The Biology Department’s Master of Science program emphasizes research and preparation
for further graduate study as well as employment with public agencies and private
businesses. A major strength of the program is the option to custom-tailor the overall
curriculum to meet the needs and objectives of individual students. Students may pursue
a general biology curriculum or may choose to focus their studies in one or more of
the following specialization areas: botany, cell and molecular biology, ecology, genetics,
microbiology, physiology, or zoology. Students also have the opportunity to study
in a state-of-the-art facility with the Fall 2014 opening of the innovative $147 million
science building comprising more than 250,000 square feet for teaching, research,
and collaborative learning. The Biology master’s requires a minimum of 30 semester
hours of graduate credit and six hours of research tools or foreign language. The
degree also includes written oral comprehensive exams and a research thesis. Program
completion typically requires two to three years.
Scholarship funds grad’s Ph.D. research in Australia
Eric Nordberg landed one of two International Postgraduate Research Scholarships at
Australia’s James Cook University (JCU) after earning his M.S. in Biology at MTSU
in December 2013. Nordberg moved to Townsville, Queensland, to start his doctoral
research investigating the effects of cattle grazing on arboreal lizards. Most of
his work involves describing the ecology and behavior of a common yet understudied
arboreal gecko, the Dubious Dtella (Gehyra dubia). Nordberg lives near the Great Barrier Reef, with the rainforest an hour north and
the dry tropical savanna an hour west. “JCU is a well-respected and highly ranked
(top 4%) in global universities for studies in tropical biology and marine sciences,”
Nordberg says. “Australia also has a tremendous diversity of reptiles and other wildlife
found nowhere else in the world. My master’s thesis project at MTSU with Dr. Vince
Cobb on the hibernation ecology of timber rattlesnakes prepared me well for entering
into the research intensive program here at JCU.”
M.S. alumnus supervises corporate labs in two states
Spring Nolin, a 2013 Biology M.S. graduate, was promoted in January 2014 to quality
control supervisor at Vi-Jon, a manufacturer of health and beauty care products, in
Smyrna, Tennessee. Nolin oversees four labs (raw materials, product release, stability,
and methods development) in two states including in Missouri. While working on her
master’s, she had moved up to senior chemist at Vi-Jon. Nolin earned undergraduate
degrees in Chemistry from MTSU (2006), where she played rugby, and in Biology from
Martin Methodist College (2005), where she competed in soccer and softball. She was
finishing her intermediate EMT license and contemplating medical school when she began
working at Vi-Jon and decided to work on her master’s. “Dr. Otter’s work in environmental
chemistry worked in closely with my instrumental and analytical work I was doing at
Vi-Jon,” Nolin said. Nolin works closely with the microbiology lab and the environmental
safety department. Her thesis involved three different MTSU departments (Concrete
Industry Management, Chemistry, and Biology). “I believe MTSU gave me the tools to
reach for loftier goals,” she said.
MTSU College of Graduate Studies
Recent M.S. graduates have followed a variety of career paths, including pursuit of
advanced research degrees (Ph.D.) and professional degrees (M.D. for medicine, D.D.S.
for dentistry, M.T. for medical technology); employment with a variety of private,
university, state, or federal laboratories and agencies; and teaching in high schools
and junior colleges. Possible professional positions with this degree:
- Biology teacher
- Biotechnology operations manager
- College laboratory coordinator
- Community college faculty
- Commercial farm operations manager
- Ecological/environmental consultant
- Environmental scientist
- Food technologist/safety specialist
- Information technologist
- Laboratory scientist
- Molecular biology analyst
- Museum curator
- Research assistant/associate
- Senior biochemist
- Senior chemist
- Water quality specialist
- Wildlife biologist
- Zoological park curator
Employers of MTSU alumni include
- Aegis Science Corp.
- Barrett Firearms Mfg.
- Boston Medical Center
- California University of Pennsylvania
- Central Medical Lab, Sulaimani, Iraq
- City of Franklin Water Resources Dept.
- Environmental Science Corp.
- Genetic Assays
- Grundy Greens Farm
- Harpeth High School
- ICON Clinical Research
- Illinois Natural History Survey
- Motlow State Community College
- Nashville State Community College
- Pope John Paul II High School
- Premiere Orthopedics
- Rockvale Middle School
- Siegel High School
- Site Engineering Consultants
- Stones River National Battlefield
- Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency
- U.S. Air Force
- U.S. Geological Survey
- University of Connecticut Health Center
- Vanderbilt University
Doctoral/professional programs where graduates have been accepted include
- Arizona State University
- Indiana State University
- James Cook University, Australia
- Middle Tennessee State University
- Northern Illinois University
- Oklahoma State University
- Sao Paulo State University, Brazil
- University of Alabama-Birmingham
- University of Kentucky Medical School
- University of Louisville
- University of Memphis
- University of Mississippi
- University of Tennessee
- Uppsala University, Sweden
- Utah State University
- UT-Memphis Medical School
- Vanderbilt University
The Department of Biology offers the Master of Science as well as a minor at the graduate
The department additionally offers courses in three interdisciplinary Ph.D. programs:
Molecular Biosciences; Computational Science; and Mathematics and Science Education (concentrations in Biological Education, Chemical Education, Mathematics Education,
and Interdisciplinary Science Education) .
