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Degree Requirements

In this Section

Requirements for the Doctoral Degrees Bioscience and Biotechnology  

1. Transfer Credits

2. Directed Study/Special Topics Courses

3. Selection of a Research Advisor

4. Graduate Appointments

5. Graduate Seminar Requirements

6. Requirements for the Doctoral Degree

•     6.1. Course and Dissertation Requirements

            6.1.1. University Requirements

            6.1.2.  Supplemental Requirements

•     6.2. Comprehensive Examination for Admission to Candidacy

            6.2.1. University Requirements

            6.2.2. Supplemental Requirements

•     6.3. Final Examination

            6.3.1. University Requirements

            6.3.2. Supplemental Requirements

7. Rules Governing the Format of a Report, Thesis, or Dissertation

8. Rules Governing the Submission of a Report, Thesis, or Dissertation

•     8.1. General Information

•     8.2. Distribution of Final Copies

•     8.3. Final Acceptance Date Prior to the Beginning of a Semester

9. Students with Completed Degrees

10. Exceptions

This document describes the pertinent minimum University requirements and the supplemental requirements established by the Department of Biology for the Doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees in Interdisciplinary Bioscience and Biotechnology and some related matters. All students should refer to the Graduate School section of the current University Catalog for a comprehensive description of University requirements. All accepted foreign students for whom English is a second language are required to take an ESL placement exam upon arrival, and complete any recommended requirements.


An official transcript from each University for which transfer credit is requested must be on file in the Graduate School (copy must be on file in the departmental office) before approval can be considered. Ph.D. candidates having obtained a M.S. degree can be given a maximum of 30 transfer credits in lieu of the M.S. degree.  Only courses with grades of B or better can be transferred.

To receive transfer credit, the student who has taken graduate courses that were beyond those required for an undergraduate degree should submit a written request to the chairman of the Graduate Committee of the IB&B Program.  A form for this purpose should be obtained by the student from the Biology Department office. The information on the form should identify the specific courses and number of credit hours for which transfer credit is requested.  In addition, the name of the text and a copy of the original course syllabus or outline and a copy of the transcript of grades from the student file should be appended. 


All such courses require a form (available in the department office) which requests a definition of the content of the course (can also include such information as the text, chapter outline, etc.) and must be signed by the instructor of the course.


Teaching Assistants and other fellowship recipients are required to discuss possible research topics with every member of the Department before selecting a research topic and an advisor. Research Assistants are expected to work on a specific topic for the advisor who makes the assistantship available.


The overall performance of every graduate student will be evaluated by the faculty at least once each semester.

Credit Hours: A student may not take more than 30 credit hours in an academic year (for example: six for summer, 12 each for fall and spring semesters or in some other combination (15/15 for each semester). The financial aid appointment specifies the number of credits for which a student should register each semester.  Advisors are responsible for assigning just the amount of credit hours needed. Students must be registered for at least nine credit hours per semester to be full-time and to maintain their status until they need less than nine credit hours to fulfill degree requirements.

Salary Limitations: If a student is receiving a full stipend from a department, he/she is not eligible to receive any additional funding.  Before hiring or paying a graduate student for duties, approval must be given by the Graduate School.

Holidays and Vacations: With the approval of their advisor, graduate students may take up to two weeks vacation when classes are not in session, however, fall and spring semester breaks are not part of your time off unless you wish to take them as vacation days.  Holidays include January 1, Memorial Day, July 4, Thanksgiving Day and the Friday following, and Christmas Day. In addition to the formal holidays listed above, any day that the University is officially closed does not have to be considered a vacation day.

Teaching Assistantships: (TAs) are awarded by the Department of Biology and other participating departments including Chemistry and Biomolecular Science, Mathematics & Computer Science, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Civil & Environmental Engineering,  Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering, and Physics. Renewal of TA support will be contingent upon satisfactory performance of teaching assignments, course and research work. TA support will not exceed five years for a Ph.D. student.

Research Assistantships: (RAs) are awards by individual faculty members having a research grant or contract funds for particular projects. Renewal of RA support will be the prerogative of the research advisor.

 Termination of Contract: The assistantship contract will be terminated prior to its expiration date if a student voluntarily withdraws from the program, or if he or she completes degree requirements. 


The IB&B Program organizes graduate student presentations as a seminar course, BY622, each fall and spring semester.

Candidates for the Ph.D. degree in Bioscience and Biotechnology must complete a minimum of 6 credit hours of BY622 and present 3 seminars as part of their degree requirements. 

The topics for the seminar presentations should be selected in consultation with the student’s research advisor and the faculty member in charge of BY622. The topic of the last seminar for a Ph.D. candidate is expected to be the student’s own doctoral research.

At least ten days in advance of their presentation, student speakers must submit to the department office a written notice of the seminar containing an abstract and references. This will be typed and distributed for posting.

