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2023-2024 Graduate Bulletin

Graduate Department of

Biological Science

College of Arts and Sciences


Chair: Thomas A. Houpt; Associate Chair (Graduate Studies): Nora Underwood; Associate Chair (Undergraduate Studies): Karen M. McGinnis; Associate Chair (Academic Programs): Alice A. Winn; Professors: Bass, Chase, Erickson, DuVal, D. Fadool, J. Fadool, Fraser, Houle, Houpt, Hughes, Inouye, Levitan, Mast, Miller, Stagg, Steppan, Tang, Taylor, Travis, Underwood, Zhu; Associate Professors: Burgess, Cui, Dennis, Jones, Lemmon, Lenhert, Lester, Lyons, McGinnis, Rokyta, Stroupe, Winn, Wulff, Yu; Assistant Professors: Bangi, Cortez, Feng, Francis, Okamoto, Rassweiler, Storace, Thoms, Vincis, Yin; Professors Emeriti: Abele, Anderson, Caspar, DeBusk, deKloet, Elam, Epstein, Fajer, Gaffney, Heard, Herrnkind, Homann, James, Livingston, Mariscal, Outlaw, Quadagno, Reeves, Roberts, Roeder, Roux, Trombley, Tschinkel

The program of graduate study in the Department of Biological Science is designed to transform an individual from student to professional scholar. Awarding of the degree signifies that the individual is qualified to join the community of scholars and is recognized as an authority in the discipline. Our graduates are employed as faculty in colleges and universities, as researchers in industry or government laboratories, or instructors of science education.

The Department of Biological Science offers graduate programs leading to the degree of Master of Science (MS) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). There are strong graduate research programs in both experimental and theoretical biology. Research training expertise is available in biophysics and molecular biology; cell biology; biochemical and molecular genetics; ecology; evolution; developmental biology; microbiology; virology; immunology; neurobiology; plant and animal physiology; comparative physiology; endocrinology; sensory physiology; population biology/genetics; marine biology; plant and animal systematics; tropical biology; and conservation biology. Some departmental programs are associated with research and graduate programs of the departments of Oceanography, Chemistry and Biochemistry, and Psychology, as well as with the Biomedical Sciences division of the College of Medicine. The department faculty are members of advanced-study programs such as the Institute of Molecular Biophysics Program, as well as the Program in Neuroscience, which provide interdisciplinary training in the use of molecular, physiological, and neuroethological methods in the study of nervous system function and disease. There is also a special federal training program in the chemical senses that supports PhD and postdoctoral level training in the field of olfaction and taste.

Fully equipped research laboratories and classrooms for biological science are located in five buildings on the Tallahassee campus (King Life Sciences Building, Biological Science Unit 1, Biomedical Research Facility, Molecular Biophysics, and Milton Carothers Hall) and at the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, forty-five miles south of Tallahassee. A modern imaging center includes both state-of-the-art light and electron microscopes. Students have access to molecular biology facilities, including a DNA microarrayer, special culture facilities, a hybridoma laboratory, greenhouses, machine and electronics shops, animal vivaria, ultracentrifuges, cold laboratories, analyzer laboratories, sterile laboratories, shielded electrophysiological laboratories, an isotope laboratory, photographic laboratories, and spectrophotometric instrumentation, as well as the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and a supercomputer. Herbarium facilities contain about 175,000 specimens. Vans, cars, and boats are provided for field research.

The Department of Biological Science is a comprehensive basic science department consisting of forty-four faculty members. The current faculty members hold contracts and grants totaling forty-four million dollars (2009–2014). Faculty members are represented on the editorial boards of numerous professional journals and hold a number of national offices in professional societies. Six current members of the faculty are Fellows of the American Academy of Sciences and three former faculty members are Fellows of the National Academy of Sciences. Many others serve on governmental task forces and national advisory boards of research institutions and public and private foundations.

