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Division of Biology

Graduate Degrees Offered

Biology is an exceedingly broad discipline, and the Division of Biology graduate program exploits this exciting diversity of research opportunities. The graduate faculty members of the Division of Biology strongly believe research is the preeminent feature of our training responsibilities. Our faculty are a coalition of scientists with a wide diversity of experimental expertise. In partnership with a major advisor and a supervisory committee, each graduate student pursues a mixture of course work and research activities that comprise an individualized program of study. This partnership tailors the program to the needs of each student, and selects coursework from a set of available courses in the student's area of interest. We require that each student write a thesis (MS) or dissertation (PhD) based on original research, of sufficient quality and importance to merit publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The Division of Biology has four graduate degree programs: a Master of Science in Biology, a Doctor of Philosophy in Biology, a Doctor of Philosophy in Microbiology, and a concurrent B.S./M.S. degree in Biology.

Biology M.S. Program

The M.S. program in biology requires a minimum of 30 hours past the bachelor's degree, including 22 hours of graded course work (18 hours should be at the 700 level and above), and 6-8 hours of research credit. All students are required to take BIOL 863, Professional Skills in Biology (3 hours) during their first year.

Biology Ph.D. Program

The Biology Ph.D. degree requires a minimum of 90 credit hours, including 24-30 hours of graded course work (15 hours at the 800 level or higher), depending on the student's background, and at least 30 hours of research for the dissertation. Students may chose from all graduate courses, including all Division of Biology Graduate Courses listed in the Graduate catalog. Course selection should be based on consultation with, and approval by the student's supervisory committee. All students are required to take BIOL 863, Professional Skills in Biology (3 hours) during their first year.

Microbiology Ph.D. Program

The Microbiology Ph.D. degree requires a minimum of 24-30 hours of graded course work, including 15 hours of courses at the 800 level. Course selection is done in consultation with approval by the student's supervisory committee and should include the following: BIOCH 755 Biochemistry I, BIOCH 765 Biochemistry II, and BIOL 863 Professional Skills in Biology.

Numerous suggested microbiology courses exist, which can be selected in consultation with the student's supervisory committee, depending on the student's goals and research interests.

Concurrent B.S. & M.S. Degree Program

The combined B.S./M.S. program in Biology provides exceptional undergraduates with the opportunity to obtain both a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in 5 years, a shorter time than is typically required to earn a B.S. plus M.S. if both degrees are pursued separately. The curriculum includes both course work and research experience. Degree requirements for the M.S. are similar to those for the more typical M.S. degree described above, with the exception that up to 9 credit hours can be used toward both the B.S. and the M.S. degrees. Admission requirements do not include submission of a score for the GRE, but do require that the applicant has substantial undergraduate research experience and support from a faculty member in the Division of Biology.

The goal of the program is to produce biologists with in-depth understanding of a sub-area of biology and extensive research experience. Completion of the program will provide students with an advantage both in pursuing work in the private sector and in pursuing a further advanced degree.

To enter this program, a student must be nominated by a Biology graduate faculty member (who will be the student's major professor) at any time from the second semester of the sophomore year through the second semester of the junior year (when he/she has accumulated 45-90 credit hours toward the B.S. degree and has completed BIOL 201 or BIOL455 and BIOL 450 or BIOL529, his/her math requirement, and at least two semesters of chemistry). A student may be nominated during the senior year with special permission from the chair of the Biology Graduate Affairs Committee. After nomination, the application process is the same as for the traditional M.S. degree, with the following exceptions:

  1. completion of a bachelor's degree is not required prior to acceptance into the program.
  2. the GRE score requirement will be waived.
  3. the application must include a recommendation from a member of the Division of Biology faculty, who will serve as the student's major professor and who agrees to support the student as a graduate research assistant during the 5th year.
  4. Minimum standards for regular admission and for retention in the program require a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.5 and a G.P.A. of 3.5 in required math and science courses.

Should the student meet these requirements and the requirements of the Graduate Affairs Committee, admission will be provisional, pending the award of the B.S. degree. The B.S. degree may be awarded at any time following the completion of the undergraduate degree requirements. Alternatively, the B.S. and M.S. degrees may be awarded concurrently. The student will work closely with the major professor to form a supervisory committee and file a program of study by the end of the second semester of the junior year. The undergraduate advisor will continue to advise the student in academic progress toward the B.S. degree, and the major professor will supervise the student's academic progress and research project for the M.S. degree. Research toward the M.S. thesis will begin as soon as possible, but typically will begin during the junior year.

The student will work closely with the major professor to form a supervisory committee and file a program of study by the end of the second semester of the junior year. The undergraduate advisor will continue to advise the student in academic progress toward the B.S. degree, and the major professor will supervise the student’s academic progress and research project for the M.S. degree.  Research toward the M.S. thesis will begin as soon as possible, but typically will begin during the junior year. A maximum of 9 credit hours at the 600-700 level can count toward both the B.S. and M.S. degrees. The dual counting of 9 credit hours will allow dedicated students to finish the dual degrees within 5 years.

A student accepted into the dual degree program will be expected to teach (with responsibilities similar to those of a regularly-admitted graduate student) in his/her fifth year to develop teaching skills, and will be supported as a GRA by his/her major professor.