Feb 25, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Biological Sciences (Ph.D.)

Program Overview

The Ph.D. is the highest degree in biology and offers general track as well as specializations in integrative biology or neuroscience. Become an expert in your field and have opportunities to collaborate with the Sanford School of Medicine, the USD Missouri River Institute, the USD Sustainability Program, South Dakota State University and other institutions nationally and internationally. Faculty are currently researching areas of aquatic and terrestrial ecology, conservation biology, sustainability, ecotoxicology, plant and animal physiology, molecular biology, neuroscience, cell biology, developmental biology, genetics and evolution. Learn more at usd.edu/grad-biology.

DELIVERY: On campus

Doctor of Philosophy: Total 72 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree

Biology courses 60-72 credit hours to include:


  • NSCI 792/other topics courses will fulfill the four course topics requirement. Courses taken under a different prefix will be considered supporting coursework and will not count toward the required 60 credit hours of BIOL courses.
  • 50% of the program of study must be at the 700-level or above.
  • Up to 18 credit hours from a previous master’s degree can be applied towards Biology or supporting courses.

Conservation Biology Specialization (15 credit hours Optional)

Integrative Biology Specialization (16 credit hours Optional)

Neuroscience Specialization (15 credit hours, at least 3 credit hours must have the BIOL prefix, Optional)

General Application Requirements

  1. Completed application
  2. $35 application fee
  3. Official transcripts*
  4. Letters of recommendation*
  5. Statement of purpose
  6. Resume/CV*

*Requirements for admission vary by program and may require different documentation and have different deadlines. This list is not all-inclusive, to view specific program requirements and submission deadlines, follow the  “Admissions Information” hyperlink at the top of this page OR visit the specific program/dept. page found here: link.usd.edu/grad-catalog

Dissertation Research

The area of concentration for this degree may be selected from the various biological specialties (e.g., ecology, cell biology, developmental biology, molecular biology, evolution, neuroscience, physiology). Completion of the degree requires a demonstrated ability to conduct original and independent research. Each doctoral student is required to take a comprehensive oral examination before the beginning of the third year, after completion of most of the coursework. Candidates for the Ph.D. degree present a departmental seminar and take a final oral examination that addresses the dissertation as well as evaluates the student’s knowledge of broader aspects of biology. See http://www.usd.edu/arts-and-sciences/biology/phd for a description of the advisory committee, the annual progress report, the comprehensive oral examination, the dissertation proposal, and recommended timetable for completion of the degree.

State Authorization - It Matters Where You Live

If your learning placement course (internship, externship, clinical, rotation, practicum, independent study, study away, etc.) or your online course will be taken outside South Dakota, please reference USD’s State Authorization webpage.

State Authorization


Department of Biology
605-658-6700 | biology@usd.edu | usd.edu/Academics/Colleges-and-Schools/college-of-arts-sciences/biology

Graduate Admissions
605-658-6140 | gradadmissions@usd.edu  | usd.edu/grad