Ph.D. Teaching Requirement

All Ph.D. candidates are required to complete two quarters of teaching. This teaching experience is valuable for students who later choose to pursue academic careers where they will be expected to teach and develop courses, as well as for students who pursue any career in which public speaking, leadership, presentation skills and program planning are used. 

Students are required to serve as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and/or Course Assistant (CA) for two Biology courses, either BIO or BIOHOPK:

  • One quarter must be from the following lower division instruction:
    • Undergraduate lab courses (BIO 45, 46 47)
    • Foundations courses (BIO 80-level)
  • One quarter may be from the following:
    • An advanced undergraduate BIO elective course (100-level)
    • A second lower division lab (40-level), introductory course (60-level), or foundations course (80-level) 

Note: Biosciences mini-courses (BIOS) or summer teaching positions cannot be used to fulfill teaching requirements.

Students are expected to complete both TA requirements by autumn of their 3rd year in the PhD program. CMOB students who TA during the Autumn Quarter of their 2nd year can request to postpone their qualifying exam until the end of Winter Quarter. Petitions for postponement should be submitted before the start of the Autumn Quarter of the 2nd year.

TA Selection

TA Selection and Appointment Process

TA Positions are Posted

An application that includes a list of courses with available TA positions will be emailed to students. Expect to receive this communication in July or August.

Students who have NOT fulfilled the required two TAships are required to apply.

Complete the Application

Ph.D. candidates will complete the TA application, ranking the courses they would most like to teach.

Application Processing

Student Services and the Graduate Studies Committee will create a top candidate TA list for each course. This list will be based on: 

  • priority to intro/foundation courses/labs
  • area of expertise
  • additional skills required
Instructor Selection

Instructors will be able to select a TA from the candidate list if there are multiple candidates. If TAs are not chosen in a timely manner, then TAs will be assigned by the Graduate Studies Committee.

Discuss TAship with advisor

The student should confirm with their advisor plans to be a TA.

Teaching Expectations

TA Responsibilities

The department will compile a list of teaching expectations and responsibilities for each course (instructor course information) and provide this information annually to graduate students with the application. Typical teaching responsibilities include the following:

  • Enroll in BIO 296 during the quarter of your first TAship (required). 
  • Assist in the preparation and grading of exams, problem sets, etc.
  • Hold regular office hours
  • Assist in preparation and distribution of course handouts
  • Attend lectures
  • Provide student course feedback to instructor
  • Initiate and plan discussion sections
  • For lab courses: set up experiments, check equipment and supervise clean-up

Within the first two weeks of starting each TA position, the student should complete the TA Pre-Course Meeting Form with their supervising instructors and submit it to the Student Services Office. Then, in order to fulfill their teaching requirements, students should have their supervising instructors complete the Teaching Evaluation Form and submit the form to the Student Services Office.

Enroll in Teaching Units!

BIO 290: Students should enroll in teaching units in any quarter in which they are teaching as part of their mentored teaching experience and to meet the University requirement of taking 3 units with each of 4 Stanford faculty members before advancing to candidacy. BIO 290 is the appropriate teaching course if not enrolled in BIO 296 or 291. 

BIO 291: Students who plan to TA for one of the core labs (BIO 45, 46 or 47) are requiredto attend a one-day training in the preceding quarter, BIO 291. Registering for BIO 291 to obtain units is optional.

BIO 296: In order to support students in their teaching, students must complete BIO 296, TA Training in Biology, concurrently with their first teaching assistantship. This…

Additional Information

Optional: Additional TA Opportunities

The Department of Biology considers teaching to be a core component of a doctoral student’s academic training. Students who wish to do more teaching after they have fulfilled the program’s requirement may be considered for open TA positions once students who have not yet completed their requirements have been assigned. In all cases, students completing optional, additional TA opportunities must have already advanced to candidacy and must receive consent of their advisor before being appointed given the expectation of reduced productivity in the lab during the quarter in which they will be a TA. 

More information about the various additional TA opportunities available

Teaching Resources

  • Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL)Programs/services offered include quarterly TA orientations, professional development, Mentors in Teaching (MinT), coaching, feedback and evaluations.