Skip to main content

Requirements and Registration


  1. You must be registered for at least 3, and no more than 4 units each quarter
  2. You must register for summer quarter
  3. For your first 8 quarters (including summers), if your coursework does not bring you up to 3 units, then register for enough units of PBC 590 (with your major research advisor) to bring your total units to at least 3. In the summer you will typically register for three units of PBC 590.
  4. Starting in your 9th quarter (years 3+), register for up to 3 units of TGS 500 if you are not taking any courses. If you are taking a course, additionally register for the appropriate units of TGS 500 to bring your total load to 3 units.
  5. If you exceed five years to complete your degree and have not secured additional funding, then you will register for TGS 512. This carries a fee of $100, but does not give you access to healthcare subsidies or a U-Pass.


Doctoral students in Plant Biology and Conservation must meet the following requirements to complete their degree. Read more about general Graduate School requirements for the PhD.


  1. Three core courses (4 units)
  1. Nine elective courses for graduate credit at the 300- or 400- level chosen from PBC and other departmental courses (i.e. Anthropology, Chemistry, Biological Sciences, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Political Science). See the Graduate School Course Catalog for more information. Electives should include at least one course in each of the following areas: ecology, evolution, and genetics.
  2. Independent Research (PBC 590), Units of Independent Research (PBC 590), will be taken to fill out your full time registration during your first 8 quarters (including summer). These are typically taken with your major advisor.
  1. Zero credit Research Ethics course for one quarter. Earth 519 or IBIS 423 are recommended.
  2. Zero credit Student Research Seminar for Fall–Spring quarters starting the second year. Each PhD student in their 2nd year or beyond will give an annual presentation about their independent research as part of this seminar series. This gives students experience and feedback on public speaking and keeps other students and faculty updated on student progress.


  1. The Qualifying exam and PhD Prospectus is necessary to advance to PhD candidacy. These are completed simultaneously and should be completed by the spring of the student’s second year. Students should discuss the timing of their exam with their advisor and work with their committee to schedule the exam. Once the date is scheduled, the PBC program assistant must be notified so the PhD Qualifying Exam form can be submitted online. Read more about the process in the Graduate Student Handbook.
  2. Oral defense of a written dissertation under the direction of a faculty member and approved by a dissertation committee. Read more about the process in the Graduate Student Handbook.


  1. Teaching Requirements, Teaching experience is a crucial aspect of graduate student training and is required of all PhD students in Plant Biology and Conservation. Students serve as graduate assistants and will be expected to lead discussion or lab sections and grade homework and exams for at least two quarters (this will most likely take place during the second and third years in the program). Teaching is an essential element of the education and training experience of PhD students at Northwestern. The Graduate School requires that all PhD students serve in some instructional capacity for at least one academic quarter during their graduate education at Northwestern. This teaching requirement is unique to American higher education, and is an integral aspect of professional development. TGS expects students teaching work to be comparable to other students within their program, and strives to ensure teaching demands are as similar as possible across academic programs.

Academic Progress

  1. Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) must be maintained by students. A student will not be in good academic standing if he/she has an overall grade average below B (3.0 GPA), has more than three incomplete grades, fails to pass the qualifying exam by the end of his/her third year, or fails to make satisfactory progress with research as determined by the student’s thesis committee. If a student does not maintain SAP, he/she risks academic probation, loss of funding, and removal from the graduate program.
Back to top