Skip Navigation

Graduate Catalog

Department of Biological Sciences

(585) 395-2193

Chairman and Professor: Steven W. Chan, PhD, University of Hull; Professor: Thomas Bonner, PhD, University of Cincinnati. Associate Professors: David Brannigan, PhD, University of New Hampshire; Craig Lending, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Assistant Professors: Rey Sia, Ph.D, Columbia University; Lecturer: Tracey Householder, PhD, University of Rochester.



The Master of Science provides students with a solid and comprehensive background in the field of biological sciences. Upon completion of the program, students may continue toward a PhD in some specific field of biology; teach biologically related courses at the high school or community college level; or pursue careers in private industry or government agencies. The graduate program's small classes, and close working relationships with the advisor and advisory committee, are ideal for students seeking a rigorous graduate education in a small-college atmosphere. A limited number of graduate teaching and research assistantships are available.

At SUNY Brockport, a Master of Science in Biological Sciences may be obtained under two separate plans:

Plan I
A traditional program requiring a thesis based on original research. Students considering further graduate study or employment in government or private laboratories are encouraged to enroll in this plan.


  1. A written thesis based on original investigation;
  2. Thirty to 39 credits constituted as follows: at least 15 credits of courses at the 600 level or above, which may include a maximum of six credits for thesis research and a maximum of six credits for independent study; and at least one credit of graduate seminar;
  3. In lieu of thesis, a refereed publication may be accepted; and
  4. Detailed information on requirements, regulations governing comprehensive and thesis exams, etc. in the biological sciences are presented in the Handbook for Graduate Students, available from the department secretary, Room 103, Lennon Hall.

Plan II
A non-thesis program designed for, but not restricted to, teachers, medical technologists, lab technicians and other employed persons. This plan permits a more flexible course of study than does a traditional thesis program. It requires an independent research experience, but permits imaginative projects.


  1. A written report or other appropriate product based on independent research;
  2. Thirty-four to 39 credits constituted as follows: at least 17 credits of courses at the 600 level or above, which may include a maximum of six credits for independent research and a maximum of six credits for independent study; at least one credit of graduate seminar.
  3. Detailed information on requirements, regulations governing comprehensive and thesis exams, etc. in the biological sciences are presented in the Handbook for Graduate Students available from the department secretary, Room 103, Lennon Hall.

Admission Requirements

The applicant should have completed 18 credits of biology at an accredited institution with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (A=4.0). The student should have a background in the natural and physical sciences appropriate to his or her research interests, both in course work and skills areas such as biostatistics and computer software applications.

An applicant may be admitted as a candidate with a grade point average of less than 3.0. However, this may occur only if a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences is willing to act as an advocate for the applicant's admission to the program, and to serve as the applicant's graduate advisor. Applicants admitted to the program may be required by their Advisory Committee to take courses at the undergraduate level to remove any deficiencies. These deficiencies must be included in the Plan of Study, but they will not be credited towards the master's degree. Such courses may be taken on a Pass/Fail basis with the consent of the instructor and the candidate's advisory committee.

Admission Procedures
Applicants for graduate study must submit the following documents to the Office of Graduate Admissions:

  1. Completed application form for graduate study as a matriculated student, i.e., as a degree candidate. The application should contain a word-processed statement of the applicant's objectives for graduate study and main area of interest within the biological sciences.
  2. Transcript(s) of records of all undergraduate and graduate studies;
  3. Two letters of recommendation from persons who have knowledge of the applicant's training and aptitude for graduate study (letters from academic referees are preferred);
  4. A word-processed document of at least three pages illustrating the applicant's technical writing skills.
  5. Graduate Record Examination scores on the General Test and the Biology or the Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Test are recommended but are not required. Information on the place and time of this examination may be obtained from the Office of Graduate Admissions; from the Educational Testing Service, Box 955, Princeton, NJ 08540; or on the Web at
The Admission Process and the Major Advisor
Admission to the MS in Biological Sciences program is dependent not only upon the candidate's qualifications, but also on the willingness of a faculty member to act as the major advisor for the candidate. Therefore, it is important that applicants to the MS in Biological Sciences program contact potential advisors during the application process. Potential advisors should be faculty members with research or teaching interests similar to the applicant's. Applicants should list potential major advisors (including those faculty members they already have contacted) in a cover letter accompanying their application materials.

Visit our Web site at to find out more about the research interests and background of potential faculty advisors.

The Major Advisor

The graduate coordinator assigns a temporary advisor to the student to guide in the selection of courses in the first semester. The student must select a faculty member to act as a permanent major advisor by the middle of the first semester. The candidate and major advisor request the assistance of two faculty members to constitute the candidate's advisory committee to guide the student through the degree program. Upon completion of one academic year or its equivalent, the candidate's progress is reviewed by the advisory committee.

