospectus (limit 5 pages) to the dissertation committee. The prospectus must be given to each member of the qualifying exam committee at least four weeks prior to the exam.

The prospectus outlines the program of research that will result in an acceptable dissertation. The prospectus must describe proposed research aimed at answering specific questions and should demonstrate that all necessary equipment, literature, technical skills, and other resources necessary to execute the planned work are available. The research questions posed should be clear and specific. The answers to the questions should promise to be important conceptual generalizations in the field of study, or better to extend to other fields.

The prospectus is a research proposal that describes the work the student aims to complete to earn the Ph.D. degree. The prospectus is expected to be a concise summary of the proposed work, and it should be formatted as follows: Summary, Introduction and Background, Significance of Research, Hypotheses and Tests, Methods, Preliminary Data, and Literature Cited. The student is expected to work closely with her/his advisor to ensure that the prospectus is well written and appropriately describes research to be conducted. The dissertation committee must deem the prospectus acceptable prior to the qualifying exam. If the committee determines that the prospectus is not acceptable as submitted, it will be returned to the student, who may be required to reschedule the exam.

Upon completion of the qualifying examination and in consultation with the faculty advisor and dissertation committee, the student must submit his or her dissertation prospectus to the Graduate Studies Program in the School of Science and Engineering for approval by the Associate Dean of the School of Science and Engineering. Guidelines for writing this summarized prospectus are found in the Graduate Catalog of the School of Science and Engineering. Copies of all approved dissertation prospectuses must be deposited with the Department for placement in the student's file. Download Prospectus Form.

top ⇑Qualifying Examination

By the end of the third year of study (6th semester), all doctoral degree students are required to pass a qualifying examination. The purpose of this exam is to test the student's knowledge about the proposed dissertation research and to approve the dissertation prospectus. Except in special circumstances (e.g., a desired faculty member is on sabbatical leave), the qualifying examination committee should consist of members of the student's dissertation committee. When forming the dissertation committee, students should choose committee members with expertise appropriate for the research to be conducted. The student and his/her dissertation advisor are responsible for ensuring that any deficiencies identified at the time of the comprehensive examination have been addressed by the time the qualifying examination is taken.

The qualifying examination will consist of oral questions submitted by each of the committee members and may take several hours to complete. The questions will focus on aspects of the research and ideas relating to the prospectus, but they may also revisit aspects of the comprehensive examination. Students are expected to answer questions concisely and to show a command of the subject matter. After completion of the qualifying examination, the committee will meet in private to decide whether the student has passed. If the student fails the exam, he/she may be asked to leave the program or retake the examination at a later date. The committee may require the student to do additional reading or study prior to retaking the examination. If the student fails the examination a second time, enrollment in the Ph.D. program will be terminated. Students are encouraged to discuss methods for preparing for the qualifying exam with their advisor and are expected to ask each committee member about requirements for preparation. Download Qualifying Examination Form.

top ⇑Admission to Candidacy

To be admitted officially to candidacy for the doctoral degree a student must have done entrance interview, completed all course requirements, satisfied all foreign language requirements (if any), passed the comprehensive examination with a satisfactory score, passed the qualifying examination, and submitted an approved dissertation prospectus to the Graduate Studies Program in the School of Science and Engineering. Students are expected to complete all requirements for advancement to candidacy by the end of the third year of the graduate program (6th semester). If Advancement to Candidacy is not achieved by the 6th semester, then the student will receive one more semester of support (7th semester). If candidacy is not achieved in the 7th semester, then the student will not be eligible for support and the graduate committee may recommend departure from the PhD track after consultation with the student's committee.

Consult the Graduate Catalog of the School of Science and Engineering for details and procedures, which include submitting (to the Graduate School) a copy of the defended prospectus (with appropriate signatures from the student’s dissertation committee) and completing all required forms in the SSE graduate school. There is a total of four forms that must be completed and submitted to achieve candidacy: Prospectus Approval Form, The SSE Recommendation for Approval of Dissertation Prospectus Form, the Graduate Degree Qualifying Exam Form, and the Admission to Candidacy Form.

top ⇑Dissertation

The written dissertation is the culmination of doctoral degree work and is the necessary demonstration of the candidate's ability as a scientist and scholar. The dissertation, therefore, must be a genuine and original contribution to knowledge or an original interpretation of existing knowledge. The dissertation must be worthy of publication in a scholarly journal. If the student has already published papers on his or her research, these may be included as chapters in the dissertation. The faculty advisor and the dissertation committee must pass on the acceptability of the dissertation before it is defended. Instructions on preparing the dissertation document are found in the Graduate Catalog of the School of Science and Engineering.

top ⇑Dissertation Defense (Final Examination) and Seminar

Candidates wishing to defend their dissertation in a particular semester must submit the completed dissertation to the dissertation committee at least four weeks prior to the planned defense date. The dissertation must be approved as ready for defense at least two weeks prior to the defense date. The dissertation advisor is ultimately responsible for the decision as to when the dissertation is ready to defend, but he/she may reach this decision in consultation with the dissertation committee. The final examination is an oral defense of the dissertation following a public presentation of the dissertation research in the form of a departmental seminar. This seminar must take place during the regular academic term (fall or spring semester), and must be formally announced to all members of the department at least one week in advance of the seminar and open to the public. The subsequent dissertation defense is conducted in closed session with the student's faculty advisor and dissertation committee.

In order for a student to participate in a graduation ceremony, the defense must be completed at least two weeks prior to the deadline for filing the dissertation, which is set by the Graduate Studies Program in the School of Science and Engineering. A dissertation defense form must be completed and submitted to the Graduate Studies Program in the School of Science and Engineering signifying that the defense was completed. Candidates who have successfully defended a dissertation and who have met all other departmental and university requirements are recommended to the faculty of the School of Science and Engineering for awarding of the doctoral degree.

Students are required to submit at least one chapter of the dissertation (or another manuscript resulting from work conducted while at Tulane) to a peer-reviewed publication prior to submission of the final dissertation to the Graduate Studies Program in the School of Science and Engineering. Thus, the dissertation advisor and the student are responsible for meeting this requirement prior to the dissertation defense. Students and advisors are therefore encouraged to publish preliminary or ancillary research results as these studies are completed. The purpose of the requirement is to ensure submission of manuscripts for publication prior to receiving the degree. This practice increases the opportunities for future employment of the candidate while research conducted while at Tulane is completed and disseminated.

top ⇑Moving from Ph.D. to M.S. Degree

This degree program is available to students who decide not to complete the Ph.D. degree and who meet certain requirements. Requirements and policies specific to the Ph.D. program do not apply to this degree program. In order to earn this degree, students must have been admitted to the EEB graduate Ph.D. program through the regular Tulane University admissions process.

All students seeking this degree must complete 30 credit hours of approved, graduate level coursework in EEB or other relevant departments. A maximum of 12 credits may be applied from relevant departments within Tulane. Only courses in regular, formal courses may be counted toward the 30 credits; dissertation research credits may not be counted toward this degree program. A maximum of 6 credits at the graduate level that have not been applied to a master’s degree at another institution may be transferred to this degree program, at the discretion of the Chair of the EEB Department. Following completion of coursework, students must take and pass the Comprehensive Examination (see General Regulations and Requirements).

top ⇑Exceptions

Students must petition the Graduate Studies Committee of EE Biology Department on an individual basis for exceptions to these procedures.

top ⇑Forms for Faculty and Graduate Students

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