Admission Requirements

Application for admission is to be submitted online to the Office of Admissions at The Biological Science priority consideration application deadline and submission of all supporting documents is December 1 for Fall admission to the thesis masters and doctoral programs. The final application deadline is January 31. The course-based masters application deadline is June 1st for Fall and October 1st for Spring admissions. All applicants will meet the minimum criteria of a 3.0 undergraduate upper division grade point average (GPA). Applicants will be required to submit the following supporting documents with their application to any degree program: GRE scores (unless a waiver is granted; see below for more information) and official transcripts. The average entering graduate student has a verbal score of 157 (77%) and a quantitative score of 157 (77%) on the GRE; applicants with GRE scores below 153 verbal and 146 quantitative need to have strong research backgrounds, a GPA of 3.2 or better on upper division course, and excellent letter of recommendation. Biological Science PhD applicants may request a GRE Waiver, where GRE admission requirement will be waived for students who meet certain criteria for demonstrating Success and Aptitude for Research and Academic Preparation. Applicants can fill out the GRE Waiver Request Form and view key criteria at

International students, in addition to the above, must also score a minimum of 600 on the paper-based, 250 on the computer-based, or 92 on the Internet-based Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) to satisfy the English Language Proficiency requirement. A minimum score of 7.0 total, 6.5 speaking on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) will also meet this requirement.

On the Biological Science Supplemental Application, applicants are required to state their intended area(s) of research interest and three faculty members as potential advisors so that applications can be circulated to the appropriate faculty members and admissions committees. Students are very strongly encouraged to contact individual faculty they are interested in working with to determine if the faculty are taking new students and to determine whether they would be a good match for that individual faculty member's lab.

Financial Aid for Doctoral and Thesis-Based Master's Program

Graduate assistantships (teaching, research, and/or service) are available at approximately $23,738 (master's) to $24,726 (doctorate) per calendar year; up to twenty hours per week are required for instruction and related duties. Research assistantships involve working on the research program of an individual faculty member with whom the applicant should correspond directly. Matriculation and out-of-state tuition waivers are available, subject to availability of funds, for graduate assistants who hold a minimum appointment of a quarter-time.

Degree Requirements

Please review all college-wide degree requirements summarized in the "College of Arts and Sciences" chapter of this Graduate Bulletin.

Doctoral Degree

The direction and supervision of graduate work at the doctoral level resides primarily with the major professor and supervisory committee. The University requires that the degree be completed within five calendar years from the time the student gains admittance to candidacy by passing the preliminary exam.

Overall requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree are as follows:

  1. After admission to doctoral candidacy, a minimum of twenty-four semester hours of dissertation credit is required
  2. Teaching requirement: teaching experience in at least two different courses recommended by the supervisory committee and approved by the associate chair
  3. Seminar requirement: three presentations, excluding the dissertation defense. Students are encouraged to give presentations at national and/or regional meetings. For further details, contact the department
  4. Submission and approval of a doctoral proposal by major professor, supervisory committee, and associate chair
  5. Successful completion of the preliminary doctoral examination
  6. Submission of an acceptable dissertation
  7. Successful defense of the dissertation

Master's Degree

Requirements for Research-Based Master of Science (MS) Degree

The requirements of the research-based Master of Science (MS) degree should be met in two to three years and include the following:

  1. At least thirty semester hours of graduate credit (5000-level and above courses including a minimum of six semester hours of thesis credit), eighteen semester hours of which must bear letter grades (not "S" or "U")
  2. Teaching requirement: Teaching experience in at least one course recommended by the supervisory committee and approved by the associate chair
  3. Seminar requirement: One departmental presentation, excluding the formal presentation of the thesis research. MS students are encouraged to give presentations at national and/or regional meetings. For further details, contact the department
  4. Submission of a master's prospectus, and approval by the major professor, supervisory committee, and associate chair
  5. Submission of an acceptable thesis
  6. Successful defense of the thesis

Requirements for Course-Based Master of Science (MS) Degree

The requirements of the course-based Master of Science (MS) degree can generally be completed within eighteen months to two years and include the following:

  1. At least thirty-two semester hours of graduate credit (5000-level and above courses), twenty-one semester hours of which must bear letter grades (not "S" or "U")
  2. Comprehensive Examination: The student must pass a written comprehensive examination to be administered by the student's Supervisory Committee. The student must have a 3.0 or greater grade point average to be eligible to take the comprehensive examination
  3. Directed Individual Study (DIS) requirement: The student must submit a written report upon completion of two semesters of individual study using a literary- or laboratory-based research approach

For additional information, see

Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience

Director: Lisa Eckel

The Program in Neuroscience provides interdisciplinary training leading to the degree of PhD in Neuroscience. Participating faculty members hold appointments in the Departments of Biological Science, Psychology, Mathematics, or Biomedical Sciences. Students enroll in the department of their initial faculty advisor/major professor but may take neuroscience courses offered by any of the participating departments. Several of the biological science faculty are members of the Program in Neuroscience.

