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Requirements for the M.S. Degree

Qualified students can earn the MS degree within 3-5 quarters following receipt of the BS degree. Students enrolled in this program receive an advanced research experience by completing at least six contiguous quarters of biological research in one of the excellent research labs at UC San Diego. In addition, BS/MS students complete 12 units of graduate-level courses in Biology, Medicine, or other disciplines related to their thesis project. Students complete their degree requirements by writing and defending a Master's thesis.

Biology MS students should not rely on the graduate degree audit to track degree progress. Students may review the information below to confirm research and coursework requirements for the BS/MS program.

Consecutive Research

BS/MS students complete 6 consecutive quarters of research between the undergraduate and graduate programs.

  • At least three complete, separate, and consecutive quarters of residency must be completed as a graduate student. These will commence immediately following the quarter in which the BS degree is awarded. Note, graduate students may not receive credit during the summer for research.
  • All research must be completed within the same lab, with the same thesis advisor.
  • Undergraduate research is measured through enrollment in BISP 199, BISP 196, or BISP 193. Undergraduate research used to satisfy degree requirements cannot be used to satisfy the BS/MS research requirement. 
  • Graduate research is measured through enrollment in BGGN 271, in which the student must enroll during every quarter as an MS student.
  • Research work will be credited toward the BS/MS program requirements only if it is completed while a student is officially enrolled at UC San Diego and has paid tuition for that quarter.

Enrollment and Coursework Requirements

MS students must complete at least 36 units of course work as a graduate student. Many students choose to complete more than the minimum required 36 units to help them achieve their goals.

Students need to be enrolled in 12 units each quarter (this includes both academic coursework and research units). There is no maximum unit load for a quarter.

Research Coursework

Students should enroll in both BGGN 271 and BGRD 200, with their thesis advisor as the instructor, for each quarter during the MS portion of this program. BGGN 271 is the graduate equivalent of BISP 19x. BGRD 200 accounts for the time spent discussing thesis research in the lab with a student's thesis advisor and lab colleagues. BGRD 200 is taken for 1 unit, while BGGN 271 can be taken for 4 to 12 units per quarter, reflecting the amount of time spent in the lab.

A total of 24 units of research coursework are needed between BISP 19x and BGGN 271, though BISP 19x research units do not apply toward 36 total Master's level units.

BGGN 299 and 297 are reserved for PhD students cannot be used to satisfy any of the 36 MS unit requirements.

Academic Coursework

Of the 36 graduate level units, at least 12 units must be in courses other than research (BGGN 271 and BGRD 200). Course selection should be determined in consultation with the MS thesis advisor, and all MS coursework must be approved by the thesis advisor when the student advances to candidacy in their final graduate quarter.

  • Eligible course work must be graduate level (200-level or higher), but may include a maximum of four approved upper division units (100-199 level)
  • Graduate level and upper division courses offered by related departments (BIOM, CHEM, MED, NEU SIO, etc.) may be used to satisfy this requirement.
  • All course work must be taken for a letter grade, unless the course is only offered S/U or P/NP.
  • Courses taken while an undergraduate student may not be repeated for credit during the graduate program.

Academic Coursework for students pursuing the Specialization in Biology Education Research (major code BI87)

Students pursuing the Specialization in Biology Education Research are required to complete 12 units of academic coursework, which must include BGGN 272: Learning Theories (4 units), completed with a letter grade. Of the remaining 8 units of academic coursework:

  • A maximum of 4 units of upper division undergraduate coursework may satisfy this requirement.
  • All courses satisfying this requirement must be completed for a letter grade, unless the course is only offered S/U or P/NP.
  • Courses taken while an undergraduate student may not be repeated for credit during the graduate program.

Recommended courses for students in this specialization include:

  • EDS 102 Introduction to Qualitative Methods in Education Research (4 units)
  • EDS 103 Introduction to Quantitative Analysis in Education Research (4 units)
  • BGJC 215 Journal Club in Biology education research (1 unit)
  • BGGN 202 Professional Development for Biologists (2 units)
  • BGGN 211 Experimental Approaches & Methods in Modern Biology (4 units)
  • BGGN 293 Scientific Writing in Biology (4 units)
  • BGGN 295 Scientific Presentation in Biology (4 units)
  • BGGN 500 Introduction to College Biology Education (4 units)

Course selection should be determined in consultation with the MS thesis advisor, and all MS coursework must be approved by the thesis advisor when the student advances to candidacy in their final graduate quarter.

