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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of Biological Sciences


Frequently Asked Questions

 

Current Students                                        

Questions about the Department

Questions about the University

Questions about Columbia SC

 

Prospective Students

Questions to ask other students in the lab you are considering joining

Questions to ask other graduate students in the department

Questions to ask your prosective advisor

Questions to ask your admissions counselor

 

Current Students

 

Questions about the Department


1. Who is the Graduate Director?
The Graduate Director is Dr. Jerry Hilbish. Office: EWS 715, phone 803-777-6629, email: hilbish@biol.sc.edu
 
2. What are the requirements for the graduate program in Biology?
The first semester at USC, every student will receive a Graduate Studies Handbook from the Graduate Student Coordinator. This will provide you with all the necessary information on what is required for your specific program. Here is a downloadable .pdf (*please note: this information is subject to change)
 
3. What are the requirements for a teaching assistantship (TA) or research assistantship (RA)?
You will be on either a teaching assistantship (you get paid to teach) or a research assistantship (you get paid from your advisor’s grant) for the time you are in grad school here. The exception to this is if you have another kind of fellowship that you earned on your own.
 
4. How do I find out about the Department seminar schedule?
There is a link on the left column of the Biology website homepage called Seminars. Please find the link here.
 
5. What is the payroll schedule?
Payroll falls on or near the 15th and last day of each month. After the first payroll cycle you should receive your payroll through automatic deposit from the payroll office. Here is the payroll schedule.
 
6. Who do I talk to about payroll issues?
In the Biology Department, the Human Resources Coordinator Charlene Martin (phone: 803-777-4142, email: ccurry@mailbox.sc.edu) is in charge of payroll and can help assist you with any problems.
 
7. When can I expect my first paycheck?
You will receive your first paycheck on the first complete pay period from when you started with the program. The University Payroll Department is located on the 7th floor of the 1600 Hampton Street tower, at the corner of Hampton and Pickens streets in downtown Columbia. The payroll reception area is located in Room 721. Beginning May 30, 2003, Paycheck distribution will be held on the 7th floor in room 735. Office Hours are from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. For further payroll question please go to this link.
 
8. What other Department wide functions do we having during the year?
In the fall semester there is a new graduate student party to be hosted off campus. This event is announced within the department. During the holiday season the Graduate Association of Biological Sciences (GABS) collects funds to support a family in need through the Families Helping Families program in Columbia. In the spring semester the graduate students have a planned retreat, which has been traditionally hosted at the Baruch Marine Station in Georgetown, SC. This weekend getaway allows students to present their research to their peers, receive constructive feedback on both research ideas and presentation skills, and allows for comradery within the department. GABS also hosts a Data Dinner at the end of each semester, which highlights the research of two labs within the department and provides a catered dinner and drinks to follow.
 
9. What is the Department schedule of classes?
Each semester the classes change depending on need-based or interest-based from the students and faculty. Here is the link for the master schedule of classes through the Registrar’s Office.
 
10. What kinds of classes will I be teaching?  When will I find out about this?
All first year graduate students will likely teach two sections of Biology 101 or 102 labs. The assignments for teaching are need-based and will be determined before the start of each semester. One week prior to the start of the fall and spring semesters all graduate students that will be on a Teaching Assistantship will meet with the lab coordinators to find out their assignment and determine teaching schedule. Biology 101 and 102 are entry-level biology labs that are intended for freshman and sophomore level college students. The upper level laboratories (Biology 301, 302, 303, etc.) are reserved for graduate students with more teaching experience and for those that are more familiar with the course curriculum from their own research interests.
 
11. How can I get involved in GABS? 
GABS is the Graduate Association of Biological Sciences. Primarily, we provide representation for biology graduate students both within the department as well as at the university level. Additionally we are involved in enhancing the scientific community at USC for graduate students by hosting departmental seminar speakers, holding our own scientific retreat at the coast and conducting a weekly, informal, graduate student lunchtime seminar. GABS monthly meeting are decided upon at the start of each semester and meeting times will be announced via email and the announcement board outside the Biology Office.
 
