Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is the highest degree offered by the Microbiology Graduate Program. The goal of graduate education in the MGP is to provide students with the foundation necessary to pursue a career in a university, industry or research institute setting. Students are trained to recognize significant biological problems, to design experimental approaches for solving these problems, and to communicate their results to the scientific community and the public. The Ph.D. program presented below is intended for a timely completion of the required course work, examinations, research and an approved dissertation.

Ph.D. Course Requirements
There are core course requirements taught by MGP faculty, as well as electives offered in numerous disciplines across campus (e.g., Biochemistry, Bioinformatics, Biotechnology, Computer Science, Animal Science, Food Science, Genetics, etc.). Elective courses are chosen by the student, with the help of the student's advisory committee. Continuous enrollment requirements of the Graduate School (for tuition and health benefits) requires all graduate students to enroll for nine credits in each Fall and Spring semester. After the first year, most of these are Research credits. Therefore, in a four-year Ph.D. program, students will have completed 72 credits. Details of the graduate student support plan (GSSP) are available from the graduate school homepage. All graduate students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0.

The MGP requires the following MB course credits in the Ph.D. program. All 700 level courses are letter graded, whereas 800 level courses use satisfactory/unsatisfactory grading policies.

Course Number Title Credits
MB 700 Core courses 12
MB 870 Laboratory Rotations 1
MB 880 Microbiology Research Presentations 1
MB 886 Teaching Experience 1
MB 801 Seminar in Microbiology 2
MB 895 Microbiology Research 6 minimum
various Professional Development 1
500-800 Graduate Elective Courses (MB or others) variable

Required Microbiology Core Courses (3 credits each)
The field of Microbiology includes several specialized disciplines such as bacterial physiology, environmental microbiology, immunology, molecular genetics and virology. Doctoral students are required to take a set of core courses that represent the various disciplines of Microbiology. Substitutions will only be allowed in cases where prior experience can be demonstrated (such as when a student enters the program with an M.S. degree in Microbiology from another institution) and must be approved by the student's advisory committee. Prerequisites in biochemistry are often required of these courses, so all Microbiology graduate students should have the equivalent of introductory biochemistry (NCSU BCH 553) early in the curriculum. For the Ph.D., at least four MB core graduate courses must be selected from the list below. These courses can also serve to fulfill the remaining MB electives.

MB 714 Metabolic Regulation
MB 718 Introductory Virology
MB 751 Immunology
MB 758 Prokaryotic Molecular Genetics
MB 735 Pathogenic Microbiology

Graduate Elective Courses (MB 500 – 800 or others)
Students can select elective courses offered by departments and programs throughout NC State. The Ph.D. is a research-intensive degree, so many of the elective credits will be for research (MB 895 Microbiology Research). Letter graded or satisfactory / unsatisfactory course formats can be used. Selection of elective courses is done by the student, in consultation with and approval by the advisory committee. Below are examples of elective courses available. The graduate catalog should be consulted for the current comprehensive listing.

MB 520 Fundamentals of Microbial Cell Bio-transformations
MB(SSC) 532 Soil Microbiology
MB 555 Microbial Biotechnology
MB(BO,PP) 575 Introduction to Mycology
MB(FS) 725 Fermentation Microbiology
MB(BO,PP) 730 Fungal Genetics and Physiology
MB 610 Special Topics in Microbiology
MB 620 Special Problems
MB 601/801 Seminar in Microbiology
MB 690/890 Master's Exam/Doctoral Preliminary Examination
MB 695/895 Microbiology Research
MB 705 Biological Scanning Electron Microscopy
MB 725 Fermentation Microbiology
MB(IMM) 783 Advanced Immunology
MB 790I Practical Digital Imaging
BCH 553 Biochemistry of Gene Expression
BCH 701 Macromolecular Structure
BCH 703 Macromolecular Synthesis and Regulation
BCH 705 Molecular Biology of the Cell
BIT 810 Core Biotechnologies
BIT 815X Advanced Biotechnology Modules
GN 513 Advanced Genetics
GN 701 Molecular Genetics
GN 735 Functional Genomics
GN 850 Professionalism and Ethics

Additional Course Requirements
In addition to core and elective courses, students are required to register for the following:

  • MB 886 Teaching Experience
    1-2 Credits. Students receive academic credit for participating as a teaching assistant in an approved Microbiology course (see below). 
  • MB 895 Microbiology Research
    Var. Credits. MB 895 provides credit for research performed in the Ph.D. program. Students may sign-up for a variable number of MB 895 credits each semester, with a minimum of six credits required for the Ph.D. degree.
  • MB 801 Seminar in Microbiology
    The MGP requires all graduate students to attend Microbiology seminars throughout their degree program. All Ph.D. students must register for at least two credits (two semesters) of Seminar.

