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Final Quarter Milestones

Advance to candidacy

MS students must advance to candidacy in the first two weeks of their final MS quarter. Prior to the final MS quarter, students will be contacted by the BS/MS Coordinator to initiate the candidacy paperwork. A student's research and graduation timeline is determined by the MS application. If a student's plan changes, they must notify the BS/MS Coordinator through the VAC.

Candidacy signals that a student has met the minimum requirements for the BS/MS program, or that the student is in the process of completing the minimum requirements. Students are encouraged to advance to candidacy as soon as they are eligible to do so, even if they are unsure of their defense timeline. Once a student advances to candidacy, they are eligible to defend and graduate within 5 years. Students are not required to graduate in the same quarter they advance.

When advancing to candidacy, students will be asked to verify the following:

  • 12 units of coursework satisfying the MS degree requirements
  • MS Thesis Committee members

A student's faculty advisor will be asked to approve the 12 units of coursework verified by the student.

Students must be registered and enrolled in the quarter they advance to candidacy.

Students interested in defending while using the Filing Fee in lieu of tuition must have an active candidacy date from a previous quarter. The Filing Fee allows eligible students to defend while not enrolled in a given quarter, however students using the Filing Fee are not eligible to continue their research, enroll in coursework, or serve as an IA on campus. Students using the Filing Fee option must confirm they no longer need access to their lab or lab resources, and that they only intend to make edits to their thesis and/or schedule their defense. Interested students must contact the BS/MS Coordinator through the VAC to discuss eligibility.

  • Additional information on the Fee Status necessary for graduation can be found in the Dissertation and Thesis Manual.
  • International students considering the Filing Fee option should review the information published by ISPO regarding reduced course load. Questions about visa implications must be addressed to ISPO.

For additional information and instructions regarding the candidacy process, including a link to the candidacy survey, MS students should refer to the Biology MS Application to Candidacy Google Site. Students must use their credentials to access the Google Site. Note: MS students should not complete the candidacy survey until prompted by the BS/MS Coordinator.

Schedule the thesis defense with the MS Thesis Committee

After advancing to candidacy, students are eligible to defend at any time within five years. Students must consult with their thesis advisor and committee members about their research progress and thesis defense timeline.

Students should communicate with their advisor about wrapping up their thesis project. It is ultimately up to the thesis committee to determine whether or not the MS work is sufficient. If students feel that advisors are unfairly judging the MS work, students can contact either the BS/MS Coordinator or Program Director.

When scheduling a date, time, and location for the thesis defense, students must consult directly with their full thesis committee.

  • The preferred means to conduct committee meetings including the final thesis defense is when all members of the BS/MS thesis committee are physically present. The Biological Sciences BS/MS program permits fully remote or hybrid meetings if an unavoidable situation arises that affects a committee member's and/or student's ability to participate synchronously and/or be physically present. In this case, the committee chair and student should come to an agreement on how to proceed. Regardless, there must be sufficient expertise among present members to examine the student.
  • The date and time must work for all members of the thesis committee.
    • If necessary, one member of the committee may participate in a separate defense
    • The committee chair, or one co-chair, must attend the official defense
    • All committee members must be given an opportunity to discuss the student's defense and thesis
  • Students must schedule at least one hour for their thesis defense, however students should consult with their committee before scheduling their defense to confirm an appropriate amount of time for the defense.
  • Students are encouraged to schedule the thesis defense well before the quarter deadline to allow time to make edits to their thesis and confirm all paperwork is submitted to the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA).
    • The MS committee is not required to approve a student's thesis. Students are encouraged to discuss their research and thesis progress with their committee throughout their MS program to ensure they have time to address their committee's questions or concerns before their thesis defense.
  • If needed, a student's research lab or the BS/MS Coordinator can reserve a conference room or classroom for the defense.

Send MS summary form and schedule the Preliminary Appointment

MS Summary Form

When a defense date is confirmed, students and their thesis advisor must complete the MS Thesis Summary Report form and email it to both the MS committee and the BS/MS Coordinator at

  • Instructions for the summary are listed on the summary cover sheet
  • If the defense date changes after the summary form is sent to the BS/MS Coordinator, students must notify the BS/MS Coordinator of the new defense date through the VAC
  • The BS/MS Coordinator will only initiate final paperwork for students who have completed the six week summary

Preliminary Appointment with the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA)

Students schedule a preliminary meeting with the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) through the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) scheduling tool.

