Master's Degree Program

The BICB graduate program offers the master’s degrees under two different plans: Plan A, which requires a thesis; and Plan B, which substitutes additional coursework and a capstone experience. Each plan has a minimum of 30 credits. There are degree completion steps for each of the two plans.

Every M.S. graduate student will have a temporary advisor assigned when entering the program. The student is expected to decide on a research area by the end of the first year and to choose a permanent advisor by the end of the first year. The time limit for earning a Master's degree is five years. Students who are unable to complete the program within five years may petition for an extension of up to 12 months.

You and your adviser will determine the course work you will need to take to gain competency in your specialty. The BICB program is designed to allow for maximum flexibility. There are a few courses and seminars, however, every Master’s student takes: two semesters of Journal Club (BICB 8930; 1 credit per semester), one semester of Colloquium (BICB 8920; 1 credit), one semester (or quarter) of Ethics (1 credit), and one semester of Entrepreneurship and Leadership (e.g., BICB 8970; 1 credit). These five required credits count toward the completion of the 30 required credits for the M.S. degree.

The examining committee for a M.S. graduate student should be chosen by the end of the first year to allow time for feedback on your thesis work or project. It consists of at least two members from the BICB graduate faculty and, if the student has a Minor, one member from the student’s Minor. If the student does not have a Minor, all members of the examining committee may be from the BICB graduate faculty but must represent at least two different budgetary units. The advisor will be the chair of the examining committee. Initiate the online form for assigning members to the master's final exam committee at least one month prior to the final exam.

A degree program is a list of coursework that you submit to the Graduate School as the basis for your degree. It may not contain all courses and seminars you complete during the course of your degree but must contain all required courses and seminars. The Degree Program Form is available online. You should file the form with the Graduate School when you have completed about 10 credits and no later than one semester prior to anticipated graduation. List only graduate level courses (one 4000 level course is permitted). Graduate Education policy requires that a minimum of 2/3 of the course credits included in the degree plan are taken A/F and that students must have a 2.800 GPA for courses included on the degree plan at the time of degree clearance. The Graduate School requires that at least 60% of the coursework for the official degree programs (excluding thesis credits) are completed as registered University of Minnesota Graduate School students. Once the degree program is approved, any changes must be petitioned to the Graduate School by submitting a Petition Form.

Master’s Plan A

The Master’s degree Plan A program includes the writing of a research thesis under the supervision of a BICB graduate faculty. The minimum credit requirements for a M.S. Plan A are 20 course credits in the interdisciplinary program and 10 thesis credits (BICB 8777). Students must have a 3.000 minimum GPA for courses that are included on the degree plan at the time of degree clearance.

Students submitting a Master’s degree program under Plan A must present a pre-thesis seminar to the faculty and graduate students of the program no later than in the middle of their third semester (full-time students) or middle of their third year (part-time students). This pre-thesis seminar must be open to the public. The purpose of the seminar is to invite comments and suggestions on your research plan. The members of the examining committee should be present and the seminar must be scheduled during normal working hours, preferably during the Colloquium. Your presentation should be about 30-40 minutes to allow for questions.

The degree completion steps checklist detail the administrative steps that must be completed to be eligible for graduation. The first step is to complete the Graduate Degree Plan at least one semester prior to the anticipated graduation term. Once the Graduate Degree Plan has been approved by the GSSP Office, you will then need to initiate the online form for assigning members to the master’s final exam committee at least one month prior to the final exam date. Students will gain online access to the Graduation Packet from the Graduate School and must submit the Application for Degree Form (included in the Graduation Packet) to One Stop by the first business day of the anticipated month of graduation.

Final Oral Exam

After the exam date has been scheduled, the Thesis Reviewer's Report Form will be made available to assigned committee members and must be completed prior to the final examination. Because of the concise sequence of events, the committee must be allocated sufficient time (at least two weeks) to review the thesis and complete the Thesis Reviewer's Report form. Once all members have completed their Thesis Reviewer's Report form, the Final Examination Report Form is automatically sent to the assigned committee chair.

The final examination consists of a thesis defense that is open to the public followed by an oral examination that is closed to the public. You must submit the title of your presentation, abstract, a meeting location, and a Zoom link for remote viewing at least one week prior to the exam to the program assistant. Email the information to bicb@umn.edu, who will announce the presentation to the BICB faculty and students. A majority vote of an examining committee is required to pass the Master’s final examination. After your thesis defense and the final oral examination, submit the signed Final Examination Report form to the Graduate School no later than by the last business day of the anticipated month of graduation. Submit a digital copy of your thesis by the last business day of the anticipated month of graduation. Consult your Graduation Packet for formatting guidelines. The cover page of your thesis must be signed by your advisor(s).


Master’s Plan B

The Master’s degree Plan B program requires at least 30 course credits for completion. Students must have a 3.000 minimum GPA for courses that are included on the degree plan at the time of degree clearance. In addition, the Plan B Master’s program includes a capstone experience for which students must complete one to three written reports or projects, totaling approximately 120 hours of independent work. Suitable projects to satisfy this requirement must be identified by the student in consultation with their advisor and examining committee. Qualifying projects must be approved by the advisor no later than the end of the student’s third semester. Written reports from appropriate coursework can be used to satisfy this requirement.

