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Biology Graduate Degrees and Requirements

A Five–Year Plan

For highly motivated students, especially those planning to pursue graduate study, the department offers a five-year program leading to both B.S. and M.S. degrees in biology. Typically, students will also participate in the University Honors Program as undergraduates. Completion of the M.S. portion of the program requires enrollment in summer terms during the fourth and fifth years. A key component of this program is early and sustained involvement in undergraduate research, beginning in the sophomore year. As such, interested students must work closely with their undergraduate advisor early in their freshman year to design their five-year plan and identify a faculty mentor and area of research.

Graduate Degree Programs

Students interested in graduate study in biology should consult the University’s Graduate School Catalog for detailed information concerning the various programs available. The department offers: (1) M.S. degree with a research thesis or non-thesis option; (2) M.A. degree in Education (major or minor in biology) which places less emphasis on specialization and research and more on breadth in biology.

For further questions regarding:

  • General inquiries about the Biology MS programs at WKU, please contact Dr. Carl Dick, Biology Graduate Program Coordinator  and Thesis Program Director, at or 270-745-2043. 
  • Specific inquiries about the Biology thesis MS program, please contact Dr. Carl Dick, Biology Graduate Program Coordinator and Thesis Program Director, at or 270-745-2043. 
  • Specific inquiries about the Biology non-thesis MS program, please contact Dr. Chandrakanth Emani, Biology Graduate Non-Thesis Program Director, at or 270-852-6406.
  • Inquiries about online courses, please contact Dr. Chandrakanth Emani, Non-Thesis Graduate Program Director, at or 270-852-6406.
  • Biology MAE program, please contact Dr. Cheryl Davis at or 270-745-6524.
  • Peace Corps Master's International Program, please contact Dr. Lawrence Alice at or 270-745-7029.
    *Please Note:  The Peace Corps Master's International Program has been terminated effective September 30, 2016.

An academic semester is considered a 15-week fall or spring term in residence.  If a student is conducting research away from WKU and not enrolled full-time, or if the student takes a leave of absence for some reason, then these would not count as an academic semester.

M.S. Thesis Student Guidelines (Fall) – Summary

Academic Semester 1

- Enroll in BIOL 500 (includes qualifying exam and thesis proposal development)

· Begin GATI (Graduate Assistant Teaching Institute) Training

· Create Graduate Advisory Committee (GAC) of three faculty (one is your advisor)

· Thesis Proposal to GAC

· Complete Program of Study Form

· First committee meeting to discuss research proposal, program of study

· Apply for a Graduate School Research Grant for funding, if needed

· An oral exam may be scheduled, pending results of qualifying exam

Academic Semester 2

· Finalize thesis proposal by first two weeks of semester two (if not previously finalized)

· Ensure status as Graduate Assistant Instructor (certification from GATI Training)

· Meet with GAC to discuss/defend thesis proposal, thesis progress

Academic Semester 3

· Meet with GAC to discuss thesis progress, timeline to completion

· Apply for graduation (using TopNet) as soon as 18 hours have been completed

· Present “mini-seminar” on thesis research to Department of Biology (Graduate Research Symposium)

Academic Semester 4

· Completion of all courses for a total of 30 credits (if not already done)

· Submit Program of Study Change forms for any courses not on the original Program of Study form

· Faculty Advisor completes a grade change via the Department Head for Thesis Writing (599)

· Thesis and supporting forms, capstone completion by the advisor in TopNet, signed signature page, approved reader form, any grant reports or contract, authorization form) due to the Graduate School

· Successful completion of thesis

· Graduation


JUMP (Joint Undergraduate-Master's Program)

- JUMP program in Biology is for students in the MS-thesis track and is not open to the non-thesis MS option.

- JUMP applicants must identify a biology graduate faculty member who is willing to oversee thesis research and serve as their major advisor.

- In addition to the Biology Statement of Intent, the Graduate School Program of Study must be completed and submitted to the Graduate School.

- Biology Statement of Intent and Program of Study are required for admission into the JUMP program, but this does not admit the student to the Graduate Program.

- Generally, JUMP students will not formally apply for graduate status until sometime during their senior year. 

- JUMP students should keep in mind that formal admittance to the Graduate School may potentially negate previously held undergraduate scholarships, and such students are advised to inquire regarding scholarship status.

Click here for the Statement of Intent Form


M.S. Non-Thesis Student Guidelines (Fall) – Summary

First 12 hours

· Enroll in and pass BIOL 500, Introduction to Graduate Study and Research. Non-thesis section is currently offered in Spring Semesters.

· Complete Program of Study Form. Non-thesis students only complete the first page of this form.

· Pending results of qualifying exam administered in BIOL 500, prepare for oral exam.

12 – 18 Hours

· Work with advisor to form oral exam committee, depending on results of the qualifying exam.

· Schedule the exam to be completed during the semester that 18 hours have been accumulated, or the first semester after (summer semesters should be avoided for the exam).

· Pass oral exam (if applicable)

· Register for BIOL 516, with a Biology faculty member (typically your advisor) to develop a BIOL 516 topic and project. Note: BIOL 516 is often offered as a special topic course to multiple students, but it can also be offered to one student, if a student and instructor have worked on a specific plan for the course. 3 hours are required, but BIOL 516 can be offered as 1-3 hours over multiple semesters.

18 – 24 Hours

· Reschedule second oral exam, if not passed on first attempt.

· Finish BIOL 516 project.

· Apply for graduation (using TopNet) as soon as 18 hours have been completed.

24 – 30 Hours

· Completion of all courses for a total of 30 credits.

· Submit Program of Study Change forms for any courses not on the original Program of Study form.  

· Submit a grade change via the department head for BIOL 516 if grade is still pending.

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 Last Modified 9/23/16