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Graduate programs

Master of Science, Biology

Alexander Wait, Graduate Director
Biology office: Temple Hall, Room 248; Phone 417-836-5802

Program description

The Department of Biology offers a Master of Science in Biology, participates in the Master of Natural and Applied Science (MNAS) and the Master of Science in Plant Science, and in conjunction with the College of Education, the Master of Science in Education with emphases in biology and natural science. Together with an advisor, students design an individual program of study, selecting courses that provide additional background in biology as well as developing an area of concentration.

Areas of research include animal behavior, aquatic biology, cellular biology, ecology, ecotoxicology, evolution, field biology, immunology, microbiology, physiology, systematics, and wildlife conservation. During the first semester, the student declares an area of specialization and begins to pursue a research problem (thesis) with the close supervision of a graduate faculty thesis committee.

Most course work is usually completed by the end of the second or third semester, and the thesis option is completed after four or five semesters (or a student petitions for the non-thesis option; see below). A comprehensive examination is taken during the second year. A maximum of 9 hours of approved graduate courses taken in related subjects outside the Biology department may be counted.

This graduate program has been designed to provide opportunities for continued study and mastery of new skills for those who desire to maintain or increase their competence in biology and its allied environmental and health‑related fields. Some students completing the program have continued their education in doctoral programs, while others have accepted positions as ecologists, conservationists, industrial laboratory supervisors, research assistants, or teachers in secondary schools or colleges.

Graduate assistantships

Evaluation of applications for teaching assistantships begins on February 15 (fall assistantships) and October 1 (spring assistantships), and will continue until positions are filled. Applicants must first be accepted into the program, and files must be complete to be considered. Therefore, applicants should apply by January 15/Sept 15 to ensure being considered for a TA position. Applications for research assistantships should be sent directly to individual faculty advisors, and not the Graduate Director.

Retention requirements

To remain in the program, a student must maintain a GPA of 3.00 and make satisfactory progress on the research project.

Admission requirements for the Accelerated Master's option

  1. Junior standing, a GPA in biology of 3.25 or better and an overall GPA of 3.25 or better.
  2. Completion of BIO 121, BIO 122, BIO 235, BIO 369, BIO 310 or BIO 320 or BIO 361; CHM 201 and CHM 202 or CHM 342; MTH 138 or MTH 135 and MTH 181 with an overall GPA of 3.25 or better.
  3. Undergraduate laboratory or field research experience in residence in the Department of Biology with a supportive recommendation from the student’s undergraduate research advisor. [Note: undergraduate research experience at another university conducted in collaboration with Missouri State University Biology faculty may be considered.]
  4. GRE scores commensurate with the advanced standing of this option.
  5. Acceptance of applicant by a graduate faculty member who agrees to serve as the student’s graduate research advisor.
  6. Acceptance of the applicant by the graduate faculty in Biology under the accelerated masters option.

Accelerated Master's Degree option

Eligible Missouri State University majors in biology may apply for preliminary acceptance into the Master of Science program in Biology after admission requirements for the accelerated masters option have been satisfied. {Note: biology majors at other universities approved for participation in this program may apply if they meet the requirements below.} If accepted, graduate courses chosen from approved 600 or 700-level courses may be counted toward both the graduate and undergraduate degrees, with a maximum of 12 credit hours counted. This option offers an opportunity for biology majors with undergraduate laboratory research experience to complete the course requirements for the Master of Science degree in Biology in two semesters and a summer after attaining the Bachelor’s degree, rather than the typical four semesters and a summer. Contact the Department of Biology for further information and guidelines.

Before enrolling in a course to be counted as both undergraduate and graduate credit and to count the courses toward the masters degree, an undergraduate student must be accepted into the accelerated program and complete a mixed credit form. Acceptance into the program and all approvals must be completed prior to the end of the Change of Schedule Period for the course(s). See the “Graduate College” section for further information.

Entrance requirements

  1. The student must have a minimum of 24 undergraduate hours (or equivalent) in biology. In the case of a student whose preparation for formal graduate study is judged to be inadequate (including cognate areas such as chemistry, physics, or mathematics), a program of prerequisite course work may be outlined for the purpose of properly supplementing his/her preparation. Such courses will not be credited as course requirements for the degree.
  2. Candidates for admission to programs in biology are required to have a GPA of at least 2.75 (on a 4.00 scale) for the last 60 semester hours of undergraduate work and a 3.00 average in biology. A GPA of at least 3.00 is required to be considered for a graduate assistantship.
  3. Scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), General Test must be submitted.
  4. A statement of interest and three letters of reference are required for admission to the degree program.

Degree requirements (32 hours total)

  1. Program of Study. The program for each candidate will be structured by the candidate's committee in consultation with the student, and must include at least 32 semester hours of graduate credit. Evaluation of previous training and academic objectives will be important factors in establishing this program.
  2. Biology Requirement (minimum 23 semester hours). A minimum of 16 hours of biology from courses numbered 700-799 inclusive.
  3. Electives (maximum 9 semester hours). Approved graduate courses may be selected from related fields to a maximum of 9 hours. Any deviation from this maximum will require approval by department head.
  4. Research. For both options, the student is required to give an oral presentation of his/her work to the Department.
    1. Thesis Option: Completion of a satisfactory thesis in the candidate's discipline (maximum of 6 hours of BIO 798 and 6 hours of BIO 799).
    2. Non-thesis Option: After an unsuccessful attempt at a thesis, and with the permission of the thesis committee and department head, a student may switch to a non-thesis option. This requires the completion of a minimum of two degree papers, each of which shall require an extensive paper or major creative work. Four hours of BIO 790 and four hours of BIO 798 may be counted toward this degree under this option.
  5. Comprehensive Examination. Both a written and an oral comprehensive examination must be passed by the candidate before a degree will be granted.

    The written examination is taken after most of the course work has been completed, and is written and evaluated by the student's thesis committee. The examination can include comprehensive questions in biology and questions specific to the area of study chosen by the student. The use of computers is encouraged, where appropriate, for the written examination. The oral examination follows the presentation of the student's thesis research or degree paper to the faculty. The examination tests the student's understanding of the research or degree paper.