For New Graduate Students in the Department of Biological Sciences at FIU



Created by Thomas Pitzer

Edited by Adam Rosenblatt, Philip Matich, and Lilly Eluvathingal





Welcome to the biology program at Florida International University!You are joining a growing and dynamic teaching and research program.This pamphlet was created to assist you in moving to the Miami area and beginning graduate studies in the Department of Biological Sciences at FIU.As in any new endeavor, the acclimation process can be cumbersome without some assistance.This manual should aid you in making a smooth transition into the program.Note: I assume you have spoken with a prospective "major professor" and have applied to the department and university at this point.


Before anything else, call the Graduate Program Secretary, Erin Dowd (OE-225; 305-348-4130), and make sure you are on track with your employment contract and that your application for admittance has been processed.Because email is the main line of communication between the Graduate Office and the Graduate Students, you must contact her if/when you update your email address.Additionally, go to the Campus Life office (GC 2240) located in the Graham Center and get a "Student Handbook;" this is a valuable resource for phone numbers, schedules, policies and procedures, calendars, and general university information.A pdf version of the Student Handbook, as well as other useful information, is also available on the FIU website under the ďcurrent studentsĒ page.Be sure to contact the University Graduate School ( or 305-348-7442) to obtain the necessary forms and timelines pertinent to your graduate program.Next, contact your major professor to discuss any questions, problems, or last minute details.She/he may have more information for you as well.It is a good idea to keep in touch, either by phone or email, with your major professor during the time leading up to your arrival and entrance into the program.

If you are going to be awarded a Teaching Assistantship (TA), or think you are, you should confirm with Lidia Kos (HLS 219A), the Graduate Program Director (305-348-6678).If you donít talk with her directly, just email her atít assume that you are going to receive a TA simply because you or your major professor has asked for it.Once confirmed, email or call Thomas Pitzer ( or 305-348-1224).He will have paperwork for you to fill-out regarding what you will teach and other boring stuff.He also needs to talk to you about teaching and New TA Orientation.Also, make certain that you have a Social Security Card in hand when you arrive; this is required for the TA position.


DONíT ASSUME THAT EVERYTHING IS GOING ALONG FINE BECAUSE YOU DONíT HEAR OTHERWISE.You have to keep on top of everything because we probably will not due to the large number of new and current graduate students.It's easy to slip through the system without a contract or lab to teach.Once you are in Miami, donít rely on leaving a voice mail or email message to get what you need Ė always go in person.


What follows is a review of important information for moving to Miami and beginning the biology graduate program.It is not meant to be a full and complete list of everything you need to do. Good luck and welcome to the graduate program here at FIU!





Most new graduate students at FIU donít know there is an immunization policy until they get an ďIMĒ hold on their registration attempt.Please plan to take care of your immunization requirements at least four weeks before you register for classes.The current immunization requirement (for students matriculated from July 1, 2008 or later) is for 2 doses of MMR (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella) vaccine, 3 doses of Hepatits B vaccine or proof of immunity, and 1 dose of Meningococcal Meningitis vaccine.Students may decline vaccination for meningitis and/or hepatitis B only if they sign a Waiver of Liability.If you have these immunizations, provide the FIU Health Care & Wellness Center with a written document signed by a physician (M.D. or D.O.), a nurse practitioner, or a registered nurse via fax or in person on either campus four weeks prior to registration.If you have questions, call the Health Care and Wellness Center Immunization Department (see contact information below or refer to to mail or fax your immunization documents at least two weeks before you register to avoid having an ďIMĒ hold on your registration.


††††††††††† University Park (South Campus):††††††††††††††††† Biscayne Bay (North Campus):

††††††††††† Immunization Department†††††††††††††††††††††††††††† Immunization Department

††††††††††† University Health Services Complex††††††††††† 3000 N.E. 151 Street

††††††††††† 11200 SW 8th Street, Room 101††††††††††††††††††† North Miami, FL 33181

Miami, Fl. 33199††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† (305) 919-5675

††††††††††† (305) 348-2401†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† (305) 919-5312 FAX

††††††††††† (305) 348-3336 FAX††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† M-TH9:00am to 5:00pm

††††††††††† M-F 9:00am to 4:30pm††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† F††††††††† 9:00am to 4:00pm



††††††††††††††††††††††† Web:††

††††††††††††††††††††††† Email:


If you do not have a copy of your immunization record, contact your previous undergraduate or graduate school.They can make a copy for you.


