By the end of the first year of study, each candidate is expected to have identified major area of study in consultation with the research advisor. The research advisor is responsible for guiding the student in the selection of courses appropriate for their training.  It is expected that each student will be involved in a research project during the first year in graduate school.


The Department of Biology requires doctoral students to complete a yearly annual report of their academic progress. The GSAR process requires students to provide information on publications, service awards, funding activities, achievements, and progress toward their degree program.  The Graduate Director conducts an internal review of graduate student status and arranges individualized meetings to discuss individual student progress.


The student and advisor must complete the Planned Program of Study (PPOS) PPOS-manual in the Student Information System (SIS) for the entire PhD program. The program of study may be modified at any time in the program, but must conform to Graduate School requirements.  Students entering with a Bachelor’s Degree must complete 36 credit hours of study and exclude BIOL 701 hours from the PPOS..  No more than 6 credit hours of BIOL 601 can be used for this requirement, but students may repeat BIOL 599 if other formal coursework is not appropriate for the student’s degree program.  Registration for BIOL 599 is by permit only.  Students entering with a Master’s Degree must complete only 18 credit hours of formal coursework in the PPOS but are limited to 3 credit hours of BIOL 601.  The on-line PPOS is submitted to the Academic Advisor for approval and sent to the School of Graduate Studies to ensure it meets the degree requirement.  Failure to complete the PPOS timely will result in a SGS hold placed on your SIS account.


An important component of the Biology graduate program is teaching.  Teaching duties are assigned by the Graduate and Undergraduate Assignment Committee (GUAC) taking into account both the specialized areas of interest of the student and his/her broader professional development.


A graduate student is considered full time when registered for 9 credit hours per semester unless the candidate completed the required coursework and preparing to take the qualifying examination.  A PhD student may register, by permit only through the School of Graduate Studies for 1-6 credit hours of Predoctoral Standing– BIOL 701 (see forms).  One credit hour of BIOL 701 is considered a full time load.


Graduate Teaching Assistant Training is mandatory for graduate TAs (UNIV 400). Domestic students must complete a core of four seminars consisting of the following: 1) Experiential Learning in a Global Classroom, 2) Global Classroom 1, 3) Global Classroom 2 and 4) Observation and Follow-up. These seminars enhance the effectiveness and professionalism of a teaching assistant.

International Graduate TA training consists of three levels of UNIV 402: 1) Professional Communication Skills, 2) Focus on Fluency, 3) Presentation Skills. The purpose of these seminars is to provide practice with the level of spoken English needed in instructional settings.  Registration for GA Training can be found at:


Upon completion of formal coursework requirements the candidate submits an email to the Chair of Committee on Graduate Affairs which includes the following information:

  1. List of four faculty nominations with brief descriptions of their relevant expertise
  2. Primary area of concentration
  3. Two minor areas of concentration
  4. Three Research-proposal-Abstract1(written on official Abstract Proposal form) 250 words maximum, no more than 3 references


The Ph.D. Candidacy Abstract Proposal forms require the student to write and submit three abstracts of potential grant proposals as the written component of your qualifying exam. The abstracts should be no more than 250 words, pose a hypothesis and a few (2-3) specific aims to test your hypothesis.  These abstracts must pass committee review with the CGA prior to development into a proposal. The CGA reserves the right to accept/reject any/all abstracts.  Should an abstract be deemed unacceptable, the candidate may choose from the approved abstract(s).


The detailed proposal must be approved by the advisor and then presented to the Examining Committee at least 10 days prior to the exam. It is strongly recommended that the candidate register for 3 credit hours of BIOL 601 to allow sufficient time for preparation of the research proposal.


The comprehensive oral examination will cover one area of biology directly related to the student’s planned area of research, and two other related areas of biology, to establish the student’s depth and breadth of understanding. The Examination Committee (as soon after its formation as is convenient) has an informal meeting with the student to discuss the examination.  A member of the CGA must be present at this meeting to ensure the student and the faculty are aware of the guidelines for the exam.  During the informal meeting, the committee members will define the content of the questions that they will ask the student in the comprehensive examination, and, if possible, schedule the time and date of the examination.



Each candidate is required to present a departmental seminar on their research proposal. The seminar is normally given prior to the examination.  It is recommended that all committee members attend the seminar.  The presentation should be given approximately one week prior to delivering the research proposal to the committee.



Formal admission to the PhD program is contingent upon the candidate passing the qualifying examination. The candidate will be examined in his/her knowledge of biology and the ability to articulate and defend a research project.

The qualifying examination focuses on two parts and divided into two sections a) a comprehensive examination and 2) defense of the proposal and approximately equal time is given to each portion of the examination. Normally, the comprehensive examination is given first, so that problems that may be encountered in the review of the research proposal may not influence the student’s performance on the comprehensive examination.


