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Minnesota State University, Mankato
Minnesota State University, Mankato


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College of Science, Engineering, & Technology
Department of Biological Sciences

242 Trafton Science Center S

Biology MS

Biology Education MS (Discipline-Based)

Thesis Plan - 30 credits; Alternate Plan Paper - 34 credits

 The Biological Sciences graduate program is designed flexibly to allow students, with their advisors, to mold and focus their program of study on professional interests and specific needs. To do this, students can draw from a broad range of graduate courses and select from a diverse and well-trained faculty for direction in research.

The Department of Biological Sciences is located in Trafton Science Center, one of the best science buildings in the state university system. Trafton Science Center presents an open, collaborative atmosphere for graduate study and research, and includes well-equipped research and classroom laboratories. Another attractive feature is Biology's proximity to other science departments, whose faculty members provide opportunities for multidisciplinary study in chemistry, mathematics, computer science, physics and electrical engineering.

The department's modern facilities provide opportunities for research and teaching, with 18 research laboratories, plus support areas. Among those are a media kitchen, environmental chambers, animal complex, greenhouse, dishwashing facility, herbarium, museum and a garage for field equipment. The department's equipment is suitable for biological investigations ranging from ecosystem analysis to subcellular physiology.

Instrumentation available includes transmission and scanning electron microscopes, ultracentrifuges, diode array spectrophotometers, graphite furnace AA, scintillation counter, gas chromatographs with FID, ECD and MSD, ultrafreezers, computer-controlled physiology data acquisition, Coulter counter, fermentation facility, freeze dryers, thermocyclers (PCR), high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), UV/Vis/NIR spectrophotometers, chlorophyll fluorometers, infrared gas analyzer, flow cytometer, and other equipment necessary for modern biological research opportunities.

All members of the department's graduate faculty hold doctorates and have extensive research experience. Areas of concentration in research and teaching are Biology Education, Microbiology, Biomedical Sciences, Environmental Science, Toxicology, Ecology, Zoology, and Plant Science. Sub areas of teaching specialization include physiology, cellular biology, developmental biology, plant and animal ecology, genetics and evolutionary biology, parasitology, immunology, entomology, and aquatic biology.

Approximately 35 graduate teaching assistantships (TA) are available each year to qualified applicants. A minimum 3.0 GPA in undergraduate courses in math, chemistry, biology and physics and a qualifying TOEFL score are required for consideration of a TA. Research assistantships are also offered, depending on external funding. Preference is given to Assistantship Applications submitted to the Department of Biological Sciences by March 1. However, applications will be accepted at any time for review.


See the Department of Biological Sciences website ( for admissions information.


Students who do not meet the admission requirements, or students who do not have an equivalency (a grade of C or better) in the core courses required for admission, have a scholastic deficiency (listed on your acceptance letter).

Deficiencies may be corrected by:

  1. Formal coursework, or 
  2. Approved examination given by the instructor in charge (with a C or better).

Undergraduate courses taken to correct a deficiency will not count toward the graduate degree.

Any graduatecourse designated as a deficiency may be applied toward the graduate degree, provided it is first approved by the student’s advisor, the Biology Graduate Committee, and the Biology Department Chairperson.

Applications will not be considered complete until all required items have been received.


The Written Comprehensive Examination may be required at the discretion of the Examining Committee. The Oral Comprehensive Examination is required for each degree candidate and includes an open seminar on the candidate's research. The candidate distributes seminar announcements to department faculty at least two weeks prior to the seminar.

Biology MS

(Thesis Plan - 30 credits)
(Alternate Plan Paper - 34 credits)

Common Core
(Thesis Plan - 30 credits) (Alternate Plan Paper - 34 credits)

Choose 7 Credit(s).
3 credits of BIOL 695 is required.

BIOL 601 Biometrics 2
BIOL 602 Research Methods 2
BIOL 695 Seminar 1
Restricted Electives
Choose 4 Credit(s).

BIOL 605 Ethical Issues in Biological Research 2
BIOL 606 Paradigms in Ecology 2
BIOL 619 Selected Topics in Biology 2-3
ENVR 619 Selected Topics in Environmental Science 2-3
Unrestricted Electives

General Electives
Biology Courses
Choose 13 - 22 Credit(s)
APP requires 21-22 credits; Thesis requires 13-16 credits.

