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Graduate students pursuing the Master of Science in Biology may elect to follow a thesis or a courses only, non-thesis route. For the thesis student, an advisory committee of at least three faculty members, versed in the student's specific area of interest, guides the student's graduate career. With the approval of the student's advisory committee and/or the graduate coordinator, up to nine semester hours of graduate work in biology or closely related fields may be transferred as part of the student's program. Transfer credits may include up to nine hours of graduate credit from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, with which the University is affiliated. 

Graduate Course Load

Full-time graduate students must enroll in at least nine, but no more than 15, semester hours of 600-level courses. GA's must enroll in nine to 12 hours of graduate-level courses. Part-time students may enroll for any number of hours up to nine.

Graduate Student Committee

During the first semester after admission into the program, the thesis student must initiate the formation of his/her graduate committee. This committee will consist of a minimum of three biology faculty members, at least one of whom must be familiar with the student's research interest and who will direct the graduate student's research problem. This faculty member will be designated as the student's committee chair and major professor. It should be emphasized that the committee members must agree to serve and their participation should be solicited by the graduate student, after consultation with the major professor.


Regional Analysis and Public Policy Option

Program Competencies
1. All students are expected to demonstrate:
     a. The mastery of course work considered fundamental to the training of a biologist. Required competencies may include the accumulation of knowledge in molecular biology, botany, zoology, microbiology, physiology, ecology, and evolution. A thesis-track student may elect to specialize in one of the listed areas.
     b. The mastery of supplementary requirements selected to enhance the training of a biologist, including statistics and regional analysis.
     c. The use of equipment and instruments required for biological research.
     d. The ability to think analytically and have a thorough understanding of the scientific method. Students are expected to evaluate published research with respect to experimental design, strengths and weaknesses of data, and validity of research conclusions.
     e. The ability to write a formal proposal of their intended research projects. The proposal will consist of a literature survey, research objectives, materials and methods, significance, bibliography, and an itemized budget for the research.
     f. The ability to design original experiments, collect and analyze data, and report the findings through oral and written presentations.

2. Students preparing for post-master's degree professions must develop those competencies required for admission to professional schools or Ph.D.-level graduate programs.

Assessment of Competencies

  1. Students must pass both a written exit examination prepared by the BES departmental committee and an oral examination given by the student's graduate committee. It is expected that students attain an 80 percent performance level on the written exit examination and unanimous approval by the student's graduate committee concerning performance on the final oral examination and research component. Exams will include questions pertaining to regional analysis and biological principles. Students failing to reach the 80 percent performance level on the written exam may retake the exam one time after a seven-day period.
  2. Students must pass with a 70 percent performance level of recommended courses in statistics and regional analysis.
  3. Successful data collection using instruments in the student's research meets this goal.
  4. In-class evaluation of journal research occurs in all graduate courses, and interpretation of scientific articles associated with the student's thesis or non-thesis research is evaluated.
  5. All research proposals are evaluated by the graduate advisory committee.
  6. Every student is expected to perform original research and present the data in a formal seminar (BIOL 671) setting to the faculty and students of the BES department. This oral seminar is graded by the faculty in attendance and the averaged score must be 80 percent or above. Students failing to reach the 80 percent performance level must give the seminar to their committees after a seven day period. 

Program Requirements

Course List
For program requirements please refer to the graduate catalog.

Admission Requirements  

  1. General admission to graduate study.
  2. Completion of an undergraduate major or minor in biology, environmental science, or an equivalent course of study.
  3. Minimum GPA of 3.0 in all upper division biology courses.
  4. Acceptable proficiency in chemistry, mathematics, and physics as determined by the biology graduate admissions committee.
  5. Minimum GRE score of 800 ("old" format) or 292 ("new" format) for verbal plus quantitative sections.
  6. Minimum TOEFL score for International students is 525 (minimum computer-based score of 173).

Program Requirements  

Research Proposal - By the end of the first year of coursework (preferably by the end of the first semester), the thesis student will develop a five to six page research proposal. This proposal will include an introduction which briefly surveys the literature and concludes with a hypothesis or statement of the research problem; a methods section which outlines the basic methodology; an expected results section which indicates the expected outcomes of the proposed research; an incomplete list of literature references which support the research; and an appendix which itemizes the direct costs of the research.

