M.S. Program Policies

Graduate School guidelines and requirements for M.S. degrees are provided on the Graduate School webpage. All M.S. students are expected to be aware of these requirements. Many of the forms that need to be submitted to the Graduate School are available on this page.

The School of Biological Sciences has adopted the following policies affecting graduate students in our M.S. program:

  1. All M.S. students are assumed to have sufficient background in biology and chemistry to meet the prerequisites of our graduate courses. The responsibility for determining deficiencies rests with the major professor.
  2. Complete the CITI Responsible Conduct of Research Basic Course (Biomedical). Details and links to the training can be found here: https://research.illinoisstate.edu/ethics/training/conduct-training/. CITI training registration details can be found here: https://research.illinoisstate.edu/ethics/training/citi/. There are 15 required modules, with an estimated completion time of 4-6 hours for all modules. Upon completion, please save your Completion Report, which should be submitted (to Barb Cox and the School of Biological Sciences Graduate Director) based on the following: 

    Degree start August 2024 or later: evidence of completion submitted with Proposal Approval form.

    Degree start before August 2024: completion submitted with Right to Defend form in final semester

    Degree completion December 2024 or sooner: no required completion of training
    Research advisors may require completion of training ahead of these School-wide deadlines.

  3. All master’s degree students in Biological Sciences are required to maintain academic good standing as defined by the University. In addition, the School of Biological Sciences requires that M.S. students form a M.S. thesis committee that is chaired by a member of the Illinois State graduate faculty in the School of Biological Sciences, and complete and submit a M.S. thesis proposal by the end of their 2nd full-semester in the program.  Students who obtain course grades lower than a B in graduate courses, who perform inadequately as teaching assistants or research assistants, or who fail to meet other university or school requirements can be denied assistantship support or be dismissed from the program by the graduate studies committee.
  4. Seminar Requirements: M.S. students are required to enroll for two BSC 420 credits.  Also, attendance at official School  seminars (4pm each Thursday during the academic year, occassionally 4pm Tuesdays) is required unless the student is officially excused because of course or teaching conflicts.
  5. M. S. thesis committees consist of the faculty advisor and at least two additional faculty members.  At least two of the committee members (including the thesis advisor) must be tenured or tenure-track faculty in the School. The Director of the Graduate Program must approve all thesis committees prior to their official appointment.
  6. M.S. students must complete a minimum of 30 credit hours including at least 50% at 400-level, not including 499.  The 30 credit hours must include 4-6 credit hours of BSC 499 and 24-26 credit hours of course work.
  7. M.S. students must follow the School Check-List for the M.S. program (below), which details the major requirements and the usual sequence of events that a student should follow.
  8. Advisor and advisee relationships may not always be smooth, and they must be worked on by both faculty members and students alike. However, we recognize that sometimes the relationship may be deemed unsustainable despite all best efforts. The Graduate Studies Committee will work with the student to ensure fair and equal treatment during this transition, and provide all reasonable assistance to facilitate the student’s success and eventual graduation from the program. Any issues should be discussed with the Director of the Graduate Program.
  9. Policies for integrity in research are outlined in University Policies and Procedures 1.8 https://policy.illinoisstate.edu/conduct/1-1-8/ and policies for student academic integrity here https://deanofstudents.illinoisstate.edu/conduct/code/academic/. If academic misconduct is suspected at any time during the process of a thesis / dissertation, the process will be paused before passing through any further benchmarks (e.g., Proposal Approval, Outcome of Defense, etc.). The committee will review the suspected misconduct. If the issue cannot be resolved as a misunderstanding of the situation by the committee, they will report the issue to the School Graduate Director and Graduate Studies Committee. A meeting will be held to review the case and to determine the next, which will likely include the required elevation the issue as laid out in the Student Code of Conduct, the Policy for Integrity in Research, or as relevant to external funding guidelines.

Check-List of the Requirements for the Degree of Master's of Science in Biology

Read the graduate catalog or Graduate School website and comply with all University requirements. The following requirements are listed in the order in which they should be met. If you have any questions regarding these requirements, contact the Director of the Graduate Program. Graduate School forms and deadlines referred to below.

