General Requirements for Graduate Degrees

The School of Biology and Ecology administers three Master’s degree and two Ph.D. degree programs: Master of Science in Botany, Master of Science in Entomology, Master of Science in Zoology, Ph.D. in Biological Sciences, and Ph.D. in Zoology. Requirements are identical for the three M.S. degrees and for the two Ph.D. degrees as outlined here.

1. Teaching: One semester is required for Ph.D. students. For the M.S. degree teaching experience is highly recommended, and its extent will be determined by the student’s advisory committee.

2. Seminar courses: Starting in the Fall 2013, graduate students enrolled in our programs are required to take BIO 505, Professionalism in Biology. Students who have taken BIO 505 as a part of their M.S. programs and continuing into Ph.D. programs do not have to take BIO 505 one more time.

In addition, M.S. students are required to take at least one 1-credit seminar course. Ph.D. students are required to take at least two one-credit seminar courses, or one 2-credit seminar course. Any seminar course, including those offered at other departments, will qualify as long as it is approved by the student’s advisory committee.

3. Written Research Proposal and Pre-thesis Seminar. A written research proposal must be approved by the student’s advisory committee no later than 12 months from the time of matriculation of an M.S. student or 18 months from the time of matriculation of a Ph.D. student. A pre-thesis seminar, outlining the research planned or presenting preliminary results, is required. This requirement may be fulfilled as part of a seminar course or as a non-credit presentation.

4. Graduate Advisory Committee and Program of Study: Each student will be advised by a graduate advisory committee consisting of at least three graduate faculty members for M.S. students or five graduate faculty members for Ph.D. students. The advisory committee should be formed during the first year of graduate study. A Program of Study, approved by the student’s graduate advisory committee, is due by the end of March of the first year of study.

5. Annual Progress Report: A report on the progress of each student is required each year. The Program of Study will fulfill this requirement for first-year students. For a student beyond the first year, a report should be submitted by the advisor to the graduate coordinator. Typically, progress in meeting specific requirements (such as filing of a Written Research Proposal) should be indicated by notification of such milestones to the graduate coordinator. For less concrete indicators of progress, a narrative account should be submitted each year by the end of January.

6. Area Requirements for the M.S. Degrees: The student’s advisory committee will determine how the following requirements are to be met and will report this to the graduate coordinator:

A) Coursework: A minimum of 30 semester hours, including credit given for the thesis, is required. A graduate student working toward a master’s degree will be required to present a minimum of 12 hours (exclusive of thesis) of 500- and/or 600-level course work to partially satisfy requirements for that degree.The minimum amount of credit for the thesis is 6 hours and in no case may it exceed 15 hours. If more than 10 semester hours are allowed for the thesis, the candidate must spend at least two academic years in resident graduate study.

B) Requirement for Proficiency in Statistics, via at least one course equivalent to PSE 509 (Experimental Design) or MAT 437 (Statistical Methods in Research).

C) Biology Area Requirements: Complete a 400-, 500-, or 600-level course at the University of Maine or equivalent course elsewhere, or obtain a grade of “B” or above on the final examination of a University of Maine course in three of the following four areas: (1) behavior and ecology; (2) morphology, systematics, and evolution; (3) genetics and molecular biology; (4) physiology, cell biology, and developmental biology.

7. Non-thesis and Literature-research Options for the Master’s Degree: The M.S. degree in Botany has a non-thesis option met by taking specific coursework (see the graduate coordinator for details). The M.S. in Zoology has a literature-research option to which newly entering students can be admitted. In this case, the thesis is based on research of primary scientific literature; in addition, students taking this option must accrue six hours of credit in laboratory or field research by completing courses that require an independent research project or by doing research under a Problems-in-Zoology course designator. A change in program between the research-thesis and the literature-thesis options can be made only through approval of the School Graduate Committee.

8. Requirements for the Ph.D. degree: The comprehensive written examination will be given before the oral comprehensive examination. It will consist of five parts. The areas represented by these five parts and those administering the examinations will be as defined on the student’s Program of Study and Research for the Doctoral Degree (see suggested topics) . The student is required to pass all five parts of the comprehensive written examination in order to pass the examination. The student may fail and be re-examined on each part only once. The examining committee may require additional coursework before the examination is retaken.

The comprehensive oral examination will be administered by the same committee that gave the comprehensive written examination. The oral examination is designed for broad coverage of biology and may be attended by any member of the University faculty, who may ask questions of the candidate. The examination is considered to have been passed if at least four members of the examining committee consider the performance passing and no more than one dissenting vote is cast.

A) Coursework: There are no general requirements for the number and kind of formal courses which are part of the program. Rather, each student’s graduate advisory committee shall, in close consultation with the student, determine the makeup of the student’s program of study.

B) Comprehensive Examinations: Before a student is admitted to candidacy as defined by the Graduate School, he or she must pass a comprehensive written examination and a comprehensive oral examination. These examinations can be scheduled no earlier than the end of the third semester of graduate study, must be initiated by the fifth semester, and all taken and passed no later than the eighth semester.

C) Foreign Language or Designated Skill Requirement: Each candidate shall be required to demonstrate reading competency in a foreign language. With the unanimous concurrence of the student’s graduate advisory committee, a student may petition the Biological Sciences Graduate Committee for permission to substitute certain other advanced skills, such as computer programming, for the language requirement. A simple majority of the Biology and Ecology Graduate Committee members present (providing a quorum is present) shall be required to approve such petitions.

9. Thesis or Dissertation Submission and Defense: Master’s degree students in research/thesis degree programs must submit a thesis describing the results of an original research investigation. Doctoral students who have been admitted to candidacy must submit a dissertation describing the results of an original research investigation. The acceptability of the Master’s thesis or Doctoral dissertation shall be determined in a final oral thesis defense or dissertation defense conducted by the student’s graduate advisory committee. Preceding the thesis or dissertation defense, each candidate must present a public seminar describing the results of the research. Normally this seminar will be scheduled immediately before the defense of the thesis or dissertation.


Graduate Degree Offerings are listed here.

See also specific requirements for MS in Entomology

See also Ph.D. in Plant Science

See also Comprehensive Examinations — suggested topics

See also The Graduate Program in Ecology and Environmental Science

Comments are closed.