PHD Biology (Biology and Society)



Program Description

Degree Awarded: PHD Biology (Biology and Society)

This concentration within the biology doctoral degree focuses on ways the life sciences shape and are shaped by society. In this interdisciplinary program, you’ll study the life sciences alongside economics, education research, ethics, history, law, philosophy, policy and their intersections.

Distinctive among programs in history and philosophy of science, science studies, and bioethics, students and faculty in the biology and society program study and collaborate with colleagues across the School of Life Sciences. As a student in this program, you will be affiliated with the Center for Biology and Society and have unparalleled access to mentoring and research support.

Only at ASU will you be working directly with our award-winning faculty members on innovative research initiatives at multiple centers, including:

While your studies will begin in Arizona, you may have opportunities to travel the world and participate in research funded by Fulbright, Smithsonian Institution, USAID Fellowships, and more. You may also be contributing to national, online resources such as the Embryo Project Encyclopedia and the Online Ethics Center for Engineering and Science.

The program emphasizes the development of critical thinking and analytical skills. You can tailor your degree programs to meet your specific research interests, and at the same time, receive a solid foundation in the life sciences.

Graduates often choose careers in higher education, research, administration, policy and science communication.

Biology (Biology and Society) PhD Faculty



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.



At a Glance: program details





Degree Requirements

Bioethics, policy, and law 

Core course (3-4 credit hours) 

  • BIO 514 Statistical Models for Biology or
  • BIO 620/HPS 620 Research Prospectus Writing

Electives (68-69 credit hours)

Restricted electives (30 credit hours)

Ethics — as related to life sciences (3 credit hours), sample courses include:
  • BIO 516 Foundations of Bioethics
  • BIO 527 Environmental Ethics and Policy Goals
  • BIO 598 Advanced Bioethics
  • BIO 598 Big Data in Context: Ethics, Policy, History and Philosophy 
  • BIO 610 Introduction to Responsible Conduct of Research in Life Sciences
  • BIO 611 Current Topics in Responsible Conduct of Research in Life Sciences
  • PHI 521 Bioethics
  • POP 633 Population Health Ethics
Science policy (3 credit hours), Sample courses include:
  • BIO 515 Science, Technology and Public Affairs
  • BIO 517 Uncertainty and Decision-making
  • BIO 598 STS Reading Group
  • HSD 601 HSD I: Human Dimensions of Science and Technology 
  • HSD 602 HSD II: Science, Power and Politics
Law — as related to science or technology. (3 credit hours), sample courses include:
  • BIO 591/LAW 617 Genetics and the Law
  • BIO 591/LAW 631 Environmental Law
  • BIO 591/LAW 689 Health Technologies, Innovation and the Law
  • BIO 591/LAW 693 Privacy, Big Data and Emerging Technologies 
  • BIO 591/LAW 703 Law, Science and Technology 
  • BIO 591/LAW 714 Biotechnology, Science, Law and Policy
  • BIO 591/LAW 791 Artificial Intelligence: Law, Ethics & Policy
Additional required courses related to life sciences (9 credit hours)

These courses provide expertise in your individual research area. Any courses offered under one of the prefixes BIO, ELS, EVO, HPS, MCB, MIC, and PLB, or any courses taught by biology and society graduate faculty members fulfill the requirement. Sample courses include:

  • BIO 615 Biology and Society Lab
Research (12 credit hours)
  • BIO 792 Research
Free electives (38-39 credit hours)
  • Additional research, seminars and reading courses
Dissertation (12 credit hours)
  • BIO 799

Total: 84 hours

Biology education research track

Core course (3-4 credit hours) 

  • BIO 514 Statistical Models for Biology or
  • BIO 620/HPS 620 Research Prospectus Writing

Electives (68-69 credit hours)

Restricted electives (30 credit hours)
Quantitative methods or statistics (3 credit hours), sample courses include:
  • COE 502 Introduction to Data Analysis
  • DCI 691 Introduction to Measurement Theory & Practice
  • DCI 691 Introduction to Quantitative Research Design & Methods
  • EDP 554 Analysis-of-Variance Methods
  • PSY 531 Multiple Regression in Psychological Research 
Learning, educational or psychological theory (3 credit hours), sample courses include:
  • DCI 691 Advanced Pedagogy in STEM Education
Discipline-based education research (3 credit hours), sample courses include:
  • BIO 532 Recent Papers in Discipline-Based Education Research
  • BIO 598 Biology Education Research
  • BIO 791 Science Education Research Seminar
Additional required courses related to life sciences (9 credit hours)

These courses provide expertise in your individual research area. Any courses offered under one of the prefixes BIO, ELS, EVO, HPS, MCB, MIC, and PLB, or any courses taught by biology and society graduate faculty members fulfill the requirement. 

