Master of Science In Biological Sciences

Program Student Learning Outcomes

Students graduating with a Master of Science in Biological Sciences:

  • Have mastered the fundamental concepts of biology, including cell and molecular biology, genetics, physiology, evolution and ecology.
  • Will have a working knowledge of the principles of scientific methodology, of the methods and technology of biological research, of quantitative analysis of scientific data, and will be capable of writing a publishable scientific paper.
  • Will have a demonstrated mastery of at least one focus area within biology or biochemistry.
  • Are prepared for a career in biological sciences or are prepared to pursue more advanced research opportunities (e.g., PhD or postdoctoral programs).
  • Overview of M.S. Biological Sciences Program

    The graduate program in biological sciences offers a research program of study leading to a Master of Science. The MS program requires a thesis that is the result of research performed under the supervision of a UAA faculty member.

    We recommend that prospective students review the program guidelines and expectations, which are detailed in the Department’s Graduate Handbook. General guidelines for prospective students can also be found on UAA’s Graduate School webpage.

    Admission Requirements

    Satisfy the Admission Requirements for Graduate Degrees. Students seeking admission into the MS in Biological Sciences program should also meet the following requirements. Details on this process are available on the department's website.

    1. Students must have a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry or equivalent science to be determined by the Graduate Affairs Committee.
    2. Applicants must take the general Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Applicants are encouraged to take the subject (biology, biochemistry or chemistry) exam, but this is not required.
    3. Applicants must have at least a 3.00 GPA, or at least a 70th percentile in two out of the six possible GRE scores (verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, analytical writing, and the three subtests of the subject GRE). Successful applicants ordinarily have no grade lower than a C in undergraduate science courses.

    Required Documents for Admission

    1. Official scores from the GRE must be requested by the student and sent directly by the testing agency to the university. Scores must be received prior to admission to the program.
    2. A brief (typically one page) statement of the applicant’s research and career goals.
    3. Three letters of recommendation from persons who are qualified to evaluate the applicant’s ability to successfully perform graduate-level coursework and research should be submitted directly to the department.
    4. A letter of support from a UAA faculty member from the Department of Biological Sciences expressing willingness to accept the applicant into his/her research group and a statement of available funding or funding opportunities for research support for the student. Because students will not be admitted to the program without a faculty mentor from the department, prospective graduate students are strongly advised to contact faculty for research/advisor arrangements at an early stage of their admission process. Faculty research interests are available on the department website.

    Applicants should also submit unofficial copies of items 1-4 to the department. Questions about this process should be directed to the departmental secretary at (907)-786-4770.

    Mailing address:

    Department of Biological Sciences Graduate Program
    3101 Science Circle, CPSB 101N
    Anchorage, AK 99508

    Admission deadlines

    All materials are due by March 1 for fall admission and by November 1 for spring admission. Acceptance is determined by the Graduate Affairs Committee and is based on the prospective student’s overall credentials and the availability of appropriate faculty for student research interests. Files received after these deadlines will be considered on a case-by-case basis for admission the subsequent semester.

    Graduation Requirements

    • Satisfy the General University Requirements for Graduate Degrees.
    • Complete 30 credits of coursework approved in advance by the student’s graduate study committee.
    • Satisfactorily complete thesis research approved in advance by the student’s graduate study committee and pass an oral thesis defense.
    • Submit a written graduate thesis that has been approved by the graduate study committee, departmental director, and deans of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School.
    • Complete the program requirements below.

    Program Requirements

    600-level science electives (does not include BIOL A692, BIOL A696, BIOL A698 or BIOL A699 credits)9
    BIOL A601Experimental Design and Statistics3
    or BIOL A604 Experimental Design for Cell/Molecular Biologists
    BIOL A605Graduate Proseminar in Sciences3
    BIOL A606Advanced Analysis and Interpretation *3
    BIOL A698Directed Research **1
    BIOL A699Thesis **1

    This requirement can be waived by the student’s graduate study committee if the student has sufficient other experience or coursework in statistical analysis.


    In combined total, no more than 12 credits of BIOL A698 and BIOL A699 can count toward the 30 credits required for graduation; however more can be taken.