Candidate's Advisory Committee
It is the responsibility of the candidate's advisory committee to:

  1. Draw up a Plan of Study in cooperation with the candidate by the end of the first semester of matriculation;
  2. Act in an advisory capacity concerning thesis research or the independent research experience;
  3. Determine the content of, administer, and evaluate the candidate's oral comprehensive examination by the end of the second semester of matriculation;
  4. Evaluate the candidate's written thesis or product of the independent research experience and judge whether it satisfies the requirements for the degree. (Formal credit for thesis is awarded under BIO 704; formal credit for independent research experience is awarded under BIO 702.);
  5. Determine the content of, administer, and evaluate the candidate's defense of thesis (Plan I) or defense of report (Plan II); and
  6. Terminate the candidate's graduate program at SUNY Brockport if the deadlines above or the required GPA are not met by the student.

Time Limit
Degree requirements should be completed within three years of the date of matriculation. With written approval of the advisory committee and the graduate coordinator, extensions of up to two years (i.e., five consecutive calendar years total in the program) may be granted.

Continuation in Program and Graduate Dismissal Policy
"Students who are deemed as not making progress toward the degree, as defined by published departmental policy, may be dismissed from the program." (Faculty Senate Resolution #3, February 1992). The Handbook for Graduate Studies available from the Department of Biological Sciences provides criteria for continuing in the biological sciences program. These criteria include:

  1. Maintenance of 3.0 cumulative average as specified in the SUNY Brockport graduate probation and dismissal policy.
  2. Completion of a Plan of Study by the end of the first semester of matriculation.
  3. Successful completion of an oral comprehensive exam by the end of the second semester of matriculation.
  4. Successful completion of a thesis and thesis defense.

Biological Sciences Courses

BIO 500 Plant Diversity (A). Considers the morphology, evolution, and classification of the vascular plants. Includes these lecture topics: structure and ecological significance, reproductive biology, evolutionary history, and principles of classification. Includes laboratories to survey the diversity of plants and teach the use of technical keys. 4 Cr.

BIO 505 Vegetation Ecology. Emphasizes the structure, dynamics and management of vegetation. Includes lecturers to introduce major concepts and laboratories to apply these concepts to project involving fieldwork, extensive data analyais and technical writing. 4 Cr.

BIO 506 Wildlife Ecology. Examines the basic principles of wildlife ecology and management, primarily as they apply to terrestrial vertebrate game species. Covers wildlife population ecology, nutrition, disease, habitat management, economic, and the human dimension of wildlife management. Includes lectures, field and laboratory exercises, computer modeling, and an in-depth analysis of a case study project. 4 Cr.

BIO 513 Topics in Plant Biology. Covers current topics in plant biology, including photosynthesis, plant physiology, development, plant cell biology, control of gene regulation, and nitrogen fixation. Reviews current scientific literature as an integral part of this course, and requires recent experimental data. 3 Cr. Fall

BIO 514 Immunology. Covers current concepts in immunology, structure and functions of the immunoglobulins, role of cell-mediated immunity, protective role of the immune system, and disease and injury related to malfunctions of the immune system. 2 Cr. Fall

BIO 515 Molecular Biology (A). Covers the biosynthesis and function of macromolecules, especially nucleic acids. Includes topics in regulation, molecular virology, transposition and transformation, as well as recombinant DNA methods. 3 Cr. Every Other Spring

BIO 519 Limnology. Covers the chemical, physical and biological characteristics of streams and lakes. Recommended for students interested in oceanography and marine biology, as well as the study of freshwater streams and lakes. 3 Cr. Fall

BIO 521 Limnology Lab. Explores the basic methodology of sampling different types of organisms in lakes and streams: chemical analysis of water, the operation of instruments and sampling gear, and taxonomic identification of selected aquatic organisms. Requires field exercises on Lake Ontario and an acidified Adirondack lake. 2 Cr. Fall

BIO 522 Population Biology. Explores the evolution and functioning of populations, including population genetics, growth and regulation, life tables, the exclusion principle, predator-prey theory, species equilibrium theory, and human population growth. 3 Cr.