  1. In consultation with your faculty advisor, select the remaining members of your thesis committee. M. S. thesis committees consist of the faculty advisor and at least two additional faculty members. At least two of the committee members (including the thesis advisor) must be tenured or tenure-track faculty in the School. Qualified scientists from outside the university may serve as  members of committees. Submit these names (include a CV of any external member) via email to the Director of the Graduate Program for approval by the graduate studies committee. Also cc Barbara Cox in the Biological Sciences office, who will add that email to your folder. A copy of the email listing your thesis committee composition will be placed in your file in the Biology Office.
  2. With your faculty advisor, call a meeting of your thesis committee to plan the remainder of your graduate course requirements.
  3. ​​​​​​Complete the CITI Responsible Conduct of Research Basic Course (Biomedical).
  4. Write a Thesis Proposal, in a format approved by your faculty advisor and committee (ask for examples), and complete a Proposal Approval Form .
  5. Approved Proposal approval forms must be submitted by the end of your second full semester in the program.  Meet with your thesis committee to discuss your plans and obtain thesis committee approval of the proposal’s feasibility. Approval is indicated by submitting the signed proposal approval form to the Director of Graduate Studies (cc’ing Barbara Cox) along with an electronic copy of your proposal. 
  6. Prior to the semester in which you plan to graduate, obtain the detailed calendar of events prescribed for the semester in which you will actually graduate (available on the Graduate School website). Important details are specified each semester on this calendar, such as when you must apply for graduation, file degree audit, pay your fees, hold your thesis defense, when the thesis must be deposited in the Graduate School, etc. Your faculty advisor must agree about your readiness to defend your thesis.
  7. Early in your final semester file your Master's Degree Audit Form. Email it to the Graduate Director who will forward it to the Graduate School. Note that in some cases, syllabi of courses you took may be required. You must file an application for graduation.
  8. Before you begin to write your thesis, consult the formatting guidelines for theses/dissertations which provides information on issues of format. Submitted or published manuscripts may be formatted by journal guidelines, but a note of the status of the manuscript must be placed at the start of the relevant chapter.
  9. IMPORTANT, THERE ARE TWO RIGHT TO DEFEND FORMS: 10 business days before your defense date upload a draft of your thesis/dissertation to ProQuest. Also, complete and submit BOTH the Graduate School Right to Defend Form and the School of Biological Sciences Right to Defend Form to the Director of Graduate Studies and Barbara Cox together with a copy of your thesis. A copy of the Graduate School Right to Defend form is available on the Graduate School website. Provide the date, time and location of your defense, your title and your committee member names to Barbara Cox and your defense will be announced to the School. The defense must be scheduled on or before the date that the Graduate School has specified as the date for final submission of theses/dissertations.
  10. You must present a School research seminar prior to the Oral Thesis Defense Examination. Before the beginning of the semester in which you expect to graduate, schedule your seminar through the appropriate seminar coordinator. This seminar can be presented as part of a Brown-bag seminar program or as a specially scheduled seminar.
  11. Make sure your faculty advisor has scheduled your Oral Thesis Defense Examination for a time that satisfies the above requirement. The Biology Office must be informed of both the time and place of any theses defense research seminars at least 1 week before. This will be announced to the School.
  12. After passing their oral defense, students should make any corrections required by their committee and upload the final version of their thesis to ProQuest. After the final version is uploaded, the student should submit the Outcome of Defense form and the Final Deposit checklist (both are available on the Graduate School website.)  Final upload of thesis and submission of forms must occur on or prior to the Final Deposit Filing Deadline listed on the Graduate School website.
  13. If you possess any keys to University facilities, equipment, or furniture, these must be returned before you leave the University.
  14. IMPORTANT: If you have satisfied all of the requirements for your M.S. degree (including completing 4-6 credit hours of thesis research BSC 499) except completing your thesis, you must register each semester for one credit hour of BSC 499.  Full-time equivalent options are available.