12. What kind of timeline am I looking at for grad school?
The typical timeline for master’s students within Biology is 2-3 years, depending on the program of study and completion of research objectives. The timeline for Ph.D students within the Biology Department is 5-6 years depending on the program of study and completion of research objectives. This expected time to completion is something the student decides with the advisement of the major professor and the thesis or dissertation committee.
 
13. What is expected of me in the first year?
All first year students are required to complete the departmental qualifying exam, which will be explained by the graduate director, Dr. Jerry Hilbish.
 
14. Where do I get keys for my lab/office/classroom?
All keys are distributed by Charlene Martin (phone: 803-777-4142, email: ccurry@mailbox.sc.edu)
 
15. Where is the stockroom?
The Biology Department shares a stockroom with the Chemistry department. The stockroom is located in Graduate Science Research Center (GSRC) Room 109 (phone: 803-777-4459/2396).
 
16. What is the shipping address I should use for a package delivery?
Shipping address is: 
631 Sumter Street
GSRC Room 109
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208
 
17. Who do I contact about ordering gas?
Please contact Faith Falise (phone: 803-777-4066, email: falise@mailbox.sc.edu). She will send out a weekly request for gas orders to be placed by Friday of that week.
 
18. Who do I contact about updating my contact information in the Department?
Please contact John Alam, the Systems Administrator (phone: 803-777-7068, email: alam@mailbox.sc.edu)
 
19. Where is my departmental mailbox?
Every graduate student has a mailbox on the 4th floor of CLS, in the room next to the Biology office (CLS 401). It is used for any incoming mail, campus mail, and work that your students may want to drop off for you.
 
20. Where can I make photocopies/print?
The department’s copier is located in the same room as the mailboxes on the 4th floor of CLS. Paper should be available, but please contact Stephanie Kurzeja if the copier has run low on copy paper or is not working properly. Printing is available from the computers in CLS 401.
 
21. Where can I get my photocopy code?
Please contact Stephanie Kurzeja (phone: 803-777-4066, email: KURZEJA@mailbox.sc.edu).
 
22. Who do I talk to about reserving a departmental room (i.e., for a committee meeting)?
There are sign up appointment calendar books in the Biology Office for rooms CLS 403, 203, and 205. For lecture rooms (i.e., CLS 005 or Pharm. 510). Students can access the LIVE25 Website to view the availability of rooms on campus.  The website is http://25live.collegenet.com/sc/#home. Students can only “view” what is available to make the reservation once a room is located and is found available the student or their faculty advisor can request the room reservation by email to Melissa Gilbert, Office of the University Registrar at Melissa.gilbert@sc.edu or by phone at 803-777-4898. Students have also used the conference room in the Center for Colon Cancer Research (PSC 614). To reserve the CCCR room please contact the office at 803-777-1231. Students have also used the Environment and Sustainability Program conference room (EWS 603), please contact the E&SP office at 803-777-3921.
 
23. Where can I find the Biology Electronic Forms (e-forms)?
Biolog e-forms are found on the left hand side of the Biology home page. Here is the link for all forms within Biology.
 
24. How/when do I register for classes?
You should register for classes prior to the start of each semester. Charlene Martin (phone: 803-777-4142, email: ccurry@mailbox.sc.edu) will contact you about registering for classes well in advance, in order to have you in the payroll system. The Graduate Studies Coordinator Pat Earley (phone: 803-777-2755, email: 
pe@mailbox.sc.edu) will contact you with the departmental codes if you are registering for research, thesis writing, or dissertation writing credits. These codes are also posted on the GABS announcement board outside of the Biology office.
 
25. Does the department offer Computer Access? 
There are computers in CLS 401 for students to use for research related purposes. There are also computers at the library for student use and most labs have at least one computer that graduate students have access to. Of course, it is highly recommended or required for you to have your own computer.
 
26. If I’m an international student who do I contact about International Services?  
This office is located in the James Byrnes Building as well (Room 123, 777-7461). If you are an international student, they have a number of services to help you get settled. They can also help you with the extra paperwork you will need to do as an international student every semester. 
 

Questions about the University

 

1. Where is the Student Health Center?
Located behind the Russell House. Visits are free if you have the USC health insurance. It usually helps to make an appointment rather than walking in without one. They have a general medicine department, a women’s health department, and a pharmacy (803-777-3175). There is also a counseling department, and graduate students get 12 free visits each academic year (803-777-5223).
 
