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University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Degree Requirements

Research (thesis) Track


For details on the research thesis track in the Biology MS program, refer to the Biology MS Program Graduate Student Handbook.  Information provided below is an overview of the track requirements.


The thesis option of the Biology MS program requires you to complete 30 credit hours of combined coursework and thesis.  The 30 credit hours must include a minimum of four, but no more than six, thesis hours.  In addition, you may count a maximum of seven hours of independent study and/or graduate level internship.  Graduate internship or independent study projects must consist of primary research.  Completion of the core is also required and contributes to the 30 credit requirement:

2 semesters of graduate seminar (BIOL 6655-1 cr. each semester)

1 semester of Biological Data Analysis (BIOL 6764-3 cr.)

1 semester of Principles of Biological Research (BIOL 5705-2 cr.)


Preliminary Exam:  The general biology Preliminary Exam is required of all entering Biology MS students by their second semester in the program.  The exam is generally administered between the fall and spring semester in year 1 in the program.  You must pass the Preliminary Exam in order to continue in the Biology MS program. 

Thesis Advisory Committee:  You must form a three-person advisory committee consisting of members of the graduate faculty, with at least two from the regular CU Denver graduate faculty.  Your committee membership must be approved by your graduate faculty advisor.


The Proposal Defense:  You must meet with your committee before the end of your first year in the program.  Committee members must be presented with a document describing the thesis research plan in sufficient detail so that members can understand the design and goals of the project.  Your graduate faculty advisor may specify the format this should take.  Committee members should receive this document, known as the Research Proposal, at least one week prior to the meeting.


At this meeting, you will give an oral presentation describing your proposed project, including background from the literature, your hypothesis based on this background, proposed methods, and possible outcomes and pitfalls.  Your committee members will then have the opportunity to provide input in the design and methodology of your project.  At the end of the meeting, the members will sign and complete the Proposal Defense Form. The completed form needs to be copied and the original turned in to the Biology MS program Director.  Guidelines and expectations for the proposal defense can be found at:  Proposal Defense Evaluation Form.


You must successfully complete the Proposal Defense by the end of the second semester in the program).  If you cannot meet this deadline, you must petition the Biology MS program for an extension (only granted for good cause).


Progress Check Meetings with Your Committee:  Upon completion of the Proposal Defense, you should schedule regular meetings with your entire committee to keep members abreast of your progress and any changes in goals and/or design.


Thesis Research, Writing and Submission:  Your thesis committee will help guide the development of your research; however, the completion of your research is your responsibility.  Additionally, there are a number of steps that you must take regardless of your topic or discipline.  Please always refer to the CU Graduate School website for access to forms, deadlines, guidelines and requirements.


Guidelines for writing and submitting the thesis can be found on the College website above.  Note that your completed thesis should be presented to your committee well in advance of your scheduled thesis defense (see below).  Your graduation and completion of the Biology MS program requirements are not final until a final version of the thesis has been approved by your faculty advisor and committee members.


The Thesis Defense:  The thesis defense consists of a seminar on your thesis research given to the Department and to your thesis advisory committee.  The seminar (generally 45 min. long) will be followed by a general question and answer session of all audience members.  Following the general Q&A session, everyone except your committee members will be asked to leave and the defense will continue with a Q&A period with your committee members (this may last anywhere from 1-2 hours).  Upon successful completion of the thesis and thesis defense, your committee members will sign and complete the Thesis Examination Form (your faculty advisor will have this form).