Biological Sciences


Degrees Offered


The graduate programs in biological sciences, offered through the Department of Biological Sciences, include the MS and PhD degrees. The overall goals of the program are to develop scientists with strong interdisciplinary skills in research design, critical thinking and communication in biological sciences, as well as expertise in a specific research area. The department emphasizes basic, discovery-based scholarship. Many of the faculty are involved in research that will improve biomedical technology or lead to better environmental conservation and management practices. They work at research sites and with collaborators here at Clemson, around the Southeast, and across the nation and internationally as well.

The Biological Sciences program offers specializations in:

(1) Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

(2) Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology

(3) Comparative Organismal Biology

See a complete list of graduate faculty advisors in Biological Sciences and their research interests.

PLEASE NOTE that the online, non-thesis MS program in Biological Sciences that is directed toward K-12 science educators is different from the program described here and has a separate application.


More information can be found in this graduate handbook.


Program of Study

MS: The MS degree in Biological Sciences is usually completed within three years and requires coursework and thesis research. The first year of the program emphasizes general coursework, formation of an advisory committee, and proposal development. The second and third years focus on research and thesis preparation and defense. Each student’s program of study is supervised by his or her advisory committee and is tailored to the student’s needs and aspirations. There is no specific coursework required other than participation in a reading group and attendance in the weekly seminar series. A course of study appropriate to each student is designed by the advisory committee in consultation with the student.

The MS degree in Biological Sciences prepares students for further graduate training or careers in many areas such as industry, pharmacology, biotechnology and medical laboratories, and state and federal agencies.

PhD: The PhD degree in Biological Sciences is usually completed within five years. The program requires an approved plan of study and research (second year), successful completion of the comprehensive written and oral exams for candidate status (third year), and research and dissertation preparation and defense (second through fifth years). There is no specific coursework required other than participation in a reading group and attendance in the weekly seminar series. A course of study appropriate to each student is designed by the advisory committee in consultation with the student.

The PhD in Biological Sciences prepares students for a career as a research scientist in academic institutions; in research laboratories; and with state, federal, and private agencies.


The Department of Biological Sciences has over 65,000 sq ft of research space, spread over several buildings, including the new Life Science Facility, Long Hall, and Jordan Hall. All of the buildings house faculty from multiple departments and colleges representing a truly cross-disciplinary group ranging from genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, ecology, and evolution to chemistry, bioengineering, computing, and physics. A wide array of instrumentation is available as core departmental equipment or is hosted in individual investigators’ research labs. The University also maintains state-of-the-art core facilities for imaging and genomic analyses. The University Palmetto Computing Cluster is ranked in the Top 5 of university-owned supercomputers in the United States. The University also maintains a 17,500 acre Experimental Forest where faculty and students have access to many diverse habitats and wildlife.

Our Students

Recent graduates are employed in basic research; in industrial, hospital, public health and pollution control laboratories; with state and federal agencies; and in teaching positions in colleges and universities. Others are pursuing continuing graduate, medical, or postdoctoral studies in various institutions around the world.


Application Information

The first, and most important, step in applying to one of the graduate degree programs in Biological Sciences is to identify and contact a faculty member with whom you have similar research interests and discuss potential opportunities in his or her lab for graduate research. Students are not admitted to either the Biological Sciences degree programs without a faculty member having indicated willingness to serve as the Faculty Advisor. See this list of our graduate faculty, their research interests, and contact information to get a better perspective of our program. See this list of graduate faculty who are actively recruiting for the following Fall semester.

Applications are due on January 5th of each year. Admission is based on academic performance, standardized scores, reference letters, the personal statement (see next paragraph), and availability of space and resources in the proposed Faculty Advisor’s lab.

The online application asks for a personal statement that addresses why the applicant wants to pursue a graduate degree in Biological Sciences and describes previous research and other relevant experiences in this or related fields. It also asks the applicant to describe why he/she wants to pursue research with the particular Faculty Advisor that the student indicates on the application.

Required Documents


Graduate students accepted into the Biological Sciences graduate program are either awarded support through the Department of Biological Sciences as Graduate Teaching/Laboratory Assistants (GTAs) or from individual Faculty Advisor’s sponsored grant funds as Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs).

GTAs are available through the department to support teaching in undergraduate laboratories. These assistantships may be renewed annually up to three years for MS and five years for PhD students pending satisfactory progress toward the degree and positive teaching evaluations. All GTAs are 9-month appointments with a base rate of $19,000 for MS students and pre-candidacy PhD students. Stipends for PhD candidates are $21,000. 

GRAs are awarded by individual Faculty Advisors from funds available on research grants upon acceptance to the program. Individual stipend amounts and conditions of renewal are determined by the individual Faculty Advisor, but currently funded GRA stipends range from $19,000 - $25,000 depending upon status (MS or PhD) and tenure of student (years in program). GRA support is negotiated by prospective students with individual Faculty Advisors.


Program Contact(s)

Program Coordinator(s)