Guidelines for Graduate Study:  M.S. Biology

Department of Biological Sciences, Emporia State University (updated May 2018)


I. Non-Degree Status and M.S. Forensic Science

These guidelines do not apply to those students wishing to take graduate level courses but not intending to work toward a graduate degree. Such students enroll on a non-degree seeking basis. The Graduate School should be consulted for this information. The Dean of the Graduate School or the Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences serves as the student's advisor.

These guidelines do not apply to ESU’s M.S. Forensic Science. For information on the MSFS program, click here or contact Dr. Melissa Bailey, Director, MSFS Program; ESU Department of Biological Sciences;

II. General Requirements

A. Admission to Graduate Study, M.S. Biology

1. The prospective graduate student submits to the Graduate School an online application to graduate study (click here). Three Biological Sciences Reference Forms are required (found here).

2. The prospective graduate student submits the Department of Biological Sciences’ application form (found here).

3. The Graduate School prepares and posts to OnBase the applicant’s materials, including a copy of the Application for Admission to Graduate Study, reference forms, the department’s application form, and copies of all transcripts.

4. Applicants must have a baccalaureate degree with a major in a biological science, OR applicants with a baccalaureate degree but with a major in an area other than biology must have had an organismal biology course, microbial or cellular biology, and two semesters of chemistry, or their equivalents.

All applicants must have a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.0 and a grade point average of at least 3.0 over the last 60 hours of undergraduate work. Applicants who do not meet the minimum requirements may be admitted on probation or, if the deficiencies are considered to be sufficiently serious, they may be denied admission to the Biology Graduate Program. Further, after arrival of the student, the department reserves the right for the student's graduate advisory committee to impose additional undergraduate course requirements if it is deemed in the best interest of the student.

Applicants for the Master of Science – Thesis option must list three faculty members with whom the applicant might work. Because at least one of the faculty members must indicate a willingness to serve as the student’s major advisor, it is essential that the Thesis applicant contact one or more potential major advisors beforehand to inquire about potential thesis study opportunities. This does not preclude a change after arrival of the student, provided satisfactory alternate arrangements can be made. Applicants for the Master of Science – Non-thesis option do not have to list a major advisor during the application process; once admitted, an advisor will be assigned.

To be considered for Spring admission, Master of Science – Thesis option applications need to be completed by November 1st; for Summer/Fall admission, applications need to be completed by April 1st. Applications received after these deadlines may be considered, pending interest of a prospective major advisor.

There are no deadlines for Master of Science – Non-thesis option applications, and their review will be performed as they are received.

 All applicants are encouraged to complete the application process as early as possible to be considered for an assistantship.

5. The previous coursework in science and mathematics, the academic record, and the letters of reference are reviewed by the Biology Graduate Committee. If the undergraduate record and letters are satisfactory, and (for the Thesis option) the department has a supervisory faculty member available, the applicant is admitted. If the record is 1) unsatisfactory or incomplete, or 2) a supervisory faculty member is unavailable, the student may be 1) denied admittance or admitted on probation, or 2) may enter as an M.S. – Non–thesis option student or as a non-degree seeking student (see Section I.).

6. For students accepted into the graduate program, "conditional" status is used when the baccalaureate degree has not yet been received. The "condition" is removed when the baccalaureate degree is received.

7. The Graduate School notifies the applicant of the action of the department.

B. Program of Study

1. Master of Science Degree in Biology – Thesis option: For those students considering graduate work beyond the master's level, or employment as professional biologists, the Master of Science – Thesis option is strongly recommended. This program is designed to provide students with more sophisticated research experiences than the Master of Science – Non-thesis option. The Master of Science – Thesis option requires no fewer than 30 hours of graduate credit, including a minimum of five hours of thesis credit. There is no limitation on the number of thesis and investigation credit (research) hours for which a student may enroll, however only six hours of thesis credit and no more than 12 hours of combined thesis and research credit (see B.3) may apply toward a Master of Science – Thesis option.

 No more than one course (3 credit hours) outside of ESU’s departments of Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, or Mathematics can count toward any M.S. Biology degree; any exception must be approved by the academic advisor and Graduate Committee.

2. Master of Science Degree in Biology – Non-thesis option:  Students who prefer to place less emphasis upon research and more emphasis on biological coursework may fulfill degree requirements by completing 35 hours of graduate credit and a comprehensive oral examination. A maximum of 6 hours of graduate research can count toward the 35 hours. A program of study detailing the 35 hours of coursework must be prepared in consultation with the academic advisor and approved by the Graduate Coordinator. An exam committee consisting of three faculty members chosen by the student and approved by the advisor and Department Chair will administer the oral exam.

3. For purposes of definition, the following courses at the master's level are considered as research credit hours: GB, BO, EB, MC, or ZO 809 -- Graduate Project, 1-3 hours; GB 880 -- Research Problems in Biology, 1-3 hours; GB, BO, EB, MC, or ZO 885 -- Graduate Research, 2-3 hours; GB 890 -- Thesis, 1-5 hours.

