• Home >
  • Biology

Graduate Degree Programs

Find Your Interest





The Department of Biological Sciences offers graduate programs leading to the Master of Science (M.S.) degree in Biology and the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Biological Science. Both curricula are designed to prepare scholars for the pursuit of research careers in academia, government, and industry, and to improve the level of competency of high school, college, and university teachers.

The Ph.D. in Biological Science is a degree program offered by the Department of Biological Sciences and the Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Sciences.*  Programs of study involve cellular and molecular biology and agribiology. The emphasis of this program is to train scientists in biological research who will be highly competent to teach in higher education and who can work in industry and with other biologists, biochemists, engineers, agricultural scientists, and others to develop solutions to problems that have an impact on our quality of life. Admissions procedures for the Ph.D. program are outlined under the Department of Biological Sciences. The major advisor will be appointed by the department offering the student's primary emphasis. Course descriptions are listed under the respective departments.

Admission Requirements: M.S. Program

Unconditional admission to the M.S. program requires the applicant to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year college or university, two letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Also required is that the student will have accumulated a minimum of 24 acceptable semester hours in biology plus a minimum of four semester hours of biochemistry. The Departmental Admissions Committee will base admission upon these materials and additionally, will evaluate the applicant’s science course GPA and may request a personal interview to determine the applicant’s potential for success in the program.

Conditional admission may be granted to applicants prior to the completion of the 24 semester hours of biology and four semester hours of biochemistry, but the student must complete these courses with a GPA of 3.0 or better. The student must remove conditional status by earning at least a B (3.0) average in the first nine hours of graduate courses; failure to achieve this average will result in withdrawal from the program.

Degree Requirements: M.S. Program

The Department offers both thesis and non-thesis options in the master of science degree program. A minimum of 32 semester hours of approved courses is required for the M.S. degree under the thesis option, and a minimum of 34 semester hours is required under the non-thesis option. Students who choose the non-thesis option must pass a comprehensive examination (passing score 70% or above) taken no earlier than the term in which they complete their course work. Students interested in pursuing research careers in academia, government or industry are highly encouraged to take the thesis option.

Required Courses:  23 hours in thesis option, 19 hours in non-thesis option

Elective Courses: 9 hours in thesis option, 15 hours in non-thesis option

Selection of elective courses must be made in consultation with the student's thesis committee or non-thesis advisor.  Often, depending on the career direction or research interest of the student, a student may be advised to take elective courses in other departments or at other institutions. Included in the elective courses must be a physiology and a genetics course. In addition, only three (3) semester hours of Special Problems courses will be credited toward the M.S. degree.

Program of Study: M.S. Program

The degree candidate must file a program of study after completing at least nine semester hours of graduate credit, but before completing fifteen hours of graduate credit. The program lists the courses which will be used to satisfy degree requirements, and details how other requirements will be met. The student may later change the program of study with the written approval of the Department and the Graduate School.

Admission to Candidacy: M.S. Program

When the candidate files the program of study, he or she must also apply for admission to candidacy. The candidate must have a grade point average of 3.0 or above to be eligible for admission to candidacy and must have a grade of B or better in all required courses.

Admission Requirements: Ph.D. Program

Admission requires that the applicant have a bachelor’s degree from a fully accredited four-year college or university. Applicants to the Ph.D. program must submit a completed application form, a personal statement describing interest in the program and professional goals, and three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant's academic work, especially in Biology. The Departmental admissions committee will base admission upon these materials and interviews with selected applicants.

Degree Requirements: Ph.D. Program

Degree candidates must complete the core of required graduate courses (24 hours) with a grade of B or better in each course, pass the comprehensive examination, and gain approval of their dissertation proposal prior to obtaining admission to candidacy for the doctoral degree. Students may have a "C" grade in no more than two courses (6 credit hours), neither of which can be a core course. No "D" or "F" grades are acceptable. A student who receives a grade of "C" in excess of six credits must repeat this course and achieve at least a "B". After gaining admission to candidacy the student must complete an approved curriculum (24 hours minimum of electives set by the student's research advisory committee), enroll in Graduate Seminar (BIOL 7010, 7020), complete a dissertation (24 hours), and successfully defend the dissertation prior to gaining the Ph.D. degree (Please refer to Biological Sciences Graduate Student Handbook for specific dissertation requirements). A student entering with a Master's degree may have applicable hours transferred toward the Ph.D. program, as determined by the Advisory Committee. The total number hours required is 76.

Required Courses: 24 Hours

To be completed prior to Admission to Candidacy

After Admission to Candidacy: 52 Hours

Total Required Hours (76)


Graduate Elective Courses

Admission to Candidacy: Ph.D. Program

The student must apply for admission to candidacy after completing the 24-hour core of required courses (See Degree Requirements: Ph.D. program, above.) with an average of B (3.0) or better, passing the comprehensive examination, and gaining approval of the dissertation proposal. The student's advisory committee will recommend and approve a program of study which must be filed in the School of Graduate Studies upon admission to candidacy.