BIO 523 Pollution Biology. Focuses on water pollution problems and effects of pollution on organism physiology, behavior and ecological relationships. Examines bioassay techniques and procedures; and requires analysis of pollution data. 3 Cr. Every Other Spring

BIO 526 Recombinant DNA. Considers theory and techniques in the recombinant DNA field. Includes topics such as cloning vectors, restriction analysis, PCR methods, and expression of cloned genes in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Also considers examples and implications of recombinant DNA methodology in plants and agriculture, as well as in medicine, human genetics and disease. 3 Cr. Every Other Spring

BIO 527 Animal Behavior. Explores the behavior of animals in relation to adaptation and phylogenetic history. Covers methods of studying behavior, the effects of genes and environment on behavior, relationships between neural and endocrine function and behavior, foraging, mating strategies and systems, and social systems. Includes lectures, discussions, and laboratory and field exercises. 3 Cr. Fall

BIO 528 Microtechnique. Examines the theory and techniques of tissue preparation by paraffin and plastic sectioning, with an emphasis on the application of these techniques to a hospital pathology lab. Covers photomicrography, histochemistry and immunocytochemistry. 3 Cr. Fall

BIO 529 Electron Microscopy. Covers the theory of electron optics and skill of electron microscopy, and methods of specimen preparation and skills of ultramicrotomy. Strongly emphasizes lab work and stresses technique. 4 Cr. Fall

BIO 530 Ornithology. Studies the form, function, ecology, and evolution of birds. Includes topics of anatomy, physiology, origins and biophysics of flight, migration and annual cycle, mating systems, community ecology, and population ecology of birds. Includes laboratory and field experiences to the study of anatomy and flight, identification techniques, census methods, and trapping and banding. 4 Cr. Spring

BIO 539 Conservation Biology. Examines current theory and data from evolutionary biology, ecology, and genetics as they relate to the conservation of biological diversity. Includes topics such as causes of extinction, habitat loss and fragmentation, design of nature reserves, landscape ecology, application of basic principles of population biology to species conservation, and restoration ecology. 3 Cr. Spring

BIO 540 Herpetology. Considers the study of the form, function, ecology, and evolution of reptiles and amphibians. Includes topics of anatomy, physiology, mating systems, population and community ecology, and conservation biology of reptiles and amphibians. Includes lab and field experiences on the study of anatomy, identification techniques, and census methods. 4 Cr. Spring

BIO 543 Biotechniques IIIImmunoassays (RIA/ELISA) (A). Covers principles of radioimmunoassays (RIA) and enzyme-ligand-sorbent immunoassays (ELISA). Provides hands-on learning of either/both methods and applying them to assay biological samples. Discusses accuracy, precision and variability and limitations of the procedures. Given second four weeks of the semester only with eight three-hour laboratory sessions. 1 Cr. Spring

BIO 545 Histology. Explores the microanatomy of animal tissue and organs with an emphasis on functional correlations. Includes lab examinations of prepared slides and fresh materials, as well as normal and pathological tissues. 4 Cr. Spring

BIO 559 Mammalogy (B). Studies the form, function, ecology, and evolution of mammals. Includes the topics of anatomy, physiology, origins, diet and feeding strategies, population and community ecology, and social systems of mammals. Includes laboratory and field exercises to emphasize habitat selection and population biology of small mammals, anatomy, and classification. 4 Cr. Fall

BIO 566 General Endocrinology. Covers the morphology of endocrine glands; the relationship between the molecular structure of a hormone and its ability to regulate metabolism; the role of the hormones in growth, metabolic and reproductive processes; and various endocrine diseases. 3 Cr. Fall

BIO 567 Biochemistry I. Covers proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, nucleic acids and other biomolecules with an emphasis on buffers, structures, experimental methods, main energy production pathways and biosynthesis. Requires application of concepts and information to experimental data and deduction of structures, functional roles and mechanisms. 3 Cr. Fall

BIO 568 Biochemistry II. Emphasizes topics such as metabolic pathways, human nutrition, chromosomes and genes, protein biosynthesis, cell walls, immunoglobulins, muscle contraction, cell motility, membrane transport, and excitable membranes and sensory systems. Investigates the experimental evidence for the structure and functions of biomolecules. 3 Cr. Spring

BIO 570 Biochemistry Lab. Cross-listed as CHM 570. Covers biochemical analyses, including preparation, separations and characterization of products from a variety of biological sources. Provides experiments with enzymes and experiments designed to measure change inherent in the dynamics of living systems. 1 Cr. Fall

BIO 577 Field Biology. Covers the flora and fauna of local areas in New York state. Studies the structure and function of biotic communities, along with techniques for the qualitative and quantitative assessment of communities and ecosystems, and general conservation practice and theory. 4 Cr. Summer

BIO 583 Aquatic Invertebrates. Focuses on the importance of aquatic invertebrates in lotic and lentic ecosystems; the taxonomy of aquatic invertebrates, including insects, crustaceans, mites, annelids, and molluscs; and the use of dichotomous keys, sampling equipment and preservation techniques. Prepares students to predict the types of organisms likely to exist in a particular aquatic system and to characterize an unseen body of water by its invertebrate fauna. 4 Cr. Spring

