Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree Program


PhD Graduate Student Requirements and Timeline



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, as  decided by the student’s dissertation committee and the departmental Graduate Affairs Committee. No support will be provided by the EEB department beyond the sixth year. The EEB department and SSE require successful defense of the dissertation by the end of year seven.

Annual Review

Students are required to complete and submit an annual review form every year until completion of the program. The form is distributed in Spring semester every year and the completion deadline is April 15. The completed form should 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. Copies of the form from each year will be filed with the departmental office administrator.

Annual Review Form


To Achieve Candidacy:

  • 48 semester hours coursework, including up to 24 transfer credits from graduate level courses taken at another institution.

    • Note that students must register for at least 3 credits of dissertation research per semester to retain full-time status after completing the 48 credit hour requirement and admission to candidacy.

  • The following steps, listed by the semester in which they should have been completed, are also required to achieve candidacy in the EEB Department:

By 1st semester:
  • Complete Graduate Seminar: Foundations in Ecology & Evolution (currently EBIO 6660) with a grade of B or better.
  • Complete the Entrance Interview within the first week of the semester. The student should arrange a meeting with advisor & two faculty members, who will complete and sign the Entrance Interview Form. A copy of this form should be deposited in departmental file for the student Entrance Interview Form.
By 2nd semester:
  • Complete one-credit Journal Club course (1st of two required semesters). This course is offered each semester.
  • Complete paperwork to request transfer credits, if applicable Transfer Credit Form signed), if applicable.
By 3rd semester:
  • While not required until fourth semester, students are encouraged to form a committee and hold a first committee meeting in the third semester.
By 4th semester:
  • Complete one-credit Journal Club course (2nd of two required semesters). Note that this course may be offered in Fall semester instead of Spring, in which case it should be completed then.
  • Identification of departmental dissertation committee members (see SSE Graduate Catalog for committee makeup requirements) and external committee member. Turn in Thesis Committee Approval Form Thesis Committee Approval Form.
  • First committee meeting. It is recommended that student present project ideas in written or outline format.
  • While not required, it is recommended that students aim to defend the thesis prospectus in the fourth semester.
By 5th semester:
  • Second Committee Meeting (the dissertation prospectus defense can count as a second committee meeting).
  • Submit written dissertation prospectus (submitted to committee four weeks prior to qualifying exam).
  • Qualifying Exam (this includes defense of prospectus and may include additional questions based on coursework and dissertation committee)
  • SSE Recommendation for Approval of Dissertation Prospectus form must be sent to SSE Senior Program Coordinator for Graduate Programs; student to bring form to exam!
  • Graduate Degree Qualifying Exam and Prospectus Defense Form (signed by committee members at qualifying exam; student to bring form to exam!)
  • 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 EEB), Preliminary Exam, Qualifying exam, and successful Prospectus Defense).
By 6th semester:
  • Advancement to Candidacy (see checklist above)
**If candidacy is not reached by the end of the 6th semester, the Graduate Affairs Committee may recommend departure from the Ph.D. track after consultation with the student's dissertation committee, or the student may be placed on probation. Students that fail to advance to candidacy by the end of the 7th semester, will not be eligible for TA support and the Graduate Affairs Committee is likely to recommend departure from the Ph.D. program.


Requirements after Advancement to Candidacy

Note that students must register for 3 credit hours per semester of dissertation research (EBIO 9990) 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:
**All students are eligible for support through their 10th semester and support may be continued through the 12th semester if the EEB Graduate Affairs Committee determines that satisfactory progress towards the degree is demonstrated.
By 11th semester:
  • Fifth Committee Meeting (required only if dissertation not scheduled for 12th semester)
By 12th semester:
  • Dissertation Defense (see checklist above)
**Defense of the dissertation no later than the 12th semester is strongly recommended. Beyond this point, students are no longer eligible for TA support from the EEB department.
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 Ph.D. is the 14th semester.  Any students who has not defended by the 14th semester will not be eligible to receive a Ph.D.

Ph.D. Graduate Student Requirement (Detailed Version)

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.  Students 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, in consultation with the EEB Graduate Affairs Committee and student’s advisor, may terminate financial support for any student who is not making satisfactory progress towards the degree.

Most students are admitted without qualifications, but probationary admission is possible. Probationary 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.

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 EEB department.  

Potential applicants must communicate with a prospective advisor prior to applying 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. 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.

Entrance Interview

During the first semester of enrollment, ideally during the first week of classes, each entering graduate student interviews with the faculty advisor (Graduate Affairs 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, requirements, and timeline. Recommendations for coursework to address deficiencies or to enhance the student's program may be made during the interview.

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 to the student's dissertation advisor for faculty review; the student's dissertation advisor will then sign, comment, and provide the report to the student.  The student must file the annually updated, cumulative form with the departmental administrator as part of departmental records by April 15. The Graduate Affairs 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 dismiss a student from the graduate program.  Students can expect written feedback on their annual report from the graduate studies committee.

