Biological Sciences

Other Information

Graduate Catalog: Biology

  • Admission requirements
  • Program details
  • Course descriptions

Application Deadlines

Department: Biology

Graduate Director:
Dr. Brian Olson

I really love all the support you get here at SCSU including the incredible support and direction from my professors who are always willing to loan out their knowledge.
-   Joseph Carlyon

Program Overview

The graduate program in biology offers two tracks:

  • Master of Science (Plan A, thesis option) with options in Ecology and Natural Resources or Cell and Molecular Biology. 30 credits.
  • Master of Arts (Plan B, non-thesis option) with options in Ecology and Natural Resources or Cell and Molecular Biology. 36 credits.

Programs within the Department of Biological Sciences are designed to provide a stepping stone into teaching and research positions, medical product sales, professional careers as medical doctors, and natural resource scientists and managers. The objectives of the program are to provide the student with in-depth knowledge in a chosen area of biology, while also gaining a breadth of knowledge in related disciplines. Practical experiences and communication are also emphasized. 

For the Masters of Science (MS) program consists both of taking master's level courses and participating in an individualized research project in the lab of a faculty member willing to sponsor you.  To graduate, students in the M.S. program write a thesis (typically 30-100 pages) about their research findings and present their research in an oral presentation to the department followed by a short oral exam pertaining to their project by their committee.

The Master of Arts provides a non-thesis option in which students do not work on a research project and do not write and defend a thesis of their research project but simply take courses to further their understanding and complete a comprehensive written exam at the end of coursework.   The M.A. option requires 36 total credits to graduate as opposed to the 30 required for an M.S. 

Admission Information

  • Admission into the graduate program is competitive.
  • All prospective students should contact a faculty member within the department to discuss research interests and graduate student opportunities prior to submitting an application. Only after you have made contact with a member of the faculty do we recommend sending your formal graduate application to the university.  Applications received from prospective students who have not made contact with a member of the faculty are rarely successful.  In your application, it is helpful to indicate the faculty member who has agreed to sponsor you.  This step is strongly suggested to increase the probability of admission into the program and to ensure that faculty expertise matches that of prospective students. 
  • To be accepted into the M.S. program, you must not only meet our department minimum requirements of 150 or higher on the Verbal and 150 or higher on the Quantitative sections of the GRE but also find a department faculty member willing to sponsor you on a research project. 
  • Typically, most of our faculty can only accommodate a few students in their labs so it is important to find a lab that is willing to sponsor you before applying.  Therefore, it is highly recommended that you contact one or more members of the graduate faculty whose research interests you and ask to see if one is willing to sponsor you.  
  • A list of Biology faculty contacts and links to further information regarding their research interests can be found at:
  • When contacting a faculty member, it is recommended that you provide the faculty information about your academic background and career interests.  At the minimum, this information should include your undergraduate GPA, GRE scores, relevant work experience, and career goals. 

Faculty Specializations

Faculty tend to be associated principally with one emphasis (Ecology and Natural Resources or Cell and Molecular Biology), but it may sometimes be appropriate for a faculty member to advise a student in either emphasis.  Graduate students will develop an individualized program of study with their faculty advisor the first semester enrolled in the program, where permission can be granted to include carefully selected courses within and outside of the principal emphasis.

Length of Program — Measured by Semesters

  • The program has been designed to accommodate both part-time and full-time students.
  • Full-time Student: four semesters taking nine to twelve credits per semester.
  • Part-time Student: five to six semesters taking six credits per semester.
  • Completion of the graduate programs in Ecology and Natural Resources or in Cell and Molecular Biology requires attendance in daytime courses; some required courses may be offered in the evening or summer term. 

Graduate Assistantship Overview

    • One opportunity to fund your education at our institution is a Teaching Assistantship (TA). 
      • Seven graduate teaching assistantships are generally sponsored each year, and are available both fall and spring semesters.   A few assistantships are also available during the summer.
      • As a teaching assistant, students are responsible for teaching two to three, 120 minute-long lab sections per semester of undergraduate biology laboratories (not lectures). 
      • One of the criteria for selecting students to TA is teaching experience.  The other criteria are GRE score and GPA. 
      • TA applications are accepted once per year, generally due around the beginning of April.  Applicants must already be accepted into the graduate program to apply for a TA.
      • Students enrolled in the M.A. program are eligible to apply for Teaching Assistantships, however, applicants enrolled in the M.S. program will be considered first.
  • Grant funding for faculty sometimes makes graduate research assistantships available.  Contact potential advisors to inquire about availability.