Mar 20, 2018  
2012-2013 Graduate Catalog 
2012-2013 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Marine Biology, PhD

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Program Description

The Marine Biology Program is designed for students with an interest in one or more of the subdisciplines of marine biology and who wish to pursue careers in higher education, government, or private industry. This unique, interdisciplinary degree program (IDP) combines the strengths of various departments at three universities within the Texas A&M University System: Life Sciences at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Marine Biology and Marine Sciences at Texas A&M University at Galveston (TAMU-G), and Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Oceanography and Biology at Texas A&M University (TAMU). Students can choose courses from any campus and form committees with any of the participating faculty. Advantages of the interdisciplinary degree format for Marine Biology students include a diverse, internationally recognized faculty with high scholarly productivity and extramural funding, as well as two campuses strategically located on the Gulf of Mexico. Students receive their degree from both Texas A&M University and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

The Marine Biology program offers the Master of Science and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Marine Biology. A personalized graduate advisory committee guides each student through the conception, design, construction, and execution of a marine biology-based inquiry.

Student Learning Outcomes

As part of their progression through the Marine Biology Program, Doctor of Philosophy students will:

  • Possess a broad understanding of marine biology
  • Acquire skills necessary for marine biological science studies
  • Perform original and hypothesis-driven scholarly research grounded in marine biological concepts
  • Develop the skills necessary to present and publish their work at national and international venues
  • Develop a skill set and research record such that they can secure employment in universities, federal agencies, private companies or non-governmental organizations where they can apply the skills and knowledge acquired during the program

Admission Requirements

Those seeking admission to the Marine Biology Program should apply through the university Office of Research and Graduate Studies. In addition to the documents required by that office, applicants must submit an essay of no more than 1,000 words describing their educational and career goals, and interests as they relate to the faculty in the Marine Biology Program; a list of names of faculty members contacted; three letters of recommendation from people familiar with their potential for graduate studies; transcripts of all previous undergraduate/ graduate work; Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores that are not more than 5 years old; and a résumé. Additional requirements exist for international students, including TOEFL scores from ETS taken within the last two years for students from countries where English is not the native language, and a course by course foreign transcript evaluation through an approved service (refer to the Admission section of this catalog). All relevant supplemental materials (such as publications or other documents that include information about relevant experiences) that are submitted with the application will be considered. Send application documents to the Office of Research and Graduate Studies. A campus visit including personal interviews with prospective faculty mentors is highly recommended.

Completed applications must be received by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies by the specified priority deadlines:

  • Fall Semester - February 1
  • Spring Semester - June 1

Incomplete applications are not considered. The applicant will be notified of acceptance or rejection by letter.

Teaching assistantships, graduate research assistantships, and fellowships may be available to admitted degree-seeking students who maintain full-time graduate student status (9 hours/fall and spring semester, and 3 hours/summer). The completed Teaching Assistant Application ( and all other materials requested for evaluation should be submitted to the office indicated on that form. For full consideration, the deadline for submitting applications is February 1 for the following academic year. A limited number of fellowships are available, and faculty members conducting funded research projects often hire qualified graduate students as Research Assistants. Students will need to contact faculty members in their field of interest for information on these opportunities.

Non-degree students may enroll in courses for which they have adequate academic preparation, but they may not apply more than nine credit hours of work taken in non-degree status to a graduate degree program. Non-degree students must consult with the Marine Biology Program Coordinator to determine those courses in which they may enroll and those courses they may later apply to a Marine Biology degree, should they be admitted into the program. Students must earn a grade of “B” or better in each of the prescribed courses in order to have the courses apply to the plan of study.

Academic Preparation

Students entering the Marine Biology Program are expected to have a strong background in biological and physical sciences, with competencies equivalent to those required of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi undergraduate biology majors (see the biology section of the undergraduate catalog). Therefore, a student who lacks adequate academic preparation in a particular subject area, but who is otherwise well-qualified to enter the graduate program, may be required to complete appropriate undergraduate course work in addition to that specified for the graduate degree. Such courses (4000-sequence or lower) are regarded as foundation or leveling work and do not count as credit towards the total required for completion of the graduate degree.

Advising and the Graduate Advisory Committee

After admission to the graduate program, the Marine Biology Program Coordinator will advise the student in all matters relating to degree requirements and procedures until a formal Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC) is formed. By the end of the first semester of graduate study, a student will select a GAC whose members should represent the student’s field of study. The GAC including the advisor(s)/Chair(s) consists of no fewer than four members. The Chair (or one Co-Chair) of the GAC must be a member of the Marine Biology graduate faculty at the student’s home campus. Recognized scholars who are not members of the Marine Biology Participating Graduate Faculty may serve as Adjunct Members following nomination and approval by Marine Biology faculty and the Office of Research and Graduate Studies. Additional committee members may also be added as “Special Appointments” by submitting a letter of request from the advisor, through the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Marine Biology Program Coordinator. The GAC will advise the student in all matters pertaining to graduate requirements and procedures, and (together with the student) will develop a personalized Degree Plan (including foundation or leveling work). After the student’s GAC approves the degree plan, it will be submitted to Marine Biology Program Coordinator who will forward it to the Chair of the Department of Life Sciences and the Dean of the College of Science and Engineering for approval.

