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Biology

Research-Oriented Graduate Programs in Biology at Howard University

At the graduate level, the department offers programs leading to the Master of Sciences and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Both are research oriented; the department is currently considering establishing a non-research, professional program at the Masters level. The department offers students a wide variety of research opportunities with concentrations in two areas: Cellular and Molecular Biology and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

History 

Howard Biology History

Howard University was founded in 1867 during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War. Botany and Zoology, along with Medicine, were among the first departments established, when Howard University was founded in 1867, to represent the life sciences at the university. The Department of Zoology was established in 1907 under the leadership of its first chairman, Dr. Ernest Just, who held this position until 1938. Botany, first offered as a course at Howard in 1867, was later established as a department in 1922, with Dr. Thomas W. Turner as its head. Both departments eventually found a new home in the Biology Greenhouse Building in the 1950's, and developed specializations in a variety of fields, including: Botany, Cytology, Embryology, Genetics, Parasitology and Protozoology.
 

The Departments of Botany and Zoology both began M. S. graduate programs in 1930. The Botany M.S. program, begun under the leadership of Dr. Charles Parker, produced nearly 300 M. S. degrees. Fifteen alumni have gone on to earn doctoral degrees in Botany (17% of all African-American Botanists), and 53 have received doctorates in other biological disciplines. The M. S. program in Zoology, established under Dr. Just, produced more than 300 graduates, many of whom have continued on to earn their Ph.D. degrees.
 

The Ph.D. graduate program in Zoology, the third doctoral program at Howard University, was founded in 1958 under the guidance of Dr. Harold E. Finley. The department was the second largest producer of Ph.D's at Howard and has awarded doctoral degrees to over 125 students who represent more than 12% of the total living African-American biology Ph.D. holders in the United States. In addition, the department represented an essential training site for students from other historically black colleges and universities that do not have doctoral programs.

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Admission Requirements

Applications to the Department of Biology will be evaluated by the Admissions Subcommittee of the Graduate Studies Commitee (the departmental committee with oversight of the graduate programs). Applicants should apply for admission to the Graduate Program in Biology through application to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Howard University. Students are expected to have an undergraduate background in the biological sciences or a related field. Training appropriate for admission to the Graduate Program is a minimum of two years of college level biology, including a course in genetics; two years of chemistry, including Organic Chemistry; one year of mathematics, through precalculus; and one year of physics. Students deemed qualified but not having appropriate training may be admitted provisionally. Applicants are required to submit scores for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), although there is no minimum criterion for admission. Weaknesses or deficiencies, identified through testing during the first semester in residence, may be remedied through appropriate course work planned in consultation with a temporary adviser and the Graduate Studies Committee. The performance of each student will be evaluated annually. Note that the criteria for admission are identical for both the Ph.D. and Master's students. 

Decisions on applications will be based on the following considerations: 

1. The applicant's official transcripts.

2. Letters of recommendation, preferably from members of the academic community familiar with the applicant's academic performance. 

3. Availability of graduate positions and support in the department. 

4. Admission to the Ph.D. Program requires prior agreement of a Graduate Faculty member to act as the student’s advisor in the Department. Therefore, applicants are strongly advised to contact directly those faculty members with whom they are interested in working. Contact information and research interests of the Graduate Faculty are available at the departmental website

 

Admission and residency in the graduate program in Biology are guided by the General Admission Requirement and Rules and Regulations for the Pursuit of Academic Degrees in the Graduate School. Students are strongly encouraged to consult and familiarize themselves with these rules and regulations.

 

To apply, click HERE for information on procedures and forms

Degree Requirements

The Department of Biology offers both an MS in Biology and a Ph.D. in Biology with concentrations in Cellular and Molecular Biology or Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Both degree programs are offered as full-time, in-person graduate programs at our Washington, D.C. campus. To learn more about graduate program admission requirements and courses of study, please visit the page for the program that interests you:

Master of Science (MS) in Biology

The Master of Science in Biology degree requires a total of 30 credit hours.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biology

The Ph.D. degree requires 72 total credit hours consisting of 40-46 credits of coursework, a 2-credit Graduate Seminar, 15 research credits, and 12 thesis credits.

All graduate-level courses (400-level and above) in the department may be used to satisfy degree requirements. Master's and doctoral candidates are required to take courses as follows:

Master of Science (M. Sc.): Total credit hours required = 30

Divided as follows:

  • Core courses: 8 – 11 hours
  • Graduate Seminar: 2 hours
  • Research: 6 hours
  • Thesis: 6 hours
  • Electives: 5-8 hours

Credit will not be given for more than the required six hours of Thesis. Students should not enroll in Thesis until they have been admitted to candidacy. Letter grades will not be given for more than six hours of research. The electives may include additional research credits for which letter grades will not be given.

Required Courses:

Students in the MS program should not expect Departmental support in the form of a graduate assistantship beyond two years.

One (1) course from each of the following two groups of courses:

1. Cellular and Molecular Biology

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology of the Cell

2. Ecology, Environmental and Systematic Biology

  • Ecological and Environmental Biology
  • Evolutionary and Systematic Biology

Two (2) semesters of Graduate Seminar

 

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph. D.): Total credit hours required  = 72

Divided as follows:

  • Core courses 12-15 hours
  • Graduate Seminar 2 hours
  • Research 15 hours
  • Thesis 12 hours
  • Electives 28-31 hours

Credit will not be given for more than the required twelve hours of Thesis. Students should not enroll in Thesis until they have been admitted to candidacy. Letter grades will not be given for more than twelve hours of research. The electives may include additional research credits for which letter grades will not be given.

Students in the Ph.D. program should not expect departmental support beyond five years.

Required courses:

One (1) course from one of the following two groups of courses and two (2) from the other:

1. Cellular and Molecular Biology

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology of the Cell

2. Ecology, Environmental and Systematic Biology

  • Ecological and Environmental Biology
  • Evolutionary and Systematic Biology

Two (2) semesters of Graduate Seminar