The M.S. and Ph.D. programs in biology are geared to the needs and interests of each individual student. Graduate students may be admitted to work with a specific faculty sponsor, or may choose to rotate through appropriate laboratories to identify a faculty sponsor. Upon arrival, incoming graduate students take a diagnostic examination in four major subject areas. Based on the results, faculty work with each student to map out the first year's course work. During that first year, graduate students interact with faculty and other students to further define their areas of interest.
Typically, the student has chosen a studies committee, identified a major advisor, and started work on a thesis topic by the end of his/her first year. Later in the student's tenure, a written comprehensive examination compiled by the studies committee must be completed. Finally, a written thesis must be submitted and defended before the Thesis Defense Committee.