Degree Requirements for Ph.D. Students

  1. Academic Advisory Committee Meeting
  2. Selection of Major Professor, Vice Major Professor, and Ph.D. Committee
  3. Selection of a Track
  4. Minor Field of Study
  5. Certification Meeting
  6. Completion of Coursework
  7. Teaching Requirement
  8. Annual Committee Meetings
  9. Written Proposal of Research
  10. Preliminary Oral Exam
  11. Admission to Candidacy for Ph.D.
  12. Annual Presentation of Research Progress
  13. Dissertation
  14. Presentation on Dissertation Research
  15. Final Oral Examination
  16. Time Limitation


1. Academic Advisory Committee Meeting

All entering graduate students meet with the departmental Academic Advisory Committee (AAC) at the beginning of the first semester, usually during orientation week. The AAC answers questions about the Botany graduate programs and advises the student on meeting general course requirements, making up deficiencies, and formulating a program that will lead to an advanced degree in the time allotted.


2. Selection of Major Professor, Vice Major Professor, and Ph.D. Committee

Students select a major professor, vice major professor and Ph.D. committee within the first year of graduate studies. The major professor is primarily responsible for directing the student’s coursework, supervising the student’s research and preparation of their thesis, chairing the Ph.D. committee, and monitoring the student’s satisfactory academic progress toward a degree. The vice major professor assumes the major professor’s duties when the major professor is unavailable. The Ph.D. Committee consists of at least 5 members: at least 3 Botany Faculty and at least 1 UW Graduate Faculty outside the Botany Department.


3. Selection of a Track

Course requirements depend on which of the four tracks in Botany the student selects. The four tracks are: General Botany; Ecology; Evolution; and Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. Students select a track as soon as possible but no later than their Certification Meeting at the end of their first year of study. The Academic Advisory Committee or the Ph.D. Committee will advise the student on available courses that could fill track requirements.


4. Minor Field of Study

Students select a minor field of study prior to the Certification Meeting at the end of the first year of study and no later than half-way through their minor coursework. In all cases, the minor plan must be developed and approved in consultation with the student’s major professor, minor professor (if applicable), and Ph.D. committee. Minor options for Ph.D. students in the Botany Department are:

Option A: The student takes courses in a single department/major field of study or to complete a graduate certificate program. This option requires the approval of the minor department or the graduate certificate program and the selection of a minor professor who serves on the student’s Ph.D. committee.

Option B: The student takes courses associated with a particular focus from one or more departments. This option requires the approval of the student’s Ph.D. Committee and Botany Department Chair.


5. Certification Meeting

By the end of their first year of study, students meet with their Ph.D. Committee to determine if additional courses will be required or recommended for their major (e.g., courses for the student’s selected track, seminar courses, and minimum Botany credits) and for approval of their minor field of study.


6. Completion of Coursework

Ph.D. students complete a minimum of 32 credits while in residence at the UW prior to earning dissertator status.  These credits complete the following requirements:

  • Courses required for their selected track
  • Six (6) credits within the Botany Department (can also fulfill track requirements)
  • Two (2) seminar courses, including one outside the student’s track and/or outside Botany
  • Courses for the student’s Minor Field of Study
  • Courses assigned by the Academic Advisory Committee and/or the student's Ph.D. committee

See the UW Graduate School website for minimum credit and grade requirements.


7. Teaching Requirement

At least one semester of classroom teaching experience is required of all Ph.D. students while in residence at UW-Madison.  Prior teaching experience and grader positions do not count.  Additional teaching experience is highly recommended. 


8. Annual Committee Meetings

Students must meet at least once a year with at least 3 members of his/her Ph.D. committee to report progress, receive advice and guidance, discuss possible new directions or approaches, and be certified as making adequate progress toward the Ph.D. degree.  

 

9. Written Proposal of Research

A written research proposal is reviewed and approved by the student’s Ph.D. committee. The proposal includes a project summary, a clear statement of questions and hypotheses to be addressed, methods and approaches to be used, the significance of the results expected and their relationship to ongoing research in the field.


10. Preliminary Oral Exam

The preliminary oral exam follows a presentation of the proposed research by the student. The preliminary exam is administered by at least 5 members of the student’s Ph.D. committee, including the major and, if applicable, minor professors. The committee will explore the appropriateness of the proposed research topic and approach, with the objectives of evaluating the student’s ability to propose a rigorous and significant research plan and providing advice for improving the research plan.


11. Admission to Candidacy for Ph.D.

A student is officially admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. at the start of the semester or summer following completion of all DISSERTATOR requirements except for the dissertation and final exam.  To be eligible for dissertator status, a student must have:

  • passed the preliminary examination in the major field,
  • satisfied the Graduate School’s 32 credit requirement, and
  • completed all major and minor coursework requirements.


12. Annual Presentation of Research Progress

After the achieving dissertator status, each candidate for the Ph.D. degree gives an annual public presentation of her/his research progress on campus. 


13. Dissertation

A written dissertation based on original research is required. The dissertation is reviewed and approved by the student’s Ph.D. Committee during the final oral exam and deposited with the UW Graduate School.


14. Presentation on Dissertation Research

During the final semester in residence, a candidate for the Ph.D. degree presents a departmental seminar on his/her research. This seminar is treated as a Botany Colloquium with a public announcement distributed to Botany faculty, staff and graduate students, and any other interested parties at least one week prior to the seminar.


15. Final Oral Examination

All candidates must pass a final oral examination administered by the student’s Ph.D. committee. The committee bases the final oral exam on the student’s dissertation and will test the student’s ability to:

  • analyze biological problems and formulate effective research approaches,
  • integrate and apply knowledge from a variety of fields related to his/her research,
  • respond articulately to questions regarding his/her research and related fields, and
  • demonstrate knowledge of recent advances and exhibit perspective on the history and philosophy of scientific investigation in his/her field.


16. Time Limitation

Normally a Ph.D. degree in Botany is completed within 5 calendar years of residency (four years if the student enters with a Master’s degree.)


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