Biology Graduate Program Student Handbook

2. Degree Requirements

2.1 Graduate Programs in Biology


         -Master of Arts in Biology

         -Master of Science in Biology

 

Many of you are probably wondering what the difference between an M.A. and M.S. degree is. Indeed, that’s a great question!

 

In very broad terms, M.S. degrees are more tailored to those who will be continuing on to a Ph.D. program or to a potential employer who requires the publication of a thesis as prerequisite. M.A. degrees have historically been more geared to those who are already employed in an applied science field (e.g., practicing biologists at parks, herbaria, museums, educators, consultants, etc.), are seeking more advanced knowledge, or will not go on to be scientists actively engaged in primary research (e.g., Principle Investigators). Does this mean M.S. students are of superior quality? Absolutely not; excellent students can pursue either degree option. After all, the most famous biologists of all time, Charles Darwin, obtained an M.A. degree. Does this mean you cannot pursue a Ph.D. with an M.A.? No; if you decide to pursue a Doctoral degree subsequent to completing a M.A., you can do so; however, some Ph.D. programs may require an M.S. degree exclusively.

  

If you begin the program as an M.S. candidate, you may discover that research and thesis work is not your desire, and thus may be interested in switching programs. This would involve a discussion with both your committee and graduate chair, but basically entails taking additional courses. If you begin as an M.A. student, the transition will necessitate the same discussion, with the added necessity of finding a major professor to help you define and pursue a research question. M.A. students take more courses since they are not writing a thesis, but the same high standards of academic excellence are applied to each program (please see section on maintaining “good standing” for further explanation).

  

Just remember, a Master’s Program is a great place to explore the biological world. You may discover that you love ecology, are enthralled by molecular genetics, have a passion for physiology or just hate biology altogether. You shouldn’t travel down a path merely because it’s the one you started on; you may not yet know what you find fulfilling, so if you become uninspired with a course of action, explore another. After all, this is your opportunity to embark on what will hopefully be a major part of the rest of your existence (not to sound too grandiose).



2.2 Master of Arts in Biology Program Description


 

 

The Master of Arts in Biology program is designed primarily to provide K-12 science teachers or people already employed in local environmental agencies with advanced course work in biology.  Oftentimes people require advanced degrees in biology to get promoted in their career or may want to increase their knowledge and understanding of biological principles but do not require or desire research experience.  The Master of Arts program would be perfect for people in the aforementioned situation since it requires advanced coursework in biology but there is no requirement of completing a thesis.

 

Degree Requirements 

  • Core requirements: 36 credits of graduate Biology coursework.
  • PCB 5675 Advanced Evolution (all students)

MA Degree Evaluation

Major: Biology

Degree: Master of Arts

  

  Core Requirements (36 hrs)

  • Students must have a cumulative graduate GPA > 3.0 to qualify to graduate.
  • Students must apply to graduate by the published deadline during their final semester.

SELECT 36 HRS FROM THE LIST BELOW:

  • BCH 6876C Membrane Biology
  • BOT 5186C Advanced Marine Botany
  • BSC 5075C Advanced Physiology
  • BSC 5487C Advanced Biology of Marine Mammals
  • BSC 5905 Directed Independent Study: Biology
  • BSC 5936 Special Topics: Biology
  • BSC 5872 Advanced Biological Pharmacology
  • BSC 5930 Biology Seminar
  • BSC 6931 Advanced Readings in Biology
  • MCB 5024C Advanced Molecular Biology Techniques
  • MCB 6175C Integrative Microscopy
  • PCB 5235 Cellular Immunology
  • PCB 6314C Marine Ecology
  • PCB 5525 Molecular Genetics
  • PCB 5675 Advanced Evolution
  • PCB 5845 Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience
  • PCB 6480 Quantitative Ecology
  • PCB 6236 Advanced Cancer Biology
  • PCB 6335C Estuarine Ecology
  • PCB 6446 Ecology of Wetlands
  • PCB 6447 Community Ecology
  • PCB 6685 Population Genetics
  • PCB 6307C Freshwater Ecology
  • ZOO 5235C Advanced Parasitology
  • ZOO 5455C Advanced Ichthyology
  • ZOO 5463C Advanced Herpetology
  • ZOO 5717C Canine Anatomy
  • ZOO 5754C Advanced Histology
  • ZOO 5209C Advanced Coastal Invertebrate Biology

Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list of potential courses.  The department is continuously adding new courses and our field changes.  In addition, 5000 and 6000 level courses in other departments (e.g., offered through Engineering) may be acceptable pending the approval by the Program Director. 

MA Student Sample Timeline

Year 1
1st Semester 2nd Semester
- 9 hrs from core requirements

- 9 hrs from core requirements

 

Semester Total: 9 credit hours

Semester Total: 9 credit hours

 

 

Year 2
3rd Semester 4th Semester

- 9 hrs from core requirements

 

- 9 hrs from core requirements

Semester Total: 9 credit hours  

Semester Total: 9 credit hours  

 



2.3 Master of Science in Biology Program Description


The Master of Science in Biology program is a thesis-based degree centered on original student research.  The biological sciences are progressing rapidly; and by interacting with research in the classroom, field and laboratory, graduate students will better understand the principal values of science and the ethical requirements of scientific pursuits.

 

Students in the MS program can choose from three tracks depending on their interest:  1) Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 2) Molecular and Microbiology, 3) Coastal Biology.  Some students may find that their interests overlap two, or even all three of these tracks and that is fine since all courses are open to all students in the program.  So each student can personalize their program to their specific interests. 

Degree Requirements 

  • Core requirements: 30 credits of graduate Biology coursework
  • Comprehensive written exam
  • Qualifying oral exam
  • Successfully submit and defend a thesis
  • PCB 5675 Advanced Evolution (all students)
  • BSC 6XXX Critical Skills in Science (all students)
  • PCB 6480 Quantitative Ecology (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology track)
  • BSC 6971 Graduate Thesis Defense (all students)

Degree Evaluation  

Major: Biology

Degree: Master of Science


Core Requirements (30 credits) 

  • Students must have a cumulative graduate GPA > 3.0 to qualify to graduate.
  • Students must apply to graduate by the published deadline during their final semester.

SELECT 30 HRS FROM THE LIST BELOW

(A minimum of 18 credit hours of graded coursework (i.e.: Biology Seminar, Thesis Research, Critical Skills in Science and Thesis Defense credits do not count toward the 18 hour total) is necessary in order to graduate):

 

  • BOT 5186C Advanced Marine Botany
  • BCH 6876C Membrane Biology
  • BSC 5099C Advanced Physiology
  • BSC 5487C Advanced Biology of Marine Mammals
  • BSC 5905 Directed Independent Study: Biology
  • BSC 5936 ST: Biology
  • BSC 5872 Advanced Biological Pharmacology
  • BSC 5930 Biology Seminar
  • BSC 6098C Environmental Physiology
  • BSC 6931 Advanced Readings in Biology
  • BSC 6971 Graduate Thesis Defense
  • BSC 6972 Graduate Thesis Research
  • MCB 5024C Advanced Molecular Biology Techniques
  • MCB 6175C Integrative Microscopy
  • PCB 5235 Cellular Immunology
  • PCB 6314C Marine Ecology
  • PCB 5525 Molecular Genetics
  • PCB 5675 Advanced Evolution
  • PCB 5845 Cellular & Molecular Neuroscience
  • PCB 6236 Advanced Cancer Biology
  • PCB 6335C Estuarine Ecology
  • PCB 6446 Ecology of Wetlands
  • PCB 6447 Community Ecology
  • PCB 6685 Population Genetics
  • PCB 6480 Quantitative Ecology
  • PCB 6307C Freshwater Ecology
  • ZOO 5235C Advanced Parasitology
  • ZOO 5455C Advanced Ichthyology
  • ZOO 5463C Advanced Herpetology
  • ZOO 5717C Canine Anatomy
  • ZOO 5754C Advanced Histology
  • ZOO 5209C Advanced Coastal Invertebrate Biology

Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list of potential courses.  The department is continuously adding new courses and our field changes.  In addition, 5000 and 6000 level courses in other departments (e.g., offered through Engineering) may be acceptable pending the approval by the Program Director.  