    In order to receive credit for coursework, students must receive a minimum grade of B in all 400-level courses, and a minimum grade of C in all 600-level courses, provided that the cumulative GPA does not drop below 3.00.

    Additional requirements

    1. Within the first semester of study, each student must select a graduate study committee consisting of a minimum of three members (no more than five is recommended). Two of the three members must be full-time, tenure-track faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences. The committee chair will be the student’s primary research advisor if that person is a full-time UAA faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences. If the primary research advisor is an affiliate faculty member, the chair will be shared with a full-time UAA faculty member from the Department of Biological Sciences, and both will be designated as co-chairs. To be a co-chair, a non-UAA faculty member must have official affiliate status within the department.
    2. A student’s graduate study committee must meet at least once each year to review a student’s progress. The annual report on student progress (available online from the Graduate School) must be completed by the student and committee, signed by the graduate study committee, filed with the departmental secretary, and submitted to the UAA Graduate School no later than September 15 of each year. Failure to file annual progress reports will be taken as an indication of inadequate progress, and is grounds for probation and subsequent dismissal from the program.
    3. Each student must submit an official GSP form by the end of the first semester of graduate work. The GSP formally establishes the specific program requirements that will, upon satisfactory completion, entitle the student to receive the graduate degree or certificate. This form must be approved by the student’s graduate study committee and also be signed by the department director and the dean of the Graduate School.
    4. All graduate students must remain in good standing throughout their program. At a minimum, students not in good standing will not be able to compete for teaching assistantships or be awarded tuition waivers from the department, college or Graduate School. Students not in good standing risk being placed on probation and/or removed from the program. In order to remain in good standing in the program, students must:
      1. maintain a 3.00 GPA (cumulative) in all coursework listed on their GSP,
      2. file a GSP by the end of their first semester in residence and
      3. file satisfactory progress reports during each year in residence.
    5. Within their first year in the program, each graduate student is required to submit a written thesis proposal that details the plan for the student’s graduate work. This document is developed in consultation with the graduate advisor, and once prepared must be submitted and approved by the student’s graduate study committee. A copy of the approved proposal shall be placed in the student’s departmental file.
    6. Students will conduct the research outlined in the thesis proposal and present their results as a graduate thesis following guidelines provided by the Graduate School. This written thesis must be approved by the graduate study committee, the director of the Biological Sciences Department, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the dean of the Graduate School in order to be considered complete. No student shall graduate without completing a written thesis.
    7. Following submission of their thesis to their GSC, students must present a thesis defense seminar, which will be followed by a private meeting with their graduate study committee to finalize the defense. The student must successfully defend the thesis in order to graduate.

    A total of 30 credits is required for the degree.

  • General University Requirements for Graduate Degrees

    General University Requirements

    To complete a graduate degree, a student must complete the General University Requirements (GURs) for graduate degrees, school or college requirements, and program requirements. GURs for all graduate degrees are as follows:

