This program is designed to prepare students to serve as scholars and professionals in the fields of biodefense and biosecurity. The program integrates knowledge of natural and man-made biological threats with the skills to develop and analyze policies and strategies for enhancing biosecurity. Other areas of biodefense, including nonproliferation, intelligence and threat assessment, and medical and public health preparedness are integral parts of the program.


See Graduate Admissions for general information on graduate admission to George Mason University. See the Schar School of Policy and Government Admissions website for application requirements and deadlines. Students are considered for admission for the Fall term only.


For policies governing all graduate degrees, see AP.6.10 Requirements for Doctoral Degrees.

Reduction of Credit

Students who enter the doctoral program with a conferred master's degree or other graduate credit may have their credit reduced by up to 30 credits, subject to the approval of the program director.

Banner Code: PP-PHD-BIOD

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 72

Students are strongly encouraged to take the core courses as early as possible because they provide the foundation for the rest of the program. The courses which students plan to take should be approved in a program of study designed by the student and their advisor during the student's first semester. Students may take up to 12 credits of courses outside of the Biodefense Program with prior written approval of their advisor.  Consult with the graduate program director or coordinator for a list of BIOD electives and approved non-BIOD electives that may be used to fulfill some of the requirements below.

A complete description of the program policies, procedures, and requirements is in the PhD student and faculty handbook, which is published annually.

Core Courses

BIOD 604Emerging Infectious Diseases I: Bacteria and Toxins3
BIOD 605Emerging Infectious Diseases II: Viral Agents3
BIOD 609Biodefense Strategy3
BIOD 620Global Health Security Policy3
BIOD 710Health Security Preparedness3
GOVT 500The Scientific Method and Research Design3
GOVT 540International Relations3
Select one of the following advanced research courses:3
Qualitative Methods
Advanced Data Analysis for Policy and Government
Policy and Program Evaluation
An alternative research course approved by the program director
Total Credits24

Field of Specialization

Select one field of specialization and complete the requirements therein.

International Security

GOVT 744Foundations of Security Studies3
GOVT 745International Security3
Select six credits of electives (courses may be chosen from the electives list below)6
Total Credits12

Terrorism and Homeland Security 

BIOD 722Examining Terrorist Groups3
BIOD 725Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction3
Select six credits of electives (courses may be chosen from the electives list below)6
Total Credits12

Technology and Weapons of Mass Destruction 

BIOD 706Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons Policy and Security3
BIOD 760National Security Technology and Policy3
Select six credits of electives (courses may be chosen from the electives list below)6
Total Credits12

 Additional Specialization Courses

Of the courses listed for the preceding fields of specialization, students must select two courses from those that are not in their chosen field.6
Total Credits6


Select 9 to 18 credits of additional electives in consultation with advisor.9-18
Courses may be offered by Schar or by other units. Schar courses include the following:
Advanced Topics in Global Health Security
Ethics and International Security
Negotiating in the International Arena
Intelligence: Theory and Practice
Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Weapons Policy and Security
Nonproliferation and Arms Control
Examining Terrorist Groups
Legal Dimensions of Homeland Security
Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction
Food Security
National Security Technology and Policy
Biotechnology and Society
Medical Countermeasures for Responding to CBRN Threats and Pandemics
Directed Studies in Biodefense
Advanced Seminar in Biodefense
Doctoral Supervised Internship
Directed Research in Biodefense
American Government and Politics
Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations
Issues in Comparative and International Politics
Advanced Seminar in International Politics
International Security
Seminar in Politics and Bureaucracy
Managing in the International Arena: Theory and Practice
Emergency Planning and Preparedness
Disaster Response Operations and Recovery
Terrorism: Theory and Practice
Emergency Preparedness: Interagency Communication and Coordination
Cross-Cultural and Ethical Dimensions of International Management
Seminar in Risk Assessment and Decision Making
Homeland/Transportation Security Administration
Issues in International Security
PUAD 750
Biomedical Ethics
Public Policy in Global Health and Medical Practice
Global Threats and Medical Policies
Total Credits9-18

Qualifying Exam

The purpose of the qualifying exam is to determine if the student is ready to engage in dissertation research. Doctoral students are eligible to take the exam at the conclusion of coursework, provided an approved Degree Plan is on file with Schar. The exam must be passed before the student takes dissertation proposal (BIOD 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal).

Advancement to Candidacy

Advancement to candidacy for the doctoral degree occurs when a student has met the coursework requirements, passed the comprehensive qualifying examination, presented and successfully defended a dissertation proposal, and has an approved dissertation committee.

Dissertation Research

Once enrolled in BIOD 998, students in this degree program must maintain continuous registration in BIOD 998 or BIOD 999 each semester (excluding summers) until the dissertation is submitted to and accepted by the University Libraries. Once enrolled in BIOD 999, students must follow the university's continuous registration policy as specified in AP.6.10.6 Dissertation Registration. Students who defend in the summer must be registered for at least 1 credit of BIOD 999.

Students may apply to this degree a minimum of 3 and a maximum of 6 credits of BIOD 998 and a minimum of 6 and a maximum of 18 credits of BIOD 999. They apply a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 24 dissertation credits (BIOD 998 and BIOD 999 combined) to the degree. Because of the continuous registration policy, students may be required to register for additional credits of these courses.

Before registering in BIOD 999, students must offer a successful public defense of the dissertation proposal. Students must present the results of the dissertation research to their dissertation committee in a seminar and defend their dissertation to the university community. Successful completion of a dissertation is contingent on approval of the dissertation committee and the dean.

Research credits12-24
Doctoral Dissertation Proposal (minimum of 3 credits)
Doctoral Dissertation (minimum of 6 credits)
Total Credits12-24