The Health and Wellness Center provides immunization shots on an ongoing basis; please see contact information above.The cost for each vaccine, per dose, is as follows: MMR - $65 (x 2 doses required), Hepatitis B - $70 (x 3 doses required), Meningitis - $130 (x 1 dose required).Payment can be made via check, credit card, or money order; cash is only accepted at the University Park facility.Vaccinations can also be obtained from a private physician or a Public Health Office (listed on the HWC website linked above).





If you are an International Student, this section does not work for you. Please, check how to get your Driverís License in the section made especially for you.


You need to get a Florida driverís license in order to be considered a Florida resident.EVEN IF YOU DON'T DRIVE (A RARITY IN MIAMI) YOU WILL NEED TO AT LEAST GET A STATE ID CARD FOR RESIDENCY PURPOSES.It is also good to have if you get pulled over or want to get into local bars.


1.)    Get your Driverís license:

In order to obtain a Floridaís driverís license you are now required to have one primary identification document (Certified US birth certificate/US passport/ permanent resident card/etc - Note that you can no longer use an out-of state driverís license as a primary form of identification.) and one secondary identification document (Florida or out of state driverís license or ID card/FL vehicle registration certificate/etc). These identification documents will vary depending on whether or not you are a US citizen. Please visit for more details. In addition to identification, you must present proof of social security (SS card/W-2 form or pay check showing your SS#/etc) and proof of residential address (recent utility bills/current automobile insurance policy or bill/etc). For more information on required documents please visit the website linked above.If you have an out-of state driverís license you will not be required to take a driving test in order to obtain a Floridaís driverís license. They just give you the eye exam and take your picture and you can walk out with a new license.This costs between $15 and $25.Make an appointment with them before you go.Often they will make you wait a long time or not help you at all if you did not call ahead to make an appointment.You can call 305-229-6333 for most of the locations. You can also make an appointment online by going to and following the links. There is a DMV location across from school on 107th Ave.If no appointments are available, you can arrive about 30 minutes before they open and join the line.This is a lot faster than just showing up in the middle of the day, when the wait will probably be outrageously long**.


2.)    Get Florida car insurance:

You have to have insurance that lists your residence as Florida before you can register your car.That means that you will have to pay Dade County insurance rates, among the highest anywhere. When you go to get insurance keep in mind the incredible number of cars that get stolen here and the number of accidents (often involving uninsured drivers).Consider transferring your old policy to an agent with your company in Miami.Check with your insurance provider regarding coverage types and requirements.


Once you get your insurance voucher proceed to step three.


Allow yourself a few hours to get steps 3 and 4 done.I recommend taking a book.


3.)    Get a VIN verification form and get it signed:

There is one more thing you must do before you can register your vehicle; you must have a form signed by a police officer that says your mileage and VIN number are correct.Iím not joking. The form (form #82040 or #82042-according to the DMV website) can be found online at You may also obtain the form by going south on the Turnpike to Exit 11 and then turning right to go to the South

Dade Government Center (10710 SW 211 St.).Here you will find the office where you can get the VIN verification form (305-232-3830). Get the form and go right next door to the Miami-Dade police station and get them to sign the form.At least this is free!


4.)    Get a Florida title and registration:

Now that you have insurance and VIN verification, go back to the Government Center.Unfortunately, they will now require you to get a Florida car title.If you bought your car less than six months ago, this may be very expensive (ca. $150) because they tax you the value of your car, depending on whether or not and how much you paid in taxes in the state you bought your car.That is the only way you can get your vehicle registered, though.Be sure to bring your checkbook and your old title when you go.If you donít have your old title, you will have to re-order a title.If you are still paying a bank loan for your vehicle, they will give you a form to have the title sent from your bank to the Government Center.


You can find more information about registering your vehicle in Florida at


Once you have done all of these things you have three things that prove you are a Florida resident: driverís license, car insurance, and car registration.


Good luck!


*Some students have opted to keep/change their car in their parents' name in order to avoid steps 1-3 and the high insurance costs.While this is a possibility, you will have to check on whether or not it is legal.

