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College of the Sciences
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Department of Biological Sciences
Science Building, Room 338
400 E. University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7537
(509) 963-2731

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Biology Graduate Program

Our Mission

The Biology Graduate Program prepares you to become an enlightened, responsible, and productive scientist with essential skills, a deep understanding of your discipline, respect for diversity, and the ability to think critically and communicate clearly.

We offer a Master of Science in Biology degree; please note that we do not offer a Ph.D. degree.  Our program, which typically requires two years, provides advanced training and expertise in biology through coursework, research, and a strong academic environment.   

Our graduates go on to be:

  • Technicians in research labs
  • Biomedical researchers in academic, government, and industrial labs
  • Field biologists in federal, state, local, and tribal agencies
  • Biologists with environmental and other consulting firms
  • Educators at K-12 schools and community colleges
  • Doctorates in the sciences (Ph.D.) and professional fields (e.g., M.D., DVM, and other advanced medical degrees)

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Contact the Biology Graduate Program Coordinator

For further information about our graduate program, please contact:

Dr. Gabe Stryker
Graduate Program Coordinator, Dept. of Biological Sciences
Central Washington University
400 E. University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7537

(509) 963-2721



Program Outcomes 

Program Requirements 

Biology Faculty 

Funding Your Graduate Program 

Current Graduate Student Research 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Graduate Student Handbook

Biology faculty member, Dr. Blaise Dondji, instructs four students on the pipetting process

Program Outcomes

Our graduate students will:

  • Design a program of study to enhance their knowledge in their chosen area of specialization and to bolster areas deemed deficient in their undergraduate education.
  • Formulate an area of interest within biology and demonstrate historic and current knowledge of that area.
  • Design a research project, which will serve as the basis of the thesis.
  • Defend and Support the results of their graduate research in the form of a professional level thesis.


Program Requirements

We help you design a course of study, comprising 14 credits of required graduate courses, 16 credits of research (BIOL 595 and BIOL 700), and 15 elective credits (total, 45).  You are mentored through the process of conducting original, independent research by your faculty advisor and thesis committee members.  We support two thesis formats: a traditional thesis, and a journal-ready manuscript option.


How To Apply

New students are normally accepted for entry in the fall of our academic year (mid-September).  Applications for fall quarter priority admission and assistantships are due by February 1st. 

Admission is a two-step process:

First, you must meet the general requirements of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.

This includes a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, and a minimum GPA of 3.0 (in the last 90 quarter hours or 60 semester hours).  If applicable, please also read the School of Graduate Studies and Research information for international students before applying.  All applications go through the School of Graduate Studies and Research.

Then, you must meet the specific requirements of the Department of Biological Sciences:

  1. An undergraduate degree in biology or closely related field. Deficiencies in the student’s undergraduate training as determined by the Department of Biological Sciences at the time of admission to the program must be removed without graduate credit during the first year of graduate study.
  2. A faculty member must be willing to serve as the applicant’s graduate faculty advisor.  Prior to completing your application, contact prospective faculty advisors to ask if they are interested in taking new students

Please Note:  GRE scores are no longer required by the Department of Biological Sciences.

A complete application to the Department of Biological Sciences will include the following:

  1. CWU School of Graduate Studies and Research Application (including $75 application fee; waivers are available).
  2. A Statement of Objectives:  The statement is limited to 500 words and serves as a sample of your writing abilities.

    Please address the following points within your statement:
  • What is your motivation for seeking a graduate degree in Biology and how will a M.S. in Biology help you reach your career goals?
  • Describe your research interests in Biology, indicate potential faculty advisor/s, and describe previous research experience and any relevant skills or training.
  • Provide an example of how you have shown persistence in overcoming obstacles to reach an academic or career objective you set for yourself.

    3. Letters of recommendation (3)

    4. Official transcripts

    5. Curriculum Vitae (academic resume)

    6.  English proficiency for international students for whom English is a second language.  There are several options available to satisfy the English proficiency requirement.


Frequently Asked Questions


Biology Faculty

Biology faculty are active in research in many areas of Biology, including Ecology & Evolution, Physiology & Organismal Biology, and Cell & Molecular Biology.

Clay Arango, Associate Professor
Stream ecosystem ecology, nitrogen cycling, human-ecosystem interactions

April Binder, Associate Professor
Reproductive biology focused on hormonal control of ovarian function and development

Lucinda Carnell, Professor
Regulation of behavior in the nematode, C. elegans

Blaise Dondji, Professor
Cellular immune responses to hookworm and Leishmania infections

Kristina Ernest, Professor
Terrestrial ecology: small mammals, species interactions, connectivity

Jason Irwin, Professor
Physiological and ecological aspects of cold tolerance in insects and amphibians

Paul James, Professor
Ecology & fisheries biology

Jim Johnson, Professor
Mycology, molecular systematics, molecular ecology and amphibian disease

