Ph.D. Program in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

All curricular requirements are aimed at preparing students for timely and successful completion of a doctoral dissertation. The Ph.D. curriculum in EEB includes five stages: 1) required coursework, 2) the comprehensive exam, 3) the qualifying exam, 4) two quarters of teaching experience, 5) submission of at least one paper for publication, 6) the research, writing, and defense of the dissertation.

Ph.D. students must take BIOE 200A and 200B in the fall of the first year, and BIOE 279 in the winter of the first year. Two quarters of BIOE 203 are taken in the winter and spring of the first year. In addition, two quarters of BIOE 215 or two additional quarters of BIOE 203 should be completed by the end of the second year. BIOE 281, 294, and 297/299 (Independent Study) must be taken every quarter the student is in residence. All students must be enrolled in at least 15 credits per quarter, unless on approved part-time status.

Because learning to teach is a fundamental aspect of graduate training, Ph.D. students must serve as TA or GSI (Associate In, or Teaching Fellow) for at least two quarters during their graduate career. All graduate students will attend the workshop Making the CAISE: Creating Active and Inclusive Section Experiences before beginning their first TAship. 


The UCSC EEB graduate program includes two sets of exams: a comprehensive exam (written and oral), and a qualifying exam (proposal defense), by which Ph.D. students advance to candidacy (ATC).

The Dissertation

Although the topic and nature (e.g. theory, field work) of the dissertation is the domain of the student and the dissertation committee, all dissertations should reflect:

  • A high level of personal scholarship as evidenced by independent design and implementation of a research project, and creativity in questions and approach.
    • The ability to carry to completion a complex research project.
    • The synthesis of new empirical results or new theory with existing results and theory.
    • A demonstrated ability to understand the broader significance of the dissertation research.

Normative Time

Past EEB students have completed the Ph.D. in as little as four years, target time is five years, and “normative time” for the Ph.D. degree in EEB is six years.  Students who fail to complete their dissertations within this time must request an extension from EEB-GAC.  A written request signed by the student and advisor detailing the timetable to finish must accompany the Progress Report in the sixth year.  Multiple extensions are not automatic. 

According to Academic Senate Regulation 18.6, if the Ph.D. degree is not awarded within seven years from the date of advancement to candidacy, the student's candidacy shall lapse and the student will be required to pass a new qualifying exam prior to submitting the dissertation. The result of this examination shall be transmitted in writing to the Graduate Council.