Required Courses—12 Credit Hours Minimum
- PCB 6XXX Conservation Biology Theory (4 credit hours)
- BSC 6935 Seminar in Biology (2 credit hours - take twice at 1 credit hour each)
- PCB 6095 Professional Development in Biology I (1 credit hour)
- PCB 6096 Professional Development in Biology II (1 credit hour)
- PCB 6053C Restoration Ecology (4 credit hours)
Elective Courses—20 Credit Hours Minimum
This formal course work could be from Biology or other programs and is selected in consultation with the adviser and advisory committee. The goal is to tailor the program of study to the individual student's needs and may include courses in economics, engineering, chemistry, sociology, or statistics, for example.
Additional Elective Courses—25 Credit Hours Minimum
May include additional electives, dissertation research, internship, and a maximum of 12 credit hours of combined independent study and directed research.
Dissertation—15 Credit Hours Minimum
- PCB 7980 (15 credit hours)
The Advisory Committee shall consist of a minimum of four members: the dissertation adviser plus at least three members of the graduate faculty. At least one member will be from a department other than Biology and may include persons from outside the university if they qualify as graduate faculty scholars. The chair, or co-chair, must be a member of the Department of Biology graduate faculty. The major role of the student’s advisory committee is to offer guidance on study design (early and throughout the study) and analysis/interpretation of results (later). The dissertation adviser and advisory committee are faculty who have agreed to serve as a resource for the student throughout the dissertation process. In turn, the student should keep their adviser and committee regularly informed of progress and problems.
Students are required to register for 9 credit hours in fall and spring and 6 credit hours in summer before their candidacy exam. After being admitted to candidacy, minimum enrollment is 3 credit hours of dissertation research each semester.
The written qualifying examination should be completed as early as the fall semester following the first academic year, but no later than the end of the fall semester of the second year. This examination measures the student’s proficiency in all subject matter related to the chosen field. Exam questions are related to the student's discipline and designed to examine general knowledge and reasoning within the field.
The student will meet with their advisory committee at least one month prior to the examination to discuss expectations. Committee members must clearly articulate in writing the general areas that may be examined. A failing grade requires a majority vote by committee members. Any student failing the examination must repeat the examination within six calendar months of the date of the first examination. A second failed attempt will result in dismissal from the program.
Each student will be required to generate, organize and orally defend a written proposal outlining their dissertation research to their dissertation advisory committee no later than 12 months after passing the Qualifying Examination. The oral Candidacy Examination will cover all areas within the scope of the student’s doctoral program and requires that the student demonstrate knowledge of the theory, literature and research methodologies relevant to the proposed area of research as well as demonstrate an understanding of how their work relates to the field of biology as a whole. After passing the candidacy examination the student will be a candidate, can register for dissertation hours, and the focus of their efforts will be on dissertation research. For most students, the research and writing of the dissertation will take two to three years after advancing to candidacy. During this time, students should remain in close contact with the dissertation adviser and advisory committee and annual progress reports must be filed with the Graduate Program Director.
Candidacy Examination Proposal
A written dissertation proposal, already approved by the adviser, must be submitted to each committee member no later than two weeks prior to the Candidacy Examination. An example format is described below; an alternative format may be used with the approval of the dissertation adviser. The proposal should be approximately 10 to 15 pages in length not including references, single-spaced and typed in 12-point font with one-inch margins on all sides. The use of figures and tables is encouraged. With rare exceptions it is expected that dissertation research will be hypothesis-driven.
- Specific Aims: Describe concisely the problem(s) to be addressed and the specific goals of the dissertation research as they relate to the problem(s), including clear statements of hypotheses to be tested.
- Background and Significance: Review background literature relevant to the dissertation topic, indicating clearly where gaps in knowledge exist. Justify the need for the research by explaining its anticipated significance. Conclude by linking gaps in current knowledge to the proposed specific aims.
- Methodology: Outline carefully the study design (observations, experiments, models, statistical analysis, etc.) related to, and the methodology to be used for, each specific aim. Methodologies should be explained in sufficient detail to allow committee members to assess the validity of its use in the study. Potential outcomes and alternative approaches should be discussed.
- Literature Cited: References should be indicated in the main body of the proposal wherever appropriate and should follow the format of a peer-reviewed journal in a field of study appropriate to your research. This section can be as long as necessary.
