Students in the IGERT program may enter from several disciplines.

Each student will select the appropriate university and program (e.g. oceanography, microbiology, molecular and cellular biology, bioengineering , environmental engineering, soil science, geology, biology) and will fulfill the Ph.D. requirements within that program.

All Ph.D. degrees require selection of a committee and completion of a program of study by the end of the fifth quarter, passing written and oral qualifying examinations as conditions of advancement to candidacy, and successful defense of a thesis.

As part of their programs, Earth's Subsurface Biosphere (ESB) IGERT students will complete the requirements described below.

As part of the Ph.D. requirements, ESB IGERT students will participate in a program that includes:

  • The Integrated Minor: Subsurface Biosphere, which has five components:
    • coursework
    • group process training goal
    • four laboratory workshops
    • a Scientific Skills and Ethics course
    • a biweekly seminar of all ESB IGERT participants;
  • An internship at a national lab, foreign university, or field site;
  • Yearly retreat of all IGERT participants
  • Participation in a national or international symposium or workshop.

These ESB activities fall within the minimum of 108 graduate credits required for a Ph.D. (Table 1, note: OSU and PSU are on the quarter system).

Students entering with a master's degree could apply up to 45 graduate credits toward the Ph.D. In the first one or two years, an IGERT graduate research assistant would enroll for 12 credits each fall, winter, and spring term, and work on research (may enroll for 9 credits only) or other activities during summer term. Students typically complete about two thirds of their coursework in the first year and the remaining third in the second year.

A checklist that specifies the IGERT requirements is available and should be reviewed annually with your advisor.


Table 1. Credit requirements for Ph.D. in the Subsurface Biosphere IGERT at OSU.

Ph.D. minimum 108 credits
Thesis minimum of 36 credits (no upper limit)
Course work minimum of 36 credits
1) Major Discipline more than 18 credits
2) Integrated Minor more than 15 credits

A)Molecular-cellular scale course

3 credits

Intermediate scale course

3 credits

Global scale course

3 credits

B)Group Process Training

3 credits

C)Four laboratory courses

2 credits total

D)Scientific Skills and Ethics course

3 credits

E)Subsurface Biosphere seminar

1 credit/year

1). Major Discipline

These requirements are set by the College or Department in which the student is enrolled. For example, Engineering, Science, Agriculture, Microbiology or Oceanography.

2). Integrated Minor

The Integrated Minor is a mechanism in the Oregon University System to facilitate the incorporation of new interdisciplinary curricula into existing Ph.D. programs. It is stipulated that Integrated Minors consist of a minimum of 15 credits. This Subsurface Biosphere Integrated Minor will consist of five components as indicated in Table 1. The unique elements are described in more detail below.

(A) Three Courses: Molecular to Global Scale Perspective (total 9 credits)

IGERT students will be required to take at least one course from each of the three areas identified in Table 2 to obtain a global, intermediate, and microbial perspective of the implications of their research.

(B) Group Process Training Goal

Read about IGERT's 2007 Group Process Training cohort featured on OSU's Subsurface Biosphere Center of Excellence web site: http://sbi.oregonstate.edu/news/200710.htm

OSU: (1 credit) OC 669, CRN: Fall term 15742, winter term 25066, spring term 34519

PSU: (1 credit) BI 510, CRN: TBA

This component of the Integrated Minor is a three-credit, year-long course that uses an OSU model for teaching problem solving.

The Group Process Training Goal will be achieved through a year-long research team project in which each student will participate during their second year, while still involved in coursework, but with significant training in their area of specialization. The class will be presented with a complex subsurface terrestrial microbiology problem from one of the labs run by an ESB IGERT investigator. Their goal will be the writing of a review paper which discuses the central multidisciplinary aspects of the problem, and the writing of a formal proposal for funding to explore the problem. One or more faculty will supervise this effort.

The first quarter will consist of weekly seminars put on by invited specialists with key ideas related to the problem while students read the literature most relevant to the problem.

In the second quarter the disciplinary subgroups of students, having researched their aspect of the problem, will direct weekly round-table discussions of each of the key components of the problem. The final four weeks of the quarter will be spent with the entire group synthesizing the literature review (with a goal of a peer-reviewed publication).