** It is often hard to get an appointment in a timely manner; a two week- over a month wait is not uncommon.It is better to just drop by and try your luck.Remember to come early!The office across from school on 107th can have particularly poor service.Try some of the other driverís license offices: 901 Northwest 39 Avenue Mon-Fri 8:00am-5pm, 7900 NW 27 Ave, Ste 150 Mon-Fri 8:00am-5pm, 4520 Ponce de Leon Blvd. Mon-Fri 8:00am-5pm.For other locations in Miami-Dade County visit:





This section only applies to U.S. citizens or legal aliens. If you are an international student this section does not apply to you. Please see the ďSurvival Guide for International StudentsĒ section below instead.


If you are financially dependent (rely on parents for 50% of your income and expenses or you cannot file your taxes as an independent), then you cannot be considered a legal resident of Florida unless your parents apply and are considered legal Florida residents.


When you arrive in Miami, make sure your Florida address is on record with the office of Admissions and the Registrar's office.Since different FIU departments have different databases, you should also check that your address is correct in the Financial Aid office and Library.That way, all school correspondences will go to your Florida address.After one year, the department will no longer pay your out-of-state tuition, so it is important to have all residency requirements completed as soon as possible otherwise you will bear the burden of paying the increased fee.This is important--get the following documentation BEFORE YOUR FIRST SEMESTER STARTS.The school wants information from each of two groups:


Group 1 - Proof of Residency:


A.      Proof of purchase of a home in Florida

††††††††††††† 1. Deed


B.      Proof that you have lived in Florida for 12 months

†††† 1. Lease agreement

†††† 2. Rent receipts

†††† 3. Canceled checks (drawn on Florida banks)


Group 2 - Documentation Establishing Bona Fide Domicile In Florida:


A.      Driverís License

B.      Voterís Registration

C.      Automobile Registration: Here's a good one--you have to have Florida vehicle registration if you have a car even if you have enough documentation from this group to substitute--so get it.You can't get around it. If your car is not in your name, then you do not have to get Florida insurance or register your car in Florida but then you cannot use your driverís license or vehicle registration as proof of domicile in Florida.

D.      Proof of Employment (TA/RA Contracts)

E.      IRS Tax Forms


The school likes to see five of these proofs and some from each group.So the best way to do this is to get a lease, keep a canceled check, register to vote, get a driverís license, keep your tax returns, initial TA/RA contract, and register your car BEFORE YOUR FIRST SEMESTER.You can get around all of this if you are active duty military or a full-time faculty member.


Information on automobile stuff is in the previous section.

The Voterís Registration Office is located at 111 NW 1st Street OR you can register to vote at the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when you do your car stuff (call 305-229-6333 for locations) OR you can get a voter registration form from the University Bookstore and mail it in.


The last day to apply for Florida residency is generally the last day to pay for classes for the given semester.It is a good idea to turn your forms in ahead of time in case the Registrar's Office needs additional information (You don't want to be stuck paying the balance of an out-of-state tuition bill).The Registrar's Office provides forms for reclassifying your residency.The forms are available at the Registrar's Office, at the Registrar's information window, and on the web at When you have compiled all the necessary information take it to PC-130--Registrar's Office. If you have any questions contact Ted Randall at 305-348-2320.





Official Admission


You should have received word from FIU and the Biological Sciences Department as to your acceptance. This signifies that the Biological Sciences Department received your forms, transcripts and test scores, and that you are accepted into the Department.Check with the Biological Sciences Departmentís Graduate Program secretary, Erin Dowd, at 305-348-4130 (room OE 225) to make sure that your information is up-to-date and on-track.Be sure to ask for the current Departmentís Policies and Procedures Manual which has a lot of useful information. The Policies and Procedures Manual can also be found on the Biological Sciences Graduate Program website at


To register for classes, you must make certain that the FIU Admissions Office has all your necessary documentation.A visit to the receptionist at the Office of Graduate Admissions (room PC 140) will be necessary.Just ask if you are missing any documents and they will let you know right there. If you're not on campus yet, you can call them at 305-348-2363.


You will also need to get a Panther ID (PID) number. You can do this by clicking here: Panther ID. Follow the instructions on the screen. You should memorize your Panther ID number because all of your records are now linked to this number, not your social security number.