BIOL 500 - 698 Choose any 500/600 level Biology courses in consultation with an advisor.
Capstone Course
Choose 1 - 6 Credit(s)
APP requires 1-2 credits; Thesis requires 3-6 credits

BIOL 694 Alternate Plan Paper 1-2
BIOL 699 Thesis 1-6
At least half of the required graduate credits for the program must be at the 600-level, not including the thesis or alternate plan paper credits. For example: * The thesis track requires at least 12 credits of 600-level courses (not including BIOL 699). * The alternate plan paper track requires at least 16 credits of 600-level courses (not including BIOL 694).


Biology Education MS


(Thesis Plan - 30 credits)
(Alternate Plan Paper - 34 credits)

This degree does not lead to initial teaching licensure. Students who desire initial licensure should consult the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. Please see the section concerning the MAT program that is listed in this bulletin.

Required Core (11 credits)

  • BIOL 601  Biometrics (2)
  • BIOL 602  Research Methods/Proposal (2)
  • BIOL 695  Graduate Seminar (1) [3 Seminar credits required]
  • BIOL 619  Selected Topics (2-3) [4 Selected Topics credits required]
  • ENVR 619 Selected Topics (3) [may be taken to satisfy 3 credits of the BIOL 619 requirement]

Required Biology Electives (1-10 credits)

Choose any 500/600 level Biology courses in consultation with an advisor.

Required Professional Education (6 credits)

Choose 6 credits of professional education courses in consultation with an advisor.

Required Related Science Electives (6 credits)

Choose 6 credits of related science courses in consultation with an advisor.

Required Thesis or Alternate Plan Paper

  • BIOL 694  Alternate Plan Paper (1-2)
  • BIOL 699  Thesis (3-6)

Note: At least half of the required graduate credits for the program must be at the 600-level, not including the thesis or alternate plan paper credits.

Course Descriptions

BIOL 502 (4) Stream Ecology

This course focuses on the fundamental concepts of stream/river ecology and the physical, chemical and biological processes that characterize running water ecosystems. Students learn principles, concepts and methods of study in a field setting, and the structure and function of stream ecosystems are presented with emphasis on adaptations of organisms to stream life and connections between stream organisms, the aquatic environment, and the surrounding watershed. Includes lab, field work, and team projects. Prereq: BIOL 105W, 106, 215 or consent. Lab (fieldwork) included.

BIOL 503 (3) Conservation Biology
Applications of principles from ecology, genetics, behavior, demography, economics, philosophy, and other fields to the conservation and sustainable use of natural populations of plants and animals. Lectures and discussions address topics such as habitat fragmentation, parks and reserves, genetic diversity, population viability, and extinction.
(S) Prerequisite: BIOL 215 or consent

BIOL 504 (4) Wetlands
This course expands and applies the general principles of ecology to community and ecosystem ecology. This course emphasizes the primary factors that affect wetland functions and how these factors are altered by landscape changes and on-site management. Lab (fieldwork) included. (S)

BIOL 505 (3) Fisheries Biology
An introduction to fish biology and fisheries management, diversity, form and function in the aquatic environment, functional physiology, evolution and speciation, identification and use of keys, ecology, and management topics. (ALT-F)

BIOL 508 (4) Vertebrate Ecology
Ecology and evolution of birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and fishes. Topics include energetics, behavior, mating systems, life histories, physiology, and population biology. Lab includes field sampling techniques, population modeling, and species identification
Lecture and Laboratory. (F)

BIOL 509 (4) Advanced Field Ecology
A 12-day field course focused on the function and dynamics of various North American
ecosystems. Emphases will be on natural history, observations of animal behavior, community dynamics, critical thinking, and experimental design. Students will be trained in a variety of sampling techniques for plant and animal populations. Depending on enrollment there may be additional costs (e.g. camping fees) for the course. (Summer) On demand

BIOL 510 (3) Global Change Biology
The natural or human-induced change in climate and the effect on terrestrial and marine ecosystems. The human species' place in the biological world, effects on various communities and potential methods of correcting detrimental effects with economic and social implications.
(F) Prerequisite: One year of general biology plus one general ecology course, or consent

