Master of Science in Biology

The Master of Science in Biology trains students in graduate-level research and analysis in the fascinating field of biology. The program prepares students for careers in biological research, project management, life science education, scientific writing, and advanced degrees at the doctorate level. The MS in biology develops students as biologists who participate in arriving at solutions to modern challenges, including advances in biotechnology and genomics, physiology, biodiversity, and threats to species and ecosystem functioning.

The MS in biology curriculum provides comprehensive coverage of the hierarchical levels of biological organization, from molecules to ecosystems. Over the course of the program, students formulate an original research question, examine the question at various biological levels, and conduct research to produce a master's thesis suitable for peer-reviewed presentation. Students develop thesis projects in consultation with program faculty. The thesis process provides training in advanced research methods and design, analysis, and scientific writing to enable students to participate in the field of biology as professional scholars.

Application Requirements

To be considered for admission, applicants must meet the University qualifications for graduate programs. In addition, students must have a Bachelor's degree in the biological sciences, or a closely-related field.

Additional Program Information and Requirements

All students are expected to begin the program of study by first enrolling in BIO 600, and taking subsequent seminar courses in numerical sequence (BIO 610-650). This sequence is designed to have students formulate a working thesis topic and repeatedly examine it at different levels of biological organization, to iteratively generate new ideas and perspectives on the topic. All students are expected to select a thesis, advisor early in the program, based on areas of interest and faculty availability. Students must obtain approval of their choice of thesis advisor from the Program Lead Faculty by the end of their fifth course in the program. Each student is expected to consult regularly with the thesis advisor regarding the thesis topic.

The Master's thesis in biology is an original research contribution, based on data collected by the student under the supervision of the thesis advisor (i.e., laboratory and/or field work), or based on data and information extracted and analyzed from existing literature and sources. Students must present a thesis proposal to their thesis advisor before the end of the course BIO 660 (Research Design). This proposal must be approved for thesis work by the end of the course BIO 680 (Thesis Formulation). Thesis work primarily occurs during the course sequence BIO 691-693. Thesis progress is overseen by the thesis advisor. The thesis advisor, with two other faculty members, form the thesis committee that evaluates the finished thesis. Students are expected to identify their complete thesis committee before the end of the course BIO 680 (Thesis Formulation).

Thesis research, analysis, and write-up is expected to occur during the course sequence BIO 691-693. BIO 693 is eligible for "In Progress" grading, which allows for this particular course to extend up to 12 months for completion. The student's thesis is to be submitted to the thesis committee for review by the end of BIO 693.

Program Learning Outcomes

  • Evaluate primary research in biology, including the identification of strengths and weaknesses of studies, as well as the framing of alternative explanations of data and results.
  • Propose testable scientific hypotheses in biology.
  • Design a viable research program in biology that tests scientific questions and hypotheses, including the design of experiments.
  • Conduct original research in biology, in a laboratory or field setting, or literature-based research.
  • Analyze research results and data.
  • Create written work for evaluation by scientific peers.


To receive a Master of Science in Biology, students must complete at least 49.5 quarter units of graduate coursework, and must complete an original Master's thesis.  A total of 9.0 graduate quarter units may be granted for equivalent graduate work completed at another institution, as it applies to this degree and provided the units were not used in earning another advanced degree.  Students should refer to the section on graduate admission requirements for specific information regarding admission and evaluation.

Core Requirements (11 courses; 49.5 quarter units)
Core Requisite(s):