MS in Biology

graduate student working with butterflies in Dr. Arnaud Martin's lab

The Master of Science in Biology program provides a thesis-based degree option only. In addition to completing coursework requirements (below), it also requires the successful completion and defense of a written research thesis.

MS students often publish papers and conduct important research projects during their studies, placing them advantageously for future positions in medical and pharmaceutical jobs, postgraduate programs and laboratory positions across the country. They are also frequent winners at the annual GW Research Days showcase, which features hundreds of presenters from across the university.

Master’s Thesis and Examination Guidelines 

Thesis Timeline

All theses must have a director and a reader. Directors from outside of GW are permitted, but must be accompanied by a biology faculty co-director.

Students should follow the following general timeline:

Semester 1: Meet with research advisor to plan program of studies and transfer any credits; begin thesis topic research
Semester 2: Submit thesis proposal to assigned graduate advisor; begin collecting thesis data
Semester 3: Finish collecting thesis data; begin writing
Semester 4: File an Application for Graduate form; submit thesis first draft to graduate advisor; once approved, submit completed thesis electronically to the Gelman Library
Semester 5+: Register for at least one credit hour of Continuing Research, if extending thesis time

Thesis Proposal

The thesis proposal must include the following: 

  • Brief review of literature pertaining to the problem
  • Statement of the hypothesis to be tested
  • Outline of the methods of investigation
  • Statement of how the data will be analyzed
  • Brief discussion of the scientific significance of the proposed research
  • Bibliography
  • No more than 10 pages total

Once the graduate advisor and reviewers approve the proposal, the student should file a Thesis Topic Approval Form with the director of graduate studies for biology.

See the GW Graduate Student Handbook for further guidance.

Note: It is possible to transfer into the PhD program before finishing the master’s program. Interested students should apply to the PhD before the normal admissions deadline.


Course Requirements

The thesis-based M.S. degree in biology requires 24 credits of course work, plus 6 credits of thesis research. Students must complete and defend a written research thesis. The general requirements for the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences graduate programs also apply.