The preliminary meeting typically takes place 3-10 days before the defense, however preliminary meetings are not available in the last two weeks of a quarter. Students defending in the last two weeks of a quarter must schedule their preliminary meeting prior to week 9 in the quarter they are defending.

Students are encouraged to schedule their preliminary appointment as soon as they have confirmed their thesis defense. Appointment times are limited and may fill up quickly in the final weeks of a quarter.

To schedule the preliminary appointment, students must have a near final draft of their thesis that follows the formatting requirements listed in the Formatting Manual.

During the preliminary appointment, students will meet with an Academic Advisor in the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA). The Academic Advisor will review the student's thesis formatting as well as provide a checklist of all documents a student must submit in order to finalize their MS degree.

Draft and distribute the thesis

Students should begin writing their thesis no less than 2 months before their intended defense date. Students and committee members can review the Masters Thesis Expectations for reference. Students must email the final thesis draft to the MS committee at least one week before the thesis defense to ensure the committee has time to review the thesis before the defense.

Present the thesis defense

Students should prepare a 30-45 minute presentation describing their data to their committee and peers. After the student presentation is complete, the MS thesis committee may ask questions related to the thesis and research presented during the defense.

Students are encouraged to make the thesis defense public! Having a public thesis defense is a terrific public speaking and networking opportunity, and adds to the collective scientific knowledge within the BS/MS community. To make a defense a public defense, students can let the BS/MS coordinator know when final defense paperwork is being prepared. A flyer announcing the thesis defense will be sent to the MS students and BS/MS thesis advisors.

Complete the final thesis draft and submit final paperwork

After the MS Thesis Committee reviews the thesis, they may request changes to the thesis. Students are responsible for making all necessary changes to their thesis as requested by their committee. After the MS Thesis Committee confirms the student's thesis meets the requirements for the MS degree in Biology, the student is responsible for submitting a final draft of their thesis to ProQuest by the last day of the quarter in which a student defends. Failure to meet the thesis submission deadline will delay a student's graduation term.

After their thesis presentation, students should:

  • Make necessary content or formatting edits to the MS thesis as requested by the MS Thesis Committee and Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA).
  • Complete the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA)'s checklist for graduating MS students. This checklist will be provided by the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) at the preliminary meeting.
  • Follow up on any requests for additional information from the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) (if requested)

The MS thesis, once approved by the MS committee and Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA), will be submitted electronically by the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) to both ProQuest and eScholarship. In digital form, the MS thesis is made available not only to the UC community but also to scholars worldwide. The School of Biological Sciences requests all students receive a 2 year embargo, to provide students and labs an opportunity to continue the research or submit the research for publication. If an embargo extension is required, it is the responsibility of the faculty advisor to contact the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) to request the extension.

If the thesis is not unanimously approved by the committee, a detailed explanatory statement from each member of the committee, accompanied by the signed Final Report of the Thesis or Examination, and a copy of the thesis must be submitted to the Dean of the Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) for Graduate Council review.

Obtain signatures via DocuSign

The Division of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs (GEPA) began using DocuSign in May 2020 for processing Academic Affairs forms. Students and faculty are responsible for reviewing DocuSign emails and to signing documents in a timely manner, to avoid unnecessary stress in missing University deadlines.

Forms initiated through DocuSign currently include:

  • General Petition
  • Application to Candidacy (MS Plan I Thesis)
  • Final Report of the Thesis for Master of Arts or Science (Plan I Thesis)

Some suggestions:

  • DocuSign emails may look like spam or may go to junk folders; students should ask their committee to add DocuSign (specifically: to their 'known sender' list.
  • Instructors must use UCSD Active Directory (AD) credentials (, when logging into
  • Students in Salk or labs outside the Division should double check that their advisors/committee members are aware of the need to use UCSD single sign on credentials. Information about DocuSign has been emailed to all Biology/Salk faculty and BS/MS advisors, but it is not possible to email all committee members, so it would be wise to confirm with all committee members that they are aware of how DocuSign works.
  • DocuSign emails have links to the forms, but faculty can always log in to to check their 'action required' list. Some forms may not appear until previous signatories have dealt with them.
  • For technical issues, contact the DocuSign help desk at

Current UCSD students: Please submit your questions via the VAC. An advisor will respond in 1-3 business days.
Drop-in Advising times are posted on the Advising Calendar.