Graduate Program

The department offers a thesis degree program designed for students entering research-related careers or planning to enter advanced graduate and professional degree programs. Most graduate students in biology hold teaching assistantships.

Graduate Advisor: 

Dr. Laura Newcomb



Admission to the Masters Program in Biology

In addition to the general requirements of the university, specific requirements for admission to the M.S. program in Biology include:

  1. A baccalaureate degree from an accredited college or university
  2. Completion of an undergraduate major in biology or associated fields (e.g., microbiology, botany, zoology or chemistry with at least 30 quarter units of upper-division biology course work)
  3. One year each of laboratory courses in: general biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics
  4. One full-term course in basic calculus or methods in calculus
  5. Upper division courses in cellular or molecular biology, genetics, ecology, and organismal biology. Students lacking one of these courses may be admitted to the program, but must make up the deficiency in their first year. Students will not be permitted to enroll in 600-level biology courses without the appropriate prerequisite course. Graduate-level courses may have additional prerequisites.
  6. A cumulative undergraduate grade point average of at least 3.0 ("B") in all courses used for credit in the major
  7. Completion of the graduate entrance writing requirement
  8. Submission to the Department of Biology Graduate Committee, scores from the GRE General Test (Biology subject test not required)
  9. Submission to the Department of Biology Graduate Committee a one-page, typewritten statement of the student's preparation for graduate study, goals in the graduate training program, potential area of research, possible advisor, and professional goals following completion of the M.S.
  10. Submission of three letters of recommendation from people who are in a position to make relevant comments on the student's intent and potential for success in the M.S. program. At least two of the letters should be from current or former college or university faculty familiar with the student's scholarship and related activities.

Applicants are encouraged to contact potential Biology Department Faculty advisors before they apply. Space in research labs is limited. Students must have an advisor by the end of the first year in the program, or they will not be allowed to continue.

Application procedures

Students must both apply to the university (even if they are currently CSUSB undergraduates) and send supplemental application materials (listed above) to the Biology Department.

  • Application to the university involves submission of an online application and submission of transcripts. Application information and procedures can be found at the Office of Graduate Studies. Online application and application dates can be found at CSUMentor.
  • GRE General Test scores (Biology subject test not required), a statement of preparation and goals, and three letters of recommendation should be sent directly to:

         Graduate Coordinator, Department of Biology

         California State University

         5500 University Parkway

         San Bernardino, CA 92407

Department Graduate Committee and Major Advisor

The Department of Biology Graduate Committee consists of the graduate program coordinator and two or more faculty members. This committee has general supervision over the work of students progressing toward the Master's degree, and will determine whether students are adequately prepared for graduate study in biology.

The major advisor in consultation with the student will develop a program of specific courses and an acceptable thesis research proposal based on the student's interests, abilities and preparation. The major advisor will direct the thesis research. The program of courses and the thesis topic, as well as any subsequent modification of these, are subject to approval by the Department of Biology Graduate Committee and the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Students currently enrolled in the graduate program wishing to take courses off campus and include them in the degree program must petition the Department of Biology for approval through the graduate program coordinator and the Graduate Committee, otherwise the course may not be accepted as part of the program. 1000- to 9999-level extension courses are not applicable to the graduate program. 300-level courses taken will be accepted only by written approval of the department. 300-level courses are seen as support courses and therefore are not generally applicable to the graduate degree program. Courses taken to satisfy quantitative or qualitative deficiencies cannot be applied toward a master's degree. Repeat of courses requires approval of the Department of Biology Graduate Committee and may be granted for serious and compelling reasons.

Advancement to Candidacy

In order to be advanced to candidacy, the student must have:

  1. Achieved classified status
  2. Been accepted by a major advisor from the Department of Biology
  3. Completed at least 15 quarter units of work applicable to the degree program as a graduate student at this university with the approval of the Department of Biology Graduate Committee, and with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 ("B")
  4. Gained a recommendation for advancement to candidacy from the Department of Biology Graduate Committee
  5. Submitted a formal program of graduate course work prepared in consultation with and approved by the Department of Biology Graduate Committee
  6. Gained final approval of the program and of the candidacy itself by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Requirements for Graduation

  1. A minimum of 45 quarter units of acceptable graduate-level work included in the formal program, with no less than 32 units completed in residence at this university and with at least 24 units gained from 600-level courses in biology
  2. Advancement to candidacy for the degree and approval of the specific program of courses
  3. A grade point average of 3.0 ("B") in all graduate course work fulfilling the requirements of the Master of Science in Biology and grades of "C" (2.0) or better in each course in the program
  4. Successful completion of a written thesis and of an oral presentation in defense of the thesis
  5. Fulfillment of the graduation writing requirement. This requirement is met upon successful completion of the thesis
  6. Any additional general requirements not cited above and listed in the University Catalog. ("Requirements for a Master's Degree Program" under "Graduate Degree Programs" in the University Catalog.)


