Biology (Biology and Society), PHD


At a Glance: program details



Be at the intersection of biology and society, where biosciences shape and are shaped by societal values and traditions. Because this program draws from many areas, you develop the skills of a critical, independent, interdisciplinary thinker.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD Biology (Biology and Society)

In the biology and society concentration of the PhD program in biology, students examine topics with biological and social dimensions that are best understood together rather than in isolation. The concentration provides plans of study tailored to individual needs and interests. It encompasses a solid foundation in life sciences and related sciences and provides a rigorous analytical and interdisciplinary education. Students may further specialize in one of four tracks:

Bioethics, policy and law --- This track focuses on pressing moral, policy and legal issues raised by biosciences and biomedicine, as well as methods to address them.

History and philosophy of science --- This track focuses on the conceptual foundations of science, especially the epistemological and methodological assumptions that shape science and its progress.

Ecology, economics and ethics of the environment --- This track focuses on the theory and empirical methods for understanding, analyzing and shaping policy that steer society toward a more productive, equitable and sustainable ecological future.

Biology education research --- This track focuses on using education research to identify ways to broadly improve undergraduate biology education.

Concentrations

Bioethics, policy and law

This track focuses on pressing moral, policy and legal issues raised by biosciences and biomedicine, and on the methods needed to address them.

Biology education research

This track focuses on using education research to identify ways to broadly improve undergraduate biology education. 

Ecology, economics, and ethics of the environment

This track focuses on the theory and empirical methods used for understanding, analyzing, and shaping policy that steers us toward a more productive, equitable and sustainable ecological future.

History and philosophy of science

This track focuses on the conceptual foundations of science, including the epistemological and methodological assumptions that shape science.

Graduates of this program, in any of the four tracks, frequently begin careers in higher education, research and administration, science communication and other areas related to life sciences.



Application and admission information

Applications open September 1 for admission in Fall of the following year. The application deadline is December 1. We accept applications for Fall semesters only. We cannot guarantee that applications received after the December 1 deadline will be considered for admission.

All applicants must apply by filling out ASU's Graduate Admissions application. All application materials must be submitted through the application or to Graduate Admissions directly. Please do not mail or email any documents to the School of Life Sciences. 

Required materials and information include the following:

  • 1-2 page personal statement
  • An up to date CV or resume
  • Writing sample
  • The names of relevant SOLS faculty you have been in touch with who you might be interested in being supervised by
  • Unofficial transcripts and English proficiency test scores (if applicable)
  • The names and emails of at least 3 recommenders to write you letters of recommendation

Following the December 1 deadline, faculty will begin reviewing applications. Applicants should monitor their My ASU priority tasks to ensure there are no missing materials in their application.

Faculty will decide which applicants they would like to invite to our Graduate Recruitment Weekends (GRWs), typically held in February. Applicants will hear from the School of Life Sciences in January if they are invited to participate in the GRWs.

Admission decisions will begin after the GRWs, and applicants typically receive final decisions by April 1.

Minimum requirements for admission include the following:

  • Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • International applicants must satisfy university minimum requirements for English proficiency (TOEFL, IELTS, Duolingo, PTE)
    • There are other ways to demonstrate English proficiency beyond the tests, so please refer to ASU's English proficiency webpage to review how you might satisfy requirements.

Desired qualifications typically seen in competitive candidates:

Please note that the GRE is not required.

Students offered admission to a PhD program in the School of Life Sciences will typically receive a funding offer as well. While individual funding offers may differ to some degree, they typically include teaching assistant and/or research assistant positions each semester (summer optional) for 5 years. These positions provide financial coverage through the following:

  • A standard salary stipend paid biweekly
  • Tuition remission covering enrollment in 6-18 credit hours for fall and spring semesters and 1-14 credit hours for summer semesters
  • Health insurance coverage

To discover more, check out the ASU Graduate College's funding opportunities!


Degree Requirements

84 credit hours, a written comprehensive exam, an oral comprehensive exam, a prospectus and a dissertation

Required Core (3 or 4 credit hours)
BIO 514 Statistical Models for Biology (4) or
BIO 620 Research Prospectus Writing (3)

Electives (68 or 69 credit hours)

Culminating Experience (12 credit hours)
BIO 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
An individual student program is developed in consultation with the student's advisor and committee.


Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree from a regionally accredited institution. Students are expected to have completed the equivalent of core requirements for an undergraduate major in biology or a related discipline, typically evolution, genetics and other courses appropriate to the student's particular interests. Students without an undergraduate-level competency in the sciences may be considered for conditional admission to the biology and society concentration.

Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.

All applicants must submit:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. academic record form
  4. personal statement
  5. curriculum vitae or resume
  6. writing sample
  7. three letters of recommendation
  8. proof of English proficiency

Additional Application Information
An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of their current residency.


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Learning Outcomes

  • Able to contribute to original biology and society research in scholarly writing.
  • Able to communicate biology and society research results in presentations.
  • Able to articulate an understanding of current literature on scientific developments and their relevance to society in scholarly writing.

Career Opportunities

Those who have earned a doctorate in biology and society are prepared for academic careers at every level, from community colleges to research universities. Their skills and knowledge are also valuable for government careers in federal and state agencies responsible for management and conservation, and for careers in industry and nongovernmental organizations. Graduates often choose careers in higher education, research, administration, policy and science communication.

Career examples include:

  • food, agriculture and health care scientists in academic, private and industrial labs
  • principal investigators and policymakers in government labs and nonprofit organizations
  • professors or instructors in universities and colleges
  • science teachers in elementary and high schools
  • wildlife, animal and conservation scientists

Program Contact Information

If you have questions related to admission, please click here to request information and an admission specialist will reach out to you directly. For questions regarding faculty or courses, please use the contact information below.