The Department offers a graduate minor in Biology as a subject field for graduate students seeking advanced degrees in teaching (M.S., M.Ed., or Ed.D.). A minor consists of twelve semester hours of graduate courses approved by the advisor in the major program.


BIOL 5010, 5020. GRADUATE SEMINAR I, II. (1, 1) Current problems in biology. Courses meet weekly during each semester of the regular school year. Both courses are required of all degree candidates in the Department.

BIOL 5070, 5080. METHODS OF TEACHING SCIENCE IN THE COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY SETTING. (3, 3) Teaching methods and techniques suitable for college and university level courses. Instruction in developing course outlines, lectures, and laboratory experiences, and in evaluating student progress is given. Assignment to a faculty mentor for development of teaching skills is a part of this two-semester course. Individual students work in a specific course (upper-division undergraduate or lower-division graduate) and observe classroom teaching and assist with laboratory preparations and operations. The student, under the direction of the faculty mentor, prepares and teaches at least one unit of subject matter. Prerequisite: Permission of major advisor and faculty mentor.

BIOL 5100. LITERATURE AND METHODS IN RESEARCH. (3) The methods of literature review, with primary emphasis on methods in biological research and research laboratory rotation. The student is expected to concentrate on literature in the student's proposed area of research and rotate through three research laboratories (4 weeks each) of the student's choice. Required of all degree candidates. Formerly BIOL 5170.

BIOL 5110. RESEARCH IN BIOLOGY. (2) Individual research under the supervision of the research advisor. The student must present a general statement of proposed research and obtain the approval of the guidance committee. Prerequisite: BIOL 5100. Required of all M.S. candidates. Formerly BIOL 5160.

BIOL 5120. THESIS WRITING. (4) The preparation of a thesis over individual research under the supervision of the guidance committee. The format of the thesis must conform to that adopted by the Department of Biological Sciences. Once students have registered for this course they must continue to enroll in it every semester until they complete the thesis and are examined over it. Prerequisite: BIOL 5110. Required of all students who write a thesis.

BIOL 5130. EVOLUTION. (3) Current evolutionary theory including systematics, with an examination of macroevolutionary patterns and microevolutionary processes. Students use computer simulation techniques to construct models illustrating the concepts discussed.

BIOL 5140, 5150. SPECIAL PROBLEMS I, II. (3, 3) Short-term specialized problems in the area of major emphasis of the research investigator. The student is expected to develop and master techniques that are necessary for addressing the assigned problem. Prerequisite: permission of instructor and thesis or graduate advisor. Three laboratory periods.

BIOL 5160. ENVIRONMENTAL GENETICS. (3) The diversity of organisms, populations, and communities. Specific intricacies of the living world are elucidated. Laboratory work includes the study of organisms treated with mutagens. Chromosomal aberrations as well as phenotypic changes are observed. Students who have had at least 12 hours of Biology, including BIOL 2120, 2121 (Principles of Genetics) and BIO 5470 (Special Topics in Immunology) or the equivalents, may elect this course. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Two lectures and one laboratory period weekly. Formerly BIOL 5100.

BIOL 5170. ADVANCED GENETICS. (3) The nature of the gene, the principles governing genic mutation and change in chromosomal structure, and the results of the operation of these principles. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Two lectures and one laboratory period.

BIOL 5180. CELL BIOLOGY. (3) The structure and behavior of the cell and its components with special emphasis on mitosis and meiosis. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Two lectures and one laboratory period. Required of all degree candidates. (Formerly BIO 518).

BIOL 5190. ECOLOGY. (3) Study of how ecological systems function and the reciprocal relationships between the structure and composition of a system and its pattern of function. Some time is devoted to an examination of that body of theory which deals with ecological models, both experimental and mathematical. Prerequisite: BIOL 4120, 4121 (Principles of Ecology) or permission of instructor. Two lectures and one laboratory period.

BIOL 5200. GENERAL PHYSIOLOGY. (3) The chemical and physical nature of protoplasm. Considered are its chemical constituents and their properties, its colloidal nature, and the bearing of this state on its physical properties and processes. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Two lectures and one laboratory period.

BIOL 5210. EMBRYOLOGY. (3) The principles and mechanisms of developmental physiology. Prerequisite: BIOL 4210, 4211 (Embryology) or equivalent, or permission of instructor. Two lectures and one laboratory period.

BIOL 5220. ADVANCED PARASITOLOGY. (3) Life histories, taxonomy, morphology, and general importance of the parasitic protozoa and helminths to man and animals. Prerequisite: permission of the instructor. Two lectures and one laboratory period.