At least one week prior to the examination, an abstract describing the proposed research will be posted in the Biological Sciences Building and department web page and circulated by e-mail among faculty and graduate students. The candidate will present the research proposal in a forum open to all faculty, students and visitors. The oral presentation should require approximately 45-50 minutes to be followed by a public question-and-answer period. Department faculty then have an opportunity to provide private comment to the advisory committee on the presentation, and then the committee and student will continue the exam in closed session. Questions can be directed to any matter relevant to the research proposal and areas of weakness previously identified in the written (qualifying) exam or proposal or presentation. The purpose of the examination is to ascertain that the student can demonstrate knowledge of the theory, literature, research methods, and potential significance of the proposed area of research. A majority vote is required to pass the examination; however, no more than one negative vote is permitted. The majority must include the dissertation adviser. Any student failing the examination must repeat the examination within six calendar months of the date of the first examination. A second failed attempt will result in dismissal from the program.
After passing the candidacy examination the student will be admitted to candidacy and can register for dissertation hours. In addition, candidates enrolled in three dissertation credit hours are considered full-time students. Most students require 2-3 years to conduct research and write their dissertation after advancing to candidacy. During this time, students should remain in close contact with the dissertation advisor and advisory committee. Annual progress reports must be filed with the Graduate Program Director.
Admission to Candidacy
The following are required to be admitted to candidacy and enroll in dissertation hours:
- Completion of all course work, except for dissertation hours.
- Successful completion of the candidacy examination.
- Successful defense of the written dissertation proposal.
- The dissertation advisory committee is formed, consisting of approved graduate faculty and graduate faculty scholars.
- Submittal of an approved program of study.
The dissertation represents an original and significant contribution to the discipline. Upon approval by the dissertation adviser and advisory committee, the candidate makes a formal presentation of the research findings in seminar format to the dissertation committee and other university faculty and students who may wish to attend.
In addition, the dissertation must meet format specifications of the university. The most commonly preferred structure is chapters that are targeted to publication, with an overall introduction, summary, and appendices for accessory information: each candidate must consult their dissertation adviser and advisory committee on the preferred structure. A polished draft must be delivered to the advisory committee for review after the candidate and dissertation adviser have agreed upon editorial changes; this should occur well before the anticipated date of the final defense. Committee members should be given at least two weeks to review the draft before the candidate attempts to schedule the final defense. Committee members have the right to reject documents that fail to meet customary scientific standards. The final defense is to be scheduled only after the advisory committee agrees that the dissertation is ready for defense. Committee members should return the corrected dissertation to the candidate two weeks after receipt and the candidate should check with committee members to ensure they have the time to review the document. If the candidate delivers the final draft to the committee one month prior to the proposed defense date, that would allow two weeks before the scheduled defense date for the candidate to make recommended changes.
At least one week prior to the defense, an abstract describing the research conducted and conclusions reached will be posted in the Biological Sciences Building, the department web page, circulated by e-mail among faculty and graduate students, and posted on the College of Graduate Studies Events Calendar. The candidate will present the research in a forum open to all faculty, students, and visitors. The oral presentation should be approximately 45-50 minutes in length to be followed by a question-and-answer period. In the presentation the candidate should focus on background information, describe the research performed, and draw attention to the significance of the conclusions reached. Department faculty have an opportunity for private comment to the advisory committee at the conclusion of the question-and-answer period, and then the committee and candidate will continue the defense and the candidate will answer questions about the subject matter presented and defend the conclusions drawn. The committee will ask questions of the process used and assess the candidate’s level of competency with the research topic. A majority vote is required to pass the examination; however, no more than one negative vote is permitted. The majority must include the dissertation adviser.
An orientation for all incoming students will be scheduled one week prior to each fall semester. The orientation will include tours of the program facilities, a session on registration, university policies and procedures, and expectations of doctoral study. Further, Environmental Health and Safety will present a program on topics such as laboratory safety, chemical and fire safety, biohazard training, and radioisotope handling. Expectations for Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTA) and Graduate Research Assistants (GRA) will be fully covered. In addition, students will be required to participate in the program for GTAs offered by the UCF Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning and the College of Sciences. A university orientation is also held approximately one week prior to the fall semester and students are encouraged to attend.