Concurrent Biology Master of Science

The following are the requirements for pursuing a concurrent Master of Science degree in Biology for graduate students pursuing a Ph.D. in other programs at Duke.

Ph.D. students from other departments

Ph.D. students in other graduate programs at Duke may petition the DGS of Biology for permission to pursue a concurrent M.S. in Biology. They should submit a letter to the Biology DGS indicating:

  1. A set of courses they plan to take to meet the M.S. requirements set by the Graduate School. These courses must include:
    1. at least 24 graded credits in courses at the graduate level, of which at least 9 credits must be in Biology graduate courses taught by primary graduate faculty in the Biology department
    2. at least 30 credits in total (including the 24 graded credits above)
  2. A description of how the set of courses proposed above will give the candidate: 1) a strong background in an area of biology they wish to master; and 2) the necessary skills to pursue thesis research in that area. Courses not taught by faculty in Biology must be judged by the DGS of Biology to nevertheless contribute to the student's mastery of the background and research methods in the student's chosen subfield of Biology.
  3. A short description of what the topic of their Masters thesis will be
  4. The name of the Biology graduate faculty member who has agreed to serve as the advisor
  5. The names of two other faculty members (at least one of whom must be a member of the graduate faculty in the Biology Department) who have agreed to serve on the student’s Masters committee.

The advisor of the prospective master's student must also send a letter or email to the DGS verifying that: 1) the proposed thesis topic is likely to qualify for an M.S. degree in Biology; 2) the proposed set of courses will give the student the necessary background and research skills; and 3) they are willing to supervise the M.S. project.

In addition, the DGS of the graduate student’s Ph.D. program must contact the DGS of Biology to verify that: 1) they are aware that the student is petitioning to pursue a concurrent Biology M.S. degree and 2) that they approve of the student pursuing the concurrent M.S. degree. Before doing so, the DGS of the student’s Ph.D. program should first verify that the student’s advisor approves of the student pursuing a concurrent M.S. degree.

If the DGS of Biology finds the student’s application to be well founded, they will then contact the other two faculty members to verify that they are willing to serve on the student's M.S. committee.

The DGS will then write to the Dean of Academic Affairs in the Graduate School to get their approval for the student to pursue the proposed M.S. degree.

Requirements for a Master of Science Degree in Biology

Course requirements

Biology M.S. students must complete the proposed courses they specified in their initial application to become an M.S. candidate. However, they are allowed to petition the DGS of Biology to allow a change in the proposed courses (provide that the credit requirements specified above are still met).

Thesis requirement

The proposed M.S. project must make a significant contribution to an appropriate subdiscipline of Biology that is commensurate with a master's degree, as judged by the student's M.S. committee. It can be based on a laboratory or field study, a modelling study or a formal review of published literature in any area of Biology.

Advising and monitoring

As noted above, graduate students pursuing a concurrent M.S. degree in Biology must have a primary Biology graduate faculty member as the advisor of the thesis, and as the chair of the M.S. committee of three graduate faculty in total (at least two of which must hold primary appointments in Biology).

Thesis defense

Upon completion of the thesis, the M.S. candidate will present the thesis to their committee no later than two weeks before a scheduled one-hour meeting, at which the student must defend the thesis in front of the committee. The M.S. will be granted if at least two of the committee members vote to pass the student after the defense, but the advisor must vote to pass.


The requirements for the M.S. degree in Biology must be completed by the time the student completes their Ph.D. degree.