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.

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

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)

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.

Biology Graduate Student Handbook

See Also: Biology Combined BS/MS Pathway

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:

  • CWU School of Graduate Studies and Research Application (including $75 application fee; waivers are available).
  • 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.
  • Letters of recommendation (3)
  • Official transcripts
  • Curriculum Vitae (academic resume)
  • English proficiency for international students for whom English is a second language. There are several options available to satisfy the English proficiency requirement.

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, 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

Celine Cortes, Assistant Professor
Evolutionary Vertebrate Biology

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

Kristina Ernest, Professor (On sabbatical during academic year 2023-2024)
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, Professor (On sabbatical during academic year 2023-2024)
Ecological and evolutionary genomics, rapid evolution and conservation biology

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

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

Examples of Biology Graduate Student Research

See recent Biology Theses in the CWU Digital Commons Repository


Funding Your Graduate Program

There are both internal and external funding sources that you may qualify for that can help defray research and tuition costs.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the most important part of the application?

    Applications are reviewed holistically, carefully considering all of the submitted materials.

  • Who should write my recommendation letters?

    Letters of recommendation should be written by someone familiar with your previous academic work; ideally, this would be professors from your undergraduate major field of study. If you are a returning student who has been out of school for some time, we suggest seeking references from employers, supervisors, or other professionals who can comment on your background, experiences, work ethic, ability to overcome substantial challenges, and motivation. Friends, family members, and fellow students are not appropriate choices.

  • What are the minimum GRE scores required for admission?

    The Department of Biological Sciences does not require GRE scores.

  • How do I seek a faculty advisor for my program?

    Look through the list of graduate faculty members for those professors whose research interests and activities inspire you. E-mail them to inquire whether they are accepting new students, and provide them with information about your background, reasons for seeking a M.S. degree, and research interests. Most faculty members are inundated with emails, so if you do not hear back, a follow-up email or phone call is advisable. The Graduate Program Coordinator can also help direct prospective students to potential faculty advisors.

  • When and how do I know if I have been accepted?

    Once the application is complete, the School of Graduate Studies and Research will conduct a preliminary review of all submitted materials. If the minimum admission requirements have been met, your application will then be forwarded for departmental review. Applicants are notified of all admission decisions via email, followed by an official letter from the School of Graduate Studies and Research.

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Questions? Contact Us.

Department of Biological Sciences

Science Building, Room 338

Department Chair
Dr. Holly Pinkart
(509) 963-2710
Give to Biology