Department of Biology

Address: PO Box 23360, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00931-3360

Telephone: (787) 764-0000, ext. 2912, 2569

Fax: (787) 772-1471, 764-2610

Web address: http://biology.uprrp.edu/graduate_program


PhD in Biology


James D. Ackerman, PhD, Florida State University, 1981, Professor.
Ecology and evolutionary biology, plant reproductive ecology, plant systematics, and biology of orchids.

Ingi Agnarsson, PhD, George Washington University, 2004, Assistant Professor.
Systematics; biogeography; social evolution; arachnid taxonomy; phylogenetics of arachnids and mammals.

Mitchell Aide, PhD, University of Utah, 1989, Professor.
Tropical plant ecology: biogeography, conservation, molecular evolution, plant/herbivore interactions, plant phenology, population genetics, and restoration ecology.

Paul Bayman, PhD, University of California at Berkeley, 1987, Associate Professor.
Mycology, plant-fungal interactions, mycotoxins, biodegradation.

Graciela Candelas, PhD, University of Miami, 1966, Professor.
Differential expression of tissue-specific and developmentally expressed polymerase III genes during the synthesis of fibroin by spider silk glands.

Elvira Cuevas Viera, PhD, Instituto Venezolano de Investigaciones Científicas, 1983, Professor.
Ecosystem ecology, nutrient cycling.

María Gloria Domínguez Bello, PhD, University of Aberdeen, 1990, Assistant Professor.
Microbiology of the gut and rumen, Helicobacter.

José E. García Arrarás, PhD, Harvard University, 1981, Professor.
Organogenesis, developmental biology, sympathetic nervous system, nervous system development and degeneration.

Tugrul Giray, PhD, University of Illinois, 1997, Assistant Professor.
Social behavior of the honey bee, Apis mellifera; physiology; neuroendocrinology; genetics of behavior.

Carlos I. González, PhD, Rutgers State University, 1996, Assistant Professor.
Molecular biology; control of gene expression.

Tomas Hrbek, PhD, Washington University, 1999, Assistant Professor.
Population biology; evolution; phylogeography of fish and Amazonian vertebrates.

Rafael L. Joglar, PhD, University of Kansas, 1986, Professor.
Systematics, ecology, and conservation of West Indian amphibians and reptiles; biology of the neotropical frogs of the genus eleutherodactylus; conservation biology.

Jose A. Lasalde Dominicci, PhD, University of Puerto Rico, 1988, Associate Professor.
Acetylcholine receptor structure and function, lipid-protein interactions in biological membranes, neural acetylcholine receptor and nicotine addiction.

Carmen S. Maldonado Vlaar, PhD, Northeastern University, 1994, Associate Professor.
Neurobiology of drug addiction; behavioral neuropharmacology; functional neuroanatomy.
Steven E. Massey, PhD, University of Kent at Canterbury, 2004, Assistant Professor.
Bioinformatics; molecular evolution; genome evolution.

Sandra Peña Ortiz, PhD, University of Cincinnati, 1994, Associate Professor.
Molecular biology of the memory.

Jason Rauscher, PhD, Washington University, 2000, Assistant Professor.
Plant evolutionary genetics; molecular systematics of plants
; polyploidy and hybridization in plant evolution.

Carla Restrepo, PhD, University of Florida, 1995, Assistant Professor.
Landscape ecology, macroecology, frugivory and seed dispersal; conservation biology

Eduardo Rosa Molinar, PhD, University of Nebraska Medical Center, 1977, Assistant Professor.
Comparative and evolutionary neuroembryology, developmental neuroendocrinology, biological microscopy and imaging

Alberto M. Sabat, PhD, State University of New York, 1990, Professor.
Population dynamics in age/stage structure populations; reproductive strategies in plants and animals

Eugenio Santiago Valentín, PhD, University of Washington, 1999, Assistant Professor.
Evolution and conservation of island floras

Richard Thomas, PhD, Louisiana State University, 1976, Professor.
Systematics and ecology of neotropical vertebrates, with special emphasis on amphibians, reptiles, and bats

Gary A. Toranzos, PhD, University of Arizona, 1985, Professor.
Environmental microbiology: behavior of genetically engineered microorganisms, gene transfer in the environment, environmental pollution and biodegradation of xenobiotics