BIO 584 Fish Ecology. Explores fish ecology from the behavior of individuals through population dynamics and classification of fishes to the ordinal level. Relates anatomical, physiological and behavioral adaptations of fishes to their ecology and how recruitment, growth, mortality, and environmental factors interact to influence fish production. BIO 590 is the complementary lab. 3 Cr. Every Other Spring

BIO 588 Environmental Impact Analysis. Integrates a traditional field biology course with an environmental impact analysis approach. Presents students with an actual development project (e.g., boat launching site) on or near Lake Ontario. Based on ecological theory, environmental analytical principles, aquatic/terrestrial sampling, and taxonomic skills learned in the course, requires student teams to conduct an environmental assessment of the proposed project and write an environmental impact statement.

BIO 590 Fishery Techniques and Identification. Corequisite: BIO 584 or instructor's permission. Provides lab and field experience in fish collection, identification, anatomy and fishery techniques, including netting, electrofishing and quantitative fishery techniques. 2 Cr. Fall

BIO 595 Topics in Biology. To be defined by the instructor in accordance with the specific topic to be covered each semester. Additional information may be obtained from the department office. May be repeated under a different title. 1-3 Cr.

BIO 614 Experimental Design. Covers experimental design and investigation in the biological sciences. Includes the topics of descriptive statistics, hypothesis formulation and testing; data interpretation; and exploratory data analysis. 3 Cr. Spring

BIO 618 Experimental Endocrinology. A lab course to accompany the lecture series on general endocrinology. Includes techniques such as surgery, biochemical analyses and physiological experiments to study hormone receptor interactions. Also includes library research of current literature. 3 Cr.

BIO 621 Water ChemistryInstrumentation. Covers the operation of a spectrophotometer, fluorometer, gas chromatograph, atomic absorption spectrophotometer, graphite furnace for heavy metals, autoanalyser, etc. Although the medium for analysis is water, the instrumentation and techniques utilized are applicable to other areas of biology. 4 Cr. Spring

BIO 622 Biology Seminar. Through discussion, deals with recent advances in selected areas of biology based on current literature and guest speakers. May be repeated for up to four credits toward the MS under different subtitles. Approved subtitles include: cellular biology ecology and evolutionary biology; genetics and molecular biology; biotechnology; plant sciences; and aquatic biology. 2 Cr.

BIO 623 DNA Recombinant Laboratory. Explores procedures involved in the isolation and cloning of DNA. Utilizes methods such as bacterial and viral growth, quantitation and selection; restriction digestions, gene isolation and cloning, DNA ligase and PCR experiments, as well as site-specific mutagenesis. Also utilizes DNA fingerprinting using non-radioactive detection techniques. 3 Cr. Spring

BIO 673 Neurobiology. Prerequisites: Undergraduate courses in anatomy and physiology. Studies in detail the structure and functions of nervous tissue and related peripheral elements, including receptors and muscles. Considers the central nervous systems of both vertebrates and invertebrates with a view toward understanding a physiological basis for behavior. 3 Cr.

BIO 692 Graduate Seminar. Required of all graduate students. Provides training in public speaking. Requires each student to present a seminar on some mutually agreeable topic in science that is critiqued for scientific content, style of presentation, quality of visual aids, impact on the audience, etc. 1 Cr. Every Semester

BIO 695 Topics in Biology. Current topics to be arranged by instructor in a special field of study. Details reflect student demand, needs and timely topics of interest. 3 Cr.

BIO 699 Independent Study. Designed individually through consultation between student and instructor to suit the student's needs and interests and the special competence of the instructor. Additional requirements may be imposed by the department. 1-4 Cr.

BIO 702 Research Experience. Requires an independent research experience, but permits a more flexible course of study than does a traditional thesis program. Designed for Plan II of the MS program with teachers, medical technologists, lab technicians and other employed persons in mind. 1-6 Cr. Every Semester

BIO 704 Thesis. Provides an individual investigation of an original problem to be submitted in a format acceptable to satisfy the requirements for the master's thesis as determined by department rules and regulations. 1-6 Cr. Every Semester

  The information in this publication was current as of December 2002 when the text was compiled. Changes, including but not restricted to, tuition and fees, course descriptions, degree and program requirements, policies, and financial aid availability may have occurred since that time. Whether or not a specific course is scheduled for a given term is contingent on enrollment, budget and staffing. The college reserves the right to make any changes it finds necessary and may announce such changes for student notification in publications other than the College catalogs. For the purpose of degree and program completion, students are bound by the requirements in effect as stated in the printed catalog at the time of their matriculation at SUNY Brockport. Inquiries on the current status of requirements can be addressed to the appropriate College department of office. Also refer to the Brockport Web site home page at for current information.