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 spring and fall semester. Ph.D. students are expected to complete this requirement during their first two years of study.

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.

General Course Requirements

A total of 48 semester hours of approved graduate course work must be completed for the doctoral degree, and at least half these credits must be earned in the EEB Department. Thus, 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.

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 are supported by TAships, RAships, or approved outside fellowships must register for at least nine credit hours each fall and spring semester. Prior to advancement to candidacy, these credits can be achieved through graduate-level coursework and/or registration for Graduate Independent Research (EBIO 6910).  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 in SSE is seven years. Under certain circumstances, upon the recommendation of the Chair of the EEB Department, the dean may extend tenure, but a student whose period of graduate study is unduly prolonged or interrupted may be required to perform additional work.  The entire dissertation committee must ratify the extension in the case of Ph.D. students and make a recommendation for extension to the EEB Chair.

As stipulated by the SSE guidelines (see Graduate Catalog), 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 EEB Graduate Affairs Committee.  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 automatically placed on probation and considered for dismissal from the program by the Associate Dean in consultation with the EEB Graduate Affairs Committee.  The terms of the probation are to be worked out by the department/program in consultation with the Associate Dean.

Comprehensive Examination

All Ph.D. degree students must take and pass a graduate level seminar course in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, to be taught once each academic year. Students are required to pass with a grade of ‘B’ or better. If this is achieved, the student is considered to have passed the Comprehensive Examination. If the student fails to achieve a grade of ‘B’ or better in one or both classes, the graduate studies committee will recommend further coursework or independent study to correct perceived weaknesses in the field of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology on a case by case basis.

Teaching Requirement

All doctoral students 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.

Several equivalent options fulfill the teaching requirement:

  1. Teach two concurrent, semester-long lab sections of the introductory course (EBIO 1015 – Diversity of Life Lab), which includes weekly lab preparation, 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. Serve 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.

Some Teaching Assistantship assignments involve only grading of lecture section exams for one or more classes (for an average of 10-15 hours per week), but this T.A. assignment does not satisfy the teaching requirement because of insufficiently rich pedagogical experience.

Dissertation Committee

The faculty advisor and dissertation committee are selected to guide the student's dissertation research. The faculty advisor serves as chair of the dissertation committee, must be a full-time EEB tenured or tenure-track faculty member, and ensures that the student develops a course of study that will give proper foundation to the dissertation research. 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. Full-time professors of the practice are eligible to serve as committee members, but may not chair the committee. 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 of the dissertation committee by submitting the SSE’s “Thesis Committee Approval Form” to the Chair of the Department. 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 Dissertation 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. The department typically covers travel by the external member for one visit to Tulane (not including visit as a seminar speaker).


Students are encouraged to submit a pre-prospectus document outlining their project ideas and possible external committee members 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 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, unless other arrangements have been made with the committee.

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.

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.

Suggestions for a successful prospectus document & defense. 

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. Successful documents usually contain the following elements: Summary, Introduction and Background, Significance of Research, Hypotheses and Tests, Methods, Preliminary Data, Timeline, and Literature Cited. Students are also encouraged to include a Data Management Plan and a Broader Impacts section, when appropriate.  Generally, the narrative portion of the document is 10 pages of single-spaced text.

The student is expected to work closely with her/his advisor and committee to ensure that the prospectus is well written and appropriately describes research to be conducted. In addition to regular meetings, students should provide all committee members with a complete draft of the prospectus document well in advance of the planned prospectus defense; this will allow committee members an opportunity to review the document and research plan, and indicate whether the work is defendable or whether the defense should be delayed. Only after this back-and-forth should students finalize the document and set the actual prospectus defense date. Prospectus defenses should be scheduled far in advance of hard deadlines (e.g., field seasons or Doctoral Dissertation Improvement grant due dates) to allow adequate time for revisions that may be required in order to pass the prospectus defense, and advance to candidacy.

Qualifying Examination

In conjunction with the prospectus defense (at the closed door session), the student also takes the Qualifying Exam, which will consist of oral questions submitted by each of the committee members. The questions typically focus on aspects of the research and ideas relating to the prospectus, but may go further afield. Students are expected to answer questions concisely and to show a command of the subject matter. 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.

Admission to Candidacy

To be admitted officially to candidacy for the doctoral degree a student must have done an 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 may receive one more semester of support (7th semester). If candidacy is not achieved by October 15th/March 15th (Fall vs. Spring) in the 7th semester, then the student will not be eligible for support, and the graduate committee may recommend departure from the Ph.D. track after consultation with the student's committee.

Consult the Graduate Catalog of the School of Science and Engineering, which includes 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 are 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.


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. Thus, the dissertation must be an original contribution to knowledge or an original interpretation of existing knowledge. The dissertation should consist of chapters (typically 3-4), or book-length document 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 agree on the acceptability of the dissertation before it is defended. Instructions on preparing the dissertation document are on the School of Science and Engineering website.

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 journal or publisher 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 at Tulane is completed and disseminated.

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. Students must also take and pass the Comprehensive Examination (see above).


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