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: 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 and BIOE 203 in the winter of the first year. In addition, two quarters of BIOE 215 and one additional quarter 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 a minimum of 10 credits per quarter, unless on approved part-time status. EEB recommends enrolling in 15 credits every quarter.

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 pedagogy workshop Making the CAISE: Creating Active and Inclusive Section Experiences before beginning their first TAship. 


The UCSC EEB graduate program requires two major milestones within the first three years of study: a comprehensive exam (written only) at the end of year one, and a qualifying exam (proposal defense), by which Ph.D. students advance to candidacy (ATC). The proposal defense and public seminar should be complete before the beginning of year four. 

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.
  • At least one chapter of the dissertatoin must be submitted for publication before the final thesis defense.

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. Department funding (including TAships) for any candidate beyond year six is not guarenteed but will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

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.