The master of science in biological sciences emphasizes independent research along with advanced course work. Candidates for admission should demonstrate a strong background in biology and a dedication to pursuing laboratory research. The program offers opportunities to focus in a variety of areas in the biological sciences, including molecular biology, microbiology, biochemistry, genetics, evolutionary biology, animal behavior, developmental biology, neurobiology, ecology, marine biology, plant and animal physiology, and environmental sciences. Programs for the master's degree are designed to meet individual needs and ordinarily include the equivalent of eight credits of thesis research. An oral presentation of the thesis is required.
Applicants to the program are normally expected to have majored in the department concerned, although the department will consider an applicant who has had some undergraduate work in the field and has majored in a related one. All such cases fall under the jurisdiction of the department. Prospective students who are in this category should address questions about specific details to the departmental graduate adviser or the director of graduate programs. With departmental approval, a student whose undergraduate preparation is deemed inadequate may make up any deficiency at Smith College.
Candidates for this degree must also offer evidence, satisfactory to the department concerned, of a reading knowledge of at least one foreign language commonly used in the field of study.
Applicants are required to complete a minimum of 32 credits of work, of which at least 16, including those in preparation for the thesis, must be at the graduate level. The remaining 16 may be undergraduate courses (of intermediate or advanced level), but no more than eight credits at the intermediate (200) level are permitted. With the approval of the department, no more than three undergraduate seminars may be substituted for graduate-level courses. To be counted toward the degree, all work, including the thesis, must receive a grade of at least B-minus, but the degree will not be awarded to a student who has no grade above this minimum. Courses for graduate credit may not be taken on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. The requirements described in this paragraph are minimal. The department may set additional or special requirements and thereby increase the total number of courses involved.
The required thesis for this degree may be limited in scope but must demonstrate scholarly competence; it is equivalent to a one-semester, 4-credit course or a two-semester, 8-credit course. Two copies must be presented to the committee for deposit in the library. The thesis may be completed in absentia only by special permission of the department and of the director of graduate programs.
Although the requirements for this degree may be fulfilled in one academic year by well-prepared, full-time students, most candidates find it necessary to spend three or four semesters in residence.