BIOL 512 (4) Soil Ecology
Soil ecology will focus on the genesis and classification of soils, the physical properties of soil as they relate to habitat formation, niches, interactions that exist among soil organisms, human impact on soil systems relative to population pressures and management practices. Lab included.
(S) Prerequisite: One year of general biology plus one general ecology course, or consent

BIOL 517 (3) Biology of Aging and Chronic Diseases
Emphasis is placed on the biomedical aspects of aging and chronic disease. The course is designed for students majoring in biology, gerontology programs, or other health related programs.
(S) Prerequisite: One semester of general biology

BIOL 520 (3) Diagnostic Parasitology
Clinically important parasites. Protozoans, Flukes, Tapeworms, Roundworms, Ticks, Mites, and
Insects. Designed for Medical Technology, Pre-Medicine, Pre-Veterinary, and Biology majors.
Identification, clinical disease, epidemiology, and ecology are covered. Lab included. (S)

BIOL 521 (3) Entomology
Morphological, ecological, medical, and economic significance of insects.
Prerequisite: One year of general biology or consent.

BIOL 524 (3) Developmental Biology
Understanding the process of cell differentiation and development. These principles are then applied to the descriptive study of human embryology including the basis of congenital malformations.
(F) Prerequisite: One semester of general biology

BIOL 530 (4) Hematology/Introduction to Immunology
Collection, examination, evaluation, morphology, function, and diseases of blood cells.
Hemostasis/coagulation of blood. Immunology theory is presented. Lab included.
(S) Prerequisite: One semester of human physiology

BIOL 531 (3) Comparative Animal Physiology
A comparison of adaptation mechanisms, from cell to organ-systems, used by animals in response to "changes in" environmental conditions such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, food availability, temperature, waste, solutes, pressure and buoyancy. (F)

BIOL 532 (4) Lake Ecology
This course is an introduction to the physical, chemical and biological characteristics and interactions of inland freshwater lakes. Labs will emphasize field work; including data collection, analysis and discussion from five local lakes. (ALT-F)

BIOL 533 (3) Cardiovascular Physiology
This course is a functional study of the heart and circulation, with a medical and pathological emphasis. (F)

 BIOL 535 (4) Histology
Study of types, arrangements, and special adaptations of human tissues. Lab included.
(S) Prerequisite: One semester of human anatomy

BIOL 536 (4) Animal Behavior
An exploration of behavioral strategy, communication, learning, and social systems of animals, with emphases placed on the causes, evolution, ecological implications, and function of behavior at the individual and population level. Lab included.
(S) One year of general biology and one general ecology course, or consent

BIOL 538 (3) General Endocrinology
This course provides the basis for understanding hormones and the mechanisms of their actions in both the normal and pathological states. Sample topics to be included are diabetes, osteoporosis, hormones of reproduction, and current social and medical issues related to the course.

(S) Prerequisite: One semester of general biology

BIOL 541 (4) Plant Physiology
Plant functions such as water relations, mineral nutrition, translocation, metabolisms, photosynthesis, photorespiration, fat and protein metabolisms, respiration, growth and development, phytohormones, reproduction and environmental physiology. Lab included.
(S) Prerequisite: One year of general biology plus a plant science course. Recommended: one semester of organic chemistry.

BIOL 542 (4) Flora of Minnesota
Field identification of plants with emphasis on local flora. History of systematics, techniques, plant biogeography, methods of plant collection, preservation, preparation of herbarium specimens are covered. Lab and field trips included
(ALT-F) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, or consent. Plant Science strongly recommended.

BIOL 543 (4) Plant Ecology
Expands upon general principles of ecology and focuses on the factors that affect the distribution and abundance of plants, analysis of plant populations, and dynamics of plant communities. Lecture and lab (field work) included.
(F) Prerequisite: One year of general biology plus one general ecology course, or consent. Plant Science strongly recommended.

BIOL 551 (4) Plant Biotechnology
Lecture/laboratory course that presents an integrated view of plant biology, crop science, and current issues in biotechnology. Course focuses on issues of global concern such as sustainable food production, biofuels, genetically modified crops, molecular pharming, and tissue culture.
(F) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, or consent. Plant Science recommended.