In addition to presenting their own seminars, students are expected to act as seminar chairpersons and projectionists, to participate in the discussions that follow the seminars given by other students, and to attend the seminars organized by the Department of Biology for visitors and other speakers (Clarkson faculty, postdoctoral associates, etc.).

Students will pass or fail BY622 on the basis of their performance as speakers, participants and assistants, and also on the basis of their attendance.  At least 60% seminar attendance during each semester is required.


6.1. Course and Dissertation Requirements

6.1.1. University Requirements

The requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy degree are as follows:

(1) The program requires completion of a minimum of 90 credit hours, corresponding to a minimum of three academic years of full-time study, two of which must be in residence at Clarkson.

(2) A dissertation must be submitted by each candidate for the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

(3) At least six credit hours of seminar work are required.

(4) Coursework for the Ph.D. degree will comprise a minimum of 24 credit hours.

A minimum of nine course credit hours must be taken in residence. Students should verify the requirements with their academic departments.


The grades of A, B+, B, C+, C, and P are acceptable for credit toward the degree.  For graduation, an overall average of B or better must be earned in nondissertation courses and seminar work. In computing this average, all grades earned by a student in graduate courses and seminar work taken at Clarkson are to be counted. The grade of P will not affect the average.

Students failing to perform satisfactorily will be separated from the University upon the request of the department chair and with the concurrence of the Dean of their School.


After the comprehensive examination is passed, all work done specifically for the doctorate is to be completed within a period of seven calendar years.

6.1.2. Supplemental Requirements 

A student working toward the Ph.D. degree in IB&B must focus in one of the following areas: Molecular Bioscience & Biotechnology, Biomedical Sciences & Neuroscience, Computational Biology & Bioinformatics, and Ecology, Evolution & the Environment. 

All of the courses used in the fulfillment of course requirements must have catalog numbers above 500.

6.2. Comprehensive Examination for Admission to Candidacy

6.2.1. University Requirements

A comprehensive examination based on general preparation in the major field must be taken within two years after admission to the Ph.D. program. If the student fails, studies cannot proceed until approval is obtained from the department chair and from the Dean of the respective School and arrangements are made to repeat the comprehensive examination in the major field. If the comprehensive examination is failed twice, the student will be dropped.

6.2.2. Supplemental Requirements

The comprehensive examination is administered by the examination committee in the student’s major field. It is given when needed and arrangements for taking it must be made with the student's research advisor and the chairman of the examination committee in the student’s major field. The student must submit a written request for a comprehensive examination at least three months prior to the proposed date of the examination.

A student who enters Clarkson with an M.S. degree in biology from another institution must take the comprehensive examination not later than one week after the end of his/her third semester at Clarkson.

A student who fails the comprehensive examination twice, or who does not repeat it successfully within six months, may transfer to the Basic Sciences M.S. Program but the candidate but will not be allowed to become a candidate for the Ph.D.

6.3. Final Examination

6.3.1. University Requirements

A final examination must be passed.  This examination will include, as a minimum, an oral examination based on the dissertation.  For the oral examination, a committee will be selected by the Dean of the respective School upon nomination and approval by the department chair or other comparable administrator.  The committee will consist of a minimum of five Clarkson faculty of assistant professor rank or higher and possessing a Ph.D.  At least one of the faculty must be from a department other than the candidate's major department.  Additional external members may also serve on the committee.  This committee will judge the technical competence of the dissertation and the oral presentation.  Final copies of accepted dissertations must be received in the student's School office no later than 10 class days before Commencement to qualify a student to receive a degree at the end of the spring semester.  Before receiving the degree each student must pay a fee, subject to change, to cover the cost of microfilming and binding the dissertation. [For the current price, contact the Graduate School.]

6.3.2. Supplemental Requirements

A final oral examination based on the dissertation will be given.

Selection and Composition of the Examining Committee

Each final oral examination is administered by a committee selected by the candidate in consultation with the dissertation advisor and approved by the chairman of the Department of Biology and the dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.  The examining committee must have minimum of five Clarkson faculty of assistant rank or higher and possessing the Ph.D. degree.  The thesis advisor serves at the chairman of the committee.

The student preparing to take such an examination should (1) consult with his/her dissertation advisor about whom to ask to serve on the committee, (2) obtain an Appointment of Final Oral Examination Committee form from the biology department office, (3) obtain the signature of each committee member on that form in token of willingness to serve, (4) obtain the signature of the dissertation advisor on that form in token of approval of the constitution of the committee, and (5) return the completed form to the chairman of the Department of Biology.  The completed form must be returned before the dissertation is submitted.

Advertising and Scheduling the Examination

The candidate and the advisor/department are responsible for making arrangements for a room and advertising the dissertation defense.  Advertisement should be to the entire Clarkson community (such as by publication in Clarkson...This Week) and should be done one to two weeks in advance of the defense.

