Research Option

Students seeking the M.S. degree in order to improve their research skills, to prepare for a career in research and development, or to gain admission to a Ph.D. program should pursue the research option, also known as the M.S. with thesis. This program requires performance of original research and defense of a written thesis, in addition to coursework and additional requirements outlined below. A student desiring a research M.S. must identify a faculty member who agrees to serve as the student's research advisor/mentor before being admitted to the program. The faculty member must notify the program that they will serve as research mentor. A list of trainers for the program are listed here (Faculty Trainers).

Research Requirements

The research option student is expected to carry out independent research under the guidance of a research mentor. For completion of the degree, it is expected that the student has completed a research project that will contribute to a publication (current or future) from the lab. Progress through the degree includes the requirement to select a research committee, prepare a research proposal to present at a first year committee meeting, and prepare and defend a research thesis (see below for further guidance and forms to submit to the MS advisors upon completion of each requirement).

Research Committee

The student in the research option is advised by a research committee of three members: one will be the research advisor and two will be faculty trainers in Microbiology. At least one committee member must have their tenure home in the Department of Bacteriology. The committee should be selected by the student, in consultation with their research mentor and approved by an M.S. program advisor, within six months of entry into the program (Research Committee Form).

The student will meet with the committee periodically (timing to be determined by student and research mentor) to discuss project objectives and determine progress and satisfaction of deadlines and requirements.

First year committee meeting / Research Proposal

The student will have a committee meeting within the first twelve months in the program to present their research proposal to the research committee. The purpose of the first year meeting is to introduce committee members to the research project plan, to assess satisfactory progress in training, and to evaluate that the coursework completed or planned is aligned with research and future goals. To facilitate this process, the student will write a research proposal and distribute it to the committee at least two weeks prior to the meeting. Guidelines on the research proposal format can be found here (MS Proposal Format PDF). The first year meeting form should be completed at the meeting.

Research Thesis

For completion of the degree, the student must write a formal thesis, and defend it to their research committee at an oral exam. Guidelines on the format of the thesis and the oral examination can be found here (MS Thesis Format PDF). The recommendation for award of the M.S. degree will be based on the strength of the thesis, the oral examination, and completion of coursework and all other Graduate School requirements. (Research Thesis Defense Form)

Course/Credit Requirements

A minimum of 30 credits of graduate-level work is required, with courses selected by the student and approved by the research mentor and M.S. program advisor with the following guidelines and in accordance with Graduate School Requirements (see below). (Coursework Certification form)


A cumulative grade point average of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) must be maintained for continuation in the program.

  • At least ten credits of formal graduate-level coursework is required; five of these credits must meet at least one of the following criteria.
    1. Courses commonly taken that qualify are listed here. (MS Course List PDF)
    2. Graduate course at the 600 level or above
    3. Courses that otherwise adhere to the Graduate School definition of Graduate level classes (see Graduate School Requirements below).
    4. By approval of M.S. program advisor
  • A minimum of 12 credits of independent research is required, although more are strongly encouraged.
  • Seminar credits and one-credit courses graded solely on attendance / participation will NOT count toward the 30 credits.
  • Students may request to have up to three graduate microbiology or biochemistry course credits taken prior to entering the MS program apply toward the 10-credit minimum. The student must provide verification that those credits were not used to satisfy any degree, major, or University requirements from any prior degree they have earned. Decisions are made by the M.S. program advisor.

Additional Requirement

Students in the research option must attend an ethics workshop with the goal of fostering ethical and professional conduct. This workshop will be organized by MS program director, and will occur every year in January.