Other Academic Requirements

Teaching Assistantships

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The experience of teaching is an integral part of graduate training, especially in preparation for a career including academic service and teaching. After the first year, each student must complete mentored teaching assistantships in two courses or other educational programs. A particular strength of the AMNH graduate program is the opportunity for a student to participate in AMNH pre-college, teacher training, life-long learning, and public outreach programs with the goal of enhancing the public understanding of science.

Museum Seminar Series

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Throughout the academic year, the AMNH will present the weekly Museum Seminar Series at which presentations on a variety of scientific topics will be given by leading scientists, educators and AMNH curators. During the first year, students will be required to attend each program in the Series and will meet prior to each program for a discussion of the pertinent literature, which they will be expected to have read prior to the lecture, for a total of two hours each week. First year students will earn one credit per semester for a total of two credits. After the first year, students’ participation is not required for credit, but will be strongly encouraged.

Annual Symposium


Second-year students organize, and are required to attend and present at, a poster or oral presentation at a day-long Student Symposium to be held each Fall term. This informal, retreat-like gathering, to which the faculty and the entire American Museum of Natural History student community are invited, is intended to give students open and informal access to faculty and other students. This structure fosters sharing of information about labs and research programs and activities, and strengthens the intellectual and social ties across the Richard Gilder Graduate School community.

Thesis Research

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During the development of the dissertation during the third and fourth years, students will be required to have regular consultations with their dissertation advisors on the progress of the project to ensure close monitoring of the research and development of the thesis.

Qualifying Examination

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In the fall of the second year, students will be required to take a comprehensive qualifying examination. The goal of this exam is to assess the student’s depth of knowledge and expertise both in general and specific knowledge to his or her research interests. Satisfactory completion of the qualifying exam, in combination with fulfillment of the required coursework, will establish a student’s doctoral candidacy in the second year.

Dissertation Proposal


By February of the second year, students are expected to present a proposal of their dissertation research to their Dissertation Committee. This includes an eight-page written proposal, an oral presentation of its contents, and an elaboration of preliminary research results documenting work during the first two years in the program. Students will be questioned and examined by the Dissertation Committee on the merit and feasibility of the proposed study, as well as on their preparedness to achieve their outlined goals.


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Reflecting and describing the student’s individual research—approach, methods, and conclusions—the dissertation is the bedrock and ultimate focus of a student’s graduate training. The dissertation represents the credentialed attainment of expertise in the chosen area of research. It also is expected to be an original scientific contribution, worthy of publication. On deposit of their dissertations, students are expected to make an oral presentation of their research and answer questions from the audience and members of the Dissertation Committee.


The Richard Gilder Graduate School strongly encourages students to publish during their graduate training. Although not required, a major element of graduate training can therefore be seen to include chapters of the dissertation as published papers.