Requirements for the Degree (Thesis)

  1. Satisfy University degree requirements.
  2. Complete an approved thesis.
  3. Complete a minimum of 30 semester hours of 600-level course work, including six hours credit for the thesis and one hour credit for graduate seminar.
  4. At least 24 of the 30 hours must be completed in biological science. The remaining hours may be selected from biology or related fields (if approved by the student's graduate committee).
  5. Take final written and oral examinations as determined by the student's graduate committee.

Requirements for the Degree (Non-Thesis)

  1. Satisfy University degree requirements.
  2. Complete a minimum of 30 semester hours of 600-level course work.
  3. Complete a minimum of 21 approved semester hours in biology (of the 30 required). The remaining hours may be selected from biology or related fields (with the approval of the student's graduate committee).
  4. Take final written examinations as determined by the student's graduate committee.

Written Exams

Each graduate student must pass three written examinations near the end of the graduate program. These comprehensive exams should be successfully completed during the last nine weeks of the final semester of the graduate program. Each student should seek advice from his/her major professor or the BES graduate coordinator as to the selection of these three exams. Students must request to take the exam from the individual professors who offered the respective courses during the student's graduate program. A passing grade on each exam is 80%. Students receiving grades below 80% are allowed to retake the exam after one week.

Thesis Research Projects

The Biology and Chemistry (B&C) graduate faculty strongly believes that research contributes significantly to graduate student growth. The process of taking on a problem, designing experiments, developing the research protocol, and evaluation of the data are vital to the development of an independent scientist. The major professor will discuss research possibilities with the student and they will mutually select a specific research problem that:

  • Demonstrates the student's ability to do independent, scholarly research, and write an acceptable thesis based on this research.
  • A copy of the official thesis guidelines may be obtained from the Office of Graduate Programs. However, there is some flexibility in writing style, and in some cases, the thesis can be customized for eventual journal publication. The major professor can aid in the refinement of the format.
  • Rough copies of the thesis draft will be edited by the major professor. Copies of the near final draft of the thesis should be made available to the student's graduate committee at least three (3) weeks prior to the expected date of graduation. Once the graduate committee's corrections have been made, the revised thesis draft must be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator in the Office of Graduate Programs at least two (2) weeks prior to the expected date of graduation for final editing. A minimum of four (4) copies of the final version of the thesis must be packaged in thesis boxes (purchased from the MSU Bookstore), and the fees receipt, are forwarded to the Office of Graduate Programs (one copy for the library must be on 100% rag bond or white 100% cotton paper, but copies for the student, B&C Departmental Office, and the major professor can be on white 100% bond or word processor paper) for binding. The student's graduate committee, B&C graduate program coordinator, and B&C department chair must sign these copies. Although four (4) copies are the minimum number to be bound, copies are traditionally presented to the other two members of the student's graduate committee.
  • There is a $15 fee for each thesis copy delivered to the Office of Graduate Programs for binding. The fees are paid at the cashier's window of the Howell-McDowell Building.


A formal seminar (BIOL 671) is given over the completed research project in the student's last semester before graduation. This will be a professional seminar presentation given to the B&C graduate faculty, fellow graduate students, and invited guests. The grade on this seminar will be submitted based on the average grade given by each graduate faculty member in attendance. The student is expected to provide a seminar announcement, that includes an abstract, in each B&C faculty member's mail box one week prior to the seminar.

Oral Examinations

Thesis students must successfully pass an oral examination prior to completion of the graduate program. The examination committee will consist of the student's graduate committee (voting contingency) plus any faculty member who wishes to attend. The student is expected to provide an oral examination announcement in each B&C faculty member's mail box three days prior to the oral exam.

Applying for Graduation

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Career Opportunities

Graduates with an Master of Science in Biology go on to pursue doctoral degrees and continue to do research in a variety of interesting fields, as well as sharing that knowledge in the classroom.
MSU's Career Services offers career planning, interview and resume preparation assistance, internship placement, and services to help you find a job after you graduate.