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Ecology And Evolution Graduate Study



Ecology and Evolution

Ecology and Evolution is one of three graduate research areas in the Department of Biological Sciences. Our graduate students work toward either the Ph.D. or M.S. degree.  The research interests of the Ecology and Evolution faculty include behavioral ecology, community ecology, conservation biology, ecology of food webs, ecosystem biology, evolutionary ecology, landscape ecology, molecular evolution, molecular phylogenetics, plant mating systems, plant physiological ecology, revitalization of natural areas, and urban ecology.  Our close association with adjunct faculty has allowed our graduate students to carry out research at Argonne National Laboratory, the Brookfield Zoo, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Field Museum of Natural History, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Morton Arboretum.

Applying to Ecology and Evolution

Those interested in graduate studies in Ecology and Evolution should follow the instructions for applying to Department of Biological Sciences.  Ecology and Evolution admissions decisions are based on many factors. In addition to strong academic history, recommendation letters, and examination scores, the applicants admitted to Ecology and Evolution share closely-related interests with one or more members of the faculty. Applicants are strongly advised to familiarize themselves with the ongoing research in Ecology and Evolution, and contact those faculty members that might serve as potential advisors.  Under most circumstances, Ecology and Evolution applicants will not be admitted unless a member of the faculty has agreed to serve as their graduate advisor.

Degree Requirements

The Ecology and Evolution program area is part a hierarchy that starts with the UIC Graduate College, which sets rules and standards that apply across many diverse graduate programs at UIC.  Our graduate program is in Biological Sciences, which has its own program requirements.  Finally, each program area within the Biological Sciences program, including Ecology and Evolution, sets specific guidelines that apply to the students within that area. 

Summary of Biological Sciences Program Requirements


M.S. Degree - a research degree typically requiring 2-3 years to complete
  • 32 credit hours
  • At least 24 hours of 400- and 500-level courses (not research credits)
  • At least 9 hours of letter-graded (A-F) 500-level courses
  • Final exam with M.S. committee
  • Thesis required

Ph.D. Degree - a research degree typically requiring 5-7 years to complete
  • 96 post-baccalaureate credit hours
  • At least 22 hours of 400- and 500-level courses (not research credits)
  • At least 8 hours of letter-graded (A–F) 500-level courses
  • Preliminary examination
  • Dissertation required
All students must be registered for at least 12 credits per semester in order to receive a tuition/service fee waiver.

Ecology and Evolution Requirements

Students are required to take the two-semester 6-credit sequence of BioS 531 and BioS 532, Introduction to Ecology and Evolution I and II. This series introduces students to Ecology and Evolution faculty research, and features guest speakers from other departments or institutions. Students must register for BioS 539 each semester, an S/U-graded 0-credit course based on attendance at the Ecology and Evolution Seminar Series; students who present a seminar in the series may register for 1 credit in BioS 539. Other courses needed to fulfill the program requirements are decided with input from each student's advisor and committee. Students can fulfill their course requirements with relevant classes from any department at UIC. Ph.D. students can also take advantage of the Traveling Scholar Program to take classes at 12 regional universities, including the University of Chicago and Northwestern University.

M.S. students must form a three-member thesis committee in accordance with the rules of the UIC Graduate College. The committee should be approved by the end of the second semester of study. Students are required to have annual committee meetings, and return the completed, signed committee meeting form to Graduate Advisor Beth Brand. Theses are defended orally before the committee. Students are expected, but not required, to present a departmental seminar after the recommended changes are made to the thesis.  Theses must conform to specific guidelines before they will be accepted by the Graduate College.

Ph.D. students must form a five-member preliminary exam committee in accordance with the rules of the UIC Graduate College. The committee should be approved by the end of the third semester of study. Students are required to have annual committee meetings, and return the completed, signed committee meeting form to Graduate Advisor Beth Brand.  Before the end of their third year, Ph.D. students must pass an oral preliminary examination by demonstrating comprehensive knowledge of the field, and proficiency in the design and execution of the proposed dissertation. A written research proposal must be submitted to the examination committee at least two weeks before the examination date. Research for the Ph.D. degree typically requires two to three years beyond the preliminary examination. Students who do not complete their degree requirements within five years of passing the preliminary exam must retake the exam. Dissertations are defended orally before a five-member dissertation committee formed in accordance with the rules of the Graduate College. The dissertation must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks before the defense date. After all recommended changes have been made to the dissertation, the candidate schedules a departmental seminar. Dissertations must conform to specific guidelines before they will be accepted by the Graduate College.

Financial Support

Students admitted into the graduate program receive financial support, usually in the form of a research or teaching assistantship. Research assistantships are funded by faculty grants, and are generally offered to students in the faculty member's laboratory. Teaching assistantships are provided by the department, and typically involve laboratory instruction, laboratory preparation, and/or grading.

Time limits

The time limits for the M.S. and Ph.D. degree are set by the Graduate College. The M.S. degree must be completed within five years after admission. The Ph.D. degree must be completed within seven years for students admitted with a M.S. degree, and nine years for students without the M.S. Under certain circumstances, a student can request an extension of the deadline. Students who are not making reasonable progress, as judged by their committee in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and/or the Department Head, will not be granted an extension and will be dismissed from the program.