Comprehensive Written Exam

All graduate students must pass a comprehensive written exam prior to taking their oral exam (see below).  This exam will test the student’s knowledge of topics covered in the general biology curriculum at UNF (PCB 1010C, 1011C and 2012C).  If a student does not pass this exam within two attempts, they will be dismissed from the program.

Qualifying Oral Exam 

Biology is one of the largest, most expansive sciences, and to be functioning biologists it is incumbent on us all to understand the basics of our field. Thus, all M.S. students must pass an oral Qualifying Exam prior to graduation. The format of this exam is up to the individual committees, but will typically include questions from three main sources:

  1. general biology (e.g., from TA assignments),
  2. general field knowledge (depending on the track) and
  3. knowledge related to individual theses. Exams typically last at least 1.5 hours.

These exams are typically undertaken after formal class work is completed, often in the second year. In the event that the exam is not passed, the committee has wide ranging discretionary powers on how to proceed. The committee may suggest that the student take additional courses, prepare lectures on areas which were not well done, teach a lab section (for those not on GTA lines), retake the exam at a later time, etc. However, if a second exam or additional requirement is not passed successfully, the student may be dismissed from the program.

Thesis Requirements 

Research Proposal Defense  

Prior to actually embarking on their research projects, all students are required to pass a proposal defense. The exact format is left up to the individual committee members, but typically includes a 15 minute presentation followed by a question and answer period in order to clearly refine and articulate the research goals. This presentation is also an excellent candidate for the required yearly talk by all graduate students. This is required to be undertaken by the end of the third semester at UNF and must happen at least two semesters prior to the thesis defense.

 

Thesis Defense

All graduate students are required to present a public defense of their theses prior to graduation. The student must provide a copy of their works to their committee at least 2 weeks prior to the defense. In addition, they must provide a time to the Graduate Chair and Departmental Chair. After the presentation, the committee will meet with the candidate for a closed meeting in which they will discuss and either approve or deny conference of the M.S. degree.

MS Student Sample Timeline

Year 1
1st Semester (Fall) 2nd Semester (Spring) 3rd Semester (Summer)

- 8hrs from core requirements

 

- BSC 5930 Biology Seminar 1hr  

- PCB 5675 Advanced Evolution 3hrs

 

- BSC 6XXX Critical Skills in Science 2hrs

 
- BSC 5930 Biology Seminar 1hr

 

Ecology Track:
- PCB 6480 Quantitative Ecology 3hrs

 

Molecular Biology Track:

- MCB 5024C Advanced Molecular Biology Techniques 4hrs

 

- BSC 6972 Thesis Research 4hrs  

Semester Total: 9 credit hours  

Semester Total: 8-9 credit hours  

Semester Total: 4 credit hours  

 

Year 2
4th Semester (Fall) 5th Semester (Spring)

- 4 hrs from core requirements

 

- BSC 6972 Thesis Research 3 hrs


- BSC 5930 Biology Seminar 1hr

- BSC 6972 Thesis Research 3 hrs

  

 - BSC 6971 Thesis Defense 1hr

 

 

Semester Total: 8 credit hours  

Semester Total:  4 credit hours  

 



2.4 Course Listings/Descriptions


Click here for the current graduate catalog's course listings and descriptions

 

As noted above, this is by no means an exhaustive list of potential courses.  The department is continuously adding new courses and our field changes.  In addition, 5000 and 6000 level courses in other departments (e.g., offered through Engineering) may be acceptable pending the approval by the Program Director.