EEB PHD PROGRAM
The Ph.D. Program in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology in the E3B department at Columbia University is inclusive. We encourage applications from candidates of all races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, (dis)abilities, nationalities, religions, and every other demographic group.
This page will provide details of admissions requirements and FAQs. For details about the EEB Ph.D. program itself, please see the Graduate Student Handbook.
Deadline: The Ph.D. application deadline is early December for admission the following fall. The exact date changes each year, and is posted on the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS)’ website.
Overview of applying to the program
Applying to our Ph.D. program is very different than applying to an undergraduate program. The key difference is that admission to the program is decided by the E3B faculty, rather than by a centralized admissions office. Admission is contingent upon one or more faculty members committing to advise a student. Therefore, applicants must contact one or more faculty members who could be potential advisers prior to submitting an application.
Faculty who can advise Ph.D. students in E3B are listed here. Some of the faculty on that page are core E3B faculty, whereas others are faculty at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) who are affiliated with E3B. Students interested in working with AMNH faculty through Columbia’s E3B program should apply to both E3B and to AMNH’s Graduate Student Fellowship Program.
To determine which faculty members to contact, we recommend visiting the lab websites of potential Ph.D. sponsors and reading papers from their lab. If a lab looks like a good fit with your research interests, email the professor in summer or early fall prior to applying. This initial email should be clear and concise. It should state that you are interested in a Ph.D. in the professor’s lab and why you are interested in a Ph.D. in the professor’s lab. Including your CV is recommended. An email template is here.
If the professor’s lab has room for an additional Ph.D. student and the applicant’s research interests seem like an appropriate fit for the lab, the professor and applicant may meet virtually over phone/video conference or in person. Applicants are highly encouraged to email graduate students in the professor’s lab to introduce themselves and ask questions about the lab, department, and potential advisor.
E3B is committed to increasing diversity in EEB, and as such, encourages applications from all demographic groups, particularly those that are historically underrepresented in EEB and STEM fields broadly. As part of this commitment, applicants to E3B are encouraged to apply for the Provost’s Diversity Fellowship, which increases the stipend.
E3B Admission Requirements
In addition to the interest of potential advising faculty, admission to the EEB Ph.D. program requires an undergraduate degree, preferably with a major related to the student’s intended Ph.D. research. Regardless of the name of the degree, it is desirable to have had coursework related to the student’s intended Ph.D. research, which often includes evolution, ecology, organismal biology, statistics, calculus, physics, and chemistry. Prior research experience in your subdiscipline(s) is helpful.
The GRE is not required.
For further information on admissions requirements and how to apply, please refer to the ‘Prospective Students’ page of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. You will be able to fill out an online application by following the link to the Ph.D. programs.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. When is the application deadline?
The Ph.D. application deadline is in early December. The exact date changes each year, and is posted on the GSAS website.
2. Can I apply for Spring Admission?
No, there is no Spring Admission for the Ph.D. program.
3. Is there a part-time option?
No, there is no part-time option for the Ph.D. program.
4. What are the admission requirements?
An undergraduate degree is required, along with the accompanying transcripts, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. For students from countries where English is not the primary language, the TOEFL or IELTS might be required – see the International Students page of the GSAS website for details. Students admitted to the EEB Ph.D. program have diverse backgrounds and qualifications.
5. Is a Masters degree required?
No. Some students admitted to the program have a Masters degree, and some do not.
6. Is the GRE required?
No. Neither the general GRE nor any of the subject GREs are required.
- Should I visit?
Visiting Columbia will give you a chance to meet faculty and other students to get their perspective, and to see if you would like to come to school here. Applicants who make it to the short list are typically invited to an interview in February. For applicants who are local, it can also be helpful to visit before applying. Once you have established contact with prospective advisers, ask them about arranging a visit.
- What type of fellowships or financial aid are available?
Ph.D. students are offered fellowships which cover five years of stipend, tuition, and Columbia Health Insurance and Health Fees. Students are also encouraged to apply for external fellowships, such as the NSF GRF (USA), Ford (USA), EPA STAR (USA), NSERC (Canada), Fulbright, and Laspau (Brazil) fellowships, which increase the stipend. The Provost’s Diversity Fellowship also increases the stipend.
- Is there housing?
As part of the fellowship offer, Ph.D. students are guaranteed University housing as long as they apply on time. Many but not all students live in University housing.
- What are Residence Units?
Residence Units (RU) are equivalent to full-time registration for a semester. Six RUs are required for the M. Phil. (a degree conferred when all the requirements of the Ph.D. except for the dissertation itself have been completed) and the Ph.D. Students coming in with a Masters in a related field can receive “Advanced Standing,” which provides 2 RUs. A student registered for RU is charged the full-time rate of tuition, whereas students beyond the M. Phil. are charged a lower rate of tuition. Note, however, that students on fellowship (i.e., every student in years 1-5) have their tuition paid through their award, so do not pay the tuition themselves.
- Can affiliate faculty be my advisor?
Ph.D. students are sometimes advised or co-advised by affiliate faculty who may or may not currently appear on the GSAS list of sponsors. However, student support may present extra challenges in such situations, and we strongly recommend that prospective students contact faculty members of interest before applying to see whether they are able to take students in a given admission cycle.
- How many students are in the program?
There are typically around 30 students in the EEB Ph.D. program.
- Do students have a teaching commitment?
All Ph.D. students are required to serve as teaching assistants for three semesters.
- How long does it take to finish a Ph.D.?
Ours is a full-time Ph.D. program. Students typically take 5-6 years to complete their doctorates.