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The M.S. in Biology

A master's degree can provide research experience and specialized training before entering a Ph.D. program or it can be an end in itself. Students with advanced training, one or two publications, and a strong laboratory or field research experience are in demand in biotech, pharmaceuticals, resource management, and environmental consulting.

The goals of the Biology graduate program are to:

  • Generate a productive academic community of students dedicated to performing high quality, publishable research within a two-year program.
  • Produce graduates with both specialized training in their chosen subdisciplines as well as communication skills to effectively function within a broad-based scientific community.
  • Equip students with a range of research and teaching proficiencies that will significantly enhance their scientific or professional career opportunities.
  • Foster close academic interactions between faculty and graduate students.

As described in the Graduate Handbook, an M.S. candidate must complete a total of 30 credit hours of graduate courses, pass a qualifying examination, and complete a research thesis. Each student must have a thesis committee consisting of a major adviser and at least two other faculty from the department. This committee will be responsible for supervising the student's research, advising the student regarding coursework and other aspects of the program, and administering a final oral exam at the time of the thesis defense.

The research thesis must be presented in a seminar open to all members of the department; the seminar is followed by an oral examination administered by the committee. Students who wish to work with a specific faculty member are encouraged to contact him or her prior to entering the program.

To ensure some familiarity with all of the major sub-disciplines of biology, we require our graduate students to complete, if they have not already done so, a balanced program of study consistent with the requirements we have established for William & Mary undergraduate biology majors (see the undergraduate catalog). In particular, students must have at least one semester of organic chemistry either as an undergraduate or during their graduate program. Credits taken to fulfill this requirement cannot be applied toward credit hours of graduate courses required for the master's degree.

A minimum residency period of one year is required.

Permission for an M.S. student to change to the M.A. program will be given only under extraordinary circumstances and will require repayment of any funds received by the student in support of summer research.

See the Graduate Catalog and the Graduate Handbook for details.