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Master's of Science -- thesis

Contact: Dr. Lauryn Benedict, 970-351-3364 (telephone), Lauryn.Benedict@unco.edu (e-mail).

University catalogs:  http://unco.smartcatalogiq.com/

General degree information

This program leads to a Master's of Science degree in Biological Sciences. Our program provides students with the opportunity to develop advanced training in biology or biology education in preparation for a career in research or teaching, or to prepare for further academic training in a Ph.D. program. The program includes designing and executing a rigorous program of biology or biology education research, culminating in the Master’s thesis. This degree program is offered at the main UNC campus in Greeley, Colorado.

How does this degree program work?

This degree program is designed to provide advanced post-baccalaureate training in an area of biology through the completion of course work and an intensive research project. Before beginning this program, you should identify a potential faculty research mentor (or mentors) from among the faculty list in School of Biological Sciences. Thereafter, in the pursuit of this degree, you will work closely with your faculty mentor who will help you to customize your program of study as well as identify a research question and formulate a research design appropriate to testing your question. This Master’s degree program includes the defense of a thesis as the culminating demonstration of completion of degree requirements.

Who is this degree program for?

This degree is appropriate for inquisitive and motivated students who possess a Bachelor's degree in the sciences and who want to strengthen or broaden their biology knowledge.  It can be used as a path to career advancement or as a stepping-stone on the way to other graduate or professional programs.

Degree requirements

This degree requires completion of 30 credits of study, including both scheduled classes and one-on-one courses tailored to individual needs and programs.  The UNC catalogs contain the official descriptions and requirements of all courses and programs at the university.  Master’s students will complete and defend a research thesis, which typically is then disseminated as peer-reviewed publication(s). 

Applying to the program

In addition to information about yourself and your academic history, applicants are asked to provide letters of recommendation, a CV or resume, and a letter of intent. The following sections offer advice on how to maximize the impact of those documents.

Letters of recommendation for your application

What letters should include

Letters of recommendation (also called letters of reference) are extremely important to your application. Choose the people that you ask to write these letters thoughtfully. Letter writers should be able to comment on your potential for successful graduate work from a position of experience. Typically, they will be academic faculty or work supervisors that have knowledge of your academic or scholarly performance and other attributes relevant to success in graduate school.

A good letter of reference will be printed on letterhead stationery and include the following:
  • A statement of how the person knows you and for how long
  • An indication of the person's professional expertise
  • Comments on your intellectual strengths, motivation, creativity, time-management skills, work ethic, collegiality, and ability to handle stress and work independently
  • Comments on your writing and verbal communication skills
  • An assessment of your potential and abilities relative to others at your level of education and experience
Some tips on how to make it easy for your recommender to write the best possible letter:
  • Ask each potential recommender if they are willing to act as a professional reference on your behalf.  If they decline your request, move on. 
  • Be sure to let each potential recommender know the deadline for submission of the recommendation, and allow sufficient lead time for them to write and submit a strong letter.
  • Provide your recommender the list of expectations (above) for what should be included in the letter.
  • Supply a copy of your curriculum vitae or resume to each recommender to refresh their memory about your past education and achievements. This is particularly important if you haven't been in touch with them for a while.
  • Supply a copy of your letter of intent to each recommender. This will help them to understand why you are applying to graduate school and what you want to do with your advanced education.

Your curriculum vitae or resume

You may choose to provide either a curriculum vitae or a resume. This document should summarize your preparation and experience relevant to graduate study in biological sciences. A curriculum vitae is most appropriate for applicants with career goals in academia, while a resume might be more appropriate for currently working professionals. CVs and resumes will be reviewed equivalently and with reference to the career goals that you outline in your letter of intent. Find specific advice about what to include on a CV or resume here

Your letter of intent

What your letter should include

At a minimum, your letter of intent should include the following:

  • Your academic experience, interests and preparation
  • Background qualifications for the program
  • Your career goals and how this degree will help you to achieve those goals
  • The names of faculty members with whom you are interested in working
  • A statement indicating whether or not you are seeking a graduate teaching assistantship (see below)
In addition to the required components of the letter of intent (listed above), you may choose to add more information that you believe is important for the Graduate Committee who evaluates applications to consider in reviewing your application.  For example, some applicants may feel it is useful to explain anomalies in their transcript that co-occurred with significant life events.

In addition to communicating your goals and qualifications, your letter of intent also serves as an example of your communication skills. Prepare your letter carefully, editing it for logical flow, grammar and spelling, and succinct prose.

Funding options to pay for school

There are several options available to you for obtaining living expenses and tuitionwhile pursuing your graduate education. These are:

  • Graduate teaching assistantship (TA): A teaching assistantship is the most common mechanism used by UNC biology graduate students for earning an income while working on a degree. Teaching Assistantships pay a stipend and cover tuition costs. See this page for more information.  Teaching responsibilities vary, but students typically teach undergraduate laboratory sections in an area related to their program of study. 
  • Graduate research assistantship (GRA): Research assistantships are available through individual faculty members (typically the research mentor) who have obtained external grant funding to pay a student to work on one of their research projects. Contact individual faculty members to inquire if they have GRA funding available.
  • Scholarships: These are typically awarded based on merit. To be eligible for most scholarships, you must have completed the financial aid application with the University, even if you don't expect to receive financial aid of any other type.