Enrollment Requirements

All students are required to maintain continuous registration until completion of all requirements for graduation unless a specific leave of absence is granted (in writing) by the department. Students funded through scholarships, fellowships and assistantships are required to maintain a minimum number of credit hours per semester. These requirements are detailed in the Graduate Catalog, but students holding assistantship/fellowships must be enrolled as a full-time student (9 hours/fall and spring semester, and 3 hours/summer). To continue to maintain the proper number of hours after completing all formal coursework on the degree plan, a student may register for MARB 5940 /MARB 6940  Project Research.

Coursework and Research

Courses and research for the graduate degrees can be taken from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, TAMU, or TAMU-G with the approval of the student’s GAC. Students must demonstrate to the GAC that the selection of classes or research projects produces a coherent course of study focused on the student’s particular area of emphasis. Depending on the emphasis area, elective and specialized coursework selections may be chosen from biology, biomedical sciences, chemistry, coastal and marine system science, computer science, environmental science, geographic information science, geology, fisheries and mariculture, mathematics, or other course offerings as stipulated and approved by the GAC. Students accepted to the Marine Biology PhD program without an MS degree in an appropriate discipline are required to take more semester hours of credit than students accepted with such a degree.

  1. Specialized and Elective Coursework
    The program specifies the minimum number of semester credit hours (SCH) that must be earned from regular, graded (non-research, non-variable credit) coursework: for students with only a bachelor’s degree, 41 of 96 total hours; and for PhD students with an appropriate master’s degree, 19 of 64 total hours. Classes or research projects designated as part of the specialized coursework requirement must receive the approval of a student’s GAC.
  2. Research Coursework
    Three courses form the required research component of the degree for PhD students: MARB 6392 - Dissertation Proposal , MARB 6393 - Dissertation Research , MARB 6394 - Dissertation Submission . Once PhD students have passed their qualifying exam and become degree candidates, they should take MARB 6940 - Dissertation Project Research  to fulfull course requirements; this course is graded credit/non-credit and may be repeated. Students must enroll in MARB 6394 - Dissertation Submission  during their last semester when their dissertations will be completed.

1. PhD Students Admitted with Only a Bachelor’s Degree

Students accepted to the Marine Biology PhD Program with only a bachelor’s degree (i.e., without an MS degree in an appropriate discipline) must complete a minimum of 96 semester hours of coursework and research.

Total: 96

2. PhD Students Admitted with a Master’s Degree

Students accepted to the Marine Biology PhD Program with an MS degree in an appropriate discipline must complete a minimum of 64 hours of coursework and research.

Total: 64

Doctoral Candidacy and the Comprehensive/Qualifying Examination

To be admitted to candidacy for the Marine Biology PhD degree, a student must have a cumulative GPA and a degree plan GPA of at least 3.0, satisfy the residence requirement (completion of 9 credit hours in two consecutive long semesters) and pass a formal Comprehensive/Qualifying Examination (often referred to as “preliminary examination”). The doctoral qualifying examination covers all areas within the scope of the student’s doctoral program, and usually involves written examinations from each GAC member, followed by an oral examination administered by the GAC as a whole. A student’s Comprehensive/Qualifying Examination may be scheduled when he or she has completed all required leveling courses and is within approximately 6 hours of completing formal degree plan coursework (i.e., except MARB 6940 - Dissertation Project Research ) but must be scheduled before the end of the semester following completion of regular coursework on the degree plan. The dissertation proposal should be approved by the GAC prior to the examination. A doctoral student must pass the comprehensive examination and be admitted to degree candidacy at least 1 year before the date of the final dissertation defense/oral examination. The Office of Research and Graduate Studies will not authorize a final dissertation defense/oral examination for any doctoral student who has not been admitted to candidacy.

Format and Style of Dissertation

The dissertation must follow format requirements established in the Marine Biology Graduate Handbook and must be approved and signed by the members of the student’s GAC, and the Dean of Graduate Studies. The dissertation must be prepared in a standard format and style dictated by the GAC. Guidance can be found in the Marine Biology Student Handbook ( For more information, consult the Office of Research and Graduate Studies.

Once the dissertation is completed and approved by the GAC, the results of the research must be presented orally and publicly. The final defense/oral examination usually takes place immediately following the seminar (see below). Graduate students are expected to present their research at a scientific meeting (other than their graduate seminar) prior to graduation.

Upon approval by a student’s GAC, a copy of the dissertation will be sent to the Dean of Graduate Studies. At the time of successful completion of the final defense/oral examination, committee members will sign the dissertation and return it to the Dean of Graduate Studies for final approval and signature. See also “Requirements for Doctoral Programs” in the general section of this catalog.

Final Oral Defense Examination

Each student must pass a final oral defense examination during the last semester before graduation. The student’s GAC administers this examination which covers topics related to: (1) all graduate coursework undertaken for the Marine Biology program, (2) the student’s specific research area, and (3) broad concepts of general and marine biology including familiarity with the literature and appropriate professional societies. The student is responsible for scheduling the defense with the faculty involved. A student who fails the defense may repeat it once, but only after an interval of four months or more. If a student fails the second defense, he or she will be terminated from the program. Doctoral students must enroll in the course MARB 6394 - Dissertation Submission  during the semester in which they are planning to defend their dissertation and/or graduate.

For Additional Information


Campus address:

Science and Technology Building, Room 319; Phone (361) 825-2754

Mailing address:

Marine Biology Program, Unit 5800
College of Science and Engineering
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
6300 Ocean Drive, Corpus Christi, Texas 78412-5800

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