  • BIO 591 Papers in Inclusive Teaching in College
  • BIO 615 Biology and Society Lab
Research (12 credit hours)
  • BIO 792
Free electives (38-39 credit hours)
  • Additional research, seminars and readings courses
Dissertation (12 credit hours)
  • BIO 799

Total: 84 hours

Ecology, economics and ethics of the environment track

Core course (3-4 credit hours) 

  • BIO 514 Statistical Models for Biology or
  • BIO 620/HPS 620 Research Prospectus Writing

Electives (68-69 credit hours)

Restricted electives (30 credit hours)

Ecology (3 credit hours), sample courses include:
  • BIO 519 Physiological Plant Ecology 
  • BIO 521 Landscape Ecology
  • BIO 522 Populations: Evolutionary Ecology
  • BIO 598 Population and Community Ecology
Environmental Economics or Environment and Society (3 credit hours), sample courses include:
  • ASB 530 The Changing Nature of the Human-Nature Relationship (cross listed with SOS)
  • BIO 515 Science, Technology, & Public Affairs (cross listed with SOS)
  • BIO 517 Uncertainty & Decision Making (cross listed with SOS)
  • BIO 591 The Economics of Conservation
  • BIO/AML/SOS 691 Mathematical Natural Resource Economics
  • ELS 591 Resilience and Robustness in Social-Ecological Systems
  • ERM 527 Environmental Resources and Regulations 
  • ERM 540 International Environmental Law & Policy
  • LAW 631 Environmental Law
  • PAF 504 Microeconomics of Public Policy I
  • PAF 546 Environmental Policy & Management
  • SOS 512 Environmental and Resource Economics
  • SOS 525 Social-Ecological-Technological Systems
Environmental Ethics or Environmental Policy (3 credit hours), sample courses include:
  • BIO 527 Environmental Ethics and Policy Goals
Additional required courses related to life sciences (9 credit hours)

These courses provide expertise in your individual research area. Any courses offered under one of the prefixes BIO, ELS, EVO, HPS, MCB, MIC, and PLB, or any courses taught by biology and society graduate faculty members fulfill the requirement. Sample courses include:

  • BIO 591 Ecosystems Services Lab
  • BIO 591 ESSA Reading and Reflection
  • BIO 591 Innovations of Conservation Lab
  • BIO 615 Biology and Society Lab
Research (12 credit hours)
  • BIO 792
Free electives (38-39 credit hours)
  • Additional research, seminars and readings courses
Dissertation (12 credit hours)
  • BIO 799

Total: 84 hours

History and philosophy of science track

Core course (3-4 credit hours) 

  • BIO 514 Statistical Models for Biology or
  • BIO 620/HPS 620, Research Prospectus Writing

Electives (68-69 credit hours)

Restricted electives (30 credit hours)
History of science (3 credit hours), sample courses include:
  • BIO 591 Embryo Project
  • BIO 591 Embryo Project Editing
  • BIO 598 Big Data in Context: Ethics, Policy, History and Philosophy
  • HPS 598 Advanced History of Science
Philosophy of science (3 credit hours), sample courses include:
  • BIO 598 Advanced Philosophy of Science
  • BIO/HPS/PHI 598 Philosophy of Biology and Medicine Advanced
History of science or philosophy of science (3 credit hours)
  • Select a second course from either of the two areas above
Additional required courses related to life sciences (9 credit hours)

These courses provide expertise in your individual research area. Any courses offered under one of the prefixes BIO, ELS, EVO, HPS, MCB, MIC, and PLB, or any courses taught by biology and society graduate faculty members fulfill the requirement. Sample courses include:

  • BIO 615 Biology and Society Lab
Research (12 credit hours)
  • BIO 792
Free electives (38-39 credit hours)
  • Additional research, seminars and readings courses
Dissertation (12 credit hours)
  • BIO 799

Total: 84 hours




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 applicants must have 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 admissions 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 (if applicable)

Application Deadline

  • Applications are accepted between the open date, September 1st and close date, December 1st for consideration for the following August
Additional Application Information
  • The Biology (Biology and Society) PhD program admits one group of students annually to start their program the following August
  • There is no guarantee that applications received after December 1st will be reviewed
  • In January, the top applicants will be invited to a recruitment event scheduled in mid-to-late February 
  • You'll be notified of your admission status by April 15th 
  • Review tips for applying
Desired Qualifications
  • Research experience 
  • International students: TOEFL score of 100, or IELTS score of 6.5

To apply, follow the Apply Now link.



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