Current Graduate Program Leadership


Anjali Bhatnagar

Vice President

Jenny Cheung


Mia Franks

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Natalie Villafranca

Outreach and Engagement

Mary Kate Dinneen & Rachael Peng

Outdoor Adventure

Bradley MacKett & Maya Gomez


Bernie Tolentino & Danny Osorio

MEB Tuesday Seminar Series

Anjali Bhatnagar & Chuankai Cheng

Student Seminar Series

Jenna Dilworth & Ran Duan


Mary Kate Dinneen & Jenny Cheung


Teagan Baiotto & Danny Osorio

USC GSG Representative

Jelani Williams & Yiming Zhao

Current Graduate Program News

Gerid Ollison successfully defended his thesis entitled “Marine Protistan Diversity, Spatiotemporal Dynamics, and Physiological Responses to Environmental Change” Congratulations, Dr. Ollison!
Emily Aguirre successfully defended her thesis entitled “Disentangling the ecology of bacterial communities in cnidarian holobionts” Congratulations, Dr. Aguirre!
Victoria (Celeste) Lanclos successfully defended her thesis entitled “Ecophysiology of important understudied bacterioplankton through an integrated research and education approach.” Congratulations, Dr. Lanclos!
Yingqi Zhang successfully defended her thesis entitled “Transgenerational Inheritance of Thermal Tolerance in Two Coral Species in the Florida Keys.” Congratulations, Dr. Zhang!
Maria Ruggeri successfully defended her thesis entitled “Genetic and environmental effects on symbiotic interactions across thermal gradients.” Congratulations, Dr. Ruggeri!
Anna Weiss and Anjali Bhatnagar passed their qualifying exams with flying colors! Congrats on advancing to candidacy, both of you!
Adib Mustofa gave a talk about the impacts of climate change on coral reefs at the Saving Corals event at the Fisher Museum. Great work, Adib!
Heidi Aronson successfully defended her thesis entitled “Thermodynamics-guided cultivation of microorganisms involved in novel and understudied sulfur catabolic reactions”. Congratulations, Dr. Aronson!

Benchmarks for PhD Students

Year 1, Fall

Establish 3-person First Year Committee BISC 582 (Adv. Biol. Oceanography, 4 units) BISC 593 (Teaching Practicum, 2 units) + TAship BISC 529 #1 (MEB Seminar, 1 unit) BISC 790 (1-5 units) Meet with First Year Committee

Year 1, Spring

BISC 584 (MEB Faculty Lecture Series, 2 units) BISC 529 #2 (MEB Seminar, 1 unit) BISC 583 (Evol. & Adaptation, 4 units) BISC 790 (1-5 units) First Year Committee research/coursework talk

Year 2, Fall

Establish 5-person Guidance Committee BISC 585 (Scientific Writing, 2 units) BISC 529 #3 (MEB Seminar, 1 unit) Advanced Graduate Seminar #1 (2 units) Discuss Research Abstract (1-2pp) with Committee BISC 790 (1-7 units)

Year 2, Spring

Statistics course? BISC 529 #4 (MEB Seminar, 1 unit) Advanced Graduate Seminar #2 (2 units) Complete Research Proposition (15 pp) Qualifying Exam (written and oral) BISC 790 (1-5 units)

Year 3, Fall

Advanced Graduate Seminar #3 (2 units) BISC 790 (2 units) BISC 794a (2 units) Establish 4-person Dissertation Committee

Year 3, Spring

Advanced Graduate Seminar #4 (2 units) BISC 790 (2 units) BISC 794b (2 units)

Year 4, Fall

BISC 790 (1-4 units, if necessary) BISC 794c (2 units) Meet with Dissertation Committee

Year 4, Spring

ISC 790 (1-4 units, if necessary) BISC 794d (2 units)

Year 5, Fall

BISC 790 (1-6 units, if necessary) BISC 794z (0 units) Meet with Dissertation Committee

Year 5, Spring

BISC 790 (1-6 units, if necessary) BISC 794z (0 units) Ph.D. Defense!

Graduate Student Resources

  • Click link to view (Log in to USC Gmail)

  • The MEB Student Guidebook is updated annually. Please select the guidebook for the academic year that you started as a graduate student in MEB (or MBBO before 2022).

