The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

Biology (MS)

Admission Requirements

Multiple factors are considered in the decision to admit new graduate students. Meeting minimum entry requirements does not guarantee acceptance into the program.

To be admitted to the graduate program in biology, prospective candidates must first meet all requirements for graduate admission to UT Rio Grande Valley, as well as the other requirements listed below:

  1. Either (A) an undergraduate degree with major in biology or (B) 30 hours of undergraduate courses in biological sciences or closely related disciplines, with 15 hours at the upper-level, with completion of at least 3 credit hours in 4 of the following general categories: genetics, evolution, ecology, molecular and cell biology, organismal biology, and physiology.
  2. Preferred undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 in their last 60 hours of course work.
  3. Two letters of recommendation from professional or academic sources.
  4. Letter of intent which describes your academic and career goals. The letter should state whether you are pursuing the thesis or non-thesis option.
  5. A resume.
  6. Applicants pursuing the thesis option must have a prospective faculty supervisor.
  7. GRE General Test. GRE test scores are valid for 5 years. A waiver of the GRE requirement will be granted to applicants who show proof of completing a graduate degree (master’s or doctoral).

Application for admission must be submitted prior to the published deadline. The application is available at www.utrgv.edu/gradapply.

Applications are reviewed by multiple members of the Biology Graduate Committee, who then recommend whether or not to accept an application.

Supporting documents from referees, institutions or agencies will only be accepted when received from them under separate cover. Supporting documents should be sent to The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Graduate College unless other arrangements are made. Candidates may submit additional or supplementary documentation (e.g., GRE Subject Test Score, CV).

Application information and status is confidential. All applicants will be informed of the status of their application after a decision has been made.

Leveling Work

An applicant that has not completed at least three credit hours each in four of the following broad categories – genetics; evolution; ecology; molecular/cell biology; organismal biology, and; physiology – may take up to nine hours of leveling work to fulfill this requirement, and must take and complete such course(s) the first time they are offered. Undergraduate courses taken for leveling purposes do not count towards graduate degree completion.

Enrollment While Completing Leveling Work

The following courses may be taken while enrolled in leveling work:

BIOL 6101Scientific Thinking

1

BIOL 6305Biometry

3

Program Requirements

Comprehensive Oral Examination and Thesis Defense (Thesis Option)

After satisfactory completion of the required number of courses (and the presentation of a seminar on the thesis research for those pursuing the thesis option), the student must take a comprehensive examination (and thesis defense for thesis students). The examination (and thesis defense) will be conducted by the student's graduate committee, but it is open to all biology graduate faculty members. The biology graduate faculty must be notified of the examination date, time and place at least two weeks prior to the examination. There is no time limit, but the examination (and thesis defense) ordinarily lasts at least two hours. For thesis students, the first round of questions is devoted to a defense of the thesis and the second and subsequent rounds of questions are over basic biological concepts and principles. For non-thesis students, all questions are on general biology. At the end of the comprehensive oral examination (and thesis defense), the student’s graduate committee will assign a grade of pass or fail, based on a majority vote of the committee.

If the student fails the comprehensive oral examination (and thesis defense), he or she may be granted permission to take a second examination, if doing so is approved by the student's graduate committee, Graduate Program Coordinator, the chair of the Department of Biology, and the dean of College of Sciences. In no case will a second examination be given until at least one semester has passed. After two failures, no further examination is allowed.

Written Comprehensive Exam (Non-thesis Option)

After satisfactory completion of the required number of courses, the student must take a written comprehensive examination. The examination will be prepared by the Graduate Non-thesis Guiding Committee, with suggestions from other biology graduate faculty members. The questions will consist of short and long essay questions regarding general biology, specific questions on advanced courses taken at UTRGV and specific questions regarding their research project. The written examination will last four hours. Answers will be reviewed and an individual follow-up meeting will be given to clarify answers and inform the student of the outcome of the written examination. At the end of the comprehensive examination the graduate advisory committee will assign a grade of pass or fail, based on a majority vote of the committee.

If the student fails the written comprehensive examination, he or she may be granted permission to take a second examination, if doing so is approved by the student's graduate committee, Graduate Program Coordinator, the chair of the Department of Biology, and the dean of College of Sciences. The interval between the first and second examination may not be less than 90 days or more than one year. After two failures, no further examination is allowed.

Biology Grades

Graduate students in biology are expected to maintain a GPA of 3.0 overall, and a 3.0 GPA in all 5000 level and higher biology courses (i.e., excluding courses outside of biology and excluding undergraduate courses). A student whose overall GPA falls below 3.0 will be placed on probation. A student whose biology graduate GPA falls below a 3.0 for one semester will receive a written warning of their status. To remain in the graduate program, the student must restore his or her GPA to 3.0 by the end of the next semester.

A student who receives an “F” in any graduate course will be dismissed from the program. A student who withdraws from more than two courses after the withdraw date may be dismissed from the program at the discretion of the departmental graduate committee.