Irving Vega, PhD, Rutgers University-Graduate School of New Brunswick, 2002, Assistant Professor.
Neurodegeneration and Tau microtubular protein aggregation


Grisselle González, PhD,Colorado University, 1999.
Environmental, population, and organismal biology

Deborah Jean Lodge, PhD, North Carolina State University, 1985. Botanist (Mycologist), USDA-Forest Service; Northern Research Station.
Woodland fungi; systematics; biogeographic evolution; pathology; decomposition ecology

Ariel E. Lugo, PhD, University of North Carolina, 1969.
Management of tropical forests and wetlands.

Joseph Wunderle, Jr, PhD, University of Minnesota, 1980. Adjunct Professor of Biology; International Institute of Tropical Forestry.
Studies on tropical forest life; Ecological studies; Neotropical bird behavior and conservation


Nicholas Brokaw, PhD, University of Chicago, 1980.
Forest ecology

Olga Mayol Brocero, Post Doctoral, Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie (Mainz, Germany), 2001. PhD, University of Puerto Rico, 1998.
Atmospheric chemistry, aerosols, climate

Elvia Meléndez Ackerman, PhD, University of California, 1995.
Plant ecology, evolution of plant-animal interactions

Jorge R.Ortiz Zayas, PhD, University of Colorado. 1998.
Tropical limnology, water resources management.

Alonso Ramírez, PhD, University of Georgia, 2001.
Ecology of riverine ecosystems
, systematics of aquatic insects.

Raymond L. Tremblay, PhD, University of Puerto Rico, 1996.
Conservation biology, metapopulation biology, evolution of orchids

Mei Yu, PhD, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Assistant Professor.
Plant ecology

Jess K. Zimmerman, PhD, University of Utah, 1989.
Forest dynamics, restoration, effects of land use history, plant phenology and reproductive biology.

Xioaming Zou, PhD, Colorado State University, 1992.
Soil ecology, biogeochemistry


The PhD program of the Río Piedras Campus is offered in conjunction with the Medical Sciences Campus and the Institute of Tropical Ecosystem Studies.

Admission Requirements

In addition to the requirements for admission to graduate studies at the Río Piedras Campus and in the College of Natural Sciences, the Department of Biology requires the following:

  1. A master’s degree in science or the equivalent. Students who have shown special promise in research may be considered for admission after having completed the Bachelor of Science degree;
  2. Courses required for admission to the masters program;
  3. An interview with the Admissions Committee, if required;
  4. Scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test; Subject Test in Biology, or Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology is recommended but not required.


Advancement to candidacy for the doctoral degree will be considered once the student has passed both the written and oral parts of the comprehensive examination and has successfully defended the dissertation proposal.

Graduation Requirements

In addition to completing all requirements for graduation from the Río Piedras Campus, students must complete the following:

  1. 60 credits with a minimum grade point average of 3.00 at  both the Río Piedras and Medical Sciences Campuses, including a minimum of 18 credit hours in research;
  2. a minimum of two semesters (consecutive or non-consecutive) as a teaching assistant for all students with no previous university teaching experience.

Program of Study

Students’ academic programs will be prepared in consultation with their academic advisors.

Program Requirements


Core Courses


BIOL 6001 & 6002 Biology Colloquium I & II


BIOL 6999 Special Topics in Modern Biology


Rotation (Take one of the following at least once):

BIOL 6910 Supervised Research
BIOL 6855 Problems in Biology (It can only be count once toward the degree)
BIOL 8700 Research Rotation (can be taken up to tree times, as long as it is with different researchers)



BIOL 8995 Doctoral Seminar


Cursos de nivel 6000-8000
(Students may also take 5000 level courses to a maximum of 12 credits)


BIOL 8900 Comprehensive Exam


Doctoral Dissertation


BIOL 8997 Doctoral Dissertation Research


BIOL 8998 Continuation of Doctoral Dissertation


Total Credits


*Students may transfer a maximum of 14 credits from graduate courses taken prior to acceptance.

**The difference of 42 credits minus the other required core courses.

Description of Courses (PDF)


Office of the Dean for Graduate Studies and Research©2009-2011
University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras Campus

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