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Graduate Student Orientation

As an incoming graduate student in Biology, you will be participating in a week-long orientation program called GSO (Graduate Student Orientation). This program gives you training in specific areas that are designed to enhance your graduate experience in research and teaching. Participation is mandatory for all new graduate students in Biological Sciences.

Keys to Success

(1) Identify a graduate advisor.

It is important that you identify a faculty member to serve as your advisor for your graduate work as soon as possible. Contact the faculty member beforehand to make sure they are interested in taking additional graduate students. You will also want to ask some questions about their advising philosophy and what they expect of you as a member of their laboratory. Faculty have distinctly different advising styles and you will want to find someone that you feel you can work with and that will help you successfully complete your graduate program. It is also a good idea to talk to other graduate students about their experiences with the faculty.

You must identify an advisor by your second semester enrolled in the program.

(2) Develop a set of goals for your graduate program.

You will want to develop a set of goals for what you would like to accomplish during your time as a graduate student at BGSU. You may want to have discussions with other graduate students and faculty to help shape these goals.
For example:

  • What skills would you like to acquire?
  • What subjects would you like to learn more about?
  • What type of research would you like to complete?
  • Are there specific people you would like to engage in collaboration?
  • What are your professional goals?

The key will be to use these goals to identify the courses you will take (which will become your TDP), the research question(s) you will address (which will become your proposal), and identify opportunities to increase your scientific expertise (e.g., presentations at professional meetings, grant proposals, workshop attendance, etc.).

(3) Ask questions.

Good scientists ask questions. Never be afraid to ask questions if you do not understand something or wish clarification. Most scientists enjoy talking about their research and their favorite subject areas, if they have the time. One valuable resource is the staff at most libraries, who are specially trained to assist people in their search for the answers to their questions. Furthermore, the libraries contain academic literature which can hold answers to other questions you may have.

Have questions about the program requirements? Ask your advisor or check these sources of information.

(4) Behave professionally.

Since the ultimate result of your graduate degree should be some type of professional employment, develop your professional behavior. Be punctual, courteous, and collegial. Respect the views of others and try to maintain an open mind. Give credit to others for their ideas and don't plagiarise. Remember that science is about critiquing ideas, so learn to give and receive constructive criticism. Appreciate the help of others.

(5) Pay attention to rules and deadlines.

Time is short--you will have only 2 years to complete your Masters or 4 years to complete your Ph.D. Here are some general guidelines.

For the MS:

  • Identify an advisor during your first semester.
  • Complete your TDP by the end of the first semester.
  • With your advisor, identify two additional graduate faculty to serve as committee members. Only one may be outside of the Department of Biological Sciences.
  • Write and defend your thesis proposal by the end of your second semester.
  • Try to finish as much of your coursework as possible the first three semesters to give yourself sufficient time to write and defend your thesis in your final (fourth) semester.

For the Ph.D.:

  • Identify an advisor during your first semester.
  • Complete your TDP by the end of your first year.
  • Complete your coursework by the end of your third semester so that you may take your Preliminary Exam during your fourth semester.
  • With your advisor, identify three additional graduate faculty to serve as committee members. Only one may be outside of the Department of Biological Sciences. You will also need to submit a form to the Graduate College requesting the assignment of an additional committee member before scheduling your Preliminary Exam.
  • Write and defend your dissertation proposal within 6 months of successfully completing your Preliminary Exam.
  • Defend your dissertation at the end of your fourth year.
  • Submit a manuscript for publication before graduation.


Frequently Asked Questions

You will need to identify a faculty member to serve as your advisor for your graduate program. A good place to start is the biology web site to find the research interests of the faculty. Contact a faculty member to find out if they are taking additional graduate students in their laboratory. Do not assume a particular faculty member will be your advisor until you have spoken with them first. You may also want to talk to other graduate students and faculty to gather information about the types of projects that are ongoing. You will want to have a conversation with any prospective advisor about what their expectations will be for graduate students in their laboratory.