Supervisory Committee

Thesis students must form a graduate committee within 16 weeks (i.e., one semester) of starting the program. The supervisory committee must consist of at least three graduate faculty members, two of which are from the Department of Biology. The chair of a student’s graduate committee is also known as the student’s supervisor. Students may be removed from the biology master's program if they do not have a committee for more than 16 consecutive weeks.

Non-thesis students must meet with the Graduate Non-thesis Guiding Committee within 16 weeks (i.e., their first semester) of starting the program.

Degree Plan

Students must submit a degree plan to the biology graduate program coordinator within 16 weeks (i.e., one semester) of starting the program, preferably after completing their preliminary oral assessment or meeting with the Graduate Non-thesis Guiding Committee.

Continuous Enrollment

Students are expected to enroll continuously for biology classes, just as they are expected to enroll continuously for graduate courses. A student who is taking only courses outside biology should inform his or her supervisor and the biology graduate program coordinator to ensure that he or she is not removed from the Biology Graduate Program.

Annual Committee Meeting

Students must have an annual meeting with their graduate committee (thesis option) or the Graduate Non-thesis Guiding Committee to ensure that they are making satisfactory progress toward completion of the degree.

General Requirements for Thesis Program

Graduate students selecting the thesis option must complete 36 hours, including the thesis. The choice of courses will be determined through consultation between the student and his or her graduate supervisor and be approved by relevant administrators.

During the first semester of study following admission to graduate study, the student should choose a professor from the graduate faculty who will serve as chair of his or her graduate committee (a.k.a. supervisor) and two other faculty members chosen in consultation with the supervisor. A degree plan, signed by the student and his or her supervisor(s) must be submitted to relevant administrators for signatures. This committee will also oversee progress and supervise the required comprehensive examination.

A thesis topic and plan for research will be chosen by the student and his or her supervisor, subject to approval by the student’s Graduate Committee.

The research will culminate in a thesis written in the style approved by the student’s graduate committee and should be worthy of submission, in whole or in part, for publication in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The thesis must be approved by the relevant administrators.

Following acceptance of the thesis, evidenced by the signatures of the members and by the administrators indicated above, the final copy of the thesis will be submitted to the Graduate College.

Thesis students must give a public presentation on the results of their thesis research to the department in their final semester.

General Requirements for Non-Thesis Program

A non-thesis student must complete 36 hours of coursework, which must include at least 27 hours in biological sciences. The choice of courses will be determined through consultation between the student and the Graduate Non-thesis Guiding Committee. A maximum of nine credit hours in a supporting field may be taken if approved by the Graduate Non-thesis Guiding Committee.

Switching Degree Options

Students who have completed 18 graduate credit hours or fewer may switch between the thesis and non-thesis options by submitting a change of program form and new degree plan to the graduate program coordinator. Non-thesis students must also submit a written agreement from a prospective thesis supervisor to the graduate program coordinator.

Students who have completed more than 18 graduate credit hours must submit a written request and justification for the change to the Biology Graduate Program coordinator. Requests will be reviewed by the Biology Graduate Program coordinator and members of the Biology Graduate Committee.

Requests to switch from thesis to non-thesis after more than 18 hours of coursework have been completed in a program must be strongly justified and should be supported in writing by a student’s committee. If approved, the student must submit a new degree plan within eight weeks.

Thesis Option:

Required Courses (5 Credits)

BIOL 6201Scientific Communication

2

BIOL 6305Biometry

3

Free Electives (24 Credits)