Courses Offered

For an overview of graduate courses offered in the current academic year, visit Tentative Course Offerings. For a list of courses open to MS students, visit Course Options for MS Students.

Graduate Residency, Minimum GPA, Fees

To meet the minimum requirements for a MS degree at UC San Diego, BS/MS students must complete at least 3 quarters of residency as a MS student. Summer cannot be used as a quarter of residency for MS students.

Additionally, BS/MS students must maintain a grade-point average of at least 3.000, both cumulatively and for each quarter of enrollment in the graduate program. If GPA falls below 3.000, the student may be dropped from the program.

Students should pay relevant fees during any quarter in which the student is using university resources (ex. working in lab or taking courses).

  • Students must be enrolled full time while in the graduate program, unless approved for half time enrollment.
  • To be eligible for half time, students must either be entering their 7th quarter of research or be requesting half time for health, family responsibilities, or occupation reasons. Students must meet with the BS/MS Coordinator prior to requesting half time status to confirm eligibility.
  • Note: Students receiving financial support or employment at UC San Diego (such as an Instructional Assistant receiving a fee remission) must be enrolled in at least 12 units of graduate or upper division course work.

Any deviation from this plan, such as a break in enrollment for one or more quarters, may cause the student to be dropped from the program.

MS Thesis Committee

The MS thesis project completed by BS/MS students is evaluated by a MS Thesis Committee. MS students are responsible for establishing their MS Thesis Committee in consultation with their thesis advisor, and are expected to maintain communication with their committee throughout their MS program. Students officially nominate their MS committee when they advance to candidacy in their final quarter in the MS program.

The MS Thesis Committee:

  • Must include at least three faculty members, including the thesis advisor who serves as the Committee Chair.
  • Must include at least 2 tenure-track faculty from the Division of Biological Sciences and no more than 1 adjunct faculty member.
  • If the BS/MS thesis advisor is not a member of the Division of Biological Sciences, or is an adjunct faculty member with the Division of Biological Sciences, another member of the committee who is a tenure-track faculty member with the Division of Biological Sciences must serve as Co-Chair.

Students are encouraged to form their Thesis Committee by the end of their first graduate quarter. Students are also encouraged to communicate regularly with their committee throughout the master's program to discuss the research project.

The MS Thesis Committee is responsible for approving a student's thesis and confirming that the student passed their thesis defense.

Master's thesis committees need at least three members, including the Chair (the student's thesis advisor/PI). Students are encouraged to create a committee that helps span the intellectual and technical breadth of their thesis project.

Committee member roles and eligible titles include:

  • Committee Chair:
    • The student's faculty advisor serves as the MS Thesis Committee Chair.
  • Committee Co-Chair:
    • If a student's faculty advisor is not a tenure track faculty in the Division of Biological Sciences, the thesis committee must have a Committee Co-Chair with a tenure track position in the Division of Biological Sciences
    • Students working in Biology labs may nominate a Committee Co-Chair if appropriate, however this is not required. Students in Biology labs should consult with their thesis advisor to determine if it is appropriate to nominate a Co-Chair.
    • A committee co-chair must have one of the following faculty titles: Distinguished Professor, Professor Emeritus, Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor
      • Students in the Education Specialization may have a co-chair with a Teaching Professor title (any rank)
  • Committee Member:
    • Faculty not serving as a Chair or Co-Chair on a thesis committee will serve as a Committee Member
    • Students must have at least one committee member not serving as chair or co-chair
    • Students may nominate additional faculty to serve as fourth or fifth committee members.
      • All committee members must attend the thesis defense. Students are encouraged to limit membership on their thesis committee to avoid defense scheduling delays.
    • Committee members must have one of the following faculty titles: Distinguished Professor, Professor Emeritus, Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Teaching Professor (any rank)

Nominating the thesis committee

  • Students confirm their committee chair and co-chair (or committee member, if appropriate) at the time they apply to the MS program.
  • Students confirm their full committee, including the third committee member, when they advance to candidacy
  • Students are encouraged to confirm their committee membership early in their MS program. A committee must be officially approved before a defense date is confirmed.
    • Students must nominate their MS committee with the BS/MS Coordinator to start the approval process.

Additional Information

General campus guidelines for appointing a Master's committee can be found on the Graduate Division website. Note, all MS committees must meet the UC San Diego minimum requirements for a thesis committee as well as the Division of Biological Sciences requirement that a thesis committee have at least 2 tenure-track Biology faculty.

Questions?
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.