BIOL 5230. ARTHROPODS AND DISEASES. (3) Survey of the various orders, classes, genera, and species in the phylum arthropods that act as both ectoparasites and endoparasites in man, food animals, and domesticated animals. The course also explores the hyperparasiticity in which certain genera of arthropods are parasitic to other arthropods belonging to different genera and species. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. One lecture and two laboratory periods.

BIOL 5240. SYSTEMIC PHYSIOLOGY. (3) Functions of different organ systems with emphasis on the human nervous system, muscular system, cardiovascular system, respiratory system, digestive system, urinary system, and endocrine system. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Two lectures and one two-hour laboratory period.

BIOL 5300. PLANT PHYSIOLOGY. (3) Current topics in plant growth, development, metabolism, nutrition, and water relations. Research papers in plant metabolism and development are written and reviewed. Prerequisite: 8 hours in botany. Two lectures and one laboratory period.

BIOL 5400. MICROBIAL GENETICS. (3) The heredity of viruses, bacteria, molds, yeast, and protozoa, with emphasis on protozoan genetics. Physiologic aspects primarily relating to genetics in these forms are also considered. Prerequisites: BIOL 2120, 2121 (Principles of Genetics) and permission of instructor. In addition, BIOL 5110 is recommended.

BIOL 5410. MOLECULAR GENETICS. (3) The application and utilization of microorganisms, plants and animal systems in biotechnology. Emphasis is placed on the methods and techniques used in these systems.

BIOL 5460. IMMUNOLOGY. (3) Topics concerning all aspects of antigen-antibody reactions. Emphasis is placed on laboratory problems and procedures associated with immunology. Prerequisites: BIO 3400, 3401 (Introduction to Microbial Physiology), 4400, 4401 (Pathogenic Microorganisms), and 4410, 4411 (Immunology and Serology), or permission of instructor. Two lectures and one laboratory period.

BIOL 5470. SPECIAL TOPICS IN IMMUNOLOGY. (3) The study of a variety of sub-disciplines, including host-parasite-environment relations. Recent topics in immunology are presented by students and staff members. Prerequisite: permission of instructor. Two lectures and one laboratory.

BIOL 6040. INDIVIDUAL STUDIES. (3-9) Doctoral individual study under the guidance of the graduate curriculum advisory committee which cannot be credited toward graduate degree programs of the Department of Biology. May be repeated as topics vary. Maximum hours nine (9) with three (3) registrations.

BIOL 6100. FRONTIERS IN MOLECULAR SCIENCE. (3) Survey of current research topics in cellular, developmental, and molecular biology. The use of molecular techniques to study cell structure and function is emphasized. Required of all Ph.D. candidates.

BIOL 6110. INDIVIDUAL RESEARCH. (3-6) Doctoral research of independent nature. May be repeated twice for credit up to six (6) hours. Prerequisite: Candidacy admission to the Ph.D. Program.

BIOL 6150. GENOMICS. (4) This course will provide students with an overview of genomes from viruses to vertebrates, as well as an introduction to genomics approach to fundamental problems in current biology. Specific areas that will be discussed include large scale sequencing projects, genomes structure and variation, comparative genomics, genome-wide analysis of genes and proteins. The course will familiarize student with current methods used in DNA microarrays and proteomic analysis. This course will be literature-lecture based, with lab exercises on microarray and protein 2 D gel separations and dample preparation for mass spectrometry. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

BIOL 6210. INTRODUCTION TO NEUROPHARMACOLOGY. (3) Course derived from three areas of pharmacology: 1) general principles, 2) pharmacology of drugs affecting cell growth, and 3) central nervous system pharmacology.

BIOL 6560. TECHNIQUES OF ELECTRON MICROSCOPY. (3) Introduction to electron optics and types of electron microscopes. Techniques of tissue preparation, fixation, embedment, ultramicrotomy, staining, and EM photography are included. Prerequisite: Permission of instructor.

BIOL 7010, 7020. SEMINAR IN BIOLOGY I, II. (1, 1) Topics relevant to biology, biotechnology, and environmental science presented by faculty, visiting scholars and graduate students. Participating graduate students who have achieved candidacy status present one seminar per year. Both courses are required of all Ph.D. candidates in Biological Sciences. Candidates must register for 7010 and 7020 in their first two semesters of residency, unless they have not completed BIOL 5010 and 5020 or the equivalent, in which case they must register for these courses. Each course may be repeated once for an additional hour of credit. BIOL 5010 and 5020 are prerequisites to 7010, and 7010 is a prerequisite to 7020.