MS students must have an advisor by first month of second semester.
PhD students must have an advisor by end of second semester.

The Tentative Degree Program (TDP) lists the courses that you plan to take for your graduate degree. This includes all of the courses that you are required to take (e.g. BIOL 601. Biological Documentation Techniques) and those that you identify with your advisor that are important for your degree.

This form should be completed by the end of your first semester for MS students and no later than the end of the first year for PhD students.

A failing grade will require you to take a second preliminary examination no later than the following semester. Your committee will decide what is required for the second examination based on your performance on the first exam. For example, if a student only fails a portion of the first exam they may only be asked to repeat that portion. A second failure will result in dismissal from the program.

Upon completion of your dissertation and the other requirements of the program, you shall be subject to a final examination, which shall consist of a defense of the dissertation. Copies of the completed dissertation, approved by the advisor, should be submitted to the Doctoral or Masters Committee at least two weeks prior to the defense. The thesis will be judged in relation to published scholarly work in the field, and students are encouraged to begin publishing their results before defending. Doctoral students are required to have a publication in preparation, submitted, in press or accepted before they complete their degree. Defenses usually consist of a public presentation of the thesis/dissertation with questions, followed by a closed door meeting with your committee. Committee members must sign on the ETD form (Thesis/Dissertation Defense Form) both for the acceptance of the defense and acceptance of the manuscript.

Notify the Graduate Coordinator and both your current advisor and potential new advisor about your reasons for wanting a change (e.g., divergent research interests) and discuss possible future directions. Due to limits on the amount of funding available to students and thus, time, a student may change labs only twice. If a faculty member leaves the university and their students subsequently need to find new advisors this is not counted as a lab switch.


All forms should be submitted to the Graduate Secretary unless noted.

  • Tentative Degree Program (TDP) MS PhD This form should be completed by the end of your first semester for MS students and no later than the end of the first year for PhD students.
  • Certificate Plan of Study (CPS) (Bioinformatic Certificate students) Students seeking a certificate in bioinformatics must complete and submit this form during the semester in which the 9th credit hour towards the certificate is taken.
  • Topic Approval (MS & PhD) MS students should complete this form for their proposal meeting, usually scheduled at the end of the first year. PhD students need to complete this form during their proposal meeting, which must be no later than 6 months after successfully completing the Prelim Exam.
  • Prelim Exam Application and Submission Form (PhD only) The top half of this form should be completed by PhD students at least 6 weeks before they wish to take their Preliminary Exam. The bottom half of this form will be completed during the Orals portion of the Prelim Exam to designate a grade on the exam.
  • Title Change Form (MS & PhD) Request to change a dissertation/thesis title must be submitted in writing to the Graduate College.
  • Thesis/Dissertation Defense Form--ETD Form  (MS & PhD) This form is completed for the Thesis or Dissertation defense. The top half indicates the evaluation of the oral portion of the defense and the bottom half indicates the evaluation of the thesis/dissertation document.
  • Tentative Degree Program Addendum (MS & PhD)Use this form to update your TDP to reflect any changes. Complete before you apply for graduation.
  • Exit Interview Form (MS & PhD) This form should be completed by all graduating students in their last semester. Please turn in a copy of the form (or email it) along with a copy of your current CV.
  • Funding Extension Form (PhD only) Use this form to apply for a funding extension.
  • Grad Student Travel Form (MS & PhD) Use this form to request funding for professional travel reimbursement. This form needs to be printed, completed and returned to Kelly prior to any planned professional travel.


1. Apply for graduation–check dates here
2. Successfully complete and defend your dissertation
3. Complete thesis/dissertation–submit an error-free copy by deadline
4. Complete the ETD Form–signatures by all committee members and graduate coordinator for both the defense and the manuscript
5. Submit TDP Addendum–if there are changes in the courses taken that differ from what was listed on the TDP
6. Complete the Exit Interview Form and submit CV to the Graduate Secretary
7. Turn in your keys to Campus Operations and leave a forwarding address with the Graduate Secretary