Two-Year Master's Program in Biochemistry


The following information pertains to the traditional, two-year Master's program in Biochemistry.  Note that each student is responsible for satisfying the requirements of both the Department and the Graduate College. Details of our Accelerated Masters Programs (AMP) in Biochemistry are detailed here.

Requirements for Acceptance

Acceptance into the Master’s Degree (MS) program requires an acceptable undergraduate major in biochemistry, chemistry, or a related field. Satisfactory scores on the general (aptitude) Graduate Record Examination must be submitted. The subject GRE is not required, but helpful in making admissions decisions.  The MS Program no longer has a foreign language requirement.  For students who do not use English as their primary language, an English as a second language course offered by the University may be required (but will not provide any credits toward the MS degree).

To be accepted into the program students must have completed yearlong courses in: biology, organic chemistry, physical chemistry, and physics.  In addition, a quantitative chemistry course and mathematics (preferably through differential and integral calculus). If a physical chemistry course has not been taken previously, a student must take Physical Chemistry (CHEM 162) in their first year (for which they do not receive credit toward the MS degree).

MS students are expected to have contacted a potential advisor and negotiated a potential project prior to submitting their application.  It is expected that you will name the potential advisor in your application.

At this time the Department has no funds to support a MS student and therefore we are only accepting students who have their own fellowship or can finance the program on their own.

Specific Requirements for the MS

MS students in Biochemistry are required to take a minimum of 30 credits. Typically it will take two years to complete the MS degree. 

2 credits of Graduate Seminar, BIOC 381*

6 credits of BIOC 301/302 ** General Biochemistry I/II

6 credits total from two upper level Biochemistry courses selected from:

BIOC 351Proteins
BIOC 352Proteins: Nucleic Acid Interactions
BIOC 353Enzymology
BIOC 370

Physical Biochemistry

BIOC 372Cancer Biology

Grad 397, Master’s comprehensive exam (no credits)
Grad 399, Dissertation defense (no credits)

Remaining credits in the degree program should be selected from the following approved list.  Special topics or other graduate courses maybe acceptable with prior approval from the Chair of the Departmental Graduate Studies Committee (currently Dr. Robert Kelm).

BIOC 325Data Analysis & Presentation I2 Credits
BIOC 326Data Analysis & Presentation II2 Credits
CHEM 223Mass Spectrometry3 Credits
CLBI 301Cell Biology3 Credits
MMG 211Prokaryotic Molecular Genetics3 Credits
MMG 232Methods of Bioinformatics3 Credits
MPBP 301Human Physiology & Pharm I4 Credits
MPBP 323Biophysical Techniques4 Credits
PHRM 201Introduction to Pharmacology3 Credits
PHRM 272 Toxicology3 Credits

In the event that a MS candidate has not previously taken a physical chemistry course, they must take Physical Chemistry for Bio Sci (CHEM 160) in the Spring semester of their first year (for which they do not receive credit toward the MS degree).

Please note that to remain in good standing in the Department a B average is required in all graded Biochemistry courses.

*Note that students are required to participate in BIOC 381 throughout their enrollment in the MS program (although they can receive a maximum of 2 credits).

** Successful completion of BIOC 205/BIOC 206 can substitute for BIOC 301/BIOC 302 requirement for previous UVM students only. However, these will not count towards the 30 graduate credit requirement.

Thesis Track

At least nine (and up to 13) credits of BIOC 391 Master’s Thesis Research are required.  In addition, a written thesis and defense of this thesis must occur according to the guidelines laid out by the Graduate College.

Non-Thesis Track

At least six (and up to 9) credits of Independent Literature Research (BIOC 392) and two credits of independent research set up as a special topics course (BIOC 395) with your mentor are required.  In addition, a manuscript in the format of a review article must be submitted to the Departmental Graduate Studies Committee and a seminar on the manuscript must be presented to the Department.

Comprehensive Exams

The Phase I examination will take place within three weeks of the end of the Spring semester exam period (Year 1).  Students are responsible for material presented in course work, seminars, and rotations. A specific objective is to evaluate the ability of each student to integrate material covered in the first year and demonstrate a working knowledge of basic concepts in Biochemistry. The details and format of the examination and its form (written or oral or both) are decided upon by the Departmental Graduate Studies Committee and will be discussed with the student well in advance of the exam.

Satisfactory performance on this exam, in addition to good academic standing, are required for a student to continue in the program.

MS students will have a Phase II (dissertation presentation) examination at the end of the summer of their first year. This will consist of presenting and defending a plan for their Master’s dissertation to a committee selected by the student and his/her advisor.  The Dissertation Committee for an MS candidate is comprised of only three members including their advisor, one other member in the Department and one member from outside the Department.

 The written portion of the Phase II examination must contain:

  • 1 page of hypothesis driven specific aims
  • 1-2 pages of background/significance with appropriate references
  • 1-2 pages of preliminary work including brief summary of experimental design/methods and be provided in advance (minimum of one week) to all members of the student’s Dissertation Committee.

In addition to the written document, a presentation to the student’s Dissertation Committee should contain details with regard to the methodology that will be used to address the specific aims. During the meeting, students will receive questions covering the scope of the research, background, basis of technical approach, alternative strategies, and controls.  Questions related to the student’s course work and general knowledge can also be asked. As with the Phase I Exam, the student is expected to demonstrate a working knowledge of basic biochemical concepts and principles and an ability to integrate this knowledge into the proposed research. The goal of this exercise is to properly formulate research questions, and to generate hypothesis driven specific aims. As in the case of Phase I, satisfactory performance on this exam and good academic standing are required for students to advance in the program.