The Biology Department also participates in the Master of Science in Professional
Science interdisciplinary degree that combines business management skills with advance
learning in specific science fields. The six concentrations are Actuarial Sciences, Biostatistics, Biotechnology, Engineering Management, and Healthcare Informatics.
MTSU is an affiliate of the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory in Mississippi. Certain
courses in marine biology may be taken for graduate credit and transferred to MTSU.
Applicants for the Biology M.S. program must have an undergraduate minor (19 hours)
in biology or its equivalent, and 12 hours of chemistry (must include one semester
of organic chemistry or biochemistry).
For admission the General GRE is required with scores typically above the 50th percentile.
Additionally, undergraduate grade point averages in biology and overall near or above
a 3.0 are strongly preferred.
Applications are accepted year-round, but preference for admission will be given to
students adhering to the following deadlines: Summer/Fall enrollment, March 1; Spring
enrollment, Oct. 1.
Graduate teaching assistantships (GTAs) are available to students who show academic
promise and potential as effective students. In general, application for a GTA should
be made at the same time as the general graduate admissions application.
Master’s candidates must pass written and oral comprehensive examinations; present
and successfully defend a research thesis; and complete 6 semester hours of approved
research tools or two semesters (6 hours) of a foreign language in addition to the
For complete curriculum details, click on the REQUIREMENTS button to the right.
Students in the Department of Biology can pursue a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree with one of four concentrations: Genetics and Biotechnology; Organismal Biology and
Ecology; Microbiology; or Physiology. The department is one of the participants in
Forensic Science, an interdisciplinary major leading to a B.S.
A minor in Biology is also offered.
Dr. Chris Herlihy
The Department of Biology offers the Master of Science in Biology.
Please see undergraduate catalog for information regarding undergraduate programs.
Required application materials include official transcripts, Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.
Students receiving unconditional admission typically will have a 3.40 overall (and in biology coursework) undergraduate grade point average and overall GRE scores above the fiftieth percentile.
All students in the graduate program must have an undergraduate minor (19 hours) in biology or its equivalent and 12 hours of chemistry (including one semester of organic chemistry or biochemistry).
All application materials are to be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies.
Applications for admission are accepted year-round; preference for admission will be given to students adhering to the following deadlines: Summer/Fall enrollment, March 1; Spring enrollment, October 1.
- submit an application with the appropriate application fee (online at www.mtsu.edu/graduate/apply.php);
- submit official scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE);
- submit official transcripts of previous college work;
- submit three letters of recommendation from professors or professionals that address the applicant's potential to successfully complete an M.S. in Biology;
- submit a personal statement. The personal statement should outline the student's interest in graduate study and indicate a potential area of research interest and thesis advisor.
- identify a thesis advisor.
The Master of Science in Biology requires completion of a minimum of 30 semester hours with at least 21 hours at the 6000 level.
- successfully complete both written and oral comprehensive examinations (may be taken no more than twice) the semester before graduation;
- present and successfully defend the thesis in a public forum;
- complete BIOL 6620 Biological Research and submit a Research and Thesis Approval Form and a copy of the research proposal to the graduate program director before the end of the second semester of study.
The following illustrates the minimum coursework requirements. In addition, a maximum of 15 hours of thesis research may be required to fulfill degree requirements.
Required Courses (6 hours)
BIOL 6620 - Biological Research
Prerequisite: Permission of department. Selection of a research problem, review of pertinent literature, and execution of the research.
BIOL 6650 - Seminar
Discussion and critical evaluation of the primary scientific literature. Responsible conduct of research topics including data management, publication practices, peer review, and collaborative science emphasized. One two-hour session.
BIOL 6660 - Seminar
Development of written and oral communication skills relevant to obtaining research funding and presenting research results. Responsible conduct of research topics including mentor/trainee relationships, human subjects, animal research, research misconduct, and conflicts of interest emphasized. Two one-hour sessions.
NOTE: Students are expected to complete both seminars during the first year of graduate study.
Electives (21 hours)
- Must be selected from BIOL courses or other elective courses approved by the thesis advisor and MS program director.
Thesis Research (3-15 hours)
NOTE: No more than 15 hours of thesis research may be applied toward degree requirements.
BIOL 6640 - Thesis Research
1 to 6credit hours
Prerequisites or corequisites: BIOL 6620 and permission of department. Completion of the research problem begun in BIOL 6620; preparation of the thesis. Once enrolled, student should register for at least one credit hour of master's research each semester until completion. Minimum of three credits required for M.S. degree. S/U grading.
- file a degree plan in the College of Graduate Studies prior to entry into the program;
- file a Notice of Intent to Graduate form in the College of Graduate Studies within the first two weeks of the term in which candidate intends to graduate.