The following are the location and hours for the Office of Admissions:


University Park/ Modesto A. Maidique (South) Campus

Charles E. Perry Building - room PC140

Monday, Thursday, Friday 8am-5pm and Tuesday, Wednesday 8am-7pm

Phone: 305-348-2363


Biscayne Bay (North) Campus

Academic Unit I - room ACI 150

Monday, Thursday, Friday 8am-5pm and Tuesday, Wednesday 8am-7pm

Phone: 305-919-5760


Class Registration


The minimum number of credits required for maintaining your TA status is ten (10) for the first semester, and nine (9) for Fall and Spring semesters thereafter and six (6) for the Summer semester. In your first semester, you must register for the 1 credit of pedagogy (Teaching Biology).The college will provide funds for the extra credit during the first term.†† Your major professor and committee will suggest the appropriate courses you must take, and the remainder of the credits will be filled with student research credits. The Biological Sciences Department issues a graduate tuition waiver for each semester. This pays for part of the tuition and you are responsible for the remainder. You are also responsible for paying all University fees (parking, health center, athletic, etc.).The Graduate Program secretary, Erin Dowd, will send an email before payment is due detailing the exact amount you are responsible for.


To register for classes, follow these steps:


1.The first thing you should do is get your Panther ID (PID) as this will make registering much easier.


2.You should have already met with your major professor and decided on courses to be taken.


3.  The next step is to check with the Biological Sciences Department secretaries. They can check your course selection and tell you if an 'Override' number is required to register for a particular class that may be listed as 'Closed'. If so, the professor teaching the class must give you an override number to enter in the PantherSoft system. E-mail the professor and ask for the override number. You can find most professorsí e-mail addresses here: Faculty


4.  If your classes do not require overrides (they are ďOpenĒ), you can register via the web at Before you do that, you will need your PantherSoft ID number, which you should have received by mail or via the internet when you applied.If you did not, you can get it from Erin Dowd in the Graduate Program Office (305-348-4130).Your initial password is your birthdate in the form MMDDYYYY. For example, if you were born on May 12th, 1981 your password would be 05121981. Once you log into the system you may change your password. Memorize these numbers, because all of your records are now linked to them, not your social security number.

5.  Log into PantherSoft at Enter your ID and password.


6.  If you need to find classes in which to enroll, you can search the list of classes being offered using the links Self Service/Class Search-Browse Catalog/Class Search. Choose a term of enrollment and you can search available classes by subject, catalog number or course ID. This can be tricky, but try starting with Biological Sciences Department as the subject group and use subjects such as BSC (Biological Science) MCB (Microbiology) PCB (Process Biology).


7.  Once you have identified the class numbers and have all the necessary override numbers, simply click on the Self Service link and under Enrollment you can find a link for Enrollment: Add Classes. Choose the appropriate term of enrollment and add your classes. If you are having trouble registering or need assistance with Panthersoft visit the Biology office located in OE 161 and ask for Helen Forlong.


8.  Pay tuition at the Cashier's Office Charles E. Perry Building (PC).If you donít have the necessary amount handy, you can get a short-term tuition loan from the financial aid office. FIU also allows you to pay the fees in installments (there is small price for it). YOU MUST PAY BY THE DEADLINE TO AVOID CANCELLATION OF ALL YOUR CLASSES, which will happen on the last day to pay for classes. Please note that at the time this document was written these deadline dates were provided on a tentative basis. It is your responsibility to continuously check the academic calendars with the University Graduate School ( and Registrarís Office ( to be sure you are in accordance with FIU deadlines. Please be sure to check the calendars at both offices to make sure dates are in agreement. Once you've registered you will be able to view your semester bill in Panthersoft. This will show the tuition amount. You can calculate the total due by subtracting the tuition waiver. Check with the Biology Department (the Graduate Program Secretary, Erin Dowd) for the exact amount of your tuition reduction, because the Cashierís Office will not know.If you do not feel like waiting in the line (wait until you see it--you will understand), you can simply drop payment in a special drop box in the main hallway located on the first floor of the PC building or pay through panthersoft with a direct deposit transaction, or credit card.If you have supplemental financial aid, the amount you owe is usually subtracted from you financial aid check so you don't have to pay anything out of pocket.BUT, you should definitely check with the financial aid office, especially if it's your first time, to make sure everything is on track.If your classes get dropped, you have to do everything all over again.