  • This is a list of required Core Courses and departmental Advance Seminars. Additional courses may be used to fulfill the Advanced Seminar requirement. Please reference the updated MEB Guidebook for current offerings and additional coursework guidelines. Please check with your faculty advisor and/or Doug Burleson if you have any questions.

    Core Courses

    • BISC 582: Advanced Biological Oceanography
    • BISC 583: Evolution and Adaptation of Marine Organisms
    • BISC 584: Faculty Lecture Series
    • BISC 585: Scientific Writing and Reviewing
    • BISC 529: Marine Environmental Biology Seminar
      • Four semesters required

    Advanced Seminars (4 required)

    • BISC 586: Biological Oceanographic Instrumentation
    • BISC 530: Plankton Biology
    • BISC 531: Physiology of Marine Organisms
    • BISC 532: Molecular and Microbial Ecology
    • BISC 533: Remote Sensing and Modeling
    • BISC 534: Population Genetics of Marine Organisms
    • BISC 538: Metals and Biology in Oceanic Regimes
    • BISC 536: Marine Biogeochemistry and Microbial Ecology
    • BISC 545: Modeling and Numerical Techniques for Marine Scientists (can also be used to fulfill Statistics requirements)
    • BISC 586: Biological Oceanographic Instrumentation
    • BISC 587: Communicating Ocean Science
    • BISC 588: Introduction to Bioinformatics
    • BISC 599: Race and Racism in Evolutionary Biology

    An approved course in Statistics

    • BISC 305 Introduction to Statistics for Biologists
    • BISC 444 Practical Analysis of Biological Data in R
    • PSYC 501 Classic and Modern Statistical Methods
    • PSYC 502L Analysis of Variance and Experimental Design
    • PSYC 503L Regression and the General Linear Model
    • PM 340L Health Behavior Statistical Methods
    • PM 510L Principles of Biostatistics
    • PM 511abL Data Analysis
  • Graduate students are required to serve as a teaching assistant for a minimum of two semesters. Ideally, the student should serve in at least two different courses. Students must enroll in BISC 593 (Practicum in Teaching the Biological Sciences, 2 units) either before or concurrent with their first semester as a Teaching Assistant.

    Graduate students have the option to be supported by Teaching Assistantship. Calls for assistantships are made in mid-summer, mid-fall, and mid-spring for the Fall, Spring and Summer semesters, respectively. Students request courses for which they would like to be TAs from a list distributed by Doug Burleson. All enrolled students are eligible for TA positions up to and including year five of enrollment in the MEB program, beyond year five students are eligible for TAs based upon availability.

    Course MEB students commonly TA:

    • BISC102: Humans and Their Environment
    • BISC120: General Biology: Organismal Biology and Evolution
    • BISC220: General Biology: Cell Biology and Physiology
    • Doug Burleson, Graduate Programs Manager, TA assignment, D-clearance, Procedural forms for Qualifying Exam, Defense and Graduation
    • Adolfo Dela Rosa, Student Services Advisor, Pay schedules, Procedural forms for Qualifying Exam, Defense and Graduation
    • Don Bingham, Section Coordinator, Allan Hancock Foundation room management, Allan Hancock Foundation building access, Reimbursement.
    • Linda Bazilian, Director of Academic Programs, curriculum, course scheduling, oversight of teaching labs, problem solving
    • Eric Webb, MEB Director, Program specific inquiries
  • Internal (USC & MEB) Funding

    External Funding & Searchable Databases

  • The MEB graduate students have formalized a student government with the aims to centralize the student body and streamline initiatives. You can read our Constitution HERE. We have an executive board (E-board) and chair positions that are elected annually. The E-board meets monthly and acts to oversee the other chair positions, who are project-oriented, but we also maintain several ad-hoc committees.

    Ad – Hoc Committees

    • Alt – Ac Career Panels
    • Social Media Team
    • Outreach Committee
    • New Student Orientation
  • The MEB Service Awards recognize outstanding graduate students from the MEB community for their commitment to the section through service in the form of voluntary work in committees, ad hoc efforts and elected positions. In addition to the recognition from the MEB community to the Award winner(s), a monetary award (currently $500) is granted. This award may not be won more than once in a potential nominee’s career at USC.

    These awards are given using transparent criteria and an explicit rubric. Learn more about the award HERE and see the award scoring template HERE.

Contact Us

Section Office

Don Bingham

Department Director of Undergraduate Program

Linda Bazilian

Section Director of Graduate Program

Dr. Eric Webb