Ph.D. Graduate Degree Requirements

The Ph.D. is a research degree, centering on a research project and the resulting dissertation, completed under faculty supervision. The expected time to complete the Ph.D. is five years for students entering with a Bachelor’s degree and all prerequisites. A student who enters with a Master’s degree that provides a solid foundation for research in biomathematics should be able to complete the degree in a shorter time.

Students must acquire a core of knowledge in three areas: Biological Sciences, Mathematical Sciences (including statistics), and Biomathematics. In addition, students must demonstrate professional competence in a concentration area, which is either a biological science or an aspect of mathematics that is useful in biomathematics.

The Program does not have a common qualifying exam; instead, a Written Preliminary Examination, consisting of questions set by the members of a student’s Advisory Committee, must be passed. The research component of the Program culminates with the completion of the dissertation. Progress towards this goal is assessed during the Oral Preliminary Examination, successful completion of which leads to Admission to Candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. Completion of the dissertation is followed by the Final Oral Examination (dissertation defense).

In addition to the course requirements of the Program, all requirements of the Graduate School must be satisfied. See the Ph.D. requirements in the Graduate School’s Administrative Handbook for complete details. Some brief details are given below, but the most important is that 72 credit hours are required, although this figure can be less (often substantially so) for students who already have a Master’s degree. (Note that credit hours gained for research are included in the 72 credit hour requirement.)

Core Requirements for Ph.D.

  • Biological Sciences
    Three upper level biological science courses, representing at least two different perspectives (e.g., physiology and evolution) are required.(One of these courses may be at the 400 level, but will not count towards the 72 credit hour requirement.)
  • Mathematical Sciences
    Either the single course ST 512R or the two course sequence ST 511 and ST 512 is required.In addition, three further relevant courses must be taken.
  • Biomathematics
    The following four biomathematics courses must be taken:

    • BMA 771-772 (Biomathematics I & II)
    • BMA 773 (Stochastic Modeling)
    • BMA 774 (PDE Modeling in Biology)
  • Ph.D. students are required to attend the biomath graduate seminar (BMA 801) in each semester, and must take BMA 801 for credit in at least three semesters.

Illustrative examples of biology and mathematics courses taken by biomathematics students are given here. Whether a particular course is or is not appropriate for a student’s Ph.D. is determined by their Advisory Committee and the Director of the Biomathematics Program.

In addition to required and elective courses, students who are working on research projects may sign up for research credits, such as BMA 893 (1 to 9 CR per semester).

Graduate courses taken outside NC State can be used to satisfy some of these requirements, provided that it can be demonstrated that an equivalent course was completed at another university. Courses other than those listed may be substituted with the approval of the student’s Advisory Committee and the Director of the Biomathematics Program.

Concentration Requirements for Ph.D.

One of the following two concentrations must be taken:

A concentration in biological science consists of either a Ph.D. co-major in any biological sciences degree program at NC State, or a coherent collection of five courses from one or two of the following four areas of biology: cellular and molecular biology; genetics and development; biophysical and biomedical sciences, and physiology; ecology and evolution.

A concentration in mathematical methods consists of either a Ph.D. co-major in Statistics, Operations Research, or Computer Studies, or a coherent collection of five courses chosen from Mathematics, Statistics, Operations Research, and Computer Studies.
Students choosing the mathematical methods concentration are strongly encouraged to take a two-semester sequence in the biological sciences (which could be two of the three required core courses in biological science).

For either concentration, the sequence must consist of a two-semester sequence in one area, and three electives, including at least one course at the 700 level.

The courses that comprise the concentration must be approved by a student’s Advisory Committee.

Courses taken to satisfy “core” requirements are usually counted as part of the “concentration”, with the approval of the student’s Advisory Committee.

Graduate School Requirements

Briefly, the Graduate School’s requirements include:

  • 72 credit hours beyond the Bachelor’s degree.
    A student with a Master’s degree from another university can apply a maximum of 18 hours of relevant graduate credit towards this minimum, with the approval of their Advisory Committee.A student who has completed a Master’s degree at N.C. State and continues for a Ph.D. without a break in time can apply up to 36 credit hours taken while a Master’s student towards this minimum (with the exception of 400-level or lower courses).500- and 700-level courses taken at NC State University while in PBS status may be considered for transfer to a Ph.D. program provided that a “B” grade or higher was achieved.
  • At least two residence credit points secured in continuous semesters’ residence as a graduate student at N.C. State University. See Requirements for Residence Credit in Doctoral Programs for more details.
  • Progress be made in a timely fashion. Candidacy for the Ph.D. (i.e. completion of the Preliminary Examinations) must occur within six calendar years from the date of admission and all degree requirements (i.e. courses and all examinations) must be completed within ten calendar years. The degree clock for time to completion starts with the first course approved for inclusion in the plan of work.

Any questions regarding these requirements should be discussed with the Director of the Biomathematics Program as soon as possible.