Jul 15, 2024  
2022-2023 Academic Catalog 
2022-2023 Academic Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Biological Sciences M.S.

Brian Sardella, Ph.D., Program Director

The Master of Science in Biological Sciences is a two-year program that emphasizes high level training in the biological sciences through coursework, and the completion of an original research-based thesis. The program offers students the opportunity to obtain advanced academic and research experience in specialized areas of biology, and is suitable for students wishing to gain higher-level employment or continue to higher-level academic pursuits. The faculty of the Department of Biological Sciences offers a diverse range of research interests, and students will work with a faculty advisor to design and execute their thesis project. The department maintains high expectations and standards for professional conduct and productivity that prepare students to meet their specific educational and professional goals.

Program Learning Outcomes

Successful graduates will:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced knowledge of core principles and unifying themes of biology.
  2. Demonstrate the ability to independently formulate scientific questions, generate scientific hypotheses, design appropriate experiments to address their hypotheses, and successfully execute their experiments as demonstrated by collection, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of data.
  3. Demonstrate the ability to locate, evaluate, and integrate information within peer-reviewed literature, and demonstrate the ability to use databases and information technology.
  4. Independently demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing as professional scientists.

Prerequisites for Admission

The minimum requirements for non-provisional entry into the graduate program are:

  1. Bachelor’s degree in the Biological Sciences, or a closely related field.
  2. Completion of at least 30 units of upper division course work in the Biological Sciences with a GPA ≥ 3.0 in those courses.
  3. Completion of the Graduate Record Exam (general) with evaluation criteria at advisor discretion.
  4. Support from a faculty member willing to serve as advisor (research and contact potential supervisors prior to applying)

Application Procedures

  1. Contact one or two faculty members in the program who most closely match your research interests. Briefly describe your background and your specific academic interests, and inquire if the faculty member is accepting new grad students. Individual faculty will have their own criteria for acceptance.  You should have a faculty willing to sponsor you as your advisor before applying to the program.  
  2. Complete an online Graduate School Admissions Application. There is a $55 nonrefundable application fee. (Note: you do not need to complete the “personal statement” section (Part B section 22) of the online application. Instead, send your personal statement/cover letter directly to the program director- see below).
  3. Submit one copy of official (sealed) transcripts from all colleges you have attended to Enrollment Services. (Note: Stanislaus State undergraduate students who have not attended other schools since graduation do not need to submit their transcripts).

    Send transcripts to:
    Enrollment Services, MSR 120
    California State University, Stanislaus
    One University Circle
    Turlock, CA 95382
  4. Submit the following items to the Master of Science in Biological Sciences Program Director: 
  • Cover letter. In the letter, discuss your career aspirations and academic interests, including specific research interests and possible thesis topics. Identify the faculty member that has agreed to serve as your research mentor. 
  • Resume/CV. Your CV should list your academic and professional accomplishments, including dates, locations, and descriptions of activities.
  • Letter from a Stanislaus Biology Faculty stating that they have accepted you as an advisee.
  • Two (2) letters of recommendation from university faculty members, employers, or other people who can judge your potential to succeed in graduate school. We accept either signed, sealed original paper copies of letters sent through the mail, or email attachments (pdf files or word documents) sent from the letter writer’s work email address. We recommend that at least one letter should come from a university faculty member who is familiar with your academic abilities and/or research skills. 
  • GRE General Exam scores. To insure that the scores get sent to our program, please select Stanislaus State (code 4713) as the institution and Biological Sciences (code 0207) as the Department/Major Field.

Application Review

Applications are reviewed in four steps:

  1. The Stanislaus State Graduate School reviews the online application, compiles all transcripts, and calculates GPAs. When complete, these materials are forwarded to the Biological Sciences Program.
  2. The Program Director compiles the cover letter, resume/CV, letters of recommendation, and GRE scores, and insures that all application materials are complete.
  3. A five-member review panel reviews the applications and ranks the applicants.
  4. Selected applicants are admitted to the program and notified.

General Requirements for the Master’s Degree

  1. Completion of at least 30 units of required or approved coursework.
  2. A G.P.A. of at least 3.0.
  3. A passing score on the qualifying exam (taken after the second semester of enrollment).
  4. Completion and oral defense of a thesis.


(30 units)

Elective Courses

(10 units)

Culminating Experience

(6 units)

*Before enrolling for thesis units, the student must have a thesis proposal approved by their committee and advance to candidacy by passing their oral qualifying exam.

**Students who have completed their coursework, including thesis units, but are working on their thesis, are encouraged to maintain continuous enrollment by signing up for BIOL 7005: Continuing Thesis

Requirements for Advancement to Candidacy

Thesis Committee and Proposal

By the end of the first semester the student and advisor should identify and invite a minimum of two additional faculty to serve on a thesis supervisory committee.  A minimum of two members of the committee, including the advisor, must be faculty members in the Biology Department at Stanislaus State.  Prior to the end of the second semester, the student should submit a thesis proposal to the committee for review and approval.  Once the committee has agreed on a date and time, a proposal defense can be held.

Proposal Defense

The student provides a brief description of the research in a closed forum to the committee.  The committee is free to ask any questions regarding the proposal and give feedback/suggestions to the student.  The student should either agree to incorporate changes or successfully defend the proposal as it is by making a convincing argument.  A final draft of the proposal that includes any agreed-upon changes should then be provided to the committee within two weeks after the defense.  Once the proposal is finalized and approved by all committee members, the student must schedule a time for a one-hour qualifying exam to be administered orally within the following three weeks.

Qualifying Examination

The oral exam will be administered by the committee in a one hour closed session.  Each member will have 15 minutes to directly ask exam questions.  Following direct questioning, there will be an additional 15 minute free form session for any needed follow up.  Examiner questions should be drawn from these areas:

  • Philosophy of science, history of science and scientific method.
  • Basic principles Physics, Chemistry, and Biochemistry if applicable.
  • Basic Mathematics and/or Statistics as applicable.
  • Core Biology principles such as Evolution, Cell/Mol and Genetics, Ecology and structure/function.

After the examination period, the student will be asked to leave the room while the committee discusses their performance.  The goal is for the student to display a basic competence in the areas above, but also be allowed to find the current limits to their knowledge base.  The student will be given one of four outcomes:

  • Pass - Immediate advancement to candidacy.
  • Conditional Pass - Advancement to candidacy with the agreement between committee and student that the student needs additional coursework in a specific area of weakness.
  • Re-test Required - The student performed at a level requiring additional coursework as outlined by the committee. The student will also be required to take the exam again to pass to candidacy (only one re-test will be given).
  • Fail -  Student will be suspended from the program.

A detailed description of the students’ performance and the justification of the committee’s decision will be prepared by the student’s advisor, and this report will be kept on file by the program director.