Each student is required to present a seminar during the second semester of year 2. The seminar should focus on the topic to be covered in the student’s research proposal for the qualifying examination.  The seminar requirement must be fulfilled before taking the qualifying to examination.



The Examining Committee recommends one of the following courses of action:

  1. Proceed toward the Ph.D. degree (with or without conditions necessary to correct deficiencies identified during the examination).
  2. Re-examination one or both portions of the examination.
  3. Permission, with or without conditions, to complete a Master’s degree.
  4. Failure

Advancement to Candidacy signifies the candidate has been judged intellectually qualified and prepared to completing a suitable research problem and writing the dissertation.


Immediately after passing the Ph.D. qualifying examination, each student should, with the help of his/her advisor, submit names of  the dissertation committee. The dissertation committee should consist of 4 members including the research advisor.  It should have at least 2 members from the Biology Department and 1 member from outside the Biology Department.  The committee must be approved by the Committee on Graduate Affairs.  Each student should hold a meeting with his/her committee annually to discuss progress on his/her research.  It is not required that the CGA representative be present during annual meetings.  However, the CGA must be apprised of the date and progress discussed at the meeting by the student’s advisor.


Each semester the University publishes, in calendar form, its deadlines for application for degrees approval of thesis/dissertation form, and defense of the thesis/dissertation. IT IS THE STUDENT’S RESPONSIBILITY TO BE AWARE OF AND TO MEET THE UNIVERSITY DEADLINES AS WELL AS THE FOLLOWING DEADLINES:

  • Prior to defense: Present a seminar on thesis research to the University community.  It is mandatory for candidates to submit “Notification-for-Scheduling-the-Final-Oral-Exam-for-the-PhD” for the PhD” form to the School of Graduate Studies no later than three weeks prior to the date of your defense.
  • No later than 10 days prior to defense: Submit a final copy of the thesis to the Examining Committee and to the Department Chair.


Before preparing a draft of the thesis, the student should obtain all necessary style information from the School of Graduate Studies website:  Ultimately the thesis must be approved for defense by the candidate’s research advisor, but the student should seek review by other qualified readers.


  1. Paper Requirement

Each student is required to submit at least one manuscript to a respected refereed scientific journal. The paper must be part of his/her thesis work and the student should be the first author.  The paper must be submitted at least 3 months prior to the thesis defense.  Any reviewer’s comments should be made available to committee members at the defense.


The thesis will be accepted if, at the examination, at least three of the four committee members vote to accept it. In the event that the student’s thesis is not accepted (fewer than three members approve), the committee shall recommend a course of action to be followed.  The alternatives are : failure with no repeat of the examination or failure with re-submission and re-defense of the thesis, with changes suggested by the committee.  Failure to pass a second time shall be final.



The Department of Biology Seminar Committee schedules and publicizes seminars which are typically held weekly or biweekly.  Invited speakers from other institutions and from within the University to give seminar lectures on their research. In addition, graduate students present their research as part of their degree requirements. Seminars are a valuable time for the members of Biology to come together for socialization and scientific discourse.  Graduate students receiving departmental support are required to attend all seminars offered by the Department of Biology.


Any student whose course performance is not satisfactory may be terminated. A student’s scholastic performance will be considered unsatisfactory if he/she does not maintain at a least a “B” average (3.0 on a 4.0 scale).  In addition, any grade of “F” will result in automatic termination, as will the receipt of 6 or more credit of “C” and failure to exercise the use of the course repeat option receiving passing grades.

The student may appeal decisions made on the basis of these regulations. Such appeals shall be heard by the CGA and the student’s advisor.  Decisions are made by a majority vote of the CGA and the advisor.




Students undertaking graduate work are expected to pursue their studies according to a systematic plan each year whether registered full or part time. A leave of absence is not to be requested unless the circumstances are such that the student cannot continue graduate study.  Under such circumstances the student must request in writing a leave of absence for a period not to exceed two consecutive regular academic semesters.  In exceptional circumstances the leave can be extended for another two semesters.  However, the maximum amount of leave permitted per graduate program is four semesters.    The reason for the leave must be clearly stated, and the request must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies with the written endorsement of the biology department.  A student may not take examinations or defend theses while on a leave.  The student must not seek aid from faculty members or use the facilities of the university.    A student who fails to take a leave of absence, or who fails to register following an official leave, must petition the School of Graduate Studies and the academic advisor for reinstatement in order to resume work as a student in good standing at the University.

Sick Leave.  Graduate students are entitled to two weeks (10 traditional work days) of sick leave per year, with no year-to-year accrual.  Sick leave may be used for medical conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth.  Under exceptional circumstances, additional sick leave days may be granted by receipt of written request from a physician and prior written approval by the department.

