This is an archive of the 2015-2016 University Catalog.
To access the most recent version, please visit

This is an archive of the 2015-2016 University Catalog.
To access the most recent version, please visit


Program: M.S., Biology


The Department of Biology offers one graduate program leading to the Master of Science degree in Biology. Graduate students in the program specialize in areas of interest, such as cell biology, ecology, evolutionary biology, genetics, marine biology, microbiology, molecular biology, physiology, and systematics and organismal biology. The program is research-oriented and requires the completion of a thesis along with required coursework. Students select from over 80 courses to complete the 31 units of coursework required for the program. More than a third of the coursework (12 units) can be earned for thesis research. The rest of the courses are composed of lectures, lab courses, field courses, seminars and colloquia.

Program Requirements

A. For Admission to the Graduate Program

Students may be admitted as either classified or conditionally classified graduate students. In addition to University requirements, the Biology department requires:

  1. Submission of a Biology Department Graduate Program application. This is a separate application in addition to the University application and is available at
    1. Departmental Application Deadlines:
      1. Fall semester: February 15 preceding entry into program.
      2. Spring semester: September 15 preceding entry into program.
  2. Consent of a faculty member to serve as research advisor.
  3. Demonstrated proficiency in basic biology.*
  4. General Graduate Record Examination (GRE), scoring at or above the 50th percentile on at least one section of the general test.
  5. TOEFL and TWE (foreign students only): Minimum score acceptable by the University.

*Requirement 3 can be met in the following ways:

For students whose undergraduate degree is in Biology, either:
  1. A cumulative GPA at or above 3.0 in all undergraduate Biology courses, or
  2. A Biology subject GRE score at or above the 50th percentile.
For students whose undergraduate degree is not in Biology:
  1. A Biology subject GRE score is required at or above the 50th percentile.

B. For Classified Status

The requirements for admission to classified status in Biology are the following:

  1. General University requirements for classified status, which include passing the University Upper Division Writing Proficiency Exam or achieving a score at or above 3.0 on the Analytical Writing section of the GRE.
  2. Completion of any prerequisite coursework specified by the Biology Graduate Committee upon admission.

C. Conditionally Classified Status

If a student meets the department admission requirements but does not meet the requirements for classified status, conditional classification may be given. No more than 12 units of coursework prior to attaining fully classified status will be applied to a master’s program.

D. For the Degree

First-semester graduate students in Biology must meet with the graduate coordinator during their first semester in the program.

Completion of a minimum of 30 units of grade A, A-, B+ or B work in all approved courses applied toward the master’s degree:

1. Required Course* (4 units)

BIOL 502L Biometry (3/1)
or BIOL 503/L Bioinformatics (3/1)
or BIOL 551/L Computer Modeling in Biology (2/2)

*An equivalent 3-unit Upper Division course may be substituted.

2. Seminars (12 units)

BIOL 691 Graduate Proseminar (3)

9 additional units of 600-level seminar or lecture courses.

3. Electives (2-11 units)

Additional courses: Any 400-, 500- or 600-level Biology courses except BIOL 490, 495, 497EE, 499, 692, 696, 698 and 699. A maximum of 9 units of 400-level courses may be applied toward the degree. No more than 6 units from other disciplines, such as Chemistry, Psychology, etc., may be counted.

4. Biology Colloquium (1 unit)

Enrollment and attendance in at least one semester of Biology Colloquium, BIOL 692 (1 unit) (Credit/No Credit only).

5. Culminating Experience (3-12 units)

  1. Thesis courses: BIOL 696 Directed Graduate Research (0-6 units), BIOL 698 Thesis (3-6 units).
  2. Oral presentation and defense of a formal proposal of thesis research by the end of the second semester.
  3. Completion and successful oral defense of a thesis.
  4. Formal approval by the thesis committee.

Total Units Required for the M.S. Degree: 31


Chair: Larry Allen
Chaparral Hall (CR) 5101
(818) 677-3356

Graduate Coordinator: Timothy Karels
(818) 677-2990

Student Learning Outcomes

  1. Students can demonstrate specialized knowledge in one or more disciplines of biology.
  2. Students are aware of and/or capable of using new and existing methods and technologies.
  3. Students can demonstrate facility in applying the methods of scientific inquiry, including observation, hypothesis testing, data collection and analysis.
  4. Students can demonstrate professional-level oral and written communication skills within a discipline of biology.