The Department of Biology and Marine Biology contributes importantly to the teaching, research,
and public service missions of the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW). The department
began offering the Master of Science in Marine Biology in 1980, and the Master of Science in Biology in
- In 2002, we established the Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Biology, which was the first Ph.D.
program at UNCW. Since the inception of these programs, we have graduated 440 M.S. students and 18
Ph.D. students. We enjoy continued student interest in our internationally known graduate programs,
averaging almost 90 applications per year for fall admission. Our program is selective – admitting, on
average, 22% of applicants. These high-quality students enter a graduate program that takes very seriously
their academic development. This commitment is reflected in the high retention rates of our students: 95 %
of our M.S. students and 9 4 % for our Ph.D. students.
Our students join a dynamic department, comprised of highly accomplished and competent faculty,
graduate students and staff. Our faculty members are university leaders in grant support, bringing $2.
million in extramural funding to UNCW each year, which is essential to support student research activities,
assistantships and summer stipends. This investment in our graduate students is manifested in their
prodigious scholarly output. During the review period, graduate students have been authors on 199 peer-
reviewed papers, and 21 have received awards or recognition for the quality of their research at scientific
meetings. Graduate students also have been honored with scholarships and fellowships, where 153 have
recognized for academic, research or teaching excellence during the reporting period. In addition, 70
graduate students have received independent intra- or extramural funding, and many have taken on
leadership and service roles to their scientific and university communities. They also complete their
graduate program in a timely manner. During the review period, the median time to graduation for our
M.S. students was 2.5 years, and the mean time to graduation for our Ph.D. students was 4.8 years. Ninety
percent of our students acquire jobs in their fields or enter Ph.D. and professional programs.
The faculty conducts graduate research and educational activities while maintaining a deeply-
rooted commitment to undergraduate education, which forms the backbone of our university. The
vibrancy of the graduate programs promotes a research environment that is easily accessible to
undergraduate students. This commitment means, though, that our faculty members have heavy workloads
for a Ph.D. granting department. While there are many positive features of our graduate programs, there
are also notable weaknesses that threaten their sustainability and further development. Chief among these
are the low stipends for M.S. Teaching Assistants, an insufficient availability of tuition remissions and
scholarships, and a lack of university supported health insurance. Our M.S. students take on critical
educational roles for our university, yet do not earn enough to meet basic costs of living. Because our M.S.
students must also pay in-state tuition, they are currently being charged almost 50% of their wages to be
enrolled in our program. Historically, faculty members have helped offset financial shortfalls during the
academic year with increased pay during the summer, but the regional, state and national reduction in
success rates for extramural grant proposals has made it more difficult for faculty members to assist
students financially with additional summer salary. Intramural summer support would be a mechanism to
help remedy this problem. Thus, our department has a long history of, and a continued commitment to,
supporting graduate students with extramural grants, but the financial deficits are so profound that
substantial investment is necessary to ensure the health and competitiveness of M.S. programs at UNCW.
The Ph.D. stipend level and our commitment to covering full tuition costs provides financial
support for our Ph.D. students that more closely approaches cost of living. However, our program has now
reached a critical juncture, where enhanced university investment, in the form of more Ph.D. TAs, tuition
remissions, and summer support will be required to assure the program’s sustainability and continued
Lastly, our strength as a department relies upon our ability to diversify. This goal is of