    1. A student must be admitted to the degree program and establish an approved graduate studies plan (GSP).
    2. No more than 9 credits may be completed in the student’s graduate program before program admission, unless a student wishes to apply credits from a previous graduate certificate in the same or closely related subject area.
    3. The student must complete at least 30 approved semester credits beyond the baccalaureate degree for a master’s degree, and must complete at least three years of post-baccalaureate study for a doctoral degree. For a master’s degree, individual programs may place limits on the number of credits derived from thesis, individual research and/or independent study courses. No more than 45 credits may be required by any master’s degree program, unless specifically approved by the University of Alaska Board of Regents. The actual number of credits required for each graduate degree program, including prerequisites for required courses, are specified in the current catalog. While no minimum or maximum credits are specified for doctoral programs, a student is expected to be affiliated with the university for at least two years. On approval by the dean of the Graduate School and college dean, an official GSP may stipulate other course credit requirements, including leveling courses.
    4. Up to 9 semester credits not used toward any other degree (graduate or 400 level) may be transferred to UAA from an accredited institution and counted toward a graduate degree. In the case of a second master’s degree, up to 9 credits may be transferred from a previous master’s degree. In the case of a doctoral degree, up to 21 credits may be transferred from previous graduate study. Acceptance of transfer credit toward program requirements is approved by individual programs, college deans and the Graduate School.
    5. Only 400- and 600-level courses approved by the graduate student’s advisor, graduate studies committee and dean or designee may be counted toward graduate program requirements. Courses at the 500 level are for professional development and are not applicable toward any degree.
    6. A cumulative GPA of at least 3.00 must be earned in courses identified in the official GSP.
    7. In 600-level courses, a grade of C is minimally acceptable, provided the student maintains a cumulative GPA of 3.00 (B) in all courses applicable to the graduate program. At least 21 credits must be taken at the graduate level (600) for any master’s degree, including thesis credits. For performance comparison only, in 600-level courses a grade of P (pass) is equivalent to a B or higher, but does not enter into the GPA calculation.
    8. Courses taken as credit by examination, or graded credit/no credit (CR/NC) do not count toward graduate program requirements. They may, however, be used to satisfy prerequisites or establish competency in a subject, allowing the advisor or committee to waive certain courses in an established program as long as the total credits in the program remain the same.
    9. All credits counted toward the degree, including transfer credits, must be earned within the consecutive seven-year period for a master’s degree or the consecutive 10-year period for a doctoral degree prior to graduation. If these requirements are not met, admission expires and the student must reapply for admission and meet the admission requirements in effect at that time (see Catalog Year in Graduate Degree Policies).
    10. Students must be continuously registered throughout their graduate program (see Continuous Registration in Graduate Degree Policies).
    11. Students must complete all requirements established by the program and must pass a written or oral comprehensive examination; an evaluation of independent scholarship, project or thesis defense; or similar evaluation as established by the program. For programs with a thesis option, selection of that option will be indicated on the GSP and on the annual progress report. The evaluation, examination or defense must be approved by all graduate committee members as passing the requirement. For programs with projects that result in a written record, those records will be maintained by the programs for one year and are subject to review by the Graduate School. After the completion of a written or oral comprehensive exam, a thesis or a project, the student’s graduate committee chair must submit an exam or defense report. (See Examinations below.)
    12. When an oral comprehensive examination, project or thesis defense, or evaluation of independent scholarship is required, the student may select an outside reviewer approved by the dean of the Graduate School and college dean to participate in the evaluation. An outside examiner is required for a doctoral defense. Typically, the outside examiner is a faculty member from another department in the university, or other qualified individual in the area in which the student is seeking a degree.
    13. All theses and dissertations must have final approval by the dean of the Graduate School.

    Examinations (Requirement Determined by Program)

    Qualifying Examinations

    Some graduate degree programs require the student to complete a written and/or qualifying examination before advancement to candidacy. This examination is an interim evaluation of academic progress; the student may pass unconditionally or conditionally. A conditional pass indicates specific weaknesses that the student must remedy before degree requirements are completed. The Annual Report of Graduate Student Progress and Advancement to Candidacy Form should indicate mechanisms for addressing these weaknesses.

    Comprehensive Examinations

    Some graduate programs require that students pass a comprehensive examination, given to determine whether a graduate student has integrated knowledge and understanding of the principles and concepts underlying major and related fields, in order to achieve advancement to candidacy. For master’s degrees, the graduate student’s advisory committee may choose to give a written and/or comprehensive examination prior to advancement to candidacy. For doctoral degrees, written comprehensive examinations are normally required, although the student’s committee may additionally choose to give an oral examination. A Report on Comprehensive Exam must be submitted to the Graduate School indicating date of completion, and approved by the graduate advisor and committee, program chair, college dean, and the Graduate School.

    Defense of Project

    Graduate students who are required to complete a project in fulfillment of degree requirements may be required to pass an oral defense of the project. Defense dates must be submitted to the Graduate School and publicly posted one week before the defense.The defense will consist of a presentation followed by questions on the research, analysis and written project presentation. All committee members must be present at the project defense. A Report on Project Defense must be submitted to the Graduate School indicating date of completion, and approved by the graduate advisor and committee, program chair, college dean, and the Graduate School.

