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Grand Valley State University    
 
    
 
  Sep 21, 2017
 
2017-2018 Undergraduate & Graduate Catalog [Archived Catalog]

Master of Science in Biology


For additional information about opportunities your college offers, please refer to your college’s section in this catalog.

The Master of Science in biology is a versatile graduate program designed to produce outstanding graduates. Versatility in the program will allow students to achieve individual goals while serving a diversity of student interests. Students have the opportunity to pursue graduate programs in broad areas such as genetics and cell biology, organismal biology, aquatic and terrestrial ecology, and natural resources. As a focus for these M.S. programs, we offer internship, project, and thesis pathways. Students may choose an emphasis (but not required) in either aquatic sciences or natural resources. The Master of Science in biology degree program is designed to meet the needs of baccalaureate-trained professionals who will be more competitive with a master’s degree as they seek job placement or advancement, secondary teachers who prefer a science master’s, and baccalaureate graduates who wish to earn a master’s degree before continuing their graduate education at the doctoral level.

The Master of Science in biology helps candidates extend their knowledge in their discipline, extend their professional skills, gain experience in the application of their knowledge and skills, and helps them develop their abilities as leaders and team members. Graduates will be professionals who have progressed from learning about science to doing science, and graduates will be able to use their knowledge and abilities to solve problems and answer questions in the complex and interactive context of local, regional, and global issues and concerns. The optional emphasis in natural resources is offered in order to meet the more specific needs of natural resources management professionals, while the aquatic sciences emphasis highlights the importance of aquatic ecosystems of the region. Both aquatic sciences and natural resources emphases offer students opportunities to work with faculty from the Annis Water Resources Institute in Muskegon as well as with Biology Department faculty at the Allendale Campus.

Admission to the Master of Science in Biology Program

  • Satisfactory GRE score
  • A 500-word essay detailing educational and professional goals and your area of interest in biology
  • Three letters of reference
  • An overall undergraduate of at least 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale
  • Prospective candidates must contact the biology graduate program coordinator to begin the process of identifying a prospective graduate committee chair. Candidates will only be admitted if a faculty member has consented to serve as the committee chair.
  • Applicants must interview with faculty either via telecommunication or by visiting campus to determine compatibility and interests.

The Biology Graduate Committee will begin reviewing applications in January for admission during the following fall semester.

Transfer Credits

See the Transfer of Credit portion of the Graduate Admission section in the Grand Valley State University Undergraduate and Graduate Catalog for general provisions. If a candidate wishes any courses taken prior to admission to the Master of Science in biology program to be counted towards the required credits, the request must be made at the time of application. The decision to allow credits to transfer will be made by the departmental graduate program committee and the student’s graduate committee chair.

Departmental Contact

Biology Department graduate program coordinator, 3300a Kindschi Hall of Science, Biology Department, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, 49401-9403. Telephone (616) 331-2470.

Program Location

Allendale Campus and Annis Water Resources Institute

Website: www.gvsu.edu/biology

Requirements for the M.S. in Biology


The Master of Science in biology is a highly individualized, planned program of study. Early advising is essential because the student’s graduate committee chair must approve all course work in advance. Requirements for each student will be individually predetermined at the time the program plan is established. The degree will be earned upon the successful completion of all requirements outlined in the Grand Valley State University Undergraduate and Graduate Catalog. The program of study will include a qualifying exam administered by the student’s graduate committee and a minimum of 33 approved credits with a cumulative GPA of 3.0. All program plans will include the following three components:

  • Nine credits common to all students in the program. These will consist of an experimental design/statistics course, the introductory course (BIO 610 - Scientific Methodology), and the Capstone (BIO 698 - Perspectives in Biology).
  • Fifteen to 18* credits in the student’s interest area, all of which must be approved by the student’s graduate committee chair. Specific coursework, which may include a focus in a secondary area, will be developed by the candidate with the guidance and approval of the student’s graduate committee chair. 
  • Six to nine* credits of BIO 695 - Thesis, BIO 693 - Project, or BIO 691 - Internship (for those selecting the optional natural resources emphasis, the corresponding course numbers are NRM 695, NRM 693, or NRM 691). Note that the credits may not be mixed in this category. This component will be conducted under the supervision of the student’s graduate committee chair and with the approval of the student’s graduate committee. No course-only option is available.

Successful progress towards completion of the degree and continued enrollment requires that the student’s graduate committee chair be determined before admission, and the student’s graduate committee be appointed before the end of the second semester of enrollment. In addition, the student must pass the qualifying exam before registering for thesis, project, or internship credits. The purpose of the qualifying exam is to ensure that students have adequate science knowledge and background to successfully complete their thesis, project, or internship. All students will be limited to a five-year period to complete their degree.

The variable credits in components two and three are designed to allow for an extended thesis, project, or internship. The graduate program will consist of a minimum of 33 credits.

Natural Resources Emphasis (optional)


Corresponding to the existing undergraduate degree program in natural resources management, the Master of Science in biology includes an optional natural resources emphasis. Candidates choosing this optional emphasis have the same admissions criteria and degree requirements as other M.S. students, but will focus their course work, thesis, project, and internship activities in an area related to the management, conservation, or protection of atmospheric, aquatic, or terrestrial resources. Students in this emphasis will develop interdisciplinary studies involving CLAS faculty as well as other collaborating agencies and groups in the West Michigan area. Students in this emphasis will have opportunities to work with faculty and conduct research at the Annis Water Resources Institute located in Muskegon, as well as at the Allendale Campus of Grand Valley State University.

Aquatic Sciences Emphasis (optional)


Corresponding to the existing undergraduate emphasis in aquatic sciences, the Master of Science in Biology includes an optional aquatic sciences emphasis. Candidates choosing this optional emphasis have the same admissions criteria and degree requirements as other MS students, but will focus their course work, thesis, project, and internship activities in an area related to research, management, conservation, or protection of aquatic resources. Students in this emphasis will develop interdisciplinary studies involving CLAS faculty as well as other collaborating agencies and entities in the west Michigan area. Students in this emphasis will have opportunities to work with faculty and conduct research at the Annis Water Resources Institute located in Muskegon, as well as at the Allendale Campus of Grand Valley State University.

Potential Course Selections

Courses previously taught as BIO 580 or BIO 680:

  • Advanced Community Ecology
  • Advanced Quantitative Methods 1 & 2
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Emerging Issues in Water Resources
  • Molecular Ecology
  • Population Genetics

Courses previously taught as NRM 580 and NRM 680:

  • Advanced Fisheries Management
  • Advanced Restoration Ecology
  • Aquatic Ecosystem Management

Financial Assistance


Prospective students should review the Costs and Financial Aid section of the Grand Valley State University Undergraduate and Graduate Catalog in full detail. A limited amount of funding is available on a competitive basis for candidates who need assistance. Those who receive departmental assistantships will work with faculty at a variety of departmental tasks that provide support to the undergraduate programs in the biology department. Candidates who wish to instruct laboratory or lecture sections must apply separately for adjunct teaching position, which are not linked to their status as graduate students. Additional assistance in the form of research assistantships may be available through faculty research grants. Candidates are encouraged to seek external support for their work by submitting grant proposals to external funding agencies. Assistance from faculty is available to candidates seeking external funding.

Departmental Contact. Biology Department graduate program coordinator, 3300a Kindschi Hall of Science, Biology Department at Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, 49401-9403. Telephone (616) 331-2470.

Click here for the program description.