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Master of Science in Biology

For information on the University's basic requirements for the M.S. degree, see the "Graduate Degrees" section of this bulletin. Students considering this degree option should meet with staff in the student services office prior to applying.

The M.S. degree program offers general or specialized study to individuals seeking biologically oriented course work, and to undergraduate science majors wishing to increase or update their science background or obtain advanced research experience. Students who have majored in related fields are eligible to apply, but course work equivalent to the preparation of a Stanford B.S. in Biology is strongly recommended. This includes course work in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. The M.S. program does not have an M.S. with thesis option.


The department only accepts M.S. program applications from matriculated Stanford students:

  1. undergraduates wishing to pursue a coterminal MS degree.
  2. graduate students from other Stanford programs wishing to pursue an MS degree.
  3. current Biology PhD students wishing to leave the PhD program with an MS degree.

Undergraduates must apply in mid-January to start the program in Spring, Autumn, or the following Winter quarter. Graduate students may apply by the third week of any academic quarter.

Required application materials—

  1. Application for Admission, Preliminary Program Proposal, and Course Transfer Form
  2. A statement of purpose which explains why the student wishes to enter the program and what the student plans to accomplish while in the program. The statement should also supply information about the student's science capabilities if his or her undergraduate academic record does not accurately reflect them.
  3. Unofficial Stanford transcript
  4. Two letters of recommendation, preferably from Biology faculty members in this department. If two such letters are not available, letters from faculty familiar with the student's ability to succeed in a graduate science curriculum are acceptable.
  5. Application fee: an application fee is charged to all students regardless of outcome; application fee is applied directly to students' accounts.


The M.S. program consists of Department of Biology and/or Hopkins Marine Station course work, approved out-of-department electives, and foundational breadth courses totaling at least 45 units at or above the 100-level, distributed as follows:

  1. A minimum of 23 of the 45 units must be courses designated primarily for graduate students (200-level or higher).
  2. A minimum of 36 units must be chosen from the offerings in the Department of Biology (BIO), Hopkins Marine Station (BIOHOPK), the list of approved out-of-department electives, research and teaching, and/or foundational breadth courses.
    1. a maximum of 18 of the 36 units may be a combination of Biology research, directed reading, and/or teaching (BIO 198, 198X, 290, 290X, 291, 300, 300X; BIOHOPK 198H, 290H, or 300H).
    2. a maximum of 9 units may be foundational breadth courses in chemistry, mathematics, statistics, computer science, and/or physics beyond the level required for the undergraduate degree in Biology and at least at the 100-level.
  3. No more than 9 units may be other Stanford course work relevant to a student's professional development. Students are required to petition for courses that fall into this category using the General Petition form.

Each candidate designs a coherent program of study in consultation with her or his department adviser. Although there are no specific courses required, program proposals must adhere to department parameters.

In addition to the unit requirements outlined above, students must adhere to the following:

  1. A program proposal, signed by the student's adviser and approved by the chair of the M.S. committee, must be filed by the third week of the first quarter of enrollment.
  2. Students may take only 6 units CR/NC.
  3. Students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  4. Students must receive a grade of 'B-' or better in all courses taken for the degree.

Students not meeting these minimum requirements are subject to departmental academic review and/or dismissal.

The department's Master of Science Handbook has additional information about the program, University policy, and the department.

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