Neuroscience courses offered through the Department of Biological Science include those with a PSB or PCB prefix. Interdisciplinary research training is available involving molecular, biophysical, cellular, physiological, and behavioral approaches. Common areas of research include sensory biology (with special emphasis on chemical senses), neural plasticity and development, neural control of food intake, synaptic physiology, genetics of behavior, neuroendocrinology, circadian rhythms, and neurological aspects of stress and drug addiction. The program has an NIH-funded training grant, in addition to other mechanisms for student support, and provides numerous colloquia, symposia, and special courses in areas of particularly active or rapidly developing research. Out-of-state and matriculation waivers for neuroscience students in biological science are available on the same basis as for the rest of the department. For more information, see the separate entry for Neuroscience in this Graduate Bulletin and the Program in Neuroscience Website at

Definition of Prefixes

BCH—Biochemistry (Biophysics)


BSC—Biological Sciences


PCB—Process Biology



Advanced Undergraduate Courses

Please refer to the General Bulletin for full course descriptions.

BSC 4613. Systematics (3).

BOT 4394. Plant Molecular Biology (3).

MCB 4403L. Prokaryotic Biology Laboratory (2).

PCB 4024L. Molecular Biology Laboratory (1).

PCB 4233. Immunology (3).

PCB 4233L. Laboratory in Immunology (1).

PCB 4253. Animal Development (3).

PCB 4253L. Animal Development Laboratory (3).

PCB 4723. General and Comparative Animal Physiology (3).

PCB 4843. Fundamentals of Neuroscience (3).

ZOO 4204C. Biology of Higher Marine Invertebrates (5).

ZOO 4343C. Biology of the Lower Vertebrates (4).

ZOO 4353C. Biology of the Higher Vertebrates (4).

ZOO 4513. Animal Behavior (4).

ZOO 4753C. Histology (4).

ZOO 4823. Insect Biology (3).

ZOO 4823L. Insect Diversity of North Florida (2).

Graduate Courses


BCH 5886r. Special Topics in Biochemistry and Cell Biology (1–3). Prerequisite: Completion of introductory biochemistry courses. May be repeated up to a maximum of four times or to a maximum of twelve semester hours within the same term.

BCH 5887r. Special Topics in Biochemistry and Cell Biology (1–3). Prerequisite: Completion of introductory biochemistry courses. May be repeated to a maximum of four times or to a maximum of twelve semester hours.


BOT 5505. Plant Physiology (3). Prerequisites: BSC 2010, BSC 2010L, BSC 2011, BSC 2011L, BSC 3016, CHM 1045, and CHM 1045L. This course provides students with a comprehensive overview of plant physiology. Plant physiology is the study of plant processes, structure and function. Physiology describes the mechanisms used by living organisms to solve problems they encounter as they grow and develop. Plants are unique, as sessile, photoautotrophic organisms, and diverse. As such, plants provide the opportunity to study many interesting physiological topics and mechanisms.

BOT 5938r. Selected Topics in Botany (1–4). May be repeated to a maximum of sixteen semester hours.

BOT 6936r. Seminar in Botany (2). (S/U grade only). May be repeated to a maximum of eight semester hours.

Biological Science

BSC 5458. Bioinformatics (3). This course provides students with a practical introduction to bioinformatics, including hands-on experience with some of the major current data types and software, while addressing enough of the theoretical underpinnings of common approaches in the field to ensure that students can critically evaluate existing and future bioinformatic tools.

BSC 5476C. Introduction to Scientific Diving (3). Prerequisites: Open water diver certified by national organization, clear diving medical exam, and ability to pass swimming exam. This course is designed for the graduate student who plans to use SCUBA diving as a tool for underwater research. Skills covered include dive planning, emergency management, underwater navigation, survey techniques, and instrument deployment and recovery. Students learn to plan and lead scientific expeditions in any environment, and to write proposals that effectively outline using diving as a tool in research.