4. A student on probation must obtain permission of the Department Graduate Committee to enroll in research credit hours. Grades in research hours taken while on probation may not be counted in satisfying any GPA requirements of the probation. Students accepted under probationary status must complete probationary requirements, as stated in the original admittance letter, by the end of the second semester of enrollment. Students placed on probation during the course of their tenure must complete probationary requirements within one semester. Failure to meet probation requirements by the appropriate deadline will result in removal of the student from the graduate program.

5. Graduate students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA for all courses on the graduate program and for all biology courses numbered 500 or above, whether they appear on the program of study or not. No grade lower than a B- in a 500-699 numbered course may be counted on the graduate program; Cs will count on 700-899 numbered courses. Failure to maintain a 3.0 average will result in the student being placed on probation or being removed from the graduate program.

C. Graduate Assistantships

1. Graduate assistantships for the academic year may be available for a limited number of qualified students. Assistantships are usually awarded in the spring for the following academic year. In addition, a limited number of summer school graduate assistantships may be available. A graduate assistant will be employed for no more than six semesters on university funds and no more than six semesters total. An assistant must enroll in no fewer than six graduate credit hours (500 and above) per semester, and no fewer than twelve graduate credit hours per academic year. A graduate assistant who enrolls in fewer than six hours, or whose course load drops below six hours during the semester, will relinquish any unused portion of the assistantship.

2. International students must pass the SPEAK test to be eligible for a teaching assistantship.

D. Graduate Scholarship (Smalley Scholarship)

A graduate student scholarship is available to students who are in at least their third semester of full-time graduate enrollment. All full-time biology graduate students enrolled for Fall will be notified of the competition and criteria. A letter of application must be made and returned to the Graduate Program Coordinator, to be due in mid-October. The evaluation will be done by the Biology Graduate Committee or by a group of Biology faculty members designated for that purpose.

E. Advisement

1. The student will meet with the advisor to plan the first enrollment.

2. The department requires that all graduate students take Research Design and Analysis (GB 750; 3 hrs) during the first Fall term of enrollment and Scientific Writing (GB 752; 2 hrs) during the first Spring term of enrollment. Exceptions to this schedule must be approved by the Biology Graduate Committee.

All students are required to pass the English proficiency exam (see F) as a prerequisite to enrollment in Scientific Writing (GB 752). All graduate students are required to enroll in two semesters of Graduate Seminar in Biology (GB 770A; 1 hr; in which the student presents a seminar) and two semesters of Graduate Seminar in Biology (GB 771; 1 hr; no presentation required; attendance and seminar review only). Semesters of GB 770A will be for graded credit; the semesters of GB 771 will  be for Pass/Fail. Note that these Pass/Fail hours are not be counted as part of the hours required for the degree. Students may be excused from seminar requirements only with the prior approval of the Biology Graduate Committee.

3. The advisor assists the student with the degree plan. At this time, it is important that the student assist the advisor in listing any transfer credit. It is the student's responsibility to request that official transcripts and information attesting to the graduate status of these courses be transmitted to the Graduate School. The student should consult the Graduate Handbook for additional information about transfer and extension credit. It is departmental policy that no more than nine credit hours taken on a non-degree basis may be used on the degree plan.

The original degree plan is signed by the advisor and by each member of the student's graduate committee (for M.S. – Thesis option) and submitted to the Graduate Coordinator. Upon approval, the original is sent to the Graduate Office, one copy is sent to the student and a second copy is sent to the major advisor. With graduate assistants, having a degree plan on file will be considered in the decision of mid-year contract continuation and second-year renewals (see G.1).

4. Both M.S. – Thesis and M.S. – Non-thesis options require that no less than 60% of the official graduate program be in courses numbered 700 or above. The remaining courses must be numbered 500 or above.

5. Graduate students in the M.S. – Thesis option request no fewer than two other faculty members to serve as members of the student’s graduate committee. One of those members must have an area of specialization (research area) other than the area in which the student has chosen to work. Graduate committees must be composed of at least 50% regular graduate faculty members of the ESU Department of Biological Sciences.

6. For any change in the degree plan, a substitution can be made on the original plan or a new degree plan can be developed; either must be signed by the student’s advisor/advisory committee, and submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator, who then forwards it to the Graduate School.

7. Graduate students may transfer between the M.S. – Non-thesis and M.S. – Thesis options only with the prior approval of the Graduate Committee. In such cases, a new advisor and committee will be selected and a substitute degree plan completed.

F. English Proficiency Examination

All biology graduate students are required to take an English Proficiency Examination administered by the Department of Biological Sciences early during their first semester of graduate study to determine the student's ability to communicate in writing in the English language. A student who does not pass the exam will meet with the Graduate Program Coordinator to discuss remedial action. The major advisor will be notified and will be asked to participate in the discussion. In extreme cases, following review by the Department of Biological Sciences, the graduate student may be asked to terminate degree work at the discretion of the Biology Graduate Committee. The examination is administered and evaluated by the Biology Graduate Committee. Students will be notified in writing prior to the time the examination will be given. All graduate students are required to pass the English Proficiency Exam as a prerequisite to enrollment in Scientific Writing (GB752) (see E.2).