2. Can I get health insurance through the University?
Yes, all graduate students are required to have health insurance. You can either have the Pearce and Pearce health insurance through the University, or chose to have an outside provider at your own expense.
 
3. What does the Student Health Insurance cover?
This .pdf will explain the Pearce and Pearce insurance coverage.
 
4. How do I pay tuition? How do I pay student fees?
Before the start of every semester you will need to access your VIP account. Click the Financial link on the left-hand side, and you will see how to pay your fees/tuition for a given semester. Please go to the Bursar Office for further information.
 
5. Where is the library?
The Thomas Cooper Library is located between CLS and the Russell House. Science journals are located on the 4th floor. Study rooms are available if you need a quiet place to study – your ID is required to use these rooms, and you can rent a carrel each semester.
 
6. Where do I purchase books/supplies?
The Russell House has a bookstore for buying textbooks and supplies. Use this map to locate the Russell House (next tol Cocky on map). Here is the link for the bookstore.
 
7. What activities can I get involved with as a graduate student?
For information on how to get involved with the USC campus as a graduate student, please go to the Graduate Student Association website.
 
8. What is the Athletic event fee?
The athletic event fee is an optional fee for graduate students who wish get student priced tickets for campus events, such as football and basketball games, concerts, etc. This fee may be paid at the time you pay your tuition or any time at the Bursar's Office at Petigru. Please see the Bursar fee schedule for more information. Students who will need to pay this fee are those who are taking between 1 and 11 hours of coursework. If you are taking more than 11 hours the fee is included in your tuition.
 
9. Where do I go for information on parking?
Parking Services is located at 1501 Pendleton Street (phone: 803-777-5160). Students providing documentation of their enrollment as a graduate student may purchase a Graduate Student (GS) parking permit. GS permits are valid at any time in "Student" and "Any Decal" parking lots. In addition, GS permits are valid in Faculty/Staff lots between 4:00 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. Monday through Thursday and from 4:00 p.m. Friday through 7:30 a.m. Monday. Vehicles with GS permits may not park in reserved spaces or garages at any time. Here is a map for parking on and around campus. 
 
10. Where do I get a student ID? 
You can get your student ID (“Carolina Card) from the basement level in the Russell House. Go here for further information.
 
11. What is the student/faculty population at the University?
Enrollment: 30,721 (Columbia campus, fall 2011)
Faculty: Approximately 1,604 (full-time, Columbia, fall 2011)
 
12. Where is the Graduate School?
This office is located on Sumter St, across from the Horseshoe (James Byrnes Building, 777-4243). You may need to locate this building at some point for paperwork for the university.
 
13.Where is the University Payroll office?
The University Payroll Department is located on the 7th floor of the 1600 Hampton Street tower, at the corner of Hampton and Pickens streets in downtown Columbia. The payroll reception area is located in Room 721. Beginning May 30, 2003, Paycheck distribution will be held on the 7th floor in room 735. Office Hours are from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. For more information, go to the Payroll site.
 
14.Where can I find the University Calendar?
The University calendar is listed on the Registrar website
 
15.Where do I find information on campus shuttle or APO escort service on campus?
Parking services has all this information for you at this site.
 
16.Where can I find a map of campus?
 
17.How do I apply for travel grants or other University-sponsored awards?
Travel grants through the graduate school can be found here. Travel grants offered through the department can be found here.
 
18.Where do I find other forms for the graduate school?
Please go here.
 
 
For further questions about graduate studies you can go here.
 

Questions about Columbia, SC

 

1.How big is the city?
Columbia is the state capital and largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. The population was 129,272 according to the 2010 census. The city is the center of a metropolitan statistical area of 767,598, the largest within the state. Located 13 miles (21 km) northwest of South Carolina's geographic center, Columbia is the primary city of the Midlands region of South Carolina, which comprises several counties in the central portion of the state. The city lies at the confluence of two rivers, the Saluda and the Broad, which merge at Columbia to form the Congaree River.
 
2.What are some events going on in Columbia throughout the year?
The Columbia, SC Wikipedia page provides a nice list of events throughout the year.
 