Chosen from the following:
BIOL 5136Current Issues in Biology

1

BIOL 5300Graduate Biology for Educators

3

BIOL 5312Vertebrate Evolutionary Biology

3

BIOL 5316Advanced Environmental Toxicology

3

BIOL 5317Advanced Bacterial Genetics

3

BIOL 5340Statistical Ecology

3

BIOL 5342Restoration Ecology

3

BIOL 5344Advanced Mammalogy

3

BIOL 5346Advanced Aquatic Entomology

3

BIOL 5388Advanced Global Change Ecology

3

BIOL 5402Molecular Virology

4

BIOL 5403Advanced Remote Sensing Technology

4

BIOL 5404Advanced Ichthyology

4

BIOL 5405Advanced Plant Physiology

4

BIOL 5406Advanced Mycology

4

BIOL 5407Plant Ecology

4

BIOL 5408Advanced Plant Pathology

4

BIOL 5409Advanced Herpetology

4

BIOL 5410/MARS 5410Marine Plant Science

4

BIOL 5411Advanced Ecological Physiology

4

BIOL 5412Advanced Ornithology

4

BIOL 5414Advanced Plant Systematics

4

BIOL 5418Advanced Electron Microscopy

4

BIOL 5421Biotechnology

4

BIOL 5422Conservation Biology

4

BIOL 5424Advanced Microbial Ecology

4

BIOL 5426/MARS 5426Advanced Marine Ecology

4

BIOL 5427/MARS 5427Coastal Ecology

4

BIOL 5432Animal Behavior

4

BIOL 5452/MARS 5452Advanced Marine Zoology

4

BIOL 5480Animal Communication

4

BIOL 6198Topics in Biology

1

BIOL 6301Molecular Techniques and Laboratory Instrumentation

3

BIOL 6303Advanced Ecology

3

BIOL 6304Systematic Biology

3

BIOL 6307Animal Bioenergetics

3

BIOL 6308Plant-Microbe Interactions

3

BIOL 6310Plant-Animal Interactions

3

BIOL 6312Advanced Cellular and Molecular Biology

3

BIOL 6313Advanced Endocrinology

3

BIOL 6316Molecular Genetics

3

BIOL 6319Scientific Philosophy

3

BIOL 6320Vector Biology

3

BIOL 6321Applied Microbiology

3

BIOL 6322History of Biology

3

BIOL 6324Evolutionary Theory

3

BIOL 6330Molecular and Cellular Evolution

3

BIOL 6365Biological Research Problems

3

BIOL 6390Biology Internship

3

BIOL 6398Advanced Topics in Biology I

3

BIOL 6400Neuroscience

4

BIOL 6404Fish Ecology

4

BIOL 6412Subtropical Ornithology

4

BIOL 6420Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

4

BIOL 6429Advanced Agroecology

4

BIOL 6499Advanced Topics in Biology II

4

BIOL 6185Graduate Research

1

BIOL 6285Graduate Research

2

BIOL 6385Graduate Research

3

BIOL 6485Graduate Research

4

BIOL 6585Graduate Research

5

BIOL 6685Graduate Research

6

Capstone Requirement

Thesis (7 Credits)
BIOL 7100Thesis Proposal

1

BIOL 7301Thesis I

3

BIOL 7302Thesis II

3

Non-Thesis Option:

Required Courses (8 Credits)

BIOL 6201Scientific Communication

2

BIOL 6305Biometry

3

BIOL 6365Biological Research Problems

3

Or

BIOL 6390Biology Internship

3

Free Electives (28 Credits)

Chosen from the following:
BIOL 5136Current Issues in Biology

1

BIOL 5300Graduate Biology for Educators

3

BIOL 5312Vertebrate Evolutionary Biology

3

BIOL 5316Advanced Environmental Toxicology

3

BIOL 5317Advanced Bacterial Genetics

3

BIOL 5340Statistical Ecology

3

BIOL 5342Restoration Ecology

3

BIOL 5344Advanced Mammalogy

3

BIOL 5346Advanced Aquatic Entomology

3

BIOL 5388Advanced Global Change Ecology

3

BIOL 5402Molecular Virology

4

BIOL 5403Advanced Remote Sensing Technology

4

BIOL 5404Advanced Ichthyology

4

BIOL 5405Advanced Plant Physiology

4

BIOL 5406Advanced Mycology

4

BIOL 5407Plant Ecology

4

BIOL 5408Advanced Plant Pathology

4

BIOL 5409Advanced Herpetology

4

BIOL 5410/MARS 5410Marine Plant Science

4

BIOL 5411Advanced Ecological Physiology

4

BIOL 5412Advanced Ornithology

4

BIOL 5414Advanced Plant Systematics

4

BIOL 5418Advanced Electron Microscopy

4

BIOL 5421Biotechnology

4

BIOL 5422Conservation Biology

4

BIOL 5424Advanced Microbial Ecology

4

BIOL 5426/MARS 5426Advanced Marine Ecology

4

BIOL 5427/MARS 5427Coastal Ecology

4

BIOL 5432Animal Behavior

4

BIOL 5452/MARS 5452Advanced Marine Zoology

4

BIOL 5480Animal Communication

4

BIOL 6198Topics in Biology

1

BIOL 6301Molecular Techniques and Laboratory Instrumentation

3

BIOL 6303Advanced Ecology

3

BIOL 6304Systematic Biology

3

BIOL 6307Animal Bioenergetics

3

BIOL 6308Plant-Microbe Interactions

3

BIOL 6310Plant-Animal Interactions

3

BIOL 6312Advanced Cellular and Molecular Biology

3

BIOL 6313Advanced Endocrinology

3

BIOL 6316Molecular Genetics

3

BIOL 6319Scientific Philosophy

3

BIOL 6320Vector Biology

3

BIOL 6321Applied Microbiology

3

BIOL 6322History of Biology

3

BIOL 6324Evolutionary Theory

3

BIOL 6330Molecular and Cellular Evolution

3

BIOL 6398Advanced Topics in Biology I

3

BIOL 6400Neuroscience

4

BIOL 6404Fish Ecology

4

BIOL 6412Subtropical Ornithology

4

BIOL 6420Plant Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

4

BIOL 6429Advanced Agroecology

4

BIOL 6499Advanced Topics in Biology II

4

Capstone Requirement

Oral Comprehensive Exam

Total Credit Hours: 36