    Defense of Thesis

    Graduate students who are required to complete a thesis in partial fulfillment of degree requirements must pass an oral defense of the thesis. Defense dates must be submitted to the Graduate School and publicly posted one week before the defense. The defense will consist of a presentation followed by questions on the research, analysis and written thesis presentation. The Graduate School will not accept a thesis for final submission until the student has successfully defended it. All committee members normally must be present for the defense of thesis, either physically present or through electronic media. A Report on Thesis/Dissertation Defense must be submitted to the Graduate School indicating date of completion, and approved by the graduate advisor and committee, program chair, college dean, and the Graduate School.

    Examination Committee

    In most cases, the student’s graduate advisory committee prepares and gives the examinations under guidelines formulated by the program in which the degree is being taken.

    Outside Examiner (for Doctoral Defense)

    An outside examiner representing and appointed by the dean of the Graduate School is required at all doctoral defenses. The examiner must be from a different department than the student and the chair of the advisory committee. The outside examiner is present to determine that a stringent, unbiased examination is fairly administered and evaluated, but may also make substantive contributions to the evaluation process.

    Advancement to Candidacy (Requirement Determined by Program)

    Some master’s programs and all doctoral programs require students to apply for advancement to candidacy. Advancement to candidacy status is a prerequisite to graduation and is determined by the program chair or designee. Candidacy is the point in a graduate study program at which the student has demonstrated an ability to master the subject matter and has progressed to the level at which a GSP can be approved. For doctoral program students, an Advancement to Candidacy Form serves as the final GSP.

    To be approved for candidacy, a student must:

    1. Be in good academic standing.
    2. Demonstrate competence in the methods and techniques of the discipline, which may include passing a comprehensive examination.
    3. Receive approval of the independent scholarship, thesis or research project proposal from the student’s graduate committee.
    4. Satisfy all prerequisites, remove all academic deficiencies and satisfy all terms of provisional admission.
    5. Submit an approved final official GSP.

    Thesis Review

    Before final acceptance, all members of a student’s graduate committee, department/program chair/director, college dean, and the Graduate School dean must approve a thesis as required by the student’s graduate program. Changes or corrections to the thesis may be required at any of these levels. The graduate committee is primarily responsible for thesis evaluation, grammar, punctuation, and usage, but the department chair/director and college dean will also conduct reviews to monitor the quality of theses and check for any overlooked errors. The Graduate School checks that format and style conform to UAA standards. Ideally, these checks should be made before the defense of a thesis or dissertation. In addition, the Graduate School dean will review selected theses and will not give final approval until all required corrections are made. Thesis credits will be given a deferred grade (DF) until all requirements are met.

    Project Review

    Before final acceptance, all members of a student's project committee, department/program chair/director, and college dean must approve a project as required by the student's graduate program. Changes or corrections to the project may be required at any of these levels. The project committee is primarily responsible for project evaluation, grammar, punctuation, and usage, but the department chair/director and college dean will conduct reviews to monitor the quality of projects and check for any overlooked errors. Students should check with their programs for required formatting. Ideally, formatting checks should be made before the defense of the project. In addition, the college dean will review projects and will not give final approval until all required corrections are made. Project credits will be given a deferred grade (DF) until all requirements are met.

    Graduate Student Research

    Graduate students planning to conduct research that involves the use of human participant subjects and/or human participant data, vertebrate animals, hazardous chemicals, biohazards, and/or radioactive materials are required to complete the Research Compliance and Intellectual Property (RCIP) Form. Also, if graduate students are planning research that will lead to intellectual property with commercial potential, they should complete the RCIP Form. At the same time, all graduate students are expected to respect the copyright, license and intellectual property rights that may attach to files of any media type, including software, texts, databases, images, video, music and other audio files, especially when using university computing and/or networking resources. For further information, contact the UAA Research Compliance Office or the associate vice provost for Research Administration and Commercialization.

All graduate programs at UAA are coordinated through the Graduate School. Additional information on graduate student policies and guidelines can be found on the Graduate School's website and in the UAA Catalog.

Admissions Process

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Important Documents

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Thesis Information

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Teaching Assistantships

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