MS in Biology

  • The Department of Biology offers a Master of Science degree that is intended both for the student who wishes to pursue further graduate work leading to the PhD degree and for the student who desires the MS degree as a means to seek a career as a biologist in a number of different professions.

    The MS degree in Biology has two alternatives, the thesis and non-thesis options. The thesis option is research oriented, with an emphasis on a comprehensive research project under the supervision of a thesis advisory committee. The non-thesis option also requires a research component that is under the direction of a faculty member. Both alternatives are intended to provide the student with a well-rounded biology background, as well as furnish the research skills required for postgraduate positions.

    Admission Criteria

    To be admitted to the Department of Biology, the applicant must have completed the requirements for a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. These requirements should include a major in Biology (or related subject), one year of general chemistry, one semester of organic chemistry, and one semester of calculus or statistics. Applicants with undergraduate deficiencies may be required to register for courses that help to fill these deficiencies.

    Program Requirements

    The departmental requirements for candidacy for the MS degree are:

    • Satisfactory completion of 15 semester hours of graduate work, with at least eight hours in core courses.
    • The selection of a thesis advisor and a thesis advisory committee of at least two additional faculty members (in the case of the thesis student) or a research advisor (in the case of non-thesis student) to guide the candidate in completing the program.
    • An official application to candidacy, including a research proposal approved by the advisor, must be submitted to the Biology Department Graduate Committee.

    Candidates must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0. Continuance in the graduate program for those receiving two individual course grades below a “B” is contingent upon review of the Graduate Committee.

    Students working for this degree will complete 32 semester hours of work if pursuing a Thesis Degree or 35 semester hours of course work if pursuing a Non-thesis Degree.

    I. Required Core Courses

    Thesis option—11 semester hours

    Non-thesis option—8 semester hours

    A. Required Courses

    Thesis option (11 cr.)
    BIOL 602 Biometry 3 cr.
    BIOL 611 Biology Seminar I 1 cr.
    BIOL 612 Biology Seminar II 1 cr.
    BIOL 795 Thesis 6 cr.
    Non-thesis option (8 cr.)
    BIOL 602 Biometry 3 cr.
    BIOL 611 Biology Seminar I 1 cr.
    BIOL 612 Biology Seminar II 1 cr.
    BIOL 699 Independent Study 3 cr.

    II. Elective Courses

    Thesis option—21 semester hours

    Non-thesis option—27 semester hours

    Courses are to be selected with the approval of the advisor from the 500- and 600-level biology elective courses. Up to 6 credit hours of the elective courses may be selected from related science and mathematics courses.

    III. Research Requirement and Assessment for the MS

    Non-thesis option
    The candidate must conduct an original research project under the direction of a faculty advisor. A report in the format of a journal article must be submitted at the conclusion of the study. This requirement is programmed as BIOL 699, Independent Study.
    Students pursuing a Non-thesis option are required to take and pass a competency exam administered by the candidate’s advisory committee. The purpose of this examination is to assure that all graduates have a broad-based knowledge of biology, as well as a mastery of the subject matter pertaining directly or indirectly to their research project.
    This examination must be scheduled after completion of 18 semester hours but before completion of 27 semester hours. If a student fails this exam, a second exam will be administered which, at the discretion of the committee, can be oral or written. This exam must be taken within a four-month period following the first exam. Failure of the second exam will result in dismissal from the program.

    Thesis option
    The candidate must conduct original research under the direction of the thesis advisory committee and present a research thesis at the conclusion of the program. The candidate registers for BIOL 795, Thesis, while engaged in research and preparation of the thesis. The candidate will prepare a written thesis, and then present a public seminar, reporting results of the research. Following the public seminar, the candidate also must complete an oral defense of the research before the thesis committee.
    In many courses in the Department of Biology, additional laboratory time and/or field trips may be required beyond the regularly scheduled periods.