[1] Objectives

The Master of Science degree in Biology is offered primarily for those who wish to obtain a graduate degree before enrolling in a doctoral or professional program or who seek a terminal degree as preparation for a career in biology.

The Department of Biology offers the Master of Science with two tracks: the MS with thesis, and the MS without thesis. The MS degree is a general one in which breadth is emphasized, but the thesis candidate is expected to acquire depth in a particular area. The thesis track allows students to carry out original research through mentoring from a major professor in that professor’s specialty. This track provides training relevant to research-based careers in biology and health sciences. Some examples of career options appropriate for students in this track include research technicians/associates in academic and corporate settings, scientists for state and federal agencies, and doctoral programs. The non-thesis track is an appropriate option for careers that do not require research, but would benefit from advanced biological education. These include practice-focused professional programs (e.g., medicine, optometry, physical therapy), management positions, environmental policy, and teaching at the secondary or community-college level.

[2] Program Admission Requirements

In addition to the university’s general requirements for admission to graduate study, a departmental application form, a score report on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Section, a curriculum vita/résumé, statement of purpose/cover letter, and two letters of support must be submitted to the departmental Graduate Coordinator. It is generally expected that applicants will have completed at least the equivalent of a minor in biology; however, we welcome applications from students with non-biology backgrounds. Deficiencies in previous training will be evaluated by the department’s Graduate Coordinator on a case-by-case basis. Students with deficiencies will be required to obtain at least a C grade in all courses taken to resolve the deficiencies.

All applicants are strongly encouraged to contact the departmental Graduate Coordinator early in the application process. Thesis-track applicants will not be accepted into the program if they do not have a biology graduate faculty member willing to accept the applicant into their research laboratory and willing to mentor the thesis project. Therefore, it is imperative that thesis-track applicants communicate directly with potential thesis advisors prior to submitting application materials or very early in the process. Faculty contact information and areas of research can be found on the departmental web page.

The application deadline for the fall term is March 1, and the deadline for the spring term is November 1.

Applications submitted or completed after the deadlines will be considered on a case-by-case basis. A limited number of graduate assistantships that include a stipend and tuition scholarship are available for students. These competitive awards are determined by the departmental Graduate Committee, with priority being given to thesis-track applicants. Thesis-track applicants who have not communicated with faculty regarding advising or submit applications after deadlines will have a lower priority for admission into the program and for receiving graduate assistantships.

[3] Advisement

Once a thesis-track student is admitted to the program, the student’s initial advisor/major professor will review the student’s undergraduate record and recommend an initial program of study. Before the end of the first semester in which the student is officially enrolled in graduate school, the membership of the student’s Thesis Committee must be selected. The Thesis Committee will be chaired by the major professor and must contain at least two other members of the Biology faculty. The Thesis Committee may be expanded to include faculty from other departments or institutions in cases where additional expertise would be helpful in overseeing the project. The Thesis Committee will recommend subsequent courses to be taken by the student and approve a proposal of thesis research and the final thesis document.

Students enrolled in the non-thesis track are not required to establish a thesis committee, but instead will be assigned an academic advisor (e.g., the Graduate Program Coordinator) with whom they will meet regularly to construct a course degree plan.

[4] Program Requirements

Some requirements differ for the two tracks within the Master of Science in Biology degree program and these are listed separately below.

[4.1] MS with Thesis

[4.1.1] Course Requirements

Thirty (30) semester hours are required for this track. Up to six hours of thesis research (BIOL 6V01) may be included in this total. At least 15 hours of graduate coursework must be at the 6000-course level, including at least two 6000-level courses not including Thesis Research, Independent Study, and Graduate Seminar. Students must take two hours of Graduate Seminar (BIOL 6102) during their degree program; additional hours of Graduate Seminar taken do not count towards the degree. Under exceptional circumstances a student may petition the Biology Graduate Committee and Graduate School to allow a 5000-level course to be substituted for one of the required 6000-level courses. No more than six semester hours of Independent Study credit for conducting research can be used to fulfill the credit hour requirements. With permission of the student’s Thesis Committee, up to six semester hours may be taken outside the Department of Biology, if such work has a direct relationship to the student’s objectives in achieving the MS degree in biology.

[4.1.2] Other Requirements

Original laboratory or field research is required. The Thesis Committee prior to the beginning of the third term must approve a written thesis proposal. At the end of the student’s program, the student will write a thesis to be approved by the Thesis Committee, Biology Department Chair, Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, and Dean of the Graduate School. The student will also present the research as a seminar open to all Biology Department faculty and the public. Before the candidate is recommended to the Dean of the Graduate School for graduation, the Thesis Committee will meet with the candidate for an oral examination, which will consist principally of a defense of the thesis. A majority of the student’s committee must approve the thesis and its defense. If approval is denied, the candidate will not be recommended for graduation, but may be re-examined after at least one month.

[4.2] MS without Thesis

Course Requirements

A minimum of thirty-four (34) semester hours are required for this track, including at least 15 hours of graduate course work at the 6000-course level. These 15 hours must be composed of three 6000-level courses other than Independent Study and Graduate Seminar. Two semester hours of Graduate Seminar (BIOL 6102) are required, but up to three Graduate Seminar (BIOL 6102) hours and up to four semester hours of Independent Study (6000-level) can be applied to the 34-hour total required. Independent Study allows opportunities for students to gain research skills or other tailored experiences on a semester basis with faculty. Under exceptional circumstances, a student may petition the Biology Graduate Committee and Graduate School to allow a 5000-level course to be substituted for one of the required 6000-level courses. With permission of the Graduate Committee and the Graduate School, up to six semester hours may be taken in a department other than the Department of Biology, if such work has a direct relationship to the student’s objectives in achieving the MS degree in biology.

[5] Graduate Course Links

[5.1] Courses in Biology (BIOL)

Follow this link for BIOL course descriptions: course link.

[5.2] Gulf Research Laboratory Courses

Follow this link for a list of graduate courses at the Gulf Research Laboratory that may be taken for credit in the UCA master’s program: course link.

[5.3] Courses in Science Education (SCI)

Follow this link for SCI course descriptions: course link.