Not Set Ecology & Evolution : Florida State University Department of Biological Science

Ecology & Evolution

Navigating Graduate School

The First Year

Graduate students arrive on campus at least a week before start of the fall semester to attend orientation sessions and teaching workshops. During their first year, graduate students generally take three core courses: Advanced Population Biology, Quantitative Methods in Ecology and Evolution, and either Advanced Evolution or Ecological Genetics (offered alternate years). Each student's committee makes recommendations for additional courses that will help prepare the student for their research (e.g., Macroevolution, Community Ecology, etc.). Students also participate in reading groups.

Students are admitted with a provisional advisor. There is no lab rotation requirement; most students begin research projects during their first year under the direction of this advisor. Students are free to change advisors to best serve their research interests, assuming a willing advisor can be found. In the second semester students formalize the relationship with an advisor (or co-advisors) and identify additional committee members that suit their research interests

Second and Later Years

Graduate students continue participation in seminars and reading and discussion groups and may take additional courses.  At the end of the second year or beginning of the third, Ph.D. students take written and oral exams ("prelims") and can advance to Ph.D. candidacy. This usually coincides with submitting a prospectus that outlines a student's research plans and goals. After prelims the primary focus shifts to a student's research activities. M.S. students typically finish their projects under the supervision of the advisor after their second or third year. The research projects of Ph.D. students become increasingly independent; individuals begin as students and finish as scientific peers.

Every fall, all students meet with their committees to discuss the student's research and the progress towards fulfilling degree requirements; late in the semester all students summarize their progress in a brief meeting with the assembled EE faculty (the annual graduate reviews). These annual reviews are an important part of keeping students involved with the wider EE faculty, not just their committees.  


Graduate students are required to complete at least two semesters as a teaching assistant. We view EE students as important teaching colleagues in many of the lecture and laboratory courses and encourage our students to develop their teaching skills. Many opportunities for professional development in teaching are available, including guest lectures, creation of new labs, development of curriculum, and participation in a course on using active learning in the classroom.