BIOL 552 (3) Biological Instrumentation
The principle and operation of instruments and their application to biological research. Types of
instrumentation examined include spectroscopic, chromatographic, electroanalytic, radiographic, and imaging. Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) will also be examined. Emphasis is placed on GLP, GMP, and ISO9000 practices.
(S) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, or consent

BIOL 560 (3) Introduction to Toxicology
A lecture course covering basic principles of toxicity evaluation in living organisms, mechanisms of responses to chemicals or physical agents within an overview of practical medical, environmental and science policy implications. Presentation of comparisons of specific organ and tissue reactions to toxins in a variety of species follow these introductory concepts.
(Alt-F) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, and one year of general chemistry

BIOL 561 (4) Environmental Toxicology
A lecture/laboratory course that focuses on anthropogenic and natural toxicants, mathematical
modeling of the dispersion of chemical and physical agents in the environment, and effects on species and ecosystems with a special section on aquatic risk assessment. The laboratory includes techniques in environmental toxicity and a genuine research project.
(ALT-S) Prerequisite: BIOL 460/560

BIOL 562 (1) Toxicology Seminar
A seminar course that involves critical evaluation of published studies in toxicology, student
presentations of a selected published manuscript, and requires students to write a paper on one aspect of the course's topic area that semester. Topic areas vary each time the course is offered.
(ALT-F) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, and general chemistry

BIOL 564 (3) Methods of Applied Toxicology
A lecture/laboratory course focusing on the steps necessary to start a research project from project definition through methods testing and evaluation, and a final report that includes a project flow chart. Third year students will have senior and/or graduate mentors.
(ALT-F) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, and general chemistry

BIOL 565 (3) Applied Toxicology Project
A lecture/laboratory course where students perform all aspects of their own designed research topic in toxicology while critically evaluating the progress of other projects as well. Students will be expected to keep timelines or develop modified timelines as necessary. The inverted triangle approach of project design will be examined and then included in all designs.
(ALT-S) Prerequisite: BIOL 464/564

BIOL 566 (3) Principles of Pharmacology
A lecture course that examines mechanisms of drug action, physiological responses and adverse
reactions from sensitivities or allergies through overdose.
(ALT-S, and ALT-Summer) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, one semester of human physiology, and one year of general chemistry

BIOL 567 (3) Industrial Hygiene
A lecture course that examines Minnesota State University as your own work place to develop reports on a selected group of chemical and physical hazards of the workplace. Evaluation methods and solutions to existing problems are developed with concise reporting skills.
(ALT-F) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, and one year of general chemistry

BIOL 572 (4) Microbial Ecology & Bioremediation
Role of microorganisms in soil, air, water, and sewage processes as well as methods of measurement and detection. Special emphasis on the role of microorganisms in bioremediation. Lab included.
(ALT-S) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, plus one semester of general microbiology

BIOL 573 (3) Virology

Viruses infect all living things, such as bacteria, plants, fish, and animals (including humans). There are many viruses that cause significant human mortality and morbidity, such as influenza and smallpox viruses. However, the vast majority of viruses that infect humans have little or no negative impact on our health and well-being. This course will teach Virology by stressing the rules of replication that every virus must follow. The use of viruses as molecular tools, virus-host interactions, and current viral outbreaks will also be discussed.

BIOL 574 (4) Immunology
Fundamental principles of humoral and cell mediated immunity and the application of these
principles. Current experimental work in the different areas of immunology will be discussed. Lab included.
(F) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, plus one semester of general microbiology

BIOL 575 (4) Medical Microbiology
This course will cover bacterial, fungal, and viral human pathogens: what diseases they cause, how they cause disease, and how humans defend against and prevent those diseases. In the laboratory, the student will isolate and identify pathogenic microorganisms using microbiological, biochemical, and immunological techniques.
(F) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, plus one semester of general microbiology, or consent

BIOL 576 (5) Microbial Physiology & Genetics
This course presents the physiology and genetics of microorganisms emphasizing those aspects
unique to bacteria and archea. Topics include: energy production; biosynthesis of small molecules and DNA, RNA, and proteins; the formation of cell walls and membranes; microbial differentiation and behavior; and the genetic and biochemical regulation of these processes.
(S) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, plus one semester of general microbiology

BIOL 578 (4) Food Microbiology & Sanitation
The role microbes play in production and spoilage of food products, as prepared for mass market. Topics include food-borne pathogens, epidemiology and control, and essential principles in sanitation including Hazard Analysis/Critical Control Point and ISO 9000 requirements. Lab included.
(S) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, plus one semester of general microbiology.