Students must conduct an original research study and from these efforts write a thesis acceptable to the major advisor, the Department of Biology Graduate Committee, and the Dean of Graduate Studies. The student should consult the Department of Biology for details on preparing the thesis manuscript. A final oral examination consisting primarily of discussion of the thesis and thesis research is required. The official examiners are the major advisor and the Department of Biology Graduate Committee. Successful completion of the final oral examination includes acceptance of the thesis by the examiners.

Thesis Program Course Requirements (effective Fall 2014; a minimum of 45 units)

  1. BIOL 601. Teaching Assistant Training in Biology (2)
  2. BIOL 690. Graduate Seminar in Biology (2)
  3. BIOL 692. Graduate Research Methods in Biology (2)
  4. BIOL 699A. Thesis Research and Thesis (3)
  5. BIOL 699B. Thesis Research and Thesis (3)
  6. BIOL 699C. Thesis Research and Thesis (3)
  7. Five of the 600-level courses in Biology listed under "Course Categories" A, B, and C. (List follows the non-thesis program description below.) At least one of these must be taken from each of the three categories. (Minimum of 10 units.) Course categories are:
    1. Cellular and Molecular Biology
    2. Physiology and Organismal Biology
    3. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  8. Twenty (20) units of electives to be chosen from biology or related courses at the 600-, 500- and 400-levels (excluding BIOL 601). A maximum of twelve (12) units from any combination of BIOL 596, BIOL 692, and BIOL 696 may be applied toward the student's degree. Courses taken outside the department to fulfill this requirement require prior approval of the Graduate Committee and thesis advisor.

Course Categories

A. Cellular and Molecular Biology

  • BIOL 502. Genetic Engineering (4)
  • BIOL 528. Concepts of Molecular Genetics (4)
  • BIOL 572. Virology (4)
  • BIOL 590A. Senior Seminar - Molecular (2)
  • BIOL 590C. Senior Seminar - Cellular (2)
  • BIOL 590I. Senior Seminar - Microbiology (2)
  • BIOL 592. Recombinant DNA Techniques (4)
  • BIOL 600. Advanced Topics in Molecular Biology (2)
  • BIOL 605. Advanced Topics in Cell Biology (2)
  • BIOL 651. Advanced Topics in Molecular Genetics (2)
  • BIOL 678. Advanced Microbiology (2)

B. Physiology and Organismal Biology

  • BIOL 424. Comparative Animal Physiology (6)
  • BIOL 431. Comparative Plant Physiology (6)
  • BIOL 440. Principles of Development (5)
  • BIOL 524. Advanced Vertebrate Morphology (3)
  • BIOL 573. Immunology (5)
  • BIOL 576. Endocrinology
  • BIOL 580. Neurobiology (4)
  • BIOL 590D. Senior Seminar - Physiology (2)
  • BIOL 590F. Senior Seminar - Animal Use (2)
  • BIOL 590J. Senior Seminar - Zoology (2)
  • BIOL 590K. Senior Seminar - Botany (2)
  • BIOL 620. Advanced Topics in Plant Biology (2)
  • BIOL 622. Advanced Topics in Zoology (2)
  • BIOL 624. Advanced Topics in Physiology (2)
  • BIOL 660. Advanced Topics in Development (2)
  • BIOL 675. Advanced Topics in Parasitology (2)
  • BIOL 677. Advanced Immunology (2)

C. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

  • BIOL 514. Conservation Biology (4)
  • BIOL 515. Global Change Biology (4)
  • BIOL 522. Population Genetics (4)
  • BIOL 565. Physiological Ecology (6)
  • BIOL 590B. Senior Seminar - Biosystematics (2)
  • BIOL 590E. Senior Seminar - Ecology (2)
  • BIOL 590G. Senior Seminar - Genetics (2)
  • BIOL 590H. Senior Seminar - Evolution (2)
  • BIOL 590M. Senior Seminar - Conservation Biology (2)
  • BIOL 650. Advanced Topics in Genetics (2)
  • BIOL 664. Biosystematics (2)
  • BIOL 670. Advanced Topics in Ecology (2)
  • BIOL 680. Advanced Topics in Evolution (2)

Teaching Assistantships

Teaching assistants are responsible for designing and teaching their course, holding office hours (2 per week) and meeting regularly with the TA Coordinator and their fellow TAs during the quarters they teach. Teaching assistants must enroll in BIOL 601 (Teaching Assistant Training in Biology) prior to, or concurrently with their first assignment as a teaching assistant.