Perhaps the most important task that one will undertake is to decide on a faculty mentor. While most of you have already decided on a mentor prior to coming to UNF, it bears mentioning that this is not always set in stone. A Master’s program is a great way of discovering what things you like, and what things you don’t like. Take a lot of time to explore various science trajectories until you discover your own niche of interest. One of the best aspects of a Master’s degree is that there is still plenty of opportunity to explore additional venues. Thus, look around the department, talk to your graduate student colleagues and try to get a feel for everyone.
The Department hosts the Biology Seminar Series in the fall and spring semesters with invited guest speakers spanning the diversity of Biological Sciences. This is an excellent opportunity for graduate students to see a range of talk topics and interact with the scientists themselves. Thus, attendance at these seminars is mandatory for GTAs and is expected of all graduate students.
The faculty will at times have scheduled lunches or visits with the seminar speakers, during which time graduate student attendance is strongly encouraged. This is not an arbitrary task, but undertaken to allow the students a one-on-one opportunity to interact with other researchers. Plus, guest speakers typically enjoy talking to graduate students a lot more than they enjoy talking to the faculty.
One of the most important activities for a practicing scientist is in the dissemination of data, and graduate school is an excellent place to begin such endeavors. Therefore, all graduate students will give some sort of seminar at least once per year. This may be a full or half seminar (25 minutes or 50 minutes) for students defending their theses, a talk for an upcoming conference (typically 15 minutes) or a brief communication (10 minutes, for example when a student is formulating their proposal and eliciting feedback from the department as a whole). The seminar coordinator will set aside some dates for graduate students, stacking them in the case of multiple talks or singularly based on need.
Being valuable members of the department, graduate students should nominate one of their brethren to attend departmental meetings, typically held the first Friday of each month.
Also, as the department continues to grow we will continue to recruit and interview new faculty members. An important thing that perspective candidates need is an unbiased view of what is actually going on in the department. Thus, events such as graduate student lunches are of paramount importance, and therefore participation is mandatory. In addition, we faculty are eager to hear the impressions and assessments of putative future colleagues that graduate students provide.
The department will also periodically sponsor seminars or colloquia throughout the semester which will also require GTA attendance.
All graduate students are required to complete an on-line Hazardous Waste Training course, available via BlackBoard. You will only have to complete this course once.
One of the most important aspects in the educational experience of graduate students is the feedback from Faculty. Further, it is incumbent on departments to continually assess and strengthen their faculty and staff. As such, we take issues related to assessment very seriously.
Graduate students are integral members of any department, and in ours specifically since these students help us in the classroom, laboratories and myriad departmental activates. Just as their roles are numerous, so to are the expectations for their progress and advancement in their graduate careers.
The department recognizes the roles and importance of graduate students, and thus has implemented the following guidelines to assess several components of graduate education in Biology:
To become a functional biologist, a vast array of biological knowledge needs to
be obtained. Many of our MS students go on to Ph.D. programs, and even those
who do not often remain in the research fields.
In order to assess graduate student scholastic
knowledge, the department conducts two separate exams prior to graduation. The
first of these is a written Qualifying Exam.
This exam is multiple choice with questions from the following six subject
areas: Evolution, Molecular and Cell
Biology, Genetics, Physiology, Ecology and Biodiversity. Students are required to take this exam in
their third semester and pass with at least a 70%. Students that do not pass the exam will be
given a second attempt that same semester.
Anyone that fails to pass the exam after two attempts will be dismissed
from the program. Upon passing the
Qualifying Exam, students will then be given an oral exam that is developed and
administered by the graduate student’s committee, and while the format is
variable and up to the individual committee, it typically includes questions
This test is typically administered during the second year, and often lasts
2-3 hours. If students are found to have an unsatisfactory grasp of the salient
knowledge sets, as determined by the committee, several remedies are available:
students may be required to take additional courses in areas of deficient
knowledge (e.g., Biochemistry, Advanced Evolution, etc.), teach a General
Biology I Lab, write review paper(s), etc. Students who show a serious
deficiency may be asked to leave the department.
Further, the graduate coordinator evaluates all graduate
student transcripts at the end of the semester to ensure satisfactory
scholarship. Students who do not meet the minimum standards (letter grade of B)
are placed on academic probation; a second below satisfactory grade may lead to
dismissal from the department.
Part of the educational process for graduate students is
becoming good instructors themselves. However, this can be a very daunting task
for incoming graduate students. Thus, the department has instituted a Graduate
Teaching Assistant seminar; this forum, held before the start of the semester,
assists incoming and established GTAs in developing an effective teaching style
and eases the anxiety of first-time instructors.
During the semester, the course Lead Lecture Professor will
conduct an in-class evaluation of all GTAs during their class periods (forms
follow). At the end of the semester they will submit this letter, with any
additional comments, to the graduate coordinator. This letter, together with
the student evaluations, which all GTAs will administer, will provide an
excellent tool for identifying the strengths and weakness of the GTAs.
All M.S. students are required to
submit and defend a thesis proposal to their committee. To remain in good standing this should happen
by the end of the third semester. This
proposal will be judged by your committee according to a rubric. Essentially, the proposal must be written
well with a clearly defined set of questions and hypotheses and a well-designed
experimental method. Students must
defend their proposal a minimum of two semesters before they can defend their
All M.S. students are required to
submit and defend a thesis to their committee as the last step to
graduation. This document will be judged
by your committee according to a rubric.
All M.S. students are required to
give an oral defense of their thesis to an audience of faculty and peers prior
to their private defense of their thesis with their committee. This presentation will be judged by all
graduate faculty in attendance according to a rubric.
The department has a fax machine available for school related endeavors (904) 620-3885.
The departmental office has mailboxes for everyone, and a photocopier for class use. Items that directly relate to class needs (e.g., quizzes, tests, etc.) or research (articles for advisors, manuscript or grant submissions, etc.) are provided gratis.
Non-departmental correspondence may also be mailed, but must be accompanied by the necessary postage.
The address format for receiving mail is:
Your NameDepartment of BiologyUniversity of North Florida1 UNF DriveJacksonville, FL 32224
Graduate Program Director
Director of Coastal Biology
Pre-Med Program Advisor
Biomedical Program Director