Evolutionary Biology, PHD

At a Glance: program details

How do organisms adapt? What is the history of our species? Dobzhansky famously wrote, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution." In this program, you will learn about fundamental processes that govern the history and dynamics of living systems, from molecules to cells, from societies to ecosystems.

Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD Evolutionary Biology

The evolutionary biology PhD is a transdisciplinary graduate degree program that provides doctorate-level training in the historical, conceptual, empirical and quantitative aspects of biological evolution.

Evolution is a fundamental scientific concept underlying all aspects of modern biological, environmental and health-related research. It cuts across biological sciences in ways that few other foci do and informs the theoretical foundations of subfields like population genetics and ecosystem ecology. It allows integration of information and patterns across levels of organization, informs the theoretical foundations of subfields ranging from population genetics to systematics to ecosystem ecology, and provides bridges between temporal and spatial scales.

Forgoing emphases on particular taxa or methods, the program focuses on understanding the patterns and processes that have shaped life on Earth and continue to do so, training the next generation of scientists to use this knowledge to meet present and future challenges to the biosphere and human health in the face of increasing environmental perturbation.

Partners in this degree program
  • Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center
  • Center for Biology and Society
  • Center for Evolution and Medicine
  • Center for Mechanisms of Evolution
  • Center for Social Dynamics and Complexity
  • Institute of Human Origins

Program Faculty PhD Students


Elective courses
  • EVO 792 Research 
  • BIO 522 Populations: Evolutionary Ecology
  • BIO 507 Advanced Evolutionary Medicine
  • BIO 521 Landscape Ecology
  • BIO 530 Scientific Teaching (required in first semester for students that will TA at any point in degree)
  • BIO 533 K-12 STEM Education & Outreach
  • BIO 539 Computing for Research
  • BIO 541 SOLS Seminar Series
  • BIO 542 SOLS Current Topics in the Life Sciences
  • BIO 591 Society and Natural Resource Management
  • BIO 591 Social-Ecological Systems & Adaptation
  • BIO 591 Drylands in a Changing Earth
  • BIO 591 Population Genetic Reading Group
  • BIO 591 Communication for Scientists
  • BIO 591 Genetics and Genomics of Behavior
  • BIO 620 Research Prospectus Writing
  • EVO 501 Current Topics in Evolutionary Biology
  • EVO 598 Population Genetic Reading Group
  • EVO 598 Big Data in Context: Ethics, Policy, History, and Philosophy

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
  • 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

Curriculum Plan Options

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

Required Core (9 credit hours)
BIO 514 Statistical Models for Biology (4)
EVO 601 Principles of Evolution (3)
EVO 610 Research Areas of Evolution (2)

Electives (9 credit hours)
The program advisor as well as the student's advisor will determine these courses in conjunction with the student.

Other Requirements (54 credit hours)
research, coursework or 30 credit hours from a previously awarded master's degree

Dissertation (12 credit hours)
EVO 799 Dissertation (12)

Additional Curriculum Information
Students take EVO 610 twice for one credit hour.

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 in a related discipline from a regionally accredited institution.

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.

Applicants must submit the following:

  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. academic record form
  4. personal statement
  5. curriculum vitae or resume
  6. three letters of recommendation
  7. 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 execute a research plan of their own design that addresses a significant scientific question about evolutionary biology.
  • Able to communicate the rationale and results of their research, both orally and in writing.
  • Able to review the literature relevant to the research question in evolutionary biology that they address in their dissertation.

Career Opportunities

Those who have earned a doctorate in evolutionary biology are prepared for academic careers at every level, from community colleges to research universities, and their skills and knowledge are also valuable for government careers in federal and state agencies, and for careers in industry and nongovernmental organizations.

Career examples include:

  • health care scientists in academic, private and industrial labs
  • principal investigators 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.