Aug 25, 2019  
2019-20 Graduate Bulletin 
    
2019-20 Graduate Bulletin

Biology, M.S.


Students wishing to pursue a master’s degree in biology may designate general biology as an emphasis, in which case graduate courses will be selected from all three biological areas (botany, cellular and molecular biology, ecology and evolutionary biology); or they can designate one of the three emphasis areas and focus their coursework primarily in that area. With approval from the student’s graduate committee, up to six semester hours of electives can includes courses outside the department. If students desire a minor or minors, they may select courses from other departments following the guidelines established elsewhere in this bulletin.

Option I - Master of Science Degree with Thesis


The thesis program is available primarily for those who plan to continue their graduate work beyond the master’s degree, or who plan to enter positions involving research or scientific writing. Thesis research is offered in the fields of interest indicated in the list of graduate faculty shown elsewhere in this bulletin. The thesis should involve at least six months of research. A qualifying exam will be given to each student at the end of their first or beginning of their second semester. The exam will be presented in an oral format and in addition to the student presenting their research proposal. It will probe the student’s biological knowledge base to determine whether she/he has the background to conduct their proposed research. There are four possible outcomes for this exam:

  • pass unconditionally
  • conditionally pass
  • fail with the option to retake
  • fail with no option to retake

If a student’s graduate committee determines that the student conditionally passed the exam, the committee will outline coursework that must be completed during the time the student is enrolled in the program. If the graduate committee determines that the student failed with the option to retake the exam, the student must retake and pass unconditionally or conditionally pass no later than the end of their second full semester. Failed exams can only be repeated one time if initially given the option to retake the exam. Students who do not pass their retake exam or whose graduate committee determined they failed with no option to retake their initial qualifying exam will be removed from the thesis track and given two options:

  • remain in the biology program as a non-thesis track student following the guidelines below for the non-thesis option
  • transfer to the non-thesis M.S.N.S. program (described here )

On completion of the thesis and other requirements for the degree, the student will be given a final oral examination primarily over the thesis by members of the committee and other members of the graduate faculty suggested by the dean of Research and Graduate Studies. For further details concerning these requirements, refer to the section of this bulletin that describes the overall procedure and preparation of the thesis. There are three possible outcomes for the final oral exam:

  • pass unconditionally
  • conditionally pass
  • fail with the option to retake

If a student’s graduate committee determines that the student conditionally passed the final exam, the committee will outline specific conditions that must be met. These conditions must be completed and the committee unconditionally pass the student prior to graduation. If a student’s graduate committee determines that the student failed the final oral exam with the option to retake, the student must retake the exam the following full semester. Failed exams can only be repeated once. If a failed exam is retaken, and the committee again determines that the student failed the exam, the student is given two options:

  • remain in the biology program as a non-thesis track student following the guidelines below for the non-thesis option
  • transfer to the non-thesis M.S.N.S. program (described here )

All students must successfully present a departmental seminar over her/his thesis research. Those students graduating during the summer must present their seminar during the preceding spring semester. No semester hours of Advanced Graduate Studies (BIO 575  or BIO 576 ) may be taken without permission of the departmental chair.

Option II - The Master of Science Degree Without Thesis


The non-thesis program is available for those who plan no further work beyond the master’s degree, or who do not plan careers in research or scientific writing. A qualifying exam will be given to each student at the end of their first or beginning of their second semester. The exam will be presented in an oral format and will probe the student’s biological knowledge base to determine whether she/he has the background to succeed in her/his chosen career path. The oral examination for the non-thesis student will deal both with the student’s coursework interest as well as all other biology emphasis areas. The student is required to form a committee consisting of at least five faculty members representing all three areas of emphasis. There are four possible outcomes for this exam:

  • pass unconditionally
  • conditionally pass
  • fail with the option to retake
  • fail with no option to retake

If a student’s graduate committee determines that the student conditionally passed the exam, the committee will outline coursework that must be completed during the time the student is enrolled in the program. If the graduate committee determines that the student failed with the option to retake the exam, the student must retake and pass unconditionally or conditionally pass no later than the end of their second full semester. Failed exams can only be repeated one time if initially given the option to retake the exam. Students who do not pass their retake exam or whose graduate committee determined they failed with no option to retake their initial qualifying exam will be removed from the non-thesis track and the biology graduate program. These students will be given one option:

On completion of all requirements for the degree, the student will be given a final oral examination covering the student’s coursework and all biology emphasis areas by members of the committee and other members of the graduate faculty suggested by the dean of Research and Graduate Studies. There are two possible outcomes for the final oral exam:

  • pass unconditionally
  • fail with the option to retake

If a student’s graduate committee determines that the student failed the final oral exam with the option to retake, the student must retake the exam the following full semester. Failed exams can only be repeated once. If a failed exam is retaken, and the committee again determines that the student failed the exam, the student is given one option:

  • transfer to the non-thesis M.S.N.S. program (described here )

All students must successfully present a seminar over a relevant and current topic in biology primarily dealing with the student’s area of selected coursework. Those students graduating during the summer must present their seminar during the preceding spring semester. No semester hours of Advanced Graduate Studies (BIO 575  or BIO 576 ) may be taken without permission of the departmental chair.