Animal and Food Sciences Ph.D.

PhD student examines samples on the Department of Animal and Food Sciences


Students may enter the Ph.D. program after having previously earned a bachelor’s degree (B.A. or B.S.), M.S. degree, or Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine (DVM) or equivalent(s). A student who has been admitted to the Ph.D. program in Animal and Food Sciences may begin working toward the degree. However, he/she has no official status as a doctoral candidate until he/she has passed the comprehensive examination.

Areas of specialization

The Ph.D. degree in Animal and Food Sciences will be granted in the following major areas of specialization: animal nutrition, physiology, pathology, immunology, molecular biology/biotechnology, food science and food engineering. In addition to the major area of specialization, the student’s advisor, in consultation with the doctoral committee, will determine whether the student should pursue a minor field of specialization. If a minor field of specialization is selected, the committee will judge the suitability of the field, relevance to the major area of specialization, and requirements for the minor.

Time limitation

A maximum of 14 consecutive semesters beyond the bachelor’s degree, or 10 consecutive semesters beyond the master’s degree, is allowed to complete the requirements for the Ph.D. degree.

All students pursuing the Ph.D. will complete the following core courses:

  • ANFS 865 Seminar (1 cr.) or ANFS 865 Seminar (1 cr.); 
  • ANFS 969 Doctoral Dissertation (9-12 cr.); 
  • CHEM 641 Biochemistry (3 cr.);
  • CHEM 642 Biochemistry (3 cr.); and 
  • A statistics course: (STAT 608 Research Methods (3 cr.), STAT 806 Research Techniques and Procedures (3 cr.), or equivalent). 

Beyond the core courses, no specific number of courses completed or credits earned are uniformly required. The student and advisor, in concert with the doctoral committee, will select appropriate course work based on the student’s background and major and minor (if applicable) area(s) of specialization for the Ph.D. Consideration will be given to the student’s prior training and experience at the undergraduate (B.A. or B.S.) and M.S. and/or D.V.M. (if applicable) level(s). Students with more advanced training and experience will need fewer courses to complete their Ph.D. program. General requirements for the Ph.D. are based on a period of residency, writing of a satisfactory research proposal and dissertation, and passing the comprehensive and the final oral examinations. The candidate’s doctoral program will consist of a combination of doctoral committee-approved formal courses, seminars, individual study and research credits as needed by the student.

At least one continuous academic year (two semesters) must be devoted to full-time study as a registered student in the major field at the University of Delaware. Full-time study consists of a minimum load of nine credit hours per semester.

Most applicants to the Ph.D. program identify a potential faculty advisor at the time of application. If that faculty member is unable (due to lack of space, funding, etc.) to advise the student, then another advisor who is acceptable to the student is sought. If an advisor can not be identified, then the student is not admitted to the Ph.D. program. As a condition of admission into the program, a faculty member must agree to serve as the student’s graduate advisor for the balance of the student’s program. A student may change advisors, but this is very rare.

A doctoral committee will be appointed within six months following matriculation. The committee shall consist of not less than four nor more than six faculty or professional members nominated by the graduate advisor and approved by the department chairperson. Participation from industry, government or other academic departments on the doctoral committee may be required depending on the student’s area of research. At least one member of the committee shall be from outside the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. However, no more than half of the committee members shall be from outside the department. Adjunct faculty shall be considered as “outside” members in their participation on doctoral committees. The committee is responsible for approving the student’s coursework and research program. The committee will prepare, administer and evaluate the student’s comprehensive and final examinations and will supervise and approve the dissertation. The student’s faculty advisor serves as chair of the doctoral committee. A faculty member may serve as the graduate advisor for a student in both his/her M.S. and Ph.D. programs, although this is not common. Students who have completed the M.S. degree in Animal Science or the M.S. degree in Food Science are generally encouraged to pursue the Ph.D. at other universities.

Advancement to degree candidacy requires successful oral defense of a research proposal. The proposal will be submitted to the Doctoral Committee at least ten working days prior to the scheduled defense. The student will give an oral presentation summarizing the proposal. The committee members will question the student to verify that the student understands the research problem and the experimental approaches needed to address it. The committee will also ensure that the student has the proper training and resources to do the research. As a result of the meeting, the student may be required to revise the proposal and/or take additional course work. The research proposal defense should precede the comprehensive examination.

Successful completion of the comprehensive examination is required of all Ph.D. students prior to their admission to candidacy. The examination normally is given to the student after completion of all course work and selection of a dissertation topic. The student is required to have a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (four-point scale) at the time of the examination. The examination will cover the student’s major and minor (if applicable) areas of study. Each member of the student’s doctoral committee will submit examination questions to the student via the advisor who will administer the written portion of the comprehensive examination. Following completion of the written exam, the advisor will return the student responses to the appropriate committee member for their evaluation. Students passing the written examination may continue for the oral portion of the comprehensive examination generally given within one month of the completion of the written examination. In the oral portion of the comprehensive examination the student must appear before all committee members and demonstrate competency in this forum. A favorable vote by a majority of the committee is required for passing. Based on the performance of the student in the comprehensive examination, the committee may recommend one of the following actions:

The student be admitted to candidacy, without qualification or subject to fulfillment of certain conditions.

  • The student be reexamined at later date.
  • The student be disapproved unconditionally for the degree.

The ability to conduct independent research and competence in scholarly writing must be demonstrated by the preparation of a dissertation on a topic related to the major area of specialization in accordance with the regulations of the Office of Graduate Studies. The contents and conclusions of the dissertation must be defended at the time of the final oral examination and approved by the doctoral committee. Copies of the dissertation must be available in the departmental office at least ten working days before the date of the final oral examination. Preparation of a manuscript(s) for publication of the information contained within the dissertation is expected prior to, or within one month after, approval of the dissertation by the committee at the final oral examination.

Upon recommendation of the doctoral committee, a final oral examination of the dissertation will be scheduled for the doctoral candidate who has satisfied all other requirements for the degree. The examination must be scheduled at least three weeks prior to the time the examination is to be held. The examination, which is open to the public, shall be related in a large part to the dissertation but it may cover the entire field of study of the candidate. The examination will be administered by the student’s doctoral committee. The student will give an oral presentation (seminar) summarizing the dissertation research. Committee members will question the student about the dissertation and related subject areas to verify that the candidate fully understands the research findings and their implications. A favorable vote of a majority of the members of the committee is required for passing. If the candidate fails, it is the responsibility of the doctoral committee to determine whether he/she may take another examination.

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