Biology Graduate Programs
The department offers programs leading to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Biology. The research interests of our faculty range from the origins of molecular functions through the evolution of disease and the interaction between global climate change and biotic diversity. The graduate courses taught in the department reflect that breadth. Specific research fields include population, fungal, and microbial genetics, plant and animal physiology, metabolism, plant and animal ecology, evolutionary biology, behavioral ecology, urban ecology, and community and ecosystem ecology.
Special research interests
Among the diversity of faculty interests, two particular areas of research strength stand out: disease evolution and the ecology of human-modified systems. Study of the evolution of disease includes some focus on human pathogens, but also extends broadly to fungal-plant interactions. Faculty whose research involves a disease evolution component include Ewald, Himes, Perlin, Rabin, Remold, Schultz, Worley, and Yoder-Himes. Investigation of altered ecosystems includes both local studies of invasive species and degraded watersheds, and wider-ranging effects of temperature and rainfall on native vegetation. In the area of human-modified ecosystems, central faculty include Atlas, Carreiro, Eason and Emery.
In addition to working closely with faculty in our department, graduate students also have the opportunity to interact with members of other schools and departments within the university, including graduate programs in Applied Mathematics, Geosciences, and Engineering, as well as the basic science graduate programs in Neurobiology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Physiology at the university’s medical school.
The Biology Department hosts a weekly seminar on Fridays at noon throughout the academic year, with speakers from all areas of biology. Graduate students have lunch with the speaker following the talk, giving them an opportunity to interact with speakers of particular interest. Our graduate students also have the opportunity to invite and host one or more speakers each year.
Our two M.S. Programs are designed to be sufficiently flexible to meet our diverse students’ needs and interests. The M.S. thesis program is generally chosen by students whose career goals include a research emphasis or component. Students choosing this option complete a significant independent research project under the supervision of a faculty member in the department.
The M.S. nonthesis program is designed for students who are not sure of their specific career goals or who do not anticipate a need for well-developed independent research skills in their careers. Students who hope to improve their qualifications for medical or dental school admission often pursue this option.
Undergraduates at the University of Louisville who wish to obtain a non-thesis M.S. may be eligible for the accelerated non-thesis M.S. program. In this program, students take up to 9 credit hours of graduate work during their senior year which are applied to the M.S. degree.
Graduate education in the Ph.D. program emphasizes research, and most of our students have gone on to positions in universities and colleges. Prospective graduate students should review faculty research interests and then communicate with professors whose research interests match their own before applying to the university.
Students seeking the Ph.D. Degree in Biology traditionally have a master's degree or its equivalent; however, students may enter the program with only the baccalaureate degree. Generally, the first year or two is spent in course work, research is begun by the second year, and the thesis/dissertation completed in the final year. On average, students take 2 1/2 years to earn the M.S. and 5 years to earn the Ph.D.
In addition, a cooperative Ph.D. Program in Biology exists with Western Kentucky University and Murray State University. Students perform dissertation research under the direction of a major professor at one of these institutions and obtain the doctorate through the University of Louisville.