Unpaid Leave

Students who require additional leave beyond what is stipulated above must seek prior written approval from the School of Graduate Studies for an unpaid leave of absence. Approval for a leave of absence must be requested in advance by the student and the student should provide documentation for the leave request and obtain approval.  Continued coverage of health insurance is allowable as permitted with the guidelines of University health Services and with written approval by the Department of Biology and the School of Graduate Studies.

Parental Leave

Graduate students are entitled to paid parental leave for the adoption or birth of a child. The  primary caregiver is entitled to 6 weeks leave of absence and the other parent or domestic partner is entitled to 3 weeks leave.  When both parents are supported graduate students, the leave may be used consecutively or together.  The leave must be used within 12 months of birth or adoption.  Parental leave must be approved in writing by the Department of Biology.

Unused Leave

A student is not entitled to receive any form of compensation for any unused holidays, vacation days, sick leave, parental leave, and/or accrued time off.


These policies do not supersede any Human Resource policy. In addition, these policies do not create a contractual relationship with any student and the policies may be amended at any time by the Faculty and the School of Graduate Studies.

The School of Graduate Studies policies regarding continuous registration and leave of absence still apply.

The Department of Biology will maintain records of all leave of absences.


Students who discontinue all studies during the semester (even if enrolled in only one course) must contact their academic advisor, dean of graduate studies, and registrar. Students may also initiate a withdrawal request from the Student Information System by selecting “Withdrawal Request” from the “other academic” dropdown menu in the Academics section of the Student Center. Complete withdrawal during the fall and spring terms will result in a “WD” grade on the student’s academic record if the withdrawal request is submitted after the drop/add period of the term. Withdrawal during the summer term will result in grades of W (for each course) on the student’s academic record. Tuition charges for the semester will be a percentage of the tuition cost based on the number of weeks in session. The withdrawal process will not be considered complete until either a signed withdrawal form is received by the Registrar’s Office or until an on-line withdrawal request is processed by the Registrar’s Office. Withdrawal forms must be received no later than seven (7) days from final approval from the Dean’s Office. Non-attendance does not constitute official notification of a student’s withdrawal. No one will be allowed complete withdrawal after the last day of classes.



Graduate students are allowed two weeks of vacation per calendar year (10 traditional work days) if they receive full support during a 12-month period. Students receiving less than 12 months are not entitled to vacation during the period of support.  The dates of vacations must be approved in advance  by the research mentor to ensure that time-sensitive work is not disrupted.  Vacation days can be accrued from one year to the next year only with prior written approval of the program and only up to a maximum of 20 traditional work days to allow for international travel.

Academic Policies –


Fellowship Courses

The purpose of this policy is to allow students pursuing graduate degrees to take courses beyond their degree requirements without additional financial burden to the student and little or no cost to the university. Such courses, referred to as “fellowship” courses, can broaden the educational experience of graduate students by allowing them to pursue studies according to their own intellectual needs. (Contact School of Graduate Studies for additional information and/or registration).  Additional rules apply.

Graduate Student Travel Awards

The School of Graduate Studies (SGS) at Case Western Reserve University sponsors a program to facilitate mentorship between graduate students and faculty mentors. Academic Departments are expected to contribute funds, a 50/50 match to demonstrate support of the student.  The Department of Biology requires students submit a detailed budget along with conference registration prior to submission to the School of Graduate Studies.

The maximum contribution from SGS is $500 for travel within the United States and $1,000 for travel outside of the United States. This supports conference-related expenses such as registration, lodging, meals, and transportation. Furthermore, only two nights of lodging and two days of meals — with a maximum meal allowance of $48 —are reimbursable. Original receipts are required and all CWRU travel policies apply. The applicant is responsible for making the necessary travel arrangements. Conference locations which are within the continental United States will receive highest priority in funding.

The Verhosek Fund

The V-Fund provides funds for incidental costs incurred in thesis research; these funds would otherwise be paid out of pocket by the graduate student.


  • Conference Presentation (max $200) — must include a copy of the conference confirmation of acceptance for presentation of paper/poster.
  • Thesis/Dissertation Binding (max $50).

The Eva L. Pancoast Memorial Fellowship

The Eva L. Pancoast Memorial Fund helps women graduates of the College of Arts and Sciences and/or women students in the School of Graduate Studies extend their education by foreign study or foreign travel, or both. It may be used any time during the twelve months following graduation, or, in the case of graduate students, in the twelve months following the current academic year.

Graduate Student Council –


Graduate Student Grievance Policy –



For questions, please contact Dr. Ryan Martin (