**FIU now imposes a $100 fee for late registration.Sometimes it's difficult to get all your override numbers and register before the deadline In order to avoid paying the fee, you can register on the web for ANY graduate level biology classes that are open, just make sure that your total credits are correct (9 for TA's for fall and spring). You can then CHANGE your schedule during the add/drop period without being penalized.This may sound a bit backwards, but it is much, much easier to avoid the late fee altogether than try to fight it after the fact. It is really important to keep documentation of everything. So if you register online, print out the panthersoft web page that shows you are registered. Also keep printouts of what you owe and what you have paid. Panthersoft information tends to change, sometimes unfavorably.




You will need an official FIU identification card. This card allows you access to University functions and sporting events, and acts as a library card. You can receive an advance loan for books and supplies that will be credited to your card and can be used at the FIU Bookstore (check with Financial Aid about this). You can also add money to your card to spend at several food vendors at the University. The ID is required for many transactions on campus including future registration for courses. You need to be at the photo ID office as early as possible to avoid the long lines. The office requires a picture ID and your receipt of registration for classes. The initial ID is ďfreeĒ (the cost is included in your Tuitions and Fees). Replacements cost $15.


The photo ID office locations and hours are as follows:


University Park (South) Campus

Graham Center (GC) 104E

Monday - Thursday 9:30am-6pm

(Closed Friday)

Phone Ė 305-348-3910 or 305-348-2297

Biscayne Bay (North) Campus

Wolfe Center (WC) 143

Monday and Wednesday: 9am-1pm and 2-6pm
Tuesday and Thursday: 8:30-10:30am and 12-6pm

(Closed Friday)

Phone: 305-919-5406




Now it is time to submit your paperwork for FIU employment.It is important that you take these steps as soon as you arrive in Miami, because you wonít get paid until several weeks after you complete this process.Contract processing has changed to make it far more likely that you will get paid within your first month, but be prepared in the event that you are not.You must submit paperwork for Human Resources, and then sign a contract.The paperwork for Human Resources includes an I-9 as well as a sign-on packet (11 forms total).Both the I-9 and the sign-on packed can be found at: or download and fill in the forms, then turn it in to Payroll in PC 220.When you turn in your paperwork, be sure to have your social security card, passport, and drivers license or voter registration card with you as Erin must make copies of those before she canprocess your paperwork. Your contract, which you also need to sign, should be located with the Graduate Program Secretary. Because you wonít get paid until this process is complete (and until each of those 13 forms is processed), it is generally a good idea to check up on this process to make sure that no one has encountered problems with it along the way.Check with Human Resources (305) 348-2181 or with Payroll (305-348-2191) and if you applied for direct-deposit you may check with these offices for its status. Even if you have applied for direct-deposit, this will take some time to go through. You will most likely receive your first payments in the form of a check that you will have to pick up at the payroll window by presenting your Panther ID card.




It is important for you to seek funding for your research as soon as you have a proposal.If you are a masters student, remember most funding will only be available your first semester.Links to grants and other sources of funding can be found at:





As an international student, a couple of things are very different for you. Be aware that there are a lot of things that you should do as soon as you get here, so you wonít have problems in the future (i.e. not getting paid). Here is a list of things that work different for us. You might need to do something that I didnít do (rules can change), but take this list as a beginning for your life in U.S.A. and welcome!


1)       Passport, VISA and I-20


I would suggest you to go to the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) at GC 355 (305-348.2421) as soon as you arrive to check if all your documents are correct and especially when you need to renew your I-20 form, VISA and, passport. Each time you re-enter the country you must go to this office so they can make a copy of your I-94 (they need to have all your documentation up to date, this is very important). In order to be allowed re-entry into the country you MUST have a valid signature on your I-20; your I-20 form is given to you with a signature that is valid for one year. Each time you will leave the country make sure you check this signature to see it is still valid, if it isnít, go to the ISSS office to get it signed. MAKE SURE YOU MAKE THESE VISITS WITH TIME FOR THEM TO PROCESS IT BEFORE YOU HAVE TO LEAVE! If your VISA and/or passport expired when you are inside U.S.A but your I-20 is valid, you are fine. The only thing to be aware of (especially if you are planning to go to meetings out of U.S.A.) is that you cannot go to any other country and come back to U.S.A before renewing your VISA and/or passport in your own country. So, be careful when planning trips!