NOTE: The student who wishes to receive the Ph.D. degree in IB&B at Commencement exercises should allow approximately a six week time-frame for the following procedures.  Once the advisor has determined that the dissertation is satisfactory, the copies for the committee members should be submitted to the Department of Biology.  After the copies have been examined for adherence to the required format and standards, first by the department chairman and then by the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, the student will distribute copies to the individual members who have agreed to serve on the final examination committee.  Final examination committee members have the privilege of a minimum of two weeks for review of the dissertation after they receive it.

Defense of the Dissertation

The final oral examination for the Ph.D. degree in IB&B should begin with the candidate’s summary of the dissertation research.  This summary must not exceed 30 minutes, and is immediately followed by an examination on the subject matter of the dissertation.  The examination will be open to the public, but only members of the examining committee will decide whether the dissertation and the oral examination are acceptable. Any candidate who cannot adequately defend his or her dissertation will have the grade of pass or fail deferred and will be given one additional opportunity to repeat the final oral examination.


The most up-to-date information on dissertation formatting guidelines are posted at:

See also the Guide to Formatting your PhD Dissertation (.pdf)

NOTE: All documents generally are expected to conform to high standards of style and appearance as well as scientific content.

7.1. The report, thesis, or dissertation must be double-space and neatly typed on white 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper.  The print must be letter-quality and should appear on only one side of the paper. Noticeable corrections and carbon copies are not acceptable; copies should be free from defects which mar their appearance.

7.2. Margins are to be an inch and a half wide (1 1/2") at the left-hand side, and one inch wide (1") at the right-hand side and top and bottom (see 7.3.).

7.3. Each page in the report, thesis, or dissertation must be assigned a page number and the numbering method must be consistent throughout the document. Numbering may be done at the top right-hand corner or bottom center, and should not be outside the one inch (1") margin. A one inch (1") margin must be maintained above or below the number.

7.4. Small Roman numerals are used for the preliminary pages (see 7.8.). The numbering begins with ii (the title page counts as i, but the number does not appear). The remainder of the document (including text, tables, figures, photographs, appendices, and bibliography) is numbered in Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, etc.).

7.5. The Graduate School requires that the title page of the document be in the format shown on the attached sample. All students are required to include a signature page signed by the appropriate committee members.

7.6. If photographs are used, original photos are required in both copies submitted to the Graduate Schools (Photos should be dry mounted on pages within the dissertation.). The photos may be Xeroxed for the copy held by the biology department office.

7.7. Tables and figures should immediately follow the page of text on which they are first mentioned. A very short table may be included on a page together with textual materials; however, a longer table should be placed on a separate page. Titles for tables, figures, graphs, or photos should appear at the bottom of the page on which it appears.  EXCEPTION: Material necessitating horizontal binding should be placed such that the top is at the bound edge of the thesis with the title on the side opposite the binding.

7.8. The preliminary material at the front of a report, thesis, or dissertation should include the following sections in the order indicated:

  1. Title page (which must follow exactly the format of the sample attached),
  2. Committee Signature Page (see sample attached),
  3. Abstract (which should outline the work performed). Abstracts for theses are limited by University microfilms to 350 words. There are no length limitations for abstracts in reports. Mathematical formulas, diagrams, and other illustrative materials are not recommended for the printed abstract. (A second, longer abstract may be included if desired.),
  4. Dedication page (optional),
  5. Acknowledgment page,
  6. Table of Contents,
  7. List of Tables (including their number, title, and the number of the pages(s) on which they appear),
  8. List of Figures (including their number, brief caption, and the page(s) on which the full caption appears).
  9. Additional items which follow the textual material are:
  10. List of References,
  11. Appendices.


8.1. General Information

All documents must be submitted in final form (after all corrections have been made) to the Department of Biology office a minimum of 14 days prior to the Commencement at which the student expects to receive the degree.

The Title Page and Signature Page for each report or thesis must be in the format shown on the samples at the end of this document.

The following completed items must also be submitted with the final thesis copies:

a degree completion form from the department,

an updated degree program form

8.2. Distribution of Final Copies

Copies of the final document which the student wishes to retain are in addition to the copies required and outlined below.

Ph.D. Dissertations: Two final copies are required by the Graduate School.

Dissertations are to be submitted in loose form without holes drilled.

The dissertation must be accompanied by a fee (current cost information is available from the Graduate School) to cover the costs of microfilming and binding.  There is an additional charge for extra volumes.

8.3. Final Acceptance Date Prior to the Beginning of the Semester

Final copies of the thesis must be received in the Graduate School no later than the second week of classes (last day to register) or the student must register and pay for one credit hour of thesis.


Students who have completed degree requirements, who are unregistered or inactive should not be allowed to use Clarkson facilities and/or laboratories due to the fact that the liability insurance does not cover any accidents for such individuals.


Exceptions to some of the requirements and rules described in this document may be granted in unusual circumstances. The student who believes an exception is justified should first consult with his/her advisor, and then with the chairman of the IB&B Program Graduate Committee.  The student should send a written petition to the chairman of the Department of Biology requesting any exception.