Section IX: Master's Degree

Basic Graduate School policies are stated in Section VI, of the Graduate School Handbook.

In the total context of the MCDB Program, the Master’s degree constitutes a minor component of graduate training.  Except in unusual circumstances, applications specifically for Master’s degrees will not be approved for admission.  The degree as awarded by MCDB usually provides a possible exit route for those students opting to end graduate studies in the program following a decision not to pursue a doctoral degree, while still acknowledging their advanced study and research.

THESIS (PLAN A)
In addition to all requirements in Section VI.4 of the Graduate School Handbook, candidates for MCDB Master’s degrees must:

  1. Complete the MCDB curriculum as described in Section VIII of this Handbook.
  2. Teach at least one quarter.
  3. Complete a minimum of 45 credits of graduate level work.
  4. Complete a thesis detailing acceptable research results.
  5. Undergo a final Master’s Examination.

Students opting for the thesis Master’s degree must complete the requirements within six calendar years of entering the program.

Members of the Advisory Committee are to receive the draft of the thesis at least seven days prior to the examination.  The thesis draft must be approved by the committee prior to the Master’s Examination.  The Committee’s approval may be conditional upon specific changes in the text of the thesis.

The Final Examination is conducted by a Committee consisting of the student’s advisor (Chair) and at least two other members of the MCDB faculty.  The time and date of the examination is determined by the advisor, in consultation with other committee members and the candidate.

The Final Examination consists of an oral examination lasting approximately two hours.  The student should review results from the thesis.  This will be followed by questions from the Committee.  Although the examination is primarily a defense of thesis, questions may be asked in both the student’s area of interest and in more general aspects of biochemistry; molecular, cellular and developmental biology; and allied sciences.

A positive decision requires a unanimous vote of the Advisory Committee.  If the outcome is judged to be unsatisfactory, a second final examination and defense with the same committee may be scheduled with the permission of the Master’s Examination Committee.  Failure of a second examination will result in ineligibility for an MCDB graduate degree.

NON-THESIS (PLAN B)
All requirements in Section VI.2 of the Graduate School Handbook apply to candidates for MCDB Master’s degrees.  In addition, candidates must:

  1. Complete the MCDB curriculum as described in Section VIII of this Handbook.
  2. Teach at least one quarter.
  3. Complete a minimum of 45 credits of graduate level work.
  4. Undergo a final examination.

The non-thesis Master's Examination includes a four-hour written portion and a one-hour oral portion.  The content and scope of the exam is determined by the Examination Committee.  This committee includes the student's advisor and at least two other members of the MCDB Graduate Faculty.  The written portion of the exam may take the form of a “closed book” examination covering the general areas of biochemistry and molecular, cellular and developmental biology.  Alternatively, it may take the form of a paper describing research accomplished by the student.  In any case, the purpose of this exam is to determine the student's proficiency in the subject and the student's ability to integrate information and to solve scientific problems.  A positive decision on this exam requires a unanimous vote of the committee.

MASTER’S DEGREE ON THE BASIS OF CANDIDACY EXAMINATION
With advisor recommendation, the GSC may approve an award of the Master’s degree based upon satisfactory performance on the Ph.D. Candidacy Examination to students who choose to leave the program prior to completion of the Ph.D. requirements.  Students must petition the GSC, detailing reasons for leaving the program. 

Except in special circumstances, the GSC will not normally approve the Master’s degree by examination option for students who wish to remain in the program and obtain the doctoral degree.

Rev:  December  2010

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