BIOL 579 (4) Molecular Biology
This course will cover both eukaryotic and prokaryotic molecular biology including: DNA and RNA structure, transcription, regulation of gene expression, RNA processing, protein synthesis, DNA replication, mutagenesis and repair, recombination, and insertion elements. A number of important techniques used in recombinant DNA technology will be discussed and practiced.
(S) Prerequisite: One year of general biology, plus one semester of general microbiology and one semester of cell biology or genetics.

BIOL 580 (3) Biological Laboratory Experiences for Elementary
Provides experience with a wide variety of biological laboratory exercises to prepare prospective
elementary teachers. Emphasis is on building knowledge, skills, and confidence. The course will
cover major biological concepts and environmental education through classroom-ready examples
selected to illustrate each concept. (F, S)

BIOL 585 (4) Biology Teaching Methods & Materials
A basic science methods course designed to prepare prospective junior and senior high life science teachers. Course will cover science teaching methods and support materials as they apply to life science teaching situations.
(F) Prerequisite: 16 credits BIOL and KSP 608

BIOL 586 (3) Field-Based Teaching Methods & Materials
A lecture/laboratory course that provides opportunity for prospective junior and senior high life
science teachers to observe, practice, and refine their teaching skills. Students will work in a school setting and experience actual classroom.
Prerequisite: BIOL 485/585

BIOL 590 (1-4) Workshop
A variable topic course designed for a selected topic in Biology. Workshops provide an intensive learning experience on a new topic in the biological sciences and/or hands-on experiences in a current area not covered by other course offerings. The course involves background reading, demonstrations, and laboratory or field experiences. (F,S)

BIOL 601 (2) Biometrics
Principles of statistical methods applied to the planning and analysis of biological research. This course helps graduate students plan their research and make statistical inferences in data analysis. (F)

BIOL 602 (2) Research Methods
The design, planning, and writing of a biological research proposal will be discussed in terms of scientific method application, problem selection, methods, and assessments. The students will apply information from the class to prepare their research/thesis proposals and other professional
communications. (S)

BIOL 603 (2) Research in the Biological Sciences I

Laboratory research on the student’s thesis project.

BIOL 604 (2) Research in the Biological Sciences II

Laboratory research on the student’s thesis project.

BIOL 605 (2) Ethical Issues in Biological Research
What does it mean to do biological research ethically? This course will discuss scientific integrity and misconduct, human and animal research, conflicts of interest and the ethical dimension of other topics in modern biological and biomedical research. (ALT-F)

BIOL 606 (2) Paradigms in Ecology
How does contemporary dogma influence the development of hypotheses and theory? Using primary literature, this course explores paradigms on topics such as equilibria in community ecology, information flow in molecular biology, the naturalist and mechanistic schools, and levels of natural selection. (Alt-S)

BIOL 615 (2) Advanced Fisheries Assessment

Course will build on fisheries science foundations and provide opportunities for students to evaluate and integrate complex fisheries ecology and management scenarios. Students will examine and critically evaluate fisheries case histories and data sets to develop strategies to achieve desired aquatic community outcomes. Students will participate in an applied fisheries research project, evaluate published literature, and prepare findings in the format following the guide for authors of a peer-reviewed fisheries journal. Students will engage each other, faculty, and guest speakers to discuss and debate challenging modern fisheries issues. (S) Even Years

BIOL 619 (2-3) Selected Topics in Biology
Selected study of graduate level topics. Course may be repeated for topics of different titles. (F,S)

BIOL 677 (1-5) Individual Study
Prerequisite: consent

BIOL 681 (1-2) Laboratory Supervision
Practical experience in preparing and teaching laboratory courses.
(F,S) Prerequisite: consent

BIOL 685 (2) Teaching Assistant Methods
This course is design to provide teaching assistants (TAs) with the knowledge and skills needed to prepare and teach college-level science courses. Special emphasis will be placed on the attainment of skills that maximize the effectiveness of material that will be presented to students. (F)

BIOL 694 (1-2) Alternate Plan Paper

BIOL 695 (1) Seminar
Students will attend and critique seminars presented by other students, faculty, and by people from external agencies and institutions.
Prerequisite: none (F,S)

BIOL 697 (1-12) Internship
(F, S)

BIOL 699 (1-6) Thesis