3.Where should I look for housing?
Most of the graduate students with the Biology Department live in the Shadon/Rosewood neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are close to campus and provide a nice environment for graduate student living. Some students do live in the Forest Acres, Cayce, and Irmo neighborhoods, though these neighborhoods can be further from campus, they may be less expensive. Please see the section titled Columbia Apartment Guide for further information.
 
Columbia Apartment Guide
There are several ways to go about finding a place to live in Columbia. Many people have had good luck with Craigslist. You can also contact local leasing agencies and ask them what they have in your price range, your preferred location, etc. Some of them will let you take keys out and go look at places while others will meet you to show you an apartment. Some leasing agencies allow pets, others don’t. There is a good deal of variation between them, so a comprehensive list of agencies is included below. The area code is (803) for each number.
 
CompanyPhone #Website (if available)
 
1.The Wolfe Company771-4567www.thewolfeco.com
2.The Fowler Company256-6295www.thefowlerco.com
3.Cantee and Company256-7150www.cantey.com
4.Patton Properties256-2184www.scpattonproperties.com
5.Bollin-Ligon Realtors256-6287www.bollinligon.com
6.The Shandon Group779-6131www.theshandongroup.com
7.Bob Capes Property Mgmt343-2700www.rentcolumbia.com
8.Weston Management254-2663
9.Davis Management798-3722www.davismgt.com
10.Preferred Properties790-0377www.ppicolumbia.com
11. Welsford Property Mgt782-0333www.welsford.com
12.Columbia Property Mgt931-0044www.colapro.com
 
Places to Eat around Campus:  Ahh, food… and all these places you can walk to for lunch!
 
Cool Beans: Located on College St. Neat little coffee shop with good atmosphere. Great place for wraps, sandwiches, krispie treats, and cake. And super nice people work there.
 
Nice n Natural: Located in the same building as Cool Beans, just downstairs. Has a healthy and tasty variety of sandwiches, salads, soups and such.
 
Beezers: Located on Sumter St. Bunch of sandwiches on sub rolls. They boast they have the “best buns in the business.”  Open very late!
 
Carolina Café: Located on the corner of Sumter and Pendleton. They make yummy bagel sandwiches and salads. 

Tios: Located between Beezers and Carolina Café on Sumter. Mexican restaurant.
 
Immaculate Consumption: Located on Main St next to the Nickelodeon Theatre (a great, cozy little place for movies). A very nice coffee shop with excellent coffees, lots of salad and sandwich options, a variety of breads, and really good pasta, cookies and brownies.
 
Miyo’s: Located across the street from Immaculate Comsumption on Main St. Asian cuisine, slightly more expensive than other eateries in the vicinity, but good stuff.
 
Which Wich: Located next to Miyo’s. Choose from a wide variety of sandwich toppings.
 
Hunter-Gatherer: Now open for lunch! Located on corner of Main St and College St.  A must-know sort of place. It’s got a great menu and they brew their own beer. Great for happy hour as well as lunch.
 
Sandy’s: Located on Main St. Hot dogs galore and huge ice cream cones.
 
Firehouse Subs: Located on corner of Main St and Devine. Tasty sub sandwiches and large portion sizes.
 
Al Amir: Located on Main St next to Firehouse Subs. Meditteranean cuisine with some good lunch deals.
 
Moe’s: Located on Main St near Al-Amir. Healthy food o’ the southwest. Big burritos, salads, fajitas, and such.
 
Wendy’s: Located on Assembly and Greene St. Typical fast food establishment, if you’re into that sort of thing.
 
Russell House: The center of campus on Greene St, there are a number of places to eat in here. There is a cafeteria with different daily meals, as well as Chick-fil-a, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Einstein Bagels, Santorini’s (Greek), Pandini’s (Italian), and Marble Slab Creamery.
 
McCutchen House: Located on the Horsehoe and manned by our very own students majoring in Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management.
 
