Biology and Marine Biology

(Axel Boer) #1


The program of study for the Master’s of Science in Biology and in Marine Biology is built on a
strong core of coursework that strives to balance the breadth provided by the required courses with the
depth provided by the diverse elective offerings. The core requirements ensure that students achieve the
necessary foundation upon which their research will be based, as well as an understanding of biology in
areas outside their area of specialization. At the same time, tremendous flexibility is maintained by the
broad array of elective courses available (5-10/semester). We feel that this balance facilitates our meeting
of the four goals of our M.S. programs (see Section 3.a. above).
One measure of the success of our M.S. program is reflected in the paths taken by students once
having completed their program of study at UNCW. Since 2007, 36% of our graduates have gone on to
pursue additional graduate study (Objective 1), 40 % are currently working as professional scientists
(Objectives 2 & 3) and 19% have become educators themselves, teaching in schools and community.
The ability of our programs to achieve the stated objectives is also assessed at several points
during each M.S. student’s tenure at UNCW. The process begins with the required BIO 501: Introduction
to Science as a Profession. This course is designed to prepare students for their graduate careers by
covering such topics as scientific writing and oral presentation, experimental methodology and design,
funding and career opportunities, proposal writing, and literature search techniques. In addition to
orienting students in their first semester, this course requires students to develop a sound research idea,
present that idea in the form of a prospectus and substantiate the project with a literature review. In their
second semester, they must orally present their research project to the department during the Graduate
Student Prospectus Symposium. The breadth of knowledge attained by students in the required core
sequence, as well as their depth of knowledge regarding their area of research focus, is evaluated by an oral
exam administered during their third semester. A final and more focused oral examination of the depth of
a student’s knowledge in their chosen area of specialization takes place at the thesis defense, where
students must successfully communicate their research to a broad public audience, and competently handle
questions from that audience as well as the focused questions from their thesis committee. The thesis,
written in the format of a manuscript to be submitted for publication, represents the formal culmination of
each student’s graduate experience within our department.
Another indicator of the success of the program of mentoring students into scientists is the number
of students who publish their research in peer-reviewed journals. Since 2007, M.S. and Ph.D. students
have been authors on 199 peer-reviewed papers, and first authors on 151. This is an underestimate of total
student productivity, as several faculty members who mentored students have retired or moved to other
positions and did not respond to our request for student publications. The ability of our graduate students
to undertake, execute and successfully defend their results sufficiently to earn a designation of “acceptable
for publication” by the wider scientific community is a true indicator of the success of these graduate

The program of study for the doctor of philosophy in Marine Biology is designed to expose our
students to a broad array of topics in marine biology and oceanography, and to empower them to identify,
define and solve original research problems.
Our Ph.D. curriculum builds upon the strong core curriculum of the M.S. programs and adopts
seminar format courses (BIO 602, 603, 604, 605) to extend our students’ knowledge base in marine
biology. These seminars are designed to permit students to explore, in collaboration with faculty, topics of
special interest in the fields of marine ecology, physiology and biochemistry, cell and molecular biology,
and evolution and biodiversity. In addition, all students must participate in the seminar on oceanography
and environmental science (BIO 601) because we feel that it is of paramount importance that Ph.D.

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