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Biological Sciences Master's Programs

The UMass Lowell Department of Biological Sciences offers a general master's degree, as well as several other options within the degree.

The Master of Science in Biological Sciences, and the Master of Science in Biological Sciences - Biotechnology Option provide the advanced study and training necessary to conduct independent research at a professional level and to be successful in today's competitive academic and industrial research markets. Students in the program will be encouraged to explore quantitative approaches to the solution of problems in the basic and applied biological sciences. Depending on their career goals, students may choose either research or course work options within the Department, or from the interdisciplinary Biotechnology option. All candidates for the master's degree are expected to demonstrate sufficient knowledge and skills to pursue independent and creative research activities.

Graduates of the Master of Science in Biological Sciences: Education, Communication and Outreach option will gain expertise in the biological sciences, while also taking appropriate coursework in education, psychology, and business that is tailored to their desired career. This program would be a great fit for students with career interests in education, curriculum development, as well as life science and sustainability training. Students selecting from this option would have a choice of completing coursework only, or coursework with a project of theses; a project or thesis could be in biology education depending on future career plans. 

The Professional Science Master's Program (PSM) combines traditional training in biological sciences with additional preparation in areas outside of biology, such as project management and discipline-specific courses, to provide students with a broader expertise useful for attaining positions in private-sector companies. A thesis is not required, but each student must participate in a professional internship.

Four Professional Science Master's options are available:

  • Applied Biotechnology
  • Biosafety
  • Environmental Biotechnology  
  • Project Management for Life Sciences

Admissions Requirements

Applications for the Master of Science, including the Biotechnology and Education, Communication and Outreach Options, are considered twice per year, with deadlines for receipt of applications of October 15 and January 10 for the following Spring and Fall semesters, respectively.

Entering graduate students are expected to have a sound preparation in the biological sciences, chemistry, physics, calculus, and statistics. A student found deficient in any of these areas may be required, during the first year, to take appropriate courses to eliminate the deficiencies. If the student has not had a biochemistry course, BIOL.5190 should be taken for graduate credit. The departmental Graduate Coordinator helps plan the entering students programs of study, acquaints them with research opportunities in the department, and assists in selecting research advisors.

Applications for the Professional Science Master's program (PSM) are accepted year round, but it is recommended that complete applications be submitted several months before expected matriculation. Similarly to the MS degree described above, applicants are expected to have a strong background in biological science.

Applications and information for admission to the MS and PSM programs can be found at the Graduate Admissions website.

Degree Requirements

A minimum of 30 semester hours of graduate level work is required for the Master of Science degree in Biological Sciences (Note: the PSM options in Biological Sciences require 37 credits, and the Education, Communication and Outreach Option requires 33 credits. See the Professional Science Master's section and Education, Communication and Outreach section for details). The student has a choice of three paths to degree completion in the general Biology degree and Biotechnology and Education, Communication and Outreach options: thesis, project, or non-thesis. 

Minimal core requirements for all options include 1 semester (3 credits) of Professional Communication in Science and Technology BIOL.6040, completion of Biochemistry BIOL.5190 or an approved equivalent and a minimum of 12 credits of formal course work selected from departmental electives (exclusive of thesis, project, problems, or other directed studies). 

The remaining credits may be satisfied by additional electives within the department (thesis, project, problems, or more course work), by transfer credit for approved graduate level biological sciences courses taken at other accredited institutions (9 credit maximum), or by graduate courses taken in related disciplines within the University (e.g., bioinformatics, chemistry, environmental sciences, chemical engineering, radiological sciences; 8 credit maximum). There is no formal language requirement. 

Students whose professional goals are to continue on for the Ph.D. degree, or who plan to seek employment in academic or industrial research laboratories as technicians or junior scientists are strongly advised to choose the thesis or project option in order to successfully compete for such positions. Students in the non-thesis option should endeavor to select courses with accompanying laboratories whenever possible.

