MS in Biology
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; take the master’s exam; 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
- 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
- Final Examination
Early in the fourth semester, students take the master’s comprehensive exam. The examiners include three or more faculty members chosen by the director of graduate studies in consultation with the student.
Format is either a written exam or review paper (with topic assigned by the examining committee), with both options followed by an oral exam. A student who does not pass the examination will be allowed one re-examination, at the discretion of the committee. In the event of a second fail grade, no further opportunity to take the examination is permitted, and degree candidacy is terminated.
See the GW Graduate Student Handbook (PDF) 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.
The thesis-based M.S. degree in biology requires 24 credits of course work, plus 6 credits of thesis research. Students must also take the M.S. degree comprehensive examination, and complete and defend a written research thesis. The general requirements for the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences graduate programs also apply.