In the third quarter the sub-groups will be reorganized to have one member of each discipline, and will develop sections of the proposal, with mentoring on design
of experiments, budgeting, and execution of multi-laboratory project administration. This process will engage students in the communication, collaboration and compromise that are central to discovery and publication in this area. The students will be stimulated and engaged by the prospect of developing documents that will be both published and presented for funding.

(C) Laboratory Rotations and Field/Laboratory Experience

Two options are available (Table 3): (1) Week long field and laboratory experience or (2) Sixty hours of lab rotations. The purpose of either of these is to provide a wide range of laboratory and field experiences.


Table 2. Integrated Minor Courses - Molecular to Global Scale Perspective.

Global Scale


Global Biogeochemistry (3 credits, winter term 2007, OSU-OC669-2, CRN 25078 or PSU-BIO510, CRN 40430)

Intermediate Scale

OSU Courses:
OC647 Marine Microbial Processes
CSS545 Geochemistry of Soil Ecosystems
CSS555 Biology of Soil Ecosystems
ENVE554 Groundwater Remediation
ENVE541 Microbial Processes in Environmental Systems
TOX530 Chemical Behavior in the Environment
ENVE531 Fate & Transport of Chemicals in Environmental Systems

PSU Courses:
Geology 501 Geomicrobiology
Geology 545 Geochemistry
Geology 561 Environmental Geology
ESR 527 Watershed Biogeochemisry
ESR 520 Ecological Toxicology
ESR 579 Fate and Transport of Toxics in the Environment
ESR 550 Multivariate Analysis of Environmental Data
Civil Engineering 576 Environmental Fluid Dynamics
Civil Engineering 569 Groundwater Hydrology

Molecular to Microbial Scale

OSU Courses:
MB520 Microbial Diversity
MB548 Microbial Ecology
MB554/GEN554/MCB554 Microbial Genetics
MB668/MCB668 Genomics and Cellular Evolution

PSU courses:
BI 521 Virology
BI 523 Microbial Ecology
BI 524 Molecular Genetics
BI 530 Theory of Recombinant DNA Techniques
BI 580 Microbiology
BI 581 Microbial Physiology

Ethics Courses

OSU: PHL 547 - Research Ethics (3 credits) or equivalent course pre-approved by the IGERT Curriculum Committee.

PSU: Biomedical Ethics (3 credits) or equivalent course pre-approved by the IGERT Curriculum Committee.

Note: Because of the interdisciplinary nature of this program, some students will enter the program without prerequisite courses in engineering, microbiology, and geochemistry.The Graduate School is considering that some upper division undergraduate courses will be permitted as part of graduate program.

Table 3. Field Laboratory Experience.

MCB 525 - Techniques in Molecular and Cellular Biology. This graduate workshop is offered annually at Oregon State University.

Laboratory Rotations - A total of sixty hours of laboratory experience in a variety of labs. Some of the possibilities are listed. These could be worked out with your advisor. The table already contains 7 possible Laboratory Rotations.

(D) "Scientific Skills and Ethics" course

To provide training in ethical issues that arise with modern science, especially where manipulation of the subsurface is anticipated, IGERT students will complete three-credits of training in Scientific Skills and Ethics. The scientific skills portion of the course includes introductions to grantsmanship, preparing talks and posters for meetings, publishing, and job seeking.

Resources for ethics in research can be found at this website: http://www.onlineethics.org/

(E) Biweekly Seminar

OSU: Subsurface Biosphere Seminar (1 credit) OC 607-6, CRN: Fall term 14770, winter term 24187, spring term 33917, H 3:00-5:00 pm in 193 Burt (3:00-4:00 Journal Club)

PSU: Subsurface Biosphere Seminar (1 credit) BI 510, CRN: TBA, H 3:00-5:00 pm in TBA (3:00-4:00 Journal Club)

The seminars bring all members of the program together frequently (in person or virtually). The seminars are venues for presenting and discussing current research results, establishing collaborations, exploring the global perspectives of the subsurface biosphere, investigating the ethical, moral, and cultural aspects of our science. The seminars are a forum for discussing improvements to the program and current course material. The research and educational components of the training grant come together at this seminar.

The seminars are designed to be a lively mix of research, education, and policy inclusive of all issues relevant to the subsurface biosphere. The seminar is organized by the IGERT director and initially chaired by him. All responsibilities pass to the students in the second and third terms of the year which puts the students into leadership roles.