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The Department of Biological Sciences in the College of Sciences and Mathematics offers graduate training leading to M.S. (thesis and non-thesis) and Ph.D. degrees in biological sciences. Areas of specialization include aquatic invertebrate ecology, biology of endangered species, biotechnology and genetic engineering, cellular and organismal physiology, cytology and ultrastructure of plants, developmental biology, ecology, environmental microbiology, ethology and herpetology, eukaryotic and prokaryotic molecular genetics, genetics, immunology, mammalogy, mechanisms of plant stress physiology, microbial epidemiology, and molecular mechanisms of plant-microbial interactions, molecular systematic botany, molecular virology, organelle molecular biology, parasitology, plant conservation biology, terrestrial plant ecology, and tropical biology.
The graduate program provides a solid foundation in formal course instruction in preparation for independent research. Students usually complete the master's program in two to three years and the doctoral program in five years. Interdisciplinary graduate minors are available in plant molecular biology; biochemistry, cell and molecular biology; ecology; and environmental science.
Most of the offices and laboratories of the department's graduate research and teaching faculty are housed in Funchess Hall and the Rouse Life Science Building. The Auburn University Hybridoma Facility is available for monoclonal antibodies. In addition, Biological Electron Microscopy Imaging Facility, PCR and Sequencing, and GLC-spectrometry and NMR facilities are available. A cooperating marine laboratory, the Dauphin Island Sea lab, is located on Dauphin Island, AL. The University holds memberships to the Alabama-Mississippi Marine Consortium, which enables students to work at the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and to the Organization for Tropical Studies, which operates the La Selva Field Station in Costa Rica. The department maintains extensive collections of animal specimens for teaching and research. A herbarium, research greenhouses, and growth chambers are also available. Students have complete access to facilities providing statistical analysis, computer programming, and mainframe computer communication. The department maintains an on-campus facility for housing research collections of animals, and numerous other facilities, and field study sites.
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Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs)
Many graduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences participate in the departmental teaching program as graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) during their residence. Students granted 'regular-support' GTAs extend for 4 semesters (2 academic years) for Master's and 10 semesters (5 academic years) for Ph.D. students. Students typically assist faculty lecture instructors in laboratories of undergraduate courses. While there is no formal departmental teaching requirement during the graduate program, graduate students are strongly encouraged to participate as GTAs, both to broaden and enhance their academic experience and training and to assist the Department in the central mission of undergraduate education in the biological sciences at Auburn University.
The GTA is considered an integral part of the departmental teaching program. GTAs directly assist the lecture instructor in the classroom or laboratory, and provide necessary expertise in the course not adequately covered by the faculty given the large number of course offerings and associated labs / lab sections. In this sense the GTA serves as a key link between the undergraduate student and faculty instructor, which facilitates the educational experience and training of the undergraduate and graduate student alike. In exchange for their service all GTAs receive a monthly stipend, and those on at least a 25%-time appointment also receive a tuition waiver from the Graduate School.
Students with a 33%-time (normal) teaching appointment are expected to work approximately 8 hours of formal instruction time (8 contact hours) per week during the semester, with a normal work load of approximately 13-1/3 hours per week. Work loads for students holding greater or lesser appointments are adjusted proportionately. Beyond formal instruction and personal preparation time for GTA the assignment, duties of GTAs may include, but are not necessarily limited to: 1) attending formal prep sessions given by the faculty instructor or course coordinator; 2) proctoring exams from lab and/or lecture; 3) holding ‘open labs' prior to laboratory exams; 4) grading exams, quizzes and/or other assignments from lab and/or lecture; and 5) compiling complete and accurate records of student grades from laboratory exercises. All GTAs are required to attend formal prep sessions each week, if the latter are given. Specific duties of the GTA should be described in detail by the faculty instructor or lab coordinator at the beginning of the semester.
Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs)
During their residence many graduate students in the Department actively participate in research programs of individual faculty, as graduate research assistants (GRAs). Support for GRAs typically come from faculty grants and contracts, and data collected by the GRA often can be used in partial fulfillment of the student thesis (M.S.) or dissertation (Ph.D.) requirement. GRA awards are made by the faculty member in need of research assistance rather than by the Department, on an individual and competitive basis. Students are encouraged to contact prospect faculty advisors directly about GRA positions. A limited number of short-term (summer) GRAs also are available from the Department, to assist students during the final (i.e., writing) stages of their program.
In addition to a monthly stipend, GTAs on at least a 25%-time appointment also receive a tuition waiver from the Graduate School, in the form of a Graduate Teaching Fellowship.