2)       Social Security Number


You HAVE to have a social security number to get paid. While your SS# is not ready, FIU will provide you a temporary student number, but they can take a couple of weeks to give this number to you, so be aware that you may not be paid in the first pay check (but when you are paid, you receive a retroactive amount, donít worry!).


Talk with Erin Dowd (305-348-4130) to make sure that you sign your contract and all the information that they need are completed. To get a SS# you will first need to ask Erin for a Certificate of employment that you will then have to take to the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) for them to sign (this will take them a couple of days).


You should prepare all the documents necessary to get your SS# and go to one of the Social Security Offices as soon as possible. Your Social Security number can take months to be ready! Keep in mind that they do not care about you at all, so donít be ashamed of going to the office every week and asking about your situation.


To find an office close to you, conduct a google search online ( ).There is an office very close to FIU as well.



MIAMI, FL 33174


Having a SS# will be very helpful for you in many other aspects like getting a credit card, buying a cell phone, etc.


3)       Driverís License


Even if you do not drive, it is good to have a Driverís license or an ID Card in Miami. You will need it for general identification, to get into bars, and plus it is not a good idea to walk around with your passport and VISA everyday. The ID card costs $25 and requires you to have your passport, I20 and two documents for address verification (ex: Lease documents, electricity bill, etc.).


You can drive legally in U.S.A. using your passport until one month after you arrived. After this period, you are an illegal driver!!! So, get your Driverís license as soon as possible. As an international student you are considered a new driver and it does not matter how many years you already have your Driverís license in your country. So, you will have to take all the exams (eye exam, laws exam and driver exam). All exams will cost you US $20-27 together. You will need your passport, I-20, an FIU letter saying that you are a graduate student, and a couple of other papers. For more information: You can download the book to study for the driverís license exam in pdf form online or you can pick one up at an office; also online you will find a list of the required documents, fees and you can schedule appointment for taking the exams. Schedule your appointment well in advance because available slots might be months away. You can try walk-ins but this can result in hours of waiting or you need to get there early in the morning. If you prefer, you can call 305-229-6333 for most of the locations. There is one across from school on 107th Ave near Publix. Remember you will need a car to take the exam.


After you pass the exams, you will receive a provisory Driverís license and the original will be sent to you by mail within around 10 days.


Be aware that if you buy a car, your car insurance will be more expensive than American citizens. This happens because you are considered brand news drivers (as 16 years old kids). As I said before, it does not matter how many years you were driving in your country before you got hereÖ I know, it is horrible, but there is nothing you can do.


The car insurance is mandatory here! Donít drive without it! Traffic in Miami is dangerous! When looking for car insurance get quotes from different companies because they vary a lot in price (sometimes, more than US $200 in a six months period).


If you are not planning to buy a car, you have to know the bus schedule!!! Depending on where you live, it can take more than 2 hours by bus (and/or metro) to get to school. So, when registration comes, you should pay attention to what time your classes will start and if they are in the same campus or not.










Written by Flavia Carneiro




Housing and other Useful Information







Once you register for classes you will need to pick up your parking decal at either the blue or gold garage.You can find information on parking at

Should you get a different car than the one you originally registered with the parking office, you will have to register your new car and get a new tag for $15.


USEFUL ADDRESSES (near FIU University Park campus)

      Winn-Dixie (supermarket) - 9565 W Flagler St., 12254 SW 8thStreet, 8855 Coral Way , 10505 NW 41ST Street

      Publix (supermarket)- 1525 SW 107th Ave, 8341 W Flagler St, 8680 SW 24th St, 9755 NW 41st St

      Wal-Mart- 8651 N.W. 13TH Terrace (off NW 87th St. just past the entrance to the Dolphin Expressway (826)

      Target- 7795 SW 40th St

      Home Depot - 7899 W Flagler St (this is in the Mall of the Americas)

       USPS - 1700 NW 97th Ave, 3801 SW 117th Ave