BIOL 7120. MOLECULAR BIOLOGY. (3) A detailed introduction to prokaryotic and eukaryotic molecular biology. Most of the course focuses on the fundamentals of molecular genetics: the structure and function of the gene, genetic organization of chromosomes, the genetic code, the molecular mechanisms of transcription, RNA processing, translation, DNA replication and recombination, and the molecular mechanisms of transcription, RNA processing, translation, DNA replication and recombination, and the molecular mechanisms of regulation of gene expression and enzyme activity. The model systems studied include both prokaryotes (bacteria and bacterial viruses) and simple eukaryotes (yeast, slime molds, and animal viruses). Prerequisites: CHEM 5410, 5420. Required of all Ph.D. candidates.

BIOL 7130. MOLECULAR GENETICS. (3) An examination of the structure and function of gene systems in prokaryotes, eukaryotes and viruses. This course also explores the process of RNA editing and other regulatory circuits, including DNA repair, control of transcription, translation and post-translation events. Prerequisites: CHEM 5410, 5420.

BIOL 7170. SELECTED TOPICS IN MOLECULAR GENETICS. (3-6) Current research interest in the areas of molecular genetics. May be repeated for credit as topics vary for no more than six (6) hours. Prerequisites: Consent of Doctoral Advisory Committee.

BIOL 7180. ADVANCED CELL BIOLOGY. (3) Molecular biology of animal cells with emphasis on assembly of cellular organelles, function and organization of membrane systems receptors, energy mechanisms, and secretion. Properties and functions of microfilaments and microtubules, Golgi apparatus, mitochondria, ribosomes, and the nucleus are considered also. Prerequisites: BIO 5180,CHEM 5410, 5420, or permission of instructor.

BIOL 7190. ADVANCED MOLECULAR BIOLOGY. (3) A review of prokaryotic and eukaryotic molecular biology literature. Discussions involve defining the mechanisms and methods used to solve biological problems. Prerequisite: BIOL 7120.

BIOL 7260. NEUROBIOLOGY. (3) Principles and mechanisms of the nervous system in invertebrate and vertebrate organisms. Topics including neurotransmitters, effector control, integration, inhibition, and localized excitation are considered. A study of the ionic and electrical mechanisms involved in the generation and conduction of nerve impulses is also included. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

BIOL 7270. SELECTED TOPICS IN NEUROBIOLOGY. (3-6) Current research interest in the field of neurobiology. May be repeated for credit as topics vary for no more than six (6) hours. Prerequisites: Consent of Doctoral Advisory Committee.

BIOL 7410. SELECTED TOPICS IN MICROBIOLOGY. (3-6) Current research interests in the various fields of microbiology. May be repeated for credit as topics vary for no more than six (6) hours. Prerequisite: Consent of Doctoral Advisory Committee.

BIOL 8110. DISSERTATION RESEARCH. (1-9) Individual research under the supervision of the advisor. The candidate must have an approved dissertation proposal. A minimum of three registrations is required with a maximum of nine hours per registration. Dissertation hours must total at least 24. Prerequisites: admission to candidacy and permission of advisor. Required of all Ph.D. candidates.


Dr.  Anthony Ejiofor , Professor, Microbiology Microbial Ecology, Physiology & Genetics/Industrial Microbiology & Biotechnology

Dr. Hugh Fentress , Associate Professor, Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience

Dr. Carla Gardner-Jones , Assistant Professor, Cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance

Dr.  Dafeng Hui , Professor, Plant ecology, Ecosystem ecology, Global change ecology, Environmental sciences

Dr.  Michael Ivy , Professor, Neuroscience, Diabetes, Nephrology 

Dr.  Terrance L. Johnson , Microbial Physiology, Genetics and Ecology

Dr. Elaine Martin ,  Professor, Distance Education, Evaluation and Assessment of Student Achievement

Dr.  E. Lewis Myles , Professor, Cancer Biology and Genetics

Dr. Quincy Quick , Associate Professor, Investigation of novel experimental therapeutics and targets for the treatment of brain tumors

Dr. Venkataswarup Tiriveedhi , Associate Professor, Role of cytokines in the development of inflammatory injury mediated carcinogenesis

Dr.  Xiaofei Wang , Interim Chair and Professor, Endocrinology, Genomics, Adipocytes Development, Circadian Rhythms

Dr. Artenzia  Young-Seigler , Associate Professor, Neuroscience



For More Information

Contact: Quincy Quick, Ph.D., Graduate Coordinator; 118 Harned Hall; Phone: 615-963-5768; Fax 615-963-5747; E-mail: qquick@tnstate.edu


Explore TSU for yourself.

Apply Today | Request Info | Visit us | Life In Nashville 
Contact Admissions -- 

Undergraduate Admissions

P. O. Box 9609
Nashville, TN 37209
888-463-6878 toll-free
615-963-5101 voice
615-963-2930 fax

Undergraduate Catalog  

Apply Online


Graduate Admissions

P.O. Box 145
Nashville, TN 37209
615-963-7371 voice
615-963-7219 fax


Graduate Catalog

Apply Online