Thesis:

In choosing to complete a thesis, the student concentrates on an in-depth, independent, scholarly investigation of a contemporary biological problem. Credit is allowed for 6-12 semester hours of M.S. Thesis Research. After consulting with the research advisor, the student selects two additional faculty members (one of whom must be from within the Department) to serve as members of the Thesis Committee. The student presents to the Committee a proposal of intended research and obtains the Committee's approval of the research topic. After completing the written thesis, the student gives an oral presentation of his results to the Thesis Committee.

Project:

The project track is designed for independent laboratory investigations of a more limited nature than completing a thesis. Generally, a project is completed in one or two semesters and credit is given for 3 or 6 semester hours of M.S. Project (no more than 6 credits will be allowed).

Non-Thesis:

This track offers course work in breadth and depth, and may be of special interest to secondary school science teachers and individuals already employed in academic, hospital, or industrial laboratories. The course work only track may be completed during the day on a full-time basis or in late-afternoon or evening sessions on a part-time basis. However, since not all day courses are available in the evening sessions, a part-time student's progress toward the M.S. degree will depend not only on his/her available time and abilities, but also on the scheduling of electives. In some instances, with the consent of a faculty member, an evening student may elect to complete a thesis or project.

Professional Experience:

Credit (BIOL-5000; 3cr) may be requested by individuals who present satisfactory evidence (in the form of a written statement from their current supervisor) of engaging in at least one year of full-time experience in secondary school science teaching, or in an academic, hospital, or industrial laboratory setting.

Professional Communication in Science and Technology

Each student is required to complete one semester of Professional Communication in Science and Technology (BIOL.6040; 3 credits) in Biology.

Master of Science in Biological Sciences - Biotechnology Option  

This option is more structured than the M.S. in Biological Sciences program described above. The core curriculum offers extensive hands-on experience in current techniques and instrumentation. Field trips and seminars afford students an opportunity for interaction with the biotechnology industry. Students are encouraged to conduct research in one of the recognized areas of biotechnology or to present an innovative application of technology or engineering principles to a biological problem of economic interest. The nature and extent of the investigation will determine its degree credit value. Those who enter the program having already completed some of the core courses, or who already have extensive laboratory experience, may consult with an advisor to design a course of study appropriate to their needs. A variety of biotechnology-related electives are available.

Core Requirements Biotechnology Option

Any 3 Required Laboratory courses from the following list:

Recommended Electives Biotechnology Option

Up to 9 credits of coursework may be taken in other departments. The sum of core and elective courses must total at least 30 credits.

Professional Science Master's

The curriculum requires students to complete: 2 core courses (Biochemistry I and Professional Communication in Science and Technology) common to all options; 1-2 core courses specific to the option that allow for specialization; additional electives within and outside the Biology Department that permit flexibility in meeting the students’ employment needs and interests; 2 advanced courses specific to the option; and a 1 credit Professional Internship that can be completed during a summer session or either academic semesters. The total minimum credit requirement for each option is 37.

 Applied Biotechnology Professional Science Master's (PSM) Option

Core Biology Requirements - Applied Biotechnology PSM Option

Additional Biology Courses - Applied Biotechnology PSM Option (3 credits minimum)

Advanced Biotechnology/Interdisciplinary Courses - Applied Biotechnology PSM Option (6 credits minimum)

  • MATH.5860 Applied Statistics or
  • PUBH.5750 Introduction to Biostatistics and Epidemiology
  • CHEN.5860 Biotechnology Processing Project Laboratory
  • CHEN.5550 Biopharmaceutical GMP and Licensing
  • CHEN.5350 Cell and Microbe Cultivation
  • CHEN.5450 Isolation and Purification of Biotechnology Products

Professional Internship Applied Biotechnology PSM Option (1 credit)

 Biosafety Professional Science Master's (PSM) Option

Core Requirements - Biosafety PSM Option

  • PUBH.5250 Recognition of Work Environment Hazards: Introduction to Occupational and Hygiene Ergonomics
  • PUBH.5730 Bioaerosals in Health and Biodefense
  • BIOL.5190 Biochemistry
  • BIOL.6040 Professional Communication in Science and Technology

Additional Biology Courses - Biosafety PSM Option (18 credits)

