Information for Current Masters Students


Masters Degree Pathway: Flowchart in PDF

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Conditionally Classified: If you are Conditionally Classified you must complete the conditions specified and then apply to become Classified: Change of Status Form

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Official Program of Study (POS): This is a list of the 30 units of courses that will constitute your academic program; the course units can add up to 31 units if necessary but not more. You must have completed at least 12 of these units before you can file your POS. You can download the POS form with instructions here.  This is a fillable PDF form that can be sent electronically to collect signatures. Additional forms you may need to fill out are available at the Graduate Division's Graduate Program Forms website. Your POS must include:
  • at least 15 units of 600-700 level courses including 797 and 799A
  • no more than 9 units of credit/no credit courses (e.g. 797, 799A, and others)
  • no more than 6 units of courses numbered 797 and 798 will be accepted. (For CMB students this is only 3 units because of the requirement to take 3 units of Bio 601 and for Microbiology students only 5 units because of the requirement to take at least 1 unit of Bio 601.)
  • in order to take research units (797), special studies (798), or thesis proposal (600 - only CMB and Microbiology students) a completed Research & Special Studies form must be filed in the Biology Office
  • no courses below the 500 level
  • no course with a grade less than C
  • GPA for POS courses must be at least 3.0
  • This list of required, recommended, and elective courses for CMB and Microbiology students should be downloaded and consulted by all CMB and Microbiology students

Submit your completed POS form no later than the middle of your third semester to the Graduate Coordinator (see below) who will submit it electronically for approval by the Graduate Division.  It must be signed by you, initialed (anywhere on the form) by your Thesis Adviser, and signed by your program area Graduate Adviser (see below).  Be advised that you will not  be  advanced to candidacy until you successfully propose your thesis.

Sample Programs of Study


Thesis Proposal (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Students): This is a requirement for all Masters students and is taken after you have formulated a thesis research project and collected some preliminary data.

  • Select your thesis committee: The chair will be your Thesis Adviser, the second member will be a fulltime faculty member from the Biology Department, and the third member must be a fulltime faculty member outside the Biology Department; you may have a fourth member if you wish. If your Thesis Adviser is an Adjunct Faculty member, then you must have a Co-Chair who is a full time faculty member in the Biology Department (in this case your committee would consist of four members). FERP and emeritus faculty can serve on Masters thesis committees, and FERP faculty can chair thesis committees, but you will have to file the appropriate form with the Graduate Division.
  • Schedule your Thesis Proposal: This will be open to the public and advertised: in the Biology Bulletin, by posting notices, and/or group E-mail. You will be expected to give a brief (20-30 minutes) presentation of your thesis proposal and answer questions from your committee and any others attending. The committee will then meet privately to determine whether to approve your proposal.
  • Report the Results to the Department Graduate Advisor (see below): Use the Thesis Proposal Form, which should be signed by your Thesis Adviser and by the Program Area Graduate Coordinator (see below) for your program. At this time they may also indicate if they approve of your Advancement to Candidacy; this step can also be approved later. This is a fillable PDF form that can be sent electronically to collect signatures.

Thesis Proposal (Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Physiology Students): One of the requirements of the Cell and Molecular Biology MS program (Molecular Biology, Microbiology, Physiology) is the presentation of a Thesis Proposal to a Thesis Committee. This requirement should be met after a student has joined a lab to perform his/her thesis research. The Thesis Proposal requires that the student be registered in Biol. 600 (3 units) during the semester the proposal is presented. To register for this class the student should obtain a schedule number from the Biology Department. The instructor in charge will be the Thesis Adviser (lab mentor) who will be responsible for assigning a grade after the proposal is completed.

The following are the steps to be taken in order to meet this requirement (the steps below should be in consultation with the student’s lab mentor):

