Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Graduate study in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology is designed to lead to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.).
The special areas of strength in the department are evolution and genomics, ecology and the environment, behavior and organismal biology, conservation biology and infectious disease. The interests and research of faculty range widely over these areas, so that incoming students are able to select their adviser from among several professors working in their chosen discipline. Graduate students also have excellent opportunities for combining several areas for innovative interdisciplinary work.
The graduate program is designed to develop both the breadth and depth of understanding that will enable graduates of the department to respond to future advances in the field. At the same time, students acquire the detailed knowledge and techniques needed to become effective scientists. Each student is guided in developing a comprehensive but flexible course of preparation that is designed to meet their educational needs and goals.
Applicants are required to select a subplan when applying.
In consultation with the director of graduate studies, new students work with a graduate committee to develop an individual program of course work and research. During the first two years, members of the committee recommend courses and are available for consultation on planning and initiating research projects.
Though there are few course requirements, all students are required to enroll in five departmental core courses in their first year. By the end of their second year, students must complete a total of eight core courses, including the field course on tropical ecology which takes place in January of a student’s first year and the Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) course offered every other year. Other advanced topic-related courses may be taken occasionally throughout the graduate career. Students may take graduate or undergraduate courses in the department or relevant courses in any other department, and additional undergraduate courses may be recommended if a student shows an academic deficiency.
Seminars, Colloquia, and Integrated Research Seminars
Students enjoy the benefits of an excellent series of seminars and colloquia throughout the year which form an important part of the student’s graduate education and frequently attract faculty and student audiences from several departments such as molecular biology, chemistry, geology, and psychology. These colloquia feature Princeton faculty, students and outside speakers. Students are expected to attend colloquia related to their interests, which are offered weekly. These seminars, given by eminent visiting scientists, expand the student’s educational experience beyond the bounds of expertise that can be found in the local Princeton community and keep the faculty and students abreast of the latest developments in their field.
Research and Thesis Adviser
New students are encouraged to begin research projects as soon as possible. New students work with the DGS to identify a temporary research adviser and research project. In some cases, the initial project becomes the thesis topic, but many students work on several smaller projects before beginning the subject of their dissertation. Graduate students are expected to continue their research and training during the summer at Princeton, in the field, or at another laboratory.
Generally by the end of the second semester, and certainly by the end of the first full year, each student must select a permanent adviser who will supervise work on the thesis.
The general examination is normally taken in the spring of the second year of study. However, students are eligible to stand for the general examination as early as the end of the first year, provided they have met the Graduate School’s residency requirement.
The general examination consists of an oral examination, which typically lasts about three hours. The oral examination is conducted by the student’s dissertation committee, which is chosen in advance by the student and the adviser and is normally composed of four or five Princeton faculty members. The committee may also include members of other departments within the University. Faculty members from other institutions with special competencies are invited to serve on the dissertation committee should the student’s area of study warrant it.
The student submits a written review of background information relevant to the thesis topic as well as a thesis proposal detailing research objectives, preliminary progress and future plans. Questions asked during the oral examination focus on the thesis topic but also cover all scientific areas relevant to the topic of the thesis.
The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy and is earned after a student successfully passes the general examination. It may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that this requirement has been met.
All graduate students are required to teach at least two terms during the first four years of the program. Students who are not supported by an external fellowship, (e.g., NSF, NSERC, etc.) are required to teach an additional two terms.
Yearly Committee Meetings
After the general examination, the dissertation committee continues to meet with the graduate student at least once a year to discuss the student's research. Students are expected to prepare a short written summary of their work before each of these meetings.
In order to complete the Ph.D., a student consults with the committee members who evaluate the student's dissertation. Once the committee approves the dissertation, the candidate has two weeks to prepare and present to the department a defense of the work in the final public oral examination for the doctoral degree.
The Ph.D. is awarded after the candidate’s doctoral dissertation has been accepted and the final public oral examination sustained.
- Lars O. Hedin
Director of Graduate Studies
- Stephen W. Pacala (interim) (fall)
- Bridgett M. vonHoldt (spring)
Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Jonathan M. Levine
- Andrew P. Dobson
- Andrea L. Graham
- Bryan T. Grenfell
- Lars O. Hedin
- Simon A. Levin
- Jonathan M. Levine
- Stephen W. Pacala
- Daniel I. Rubenstein
- David S. Wilcove
- C. Jessica E. Metcalf
- Robert M. Pringle
- Corina E. Tarnita
- Bridgett M. vonHoldt
- Julien F. Ayroles
- Sarah D. Kocher
- Lindy McBride
- Christina P. Riehl
- Mary C. Stoddard
Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.