Advisory Committees
Upon admission to the graduate program, the Director of Graduate Programs (DGP) serves as a temporary advisor. Prior to completing the second semester of study, each student is required to select a dissertation advisor (major professor) and a graduate advisory committee that will meet no less than once a year. The Ph.D. advisory committee will consist of the student's dissertation advisor, at least two additional faculty members from the MGP and one faculty member whose primary appointment is outside the student's home department. All required committee members must hold appointments within the NCSU Graduate School. Scientists who are not members of the Graduate School faculty (e.g., adjunct faculty, industry scientists) may be appointed to the committee, but will be in addition to the required number of members.

Teaching Experience
The MGP has a minimum teaching responsibility as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Graduate students must serve as a laboratory teaching assistant in two sections for one semester in one of the approved Microbiology courses. For Ph.D. students, prior teaching experience in an M.S. program will be evaluated. Courses currently approved for fulfilling the teaching requirement are: MB 351/352, MB 452 and MB 412. Specific tools for enhancing teaching effectiveness are provided for teaching assistants, including workshops and constructive evaluation by the instructor and the students. The teaching requirement should be fulfilled at the earliest possible time in the graduate program. One credit of MB 886 is provided for each semester the student teaches.

Plan of Graduate (Ph.D.) Study
The student and major professor will informally outline the plan of graduate study as soon as possible. The plan will be submitted for approval or amendment by the student's advisory committee, and will be formally submitted to the graduate school no later than the end of the student's second semester at NCSU. A Plan of Study will include all courses, a tentative dissertation title, and an anticipated timetable for taking each course.

Annual Research Progress Reports
The MGP will facilitate scheduling an annual meeting of the student's advisory committee, at which the student will make an oral presentation and submit a written report on their laboratory research. A Graduate Student Progress Evaluation Form will be completed by the advisory committee. A satisfactory evaluation will be necessary for the student to receive assistantship support and/or be able to register for the next semester.

Transferring Between Degree Programs
Students who matriculate in the M.S. program may at a later date wish to bypass the M.S. degree and transfer directly into the Ph.D. program. The student's advisory committee must be supplied with sufficient evidence of research ability, such as published manuscripts, published abstracts, or other scientific presentations, to justify the transfer. The student must meet with the advisory committee to present current research results and research objectives for the Ph.D. dissertation. Following the meeting, a letter signed by the advisor is forwarded to the Director of Graduate Programs (DGP) recommending transfer into the Ph.D. program. Upon approval the student follows the requirements of the Ph.D. program, including the Preliminary Examination.

Students may also wish to pursue admission to the Ph.D. program following completion of the requirements for the M.S. degree in Microbiology at NCSU. Similarly, a student may consider transferring from the Ph.D. program into the M.S. program after a year or more in the graduate program. In either instance, a meeting of the student's advisory committee is held that specifically addresses the status of the student's program. A letter signed by the thesis advisor is then submitted to the DGP with a specific recommendation. Notification of admission or change in program will then be made by letter to the student and their advisor. Any other transfers between degree programs must receive approval by the student's advisory committee and recommendation submitted to the DGP.

Preliminary Examination
As a condition for admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree, all students must pass a Preliminary Examination (Prelim), which has both written and oral components. The structure and a more thorough description of the Prelim Exam are provided on a separate web page

Dissertation and Defense
All Ph.D. students must write a dissertation on their research and this must conform to the regulations laid down in the NCSU "Thesis and Dissertation Guide." The content and structure of the dissertation must be approved by the advisory committee, and all degree candidates are expected to prepare their research results for publication prior to completing their program. Doctoral candidates who have completed their research and other degree requirements (72 credit hours) may enroll in MB 899 (Dissertation Preparation) while they are writing their dissertation. All Ph.D. candidates must also present a seminar hosted by the MGP prior to defending their dissertation. Subject to the satisfactory defense of the Ph.D. dissertation, the advisory committee will approve it for transmittal to the Graduate School.