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Graduate Curriculum

A total of 30 units of course work is required for completion of the master's degree.  A minimum of 15 units must be at the 500 (graduate) level.  Graduate students must be supervised by a research faculty for the full duration of their program. Students, in consultation with their Research Advisor and Advisory Committee, choose courses that will prepare them to pass their qualifying exam and successfully conduct their thesis research.  Graduate courses in biology are comprised of two unit graduate seminars (Biology 500S). Graduate seminars are offered every semester with a rotation of topics that serve the variety of graduate research interests in the graduate program.

Graduate Seminar course topics include:

  • Research Skills
  • Macroevolution
  • Speciation
  • Bioenergetics
  • Extremophiles
  • Microbial Ecology
  • Metabolites
  • Phenotypic Plasticity
  • Adaptation
  • Advanced Statistical Analysis
  • Current Topics in Biology
  • Developmental Toxicology

All graduate students are required to take at least three research seminars.

Thesis research is supervised through enrollment in BIOL 597 (pre-orals, up to 9 units) and BIOL 599 (post-orals, up to 6 units). Up to a total of 8 units of BIOL 595 -Special Studies in Biology, may be applied toward the 30-unit requirement for the Master's degree.

Many upper-division undergraduate courses may be important in rounding out a student's curriculum.  BIOL 590 is the Departmental Colloquium and presents a broad range of topics from invited seminar speakers.  This course allows students to become acquainted with faculty members at PhD granting institutions. Many graduate students take biometry (BIOL 485). We also encourage our graduate students to take BIOL 501 (1 unit)- Instructional Skills, a course for TA training.

A Sample Graduate Course Program:

In the first year, it is recommended that at least one, 4 unit, 500 level course be combined with research units (BIOL 597) for a total of 7 units in one semester.  The other semester would combine research (BIOL 597), a graduate seminar course of 2 units, and an additional course of 3 to 4 units for a maximum of 9 units. The first year's goal is to complete 15 to 16 units.  In the second year, research units (BIOL 599) should be combined with a graduate seminar course of 2 units, Biology Colloquium (BIOL 590), plus one additional course of 2-4 units.  The goal for the second year is to obtain 16 to 18 units for a total of 31 to 34 units.  The table summarizes a sample program of coursework.

Year 1 of Sample 2-Year Program

Fall Semester (Units)Spring Semester (Units)
BIOL 597 (3)BIOL 597 (3)
Option 1: Additional 500 Level (4)Option 1: Additional 500 Level Course(4)
Option 2: Additional 500 Level, plus 300 or 400 Level (2 + 3-4)Option 2: Additional 500 Level, plus 300 or 400 Level (2 + 3-4)
Year 1 Total Goal: 15 - 16 Units


Year 2 of Sample 2-Year Program

Fall Semester (Units)Spring Semester (Units)
BIOL 599 (3)BIOL 599 (3)
Additional 500 Level (2)Additional 500 Level (2)
BIOL 590 (1)BIOL 590 (1)
One Additional Course (2-4)One Additional Course (2-4)
Year 2 Total Goal: 16 - 18 Units