  • Develop a Thesis Proposal:
1) Identify an original research project that is well focused.
2) Perform initial studies for the collection of preliminary data.
3) Develop a thesis proposal document that should include:
a) Aims of the research where a specific hypothesis and objectives to be accomplished are summarized (about ½ page).
b) Background and significance of the research where a short literature background is presented and the novelty and significance of the proposed research is stated (i.e. how is the proposed research going to benefit existing knowledge in the field) (1-2 pages).
c) Presentation of some preliminary data to demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed project (2-3 pages).
d) Description of the experimental strategy (experiments to be performed, methodology, caveats and potential problems, possible interpretations of data etc) (3-4 pages).
e) Timeline for the completion of the project (about ½ page).
f) Reference list.
The exact page number for each section above is not strict, but the whole document should not exceed 10 pages total (excluding the reference list).
  • Select your thesis committee: The chair will be your Thesis Adviser, the second member will be a fulltime faculty member from the Biology Department (or the MBI Institute for Molecular Biology Students), and the third member must be a fulltime faculty member outside the Biology Department (and outside the MBI for Molecular Biology students); you may have a fourth member if you wish. If your Thesis Adviser is an Adjunct Faculty member, then you must have a Co-Chair who is a full time faculty member in the Biology Department (in this case your committee would consist of four members). FERP and emeritus faculty can serve on Masters thesis committees, and FERP faculty can chair thesis committees, but you will have to file the appropriate form with the Graduate Division.
  • Schedule your Thesis Proposal: In consultation with the Thesis Committee arrange a time and place for the oral presentation of the proposal. Please note that upon approval of the written thesis proposal document by your mentor, you should provide copies to your thesis committee at least two weeks in advance of the oral presentation. The presentation of the proposal This  will be expected to give a brief (20-30 minutes) presentation of your thesis proposal and answer questions from your committee and any others attending. The committee will then meet privately to determine whether to approve your proposal. If approved, the Thesis Adviser will be responsible for assigning a letter grade for Biol 600.
  • Report the Results to the Department Graduate Advisor (see below): Use the Thesis Proposal Form, which should be signed by your Thesis Adviser and by the Program Area Graduate Coordinator (see below) for your program. At this time they may also indicate if they approve of your Advancement to Candidacy; this step can also be approved later. This is a fillable PDF form that can be sent electronically to collect signatures.

Advancement to Candidacy: This is done only after successful completion of your thesis proposal and submission of the Thesis Proposal Form.  It may be completed during the semester that you plan to graduate, but it is best to do so as soon as possible after successfully proposing your thesis.  If advancement to candidacy was not recommended when you successfully completed your thesis proposal; submit a new Thesis Proposal Form signed by your Thesis Adviser and Program Area Graduate Coordinator indicating that you may now be advanced to candidacy.

Thesis Committee Form: You can obtain this form from the Graduate Office after you are Advanced to Candidacy. It must be signed by all members of your committee and then by the Department Graduate Advisor (see below) (not the Graduate Coordinator of your Program Area) before you submit it to the Graduate Office.


Biology 799A "Thesis": You must be Advanced to Candidacy to enroll in Biology 799A "Thesis" and should do so in the semester in which you expect to graduate. If you do not graduate you will receive a grade of "RP" (in progress) and will need to enroll in Biology 799B "Thesis Extension" (0 units) until you complete your program. You must obtain the schedule number for Biology 799A fromt he Graduate Office.

Write Your Thesis: Consult the Dissertation and Thesis Review web site. From the Montezuma Publishing Dissertation and Thesis Review web site, you can download an MS Word template for the thesis.  Although the manual indicates that you should use a departmental style sheet for your thesis, there is not such a style sheet for Biology. Choose a journal to which you might or will send the results of your thesis. Use their instructions to authors for formatting your thesis, but consult with Montezuma Publishing if there are any conflicting instructions.

Apply for Graduation: Do this in the semester you expect to graduate and check the Academic Calendar for the Deadline.

Defend Your Thesis: This is a public defense before your committee and others and must be advertised: in the Biology Bulletin, by posting notices, and/or group E-mail. This is a formal presentation of the results of your thesis research and will normally be about 45 minutes in length plus time for questions. Afterward your committee will meet privately to decide whether you have passed; committee members may require changes in your written thesis.


Thesis Review: Submit your thesis to the Graduate Division after it is approved your committee for final approval of format. Check the Academic Calendar for Deadlines.


Graduate: Masters degree


Biology Graduate Advisor
Dr. Marshal hedin
Biology Department
San Diego State University
San Diego, CA 92182-4614
Phone: (619) 594-6230
FAX: (619) 594-5676
Email: mhedin@mail.sdsu.edu

Cell and Molecular Biology MS Coordinator
Dr. Scott Kelley

Ecology M.S. Coordinator
Dr. Jeremy Long

Evolutionary Biology M.S. Coordinator
Dr. Kevin Burns