Things to do in Columbia

Museums:
Columbia Museum of Art; corner of Main and Hampton799-2810
SC State Museum; 301 Gervais St898-4921
 
Theatre/Dance:
Koger Center for the Arts; 1051 Greene St777-7500
Trustus Theatre; 520 Lady St254-9732
Workshop Theatre of SC; 1136 Bull St799-4876
Township Auditorium; 1703 Taylor St576-2356
 
Bars/Local Music:
5 Point Area- Located on/around Harden St. Variety of bars and clubs in this area. Five Points after Five provides concerts during the spring months, and a huge St Patrick’s Day celebration is held here.
The Vista- Located on/around Gervais and Lady St. area. A slightly more sophisticated crowd than the 5 Points area; home to a variety of bars, dance clubs, and good restaurants. Host of Vista Lights in November and Artista Vista in the spring.
 
Outdoor Activities:
Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Gardens: I-126 and Greystone Blvd779-8717
Adventure Carolina: 1107 State St, Cayce796-4505
Congaree National Park: 100 National Park Rd, Hopkins776-4396
Riverfront Park: 3 mile strip of greenway that flanks the Congaree River and the Columbia Canal. Great for running, walking, or cycling.
 
Sports:
The USC gyms offer equipment and space for many sports; there are also intramural teams you can join. 
USC football, basketball, soccer, and baseball games and other athletic events are open to students who pay the activity fee.
The Inferno hockey team plays at the Coliseum – tickets are affordable.
There are a number of other activities in the Columbia area that are often highlighted in the Free Times. This is a weekly publication that gives information about events in Columbia and surrounding areas.
 
Quick Links
 

Prospective Students

Questions to ask other students in the lab you are considering joining

 
1. How would you rate your advisor overall? 
2. What are your advisor’s best attributes? 
3. What attributes of your advisor could be strengthened? 
4. What is the best way to meet with your advisor? 
5. What expertise exists outside your lab or department? 
6. How do you fund your research? Does your advisor provide or help you obtain funding? Has funding been a problem in your lab for either your advisor or graduate students? 
7. How is authorship determined when publishing your Master’s or Ph.D. research? 
8. How helpful is your advisor at reviewing grants and manuscripts?
9. Do students in the lab interact well? 
10. Are the graduate students in the department good social colleagues? Are they good professional colleagues? 
11. Have past graduate students succeeded (e.g., in getting post-doc positions, grants, academic jobs, or positions with NGOs or government agencies)?
 

Questions to ask other graduate students in the department

 
12. How would you rate the department? 
13. What are the department’s best attributes?
14. What attributes of the department could be improved? 
15. How does your income (teaching, grants, etc.) relate to the cost of living in Columbia, SC
16. How are the interactions between different departments (e.g., SEOEChemistry)? 
17. Approximately how much time per week is devoted to these activities? 
  1. teaching
  2. class work (including any required curriculum)
  3. departmental functions, such as seminars, receptions, and meetings
  4. research
  5. any others
18. What do you do about health care?
19. What is the best way to get to campus?
20. Is campus safe? Is campus safe at night if I work late?
21. Overall, are graduate students happy?
22. What do you think about Columbia?
 

Questions to ask your prosective advisor

 
23. What is your philosophy on science?
24. What are the best attributes of your lab group? 
25. What are your expectations of graduate students in the lab? When do you expect graduate students to form a Master’s or Ph.D. proposal and committee? Are there expectations for working in the lab? 
26. How does a Master’s differ from a Ph.D. in your lab? Do you expect to be involved with my project or should I plan to be more independent? Does this involvement change from a Master’s to a Ph.D.? 
27. How many students do you advise?
28. What is your philosophy on students’ taking classes? How do your graduate students decide what classes to take? 
29. What is the best way to meet with you (i.e., do you prefer appointments)? 
30. How does funding work? Do you help with funding? 
31. What projects are going on in the lab? Do you involve your students with side projects or only your lab projects? Do you expect your students to do side projects?
32. How is authorship determined, especially on papers that result from MS and PhD research? How can I get involved in side projects or collaborative projects with you or your other students? 
 

Questions to ask your admissions counselor

 
33. What are the department’s best attributes?
34. What attributes of the department could be improved?
35. Are teaching assistantships guaranteed? What is the teaching load?  How do the different programs within the department work (e.g., Biomedical Sciences program)? 
36. What are the different opportunities for funding? 
37. Does the department successfully place its graduates in professional jobs?