G. Degree Plan and Research Proposal

1. All graduate students must complete their Degree Plan by the end of their first semester, and students enrolled in the M.S. – Thesis option must complete their Proposed Plan of Research by the end of their second semester. Failure to do so will result in a “hold” on the student’s next enrollment.

The approved Degree Plan and Proposed Plan of Research (with signed Thesis Committee Declaration Form) must be submitted by the student to the Graduate Program Coordinator. Students in their second semester of full-time graduate study who wish to be considered for a graduate assistantship should have their Proposed Plan of Research completed by the end of their second semester. For graduate assistants, completion of these plans is required for both mid-year and subsequent contract renewal (see E.3).

2. Students will be admitted to degree candidacy when the following conditions have been met: 1) no probation, 2) satisfactory completion of the English Proficiency Exam, 3) satisfactory academic record, and 4) approved Degree Plan. In addition, students enrolled in the M.S. – Thesis option must submit an approved Proposed Plan of Research before being admitted to degree candidacy.

3. If the student's record is unsatisfactory, he/she may be asked to terminate graduate study. In such an event, the student may appeal her/his case by letter to the Biology Graduate Committee. After consulting with the student's major advisor, the committee may request that additional work be completed, or the student may be required to discontinue graduate study.

H. Research

1. For students enrolled in the M.S. – Thesis option, a Proposed Plan of Research should be submitted to the major advisor subsequent to the selection of an area of research. This plan must be approved by the advisor and the members of the student's graduate committee. At least one meeting of the committee must be held to discuss the research plan. It is not satisfactory for the student to get signatures of approval without such a meeting.

2. The major advisor will work closely with students enrolled in the M.S. – Thesis option throughout all phases of the research, guiding and evaluating progress periodically. However, the research is the responsibility of the student.

3. When the research required for students enrolled in the M.S. – Thesis option is completed and the student believes the thesis is in a reasonably polished form, this first draft should be submitted to the major advisor for evaluation and critiquing. It may be necessary to rewrite the material several times before it is suitable for review and evaluation by the other members of the student's graduate committee. For thesis requirements and deadlines, see the Graduate School thesis guide (found here). If the advisor should be away from the campus during the final stages of a thesis or research problem, it is the student's responsibility to make satisfactory arrangements for completing the thesis.

I. Final Requirements

1. Each graduate student enrolled in the M.S. – Thesis option must give a public defense of her/his work. This is followed by a private defense before the student's committee. If approved, the final exam form is signed and forwarded to the Graduate Program Coordinator who forwards it to the Graduate School. If a student does not pass the final examination, the student may defend again no sooner than 4 months, and no later than 10 months after the date of the original defense. Failure to pass the final examination a second time, or allowing the 10-month period to lapse, will result in removal of the student from the graduate program.

2. Each graduate student enrolled in the M.S. – Non-thesis option must be examined by an exam committee of at least 3 faculty members appointed by the Chair of the Department of Biological Sciences in consultation with the advisor. If the student fails the exam on the first attempt, a second attempt must be made the following semester (including summer semesters). Failing the comprehensive oral examination a second time will result in dismissal from the program.

J. Residence Requirement

A student pursuing a master’s degree must, at some time, satisfactorily complete one semester, or one summer enrollment term of at least five consecutive weeks duration, as a regularly-enrolled, full-time graduate student. A graduate student enrolled in nine or more semester hours in a given semester during the academic year is classified as a full-time student.

K. Time Limit

Biology graduate students have a seven-year time limit to complete their degree from the date of first enrollment. Students not completing the degree within the seven-year time limit may petition the Biology Graduate Committee for a one-year extension. Courses on the Degree Plan must be revalidated for the ninth and tenth years, following successful petition to the University Graduate Council. No course work beyond the ten-year time limit will be valid. Coursework beyond the ten-year time limit must be retaken or removed from the Degree Plan. If a student's graduate committee decides that the student is not making satisfactory progress toward completion of the degree requirements, it is the prerogative of the committee to set a deadline for completion of the degree requirements at some date earlier than the end of the seven-year period.

L. Appeals

All decisions and actions of the Graduate Committee, excepting those related to admissions and Graduate School guidelines, may be appealed. To begin the appeal process, students must submit to the Graduate Committee a written appeal that is co-signed by the student’s advisor. It might be necessary for the student and/or the student’s advisor to meet with the committee as part of the appeal process. Unless extenuating circumstances can be demonstrated, it is not likely that an appeal will be successful.

III. General Requirements

Graduate students using the resources of the university, e.g. libraries, laboratories, etc., must be enrolled continuously in one or more courses for credit.

A graduate student must complete at least one credit hour during the term in which the degree is conferred.

Graduate students also are bound to university policies described in the Graduate Handbook but not necessarily found in these guidelines.

These guidelines apply to all students who begin their graduate work after 4 May 2018.