BSC 5900r. Directed Individual Study (1–12). (S/U grade only).

BSC 5932r. Graduate Tutorial in Biological Science (1). (S/U grade only). Prerequisite: Graduate standing. This course involves selected topics in contemporary biological science along with reading and analysis of primary literature. May be repeated to a maximum of fifteen semester hours within the same term.

BSC 5936r. Selected Topics in Biological Science (1–4). May be repeated to a maximum of sixteen semester hours within the same term.

BSC 5945r. Supervised Teaching (1–2). (S/U grade only). May be repeated to a maximum of five semester hours.

BSC 5971r. Thesis (1–6). (S/U grade only). After a graduate student meets minimum requirements and is working on thesis research, registration for Thesis is required. A minimum of six semester hours of credit must be earned.

BSC 6921r. Colloquium in Biological Science (1). (S/U grade only). This course is required of all graduate students throughout their residence. May be repeated to a maximum of twenty semester hours.

BSC 6980r. Dissertation (1–12). (S/U grade only). Prerequisite: Admission to doctoral candidacy. For this course, the student must register for a minimum of two dissertation research hours each term until graduation. A minimum of twenty-four semester hours of credit must be earned.

BSC 8964r. Preliminary Doctoral Examination (0). (P/F grade only.) A comprehensive examination. Students with a master's degree should take it during the second semester in residence; those without a master's degree should take it during the fourth semester in residence. Passing exam required for admission to doctoral candidacy.

BSC 8976. Master's Thesis Defense (0). (P/F grade only.) This is the oral defense of master's research and thesis. Students should register during the term in which they intend to defend their master's thesis.

BSC 8985r. Dissertation Defense (0). (P/F grade only.) This is the oral defense of dissertation research. One-time registration during the term in which student expects to defend.


MCB 5408. Prokaryotic Biology (3). Prerequisite: PCB 3063 or instructor permission. This course introduces graduate level general microbiology, including material on prokaryotic cell structure and function, the molecular biology and genetics of microorganisms including viruses, and biotechnological applications of microbial physiology.

MCB 5505. Virology (3). This course covers structure and replication of the bacteriophage, plant and animal viruses, with an emphasis on comparative molecular biology and infectious disease.

Process Biology

PCB 5029C. Intensive Modern Molecular Biology (4). Prerequisites: PCB 3063 and PCB 4024. This course teaches modern molecular biology methods in a cohesive single project. Working with a single gene, students design overexpressing clones to be transfected into human cells. Additionally, using CRISPR gene editing, students knock that gene out of cells. RNA is isolated from each experiment and full transcriptomes are sequenced and analyzed.

PCB 5137. Advanced Cell Biology (3). This course focuses on topics such as: principles of cell organization; membrane structure and transport; cytoskeleton; signaling; organelle structure and function; energy metabolism; cellular aspects of cancer and immunity.

PCB 5366. Ecophysiology (3). In this course, linking physiological responses to ecology enables students to understand environmental drivers of ecology at every scale: from population ecology, community dynamics, and conservation, to stress response in plants, animals, and humans. This course provides context for environmental, agricultural, and biomedical examples of ecophysiology.

PCB 5425. Population Ecology (3). This course studies the theory of population growth and regulation, demographic theory and analytical methods, life history variation and evolution.

PCB 5447. Community Ecology (3). Prerequisites: General ecology and statistics. This course introduces students to community concepts; species richness models; matrices and communities; competition and species packing; predation and dominance.

PCB 5525. Molecular Biology (3). Prerequisite: PCB 3063 or equivalent or instructor permission. This course introduces students to molecular biology and molecular genetics. The emphasis is on the activities of DNA, RNA, regulation of gene expression, gene cloning, bioinformatics, and biotechnology.

PCB 5595. Advanced Molecular Biology (3). Prerequisites: PCB 4024 or PCB 5525 or instructor permission. This course studies gene regulation and its relationship to differentiation and development.

