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Master of Science (M.S.) in Biology

A program of study leading to the Master of Science (M.S.) degree is designed to enable students to develop an advanced understanding of the biological sciences and the capability to teach or conduct biological research. Programs are flexible and can be tailored to satisfy the professional and personal needs of each student.


Admission Requirements

The student must apply to, and meet all criteria for, admission to the Graduate School. In addition to the general requirements of the Graduate School, the student must comply with the following department requirements. Acceptance to an M.S. program is contingent upon a biology faculty member agreeing to serve as the applicant’s advisor. Students interested in pursuing an advanced degree in the biological sciences at Idaho State University are encouraged to contact the faculty member(s) with whom they wish to study, prior to making formal application to the department. Applicants must have at least a 3.0 GPA for all upper-division credits taken in the previous degree program. Scores on the verbal, quantitative, and analytical portions of the GRE must be submitted.

Certain courses are prerequisite for admission to the M.S. degree program, and any student who has not met these requirements through previous course work may be required to take them as part of their M.S. program. These courses are:

  1. One semester of calculus
  2. One year of inorganic chemistry
  3. One semester of organic chemistry
  4. One semester of physics
  5. Six additional credits in physics, chemistry, or mathematics that differ from those courses listed in 1-4 above.

Note: Because these are undergraduate courses, these credits do not count toward the 30-credit hour requirement for the M.S. degree.


General Requirements

A substantial, original research project is required that culminates in a written thesis and oral presentation of the findings at a Biological Sciences department seminar. A minimum of 30 credits (including research and thesis) are required in graduate courses and seminars that provide mastery in core conceptual areas in the biological sciences.

The core areas for the M.S. in Biology are:

  1. genetics and evolution
  2. animal or plant physiology
  3. cell biology, biochemistry, or molecular biology, and
  4. ecology or morphology

Students may gain expertise in the core areas through a variety of mechanisms, including graduate courses, seminars, special projects, or readings. Although there are no specific credit hour requirements for the core areas, it is expected that the total effort expended in each area would be at least equivalent to that required in a rigorous course in that subject area, and that any credits earned as part of the graduate program will be at the graduate level (i.e., at the 5500-level or above), and 15 credits earned must be at the 6600-level. Only credit hours earned at the 5500 and 6600 level will count toward the 30-credit requirement for the M.S. degree.

The ability to utilize a research tool is required, which can be satisfied by taking classes in biometry, electron microscopy, or a related field outside the biological sciences, such as geology, engineering, economics, or computer science. Graduate credits that satisfy the tool requirement count toward the 30-credit requirement for the degree.


Course Requirements for the M.S. degree in biology*

Course number

Course title


BIOL 6690

Careers in Life Sciences (fall semester of the first year)


BIOL 6605

Biometry (spring semester)


BIOL 6691

Seminar (second semester)


BIOL 6648

Graduate Problems


BIOL 6650



BIOL 6692



Other course work      To be determined by committee approval


* A student may take an unlimited number of credits of BIOL 6650 and BIOL 6648, although a maximum of only 6 credits of BIOL 6650 and 4 credits of BIOL 6648 will be counted toward the required 30 credit hours for the degree.



Advisory Committee

The Advisory Committee consists of a minimum of three faculty members who are members of the Idaho State University graduate faculty. The student, in consultation with the major advisor, selects at least one additional faculty member from the Department of Biological Sciences. An additional faculty member from outside the Department of Biological Sciences, designated as the Graduate Faculty Representative (GFR), also must serve on the committee. The GFR is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School, who is open to recommendations from the major advisor. The GFR need only participate in the thesis defense but may be involved throughout the student’s program. The initial committee meeting should be held during the first semester of the student’s graduate program.


Written Proposal, Proposal Seminar, and Proposal Defense

M.S. students are required to present a seminar on their proposed thesis research in the first year of their program. The purpose of this proposal seminar is to have each student develop and present formal statements of the objectives (hypotheses), design, and importance of their proposed research. Students must submit an abstract to the seminar organizer at least one week prior to their presentation. Students also must write a research proposal and have the proposal approved by the Advisory Committee by the end of the semester in which they present. This proposal will:

  1. be at least 5 pages in length, with citations appended,
  2. address comments that resulted from the seminar presentation, and
  3. be retained in the student’s departmental file.


Thesis, Thesis Seminar, and Thesis Defense

Each M.S. applicant must submit a thesis embodying the results of original and creative research. The thesis must demonstrate the student’s ability in scientific investigation. The thesis must include a comprehensive review of literature on the topic, and it must demonstrate an organized, coherent development of ideas, with a clear exposition of results and creative discussion of the conclusions. The form and style of the thesis should comply with the format prescribed by the national- or international-level journal in which the student intends to publish the material and must meet the requirements of “Instructions for Preparing Theses, Dissertations, D.A. Papers, and Professional Projects,” which is available from the Graduate School. Within the framework of these constraints, however, the format of the thesis can vary in the number and arrangement of chapters.

Following completion of the written thesis, the student will present the research findings in a seminar. The thesis presentation will be followed by an oral defense conducted by the Advisory Committee. The student is responsible for scheduling the defense with the Graduate School and advertising the thesis seminar, with notices posted in the Life Sciences Building and in the Department newsletter or email, at least one week in advance of the seminar date. After the thesis has been approved for format and content by the major professor, and not later than two weeks before the date of the final examination, the student must deliver a copy of the thesis to each member of the Advisory Committee.

Please refer to the manual, Instructions for Preparing Theses, Dissertations, Doctor of Arts Papers, and Professional Projects, for thesis clearance instructions.