The degree completion steps checklist detail the administrative steps that must be completed to be eligible for graduation. The first step is to complete the Graduate Degree Plan at least one semester prior to the anticipated graduation term. Once the Graduate Degree Plan has been approved by the GSSP Office, you will then need to initiate the online form for assigning members to the master’s final exam committee at least one month prior to the final exam date. Students will gain online access to the Graduation Packet from the Graduate School and must submit the Application for Degree Form (included in the Graduation Packet) to One Stop by the first business day of the anticipated month of graduation.

Final Oral Exam

Students must submit to the examining committee a 12 to 16-page report on the capstone paper(s) or projects for review. In lieu of this report, students may submit a draft or a published manuscript of their capstone project for review. Because of the concise sequence of events, the committee must be allocated sufficient time (at least two weeks) to read and review the capstone report. After the examining committee accepts the report as satisfying the capstone experience, students will be permitted to schedule the final oral exam. A Final Examination Report Form is automatically sent to the assigned committee chair.

The Plan B oral examination is a presentation on the project or report you did for your capstone experience. This is followed by the examination which will include questions from the committee. The Master’s final exam is not public. A majority vote of an examining committee is required to pass the Master’s final examination. After your final oral examination, complete the Final Examination Report form and ensure it is on file with the Graduate School no later than the last business day of the anticipated month of graduation.

Course Requirements
The BICB program is designed to allow for maximum flexibility. You and your adviser will determine the course work you will need to take to gain competency in your specialty. The required course credits for both plans must include the following required BICB courses.

  • BICB 8510 Computation and Biology (2 credits, one semester)
  • BICB 8930 Journal Club (1 credit, two semesters)
  • BICB 8920 Colloquium (1 credit, one semester)
  • BICB 8401 Ethics (1 credit, one semester)
  • BICB 8970 Entrepreneurship and Leadership (1 credit, one semester)

The requirements for BICB 8510 may be waived in consultation with the DGS for students with sufficient research experience. However, in the case that certain course requirements are waived, all M.S. students must fulfill the minimum of 30 graduate credits.

M.S. students are required to gain competency in Core Areas 1, 2, and 3 (total 9 credits) and at least one of Elective Areas 4-13 (at least 3 credits for Plan A, 6 credits for Plan B).

Core areas:

  1. Biochemistry, genetics, molecular cell biology and physiology
  2. Mathematics, biostatistics and statistics
  3. Computer science, informatics, computational biology and system biology

Elective areas:

  1. Genomics, proteomics, metabolomics, microbiome
  2. Plant science, animal science, veterinary medicine
  3. Biophysics, structural biology, chemical biology, protein engineering, spectroscopy
  4. Computational chemistry, cheminformatics, medicinal chemistry and drug design
  5. Databases, data analytics, data mining, artificial intelligence and machine learning
  6. Data management, data modeling, algorithms and optimization
  7. Big data analytics, distributed systems, parallel computing, cloud computing
  8. Computer vision, imaging analysis, virtual reality, signal processing and neural networks
  9. Clinical and translational sciences
  10. Health informatics, electronic medical records, and natural language processing

This program requires a minimum GPA of 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) for courses included on any official Master's degree program form. Courses with grades of A, B, C (including C-), and S may be included in the official graduate degree plan, but grades of S are not calculated in the GPA. Students pursuing a Plan A master's degree are required to register for 10 thesis credits (BICB 8777); these registrations are not graded and therefore cannot be used to meet course credit requirements.

There is a limit of one 3-credit or less 4xxx level course counted in the total course credits. At least 2/3 of the total number of course credits included in any degree program of a M.S. graduate student must be taken A-F.

Graduate credits earned after the award of a baccalaureate degree from within or outside the University, from previous or concurrent graduate degrees, and/or those taken as a non-degree seeking or non-admitted student may be counted toward the graduate degree at the discretion of the BICB program and subject to college approval. Click here for more information regarding transferring courses from other programs.

Students may choose a Minor and the choice of courses must satisfy the Minor requirements. Graduate credits applied toward a minor field cannot also be applied toward another minor field. Courses that are used to satisfy course requirements in the Core Areas 1-3 of the interdisciplinary program cannot simultaneously be used to satisfy credit requirements for a Minor. A maximum of 6 course credits in the Elective courses may be applied towards a Minor and thus count toward satisfying both the Elective and the Minor requirements.

The examining committee for a M.S. graduate student should be chosen by the end of the first year. It consists of at least two members from the BICB graduate faculty and, if the student has a Minor, one member from the student’s Minor. If the student does not have a Minor, all members of the examining committee may be from the BICB graduate faculty but must represent at least two different budgetary units. The advisor will be the chair of the examining committee.

The student is responsible for initiating the assigning and updating of the preliminary oral examining committee. This is done electronically. Go to Assign/Update Examining Committee to start the form. Before you schedule your final oral exam, make sure that your degree program is approved and that you hold active status at the time of the examination. The Master's (Plan A) final exam consists of a public presentation followed by an oral examination, which is not public. The Master's (Plan B) final exam, which is not public in its entirety, consists of a presentation to your committee on your final project followed by an oral examination.