PCB 5615. Ecological Genetics (3). Prerequisites: PCB 3063. This course covers the fundamentals of modern ecological genetics. The course begins with an overview of genetic variation, its measurement, and the forces responsible for the origin and maintenance of variation within and among populations. The remainder of the course describes the ecological context of evolution, and the ecological and evolutionary forces that shape variation within and between populations. Emphasis is placed on experimental studies of natural populations, and the relationship between theory and experiments. Several advanced topics are covered in the second part of the course: life-history evolution, sexual selection, applied ecological genetics, and molecular evolution.

PCB 5672. Evolution (3). Prerequisites: PCB 3063 or equivalent undergraduate coursework. This course provides instruction in evolution as a unifying framework for biological science. The course shows how two primary aspects of evolution, shared phylogenetic history and the modification of populations and species, interact to produce the similarities and differences among all organisms.

PCB 5675. Advanced Evolutionary Biology (3). Prerequisites: PCB 3063 or PCB 4674 or equivalent or instructor permission. This course focuses on topics such as population genetics, quantitative genetics, and optimality approaches to the study of evolution. Emphasis is on basic theory and how this relates to empirical applications.

PCB 5682. Macroevolution (3). This course focuses on the conceptual foundations as well as providing practical experience in many commonly used methods. Topics include phylogenetics and systematics, the comparative method, reconstructing the past, biogeography, testing adaptation, quantifying diversification, and connections with microevolution and speciation.

PCB 5786. Membrane Biophysics (3). This course attempts to merge classical principles and analyses of membrane biophysics with that of current focal areas of physiological research in order to best prepare an analytically-minded student for today's scientific applications.

PCB 5795. Sensory Physiology (3). Prerequisite: General physiology/cell biology background. This course focuses on topics such as mechanisms of sensory transduction; higher level processing of sensory information; comparative aspects of sensory physiology.

PCB 5845. Cell and Molecular Neuroscience (4). This course introduces students to basic principles of neurophysiology, including intracellular signaling, membrane potentials, synaptic communication, sensory and motor systems and neural development and plasticity.

PCB 5936r. Selected Topics in Genetics and Cell Biology (1–4). May be repeated to a maximum of sixteen semester hours.

PCB 5938r. Selected Topics in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (1–4). May be repeated to a maximum of sixteen semester hours in the same term.

PCB 6936r. Seminar in Genetics and Cell Biology (2). (S/U grade only). May be repeated to a maximum of eight semester hours.

PCB 6938r. Seminar in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (2). (S/U grade only). May be repeated to a maximum of eight semester hours in the same term.


PSB 5057. Neuroscience Methods: Molecules to Behavior (2). (S/U grade only). This course exposes graduate students to a broad array of current techniques and methodologies in the neurosciences from a molecular to behavioral level of analysis.

PSB 5077. Responsible Conduct of Research (2). (S/U grade only). This course is an introduction to survival skills and ethics in scientific research. The focus is on basic principles of scientific conduct and practice for graduate students pursuing careers in biomedical research.

PSB 5341. Systems and Behavioral Neuroscience (4). This course covers integrated neural systems that ultimately lead to the behavior of organisms. Topics include fluid and energy balance, reproduction, sleep, emotions, cognition and neurological disorders.

PSB 5347. Molecular Neuropharmacology (3). This course provides an in-depth description of basic principles in pharmacology and the cellular and molecular bases of drug effects in the central nervous system.

PSB 6070r. Current Problems in Neuroscience (2). (S/U grade only). This course is a detailed examination of a current area of neuroscience research. May be repeated to a maximum of eight semester hours.

PSB 6920r. Neuroscience Colloquium (1). (S/U grade only). This course consists of lectures and discussions on research in neuroscience. May be repeated to a maximum of four semester hours.

PSB 6933r. Seminar in Neuroscience (1–2). (S/U grade only). This course provides a research-oriented seminar for graduate students in neuroscience. Content includes a wide variety of current topics in nervous system research. May be repeated to a maximum of eight semester hours.


ZOO 5935r. Selected Topics in Zoology (1–4). May be repeated to maximum of sixteen semester hours.

ZOO 6409. Biology of Sharks and Rays (4). Prerequisite: Graduate student status. This is an immersion course geared towards students wishing to pursue research involving sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras. Course content covers diversity of elasmobranch fishes, along with their evolution, form, function, physiology, and behavior. There is a strong field component, introducing students to species of elasmobranchs that inhabit the varied habitats of northern Gulf of Mexico.