Advanced Biosafety/Interdisciplinary Courses - Work Environment/Rad Science (choose 6 credits)

  • PUBH.5090 Hazardous Waste Site Worker and Emergency Training Response
  • PUBH.5030 Toxicology and Health
  • PHYS.5040 Introduction to Radiological Sciences
  • PUBH.5150 Principles and Practices of Biological Safety
  • PUBH.5160 Laboratory Environmental Health and Safety

Professional Internship Biosafety PSM Option (1 credit)

 Environmental Biotechnology Professional Science Master's (PSM) Option

Core Requirements Environmental Biotechnology PSM Option

Advanced Environmental Biotechnology/Interdisciplinary Courses (choose 14 credits)

Professional Internship Environmental Biotechnology PSM Option (1 credit)

Project Management for Life Sciences Professional Science Master's (PSM) Option

Core Requirements Project Management for Life Sciences PSM Option

  • MGMT.6350 Project Management (College of Management)
  • BIOL.5190 Biochemistry
  • BIOL.6040 Professional Communication in Science and Technology

Additional Biology Courses Project Management for Life Sciences PSM Option (choose 21 credits)

(Graduate, BIOL.XXXX

Advanced Management Courses Project Management for Life Sciences PSM Option (choose 6 credits)

Professional Internship Project Management for Life Sciences PSM Option (1 credit)

Master of Science in Biological Sciences: Education, Communication and Outreach Option

This 33 credit program allows students to gain expertise in the biological sciences, while also taking appropriate coursework in education, psychology, and business that is tailored to their desired career. Students have the opportunity to diversify their coursework into other departments that are relevant for their career paths, without compromising the scientific rigor or their education and training. 

Graduates of the Master of Science in Biological Sciences: Education, Communication and Outreach option will be prepared to:

  • Communicate biological and related scientific concepts tot he public, students and/or their colleagues.
  • Effectively communicate using evidence-based approaches, i.e., using active learning, eliciting misconceptions, and supporting constructivist learning. 
  • Support science-informed decision-making for experts in other areas.
  • Interpret, analyze and evaluate evidence-based education research.
  • Apply knowledge of biological sciences to the understanding of peer-reviewed research.

Curriculum Pathways:

  • Coursework Only (33 credits):
    • 21 credits in bilogical sciences coursework.
    • 9 credits in electives from the Departments of Business, Education or Psychology*
    • 3 credits in supervised teaching of a biology course.**
  • Coursework Plus Masters Project (33 Credits)
    • 18-21 credits in biological sciences coursework
    • 6-9 credits in electives from the Departments of Business, Education or Psychology*
    • 3 credits in supervised teaching of a biology course.**
    • 3-6 credit project in either biology or bology education.***
  • Coursework Plus Masters Thesis (33 Credits)
    • 18 credits in biological sciences coursework
    • 6 credits in electives from the Departments of Business, Education or Psychology*
    • 3 credits in supervised teaching of a biology course.**
    • 6 credits thesis in either biology or biology education.***
*At least one elective course must be from the College of Education.

** Supervised Instruction in Undergraduate Biology Education (BIOL.7100): Graduate students will assist with the preparation of course materials, teaching and/or grading in selected courses offered by the Department of Biological Sciences. Students will be expected to work well independently, while also working  under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Through these activities, the student will learn about materials used, as well as teaching and learning techniques implemented in undergraduate biology education.

*** Project or thesis could be in biology or biology education depending on future career plans; this decision would require advice from the department.
Note: This option is not an education license-granting program. 
Core Biology Curriculum Required of All Students:
  • BIOL.5190 Biochemistry (or an approved equivalent)
  • BIOL.6040 Professional Communication in Science and Technology
  • BIOL.7100 Supervised Teaching of a Biology Course (3 credits required)
Biology Electives Required of All Students:
12-15 additional credits (beyond the core biology curriculum required) of graduate level biology coursework)
Examples of Electives in Business, Education and Psychology:
Manning School of Business (course electives depending on focus)
College of Education (course electives depending of focus) 
Psychology Department (course electives depending on focus)