Sarah Oppelt, Assistant Professor
Aspects of metabolism and how it influences cell fate

Holly Pinkart, Professor / Department Chair
Microbial ecology and physiology, microbes of saline alkaline lakes

Mary Poulson, Professor
Plant physiology, photosynthesis, and photosynthetic responses to the environment

Ian Quitadamo, Professor
Neuro-cognitive basis of critical thinking, assessment of science learning

Linda Raubeson, Professor  
Phylogeny of conifers, chloroplast genome evolution, conservation and ecological genetics of local plants

Alison Scoville, Associate Professor
Ecological and evolutionary genomics, rapid evolution and conservation biology

Gabrielle Stryker, Associate Professor
Protozoan parasites, paraflagellar rod proteins in kinetoplastids, cell motility, immunology

Lixing Sun, Professor
Ecology and evolution of animal behavior (especially communication systems), primatology

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Funding Your Graduate Program

Many of our graduate students are supported by teaching assistantships, which are normally guaranteed for two years (six quarters), given adequate research progress and satisfactory teaching evaluations. Please note that while some students need more than two years to finish their degree, financial support (through graduate assistantships) is available only during the first two years.  Applicants who would like to be considered for a teaching assistantship must complete an assistantship application form (in addition to the application for admissions). Research assistantships and summer stipends are occasionally available on a competitive basis, as are other sources of funds related to specific externally-funded projects.

For information on graduate tuition and fees, assistantships, grants and fellowships, scholarships, financial aid, and student employment, please see the Graduate Student Funding section of CWU's Graduate Studies and Research webpage.


CWU Graduate Student Fellowships and Grants

Washington State Distinguished Fellowship in Biology

The Botanical & Mycological Research Fund

Kittitas Audubon Research & Tuition Scholarship

CWU Graduate Student Research Support Award

CWU Graduate Student Summer Research Fellowship

CWU Retirement Association (CWURA) Graduate Student Scholarship

CWU Office of International Studies and Programs Tuition Waiver

CWU Graduate Student Travel Funds

See Also:  CWU Scholarship Office


External Research Funding Sources  

Northwest Scientific Association Student Research Grants

The Wildlife Society Grants & Scholarships (Washington State Chapter)

Washington Native Plant Society Conservation Grants

Society for Northwestern Vertebrate Biology, Student Scholarships

Sigma Xi, Grants-in-Aid of Research 

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Graduate Student Research

See recent  Biology Theses in the CWU Digital Commons Repository


2021-2022 Graduate Student Cohort


Photo of biology graduate student, Maddisen Bell

Maddisen Bell
B.S., Biology, Eastern Washington University 
Researching: Sexual selection and competition or bargaining amongst males to select females
Mentor: Dr. Lixing Sun 


Photo of Biology Graduate Student, Zarha Dillon-Zuppelli

Zarha Dillon-Zuppelli
B.S., Conservation Biology, College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse University
Researching: Pediocactus nigrispinus (Snowball cactus) demography and soil crust associations
Mentor: Dr. Mary Poulson


Photo of biology graduate student, Ryan Garcia

Ryan Garcia
B.S., Biological Sciences, Central Washington University
Researching: Plant conservation genetics using Ranunculus triternatus as a model organism.
Mentor: Dr. Linda Raubeson


Photo of Biology graduate student, Thomas Luehl

Thomas Luehl
B.A. Environmental Science, New College of Florida
Researching: The spread of native mycorrhizae on the I90 wildlife overcrossing
Mentor: Dr. Jim Johnson


Photo of Biology Graduate Student, Andy Rashid

Andy Rashid
B.S., Chemistry, University of Nebraska at Omaha
Researching: Inflammatory response in the Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease state
Mentor: Dr. Sarah Oppelt


Image of CWU Wildcat

Kyle Sease
B.S., Biology, Biomedical Specialization, Central Washington University
Researching: Phthalates, their derivatives, and their influence on neuronal cells
Mentor: Dr. Lucinda Carnell


Photo of Biology Graduate Student, Adrian Slade

Adrian Slade
B.S., Biological Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Specialization, Central Washington University
Researching: Impact of solar arrays on ectotherm ecology and survival in the Mojave Desert
Mentor: Dr. Dan Beck (retired)


Photo of biology graduate student, Lauren Taracka

Lauren Taracka
B.S., Biological Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Specialization, Central Washington University
Researching:  movement patterns and genetics of Alligator Lizards at the I90 Snoqualmie Pass East Wildlife Overcrossing.
Mentor: Dr. Jason Irwin


Photo of biology graduate student, Anne Tolo

Anne Tolo
B.S., Biology, Pacific Lutheran University
Researching: The social hierarchies in crickets
Mentor: Dr. Lixing Sun


Photo of biology graduate student, Omar Torres

Omar Torres
B.S., Environmental Science, Specialization in Natural Resource Management
Researching: Trout monitoring for the I90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project
Mentor: Dr. Paul James

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