Department of Biological Sciences

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Department of Biological Sciences

(585) 395-2193

Chairman: Larry K. Kline, PhD, SUNY Buffalo. Distinguished Service Professor: Joseph C. Makarewicz, PhD, Cornell University. Professors: Thomas Bonner, PhD, University of Cincinnati; James M. Haynes, PhD, University of Minnesota. Associate Professors: David Brannigan, PhD, University of New Hampshire; Stephen W. Chan, PhD, University of Hull; P. Michael Fox, PhD, University of Illinois-Urbana; Kline, PhD, SUNY Buffalo; Craig Lending, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Assistant Professors: Patricia Harris, PhD, Duke University; John Hunter, PhD, University of California Davis; Kathleen Moody, PhD, University of Pennsylvania; Christopher Norment, PhD, University of Kansas. Research Associate: Theodore Lewis, MS, SUNY Brockport.

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 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 a regionally accredited institution, preferably with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (A=4.0). The applicant should have credit for college physics, organic chemistry and calculus. Computer science is recommended. The applicant may be admitted as a candidate with deficiencies in the above areas, but priority must be given to their removal. Courses taken to satisfy a deficiency are not credited toward the master's degree. Such courses may be taken on a Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory 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 (not to the Department of Biological Sciences) as part of the self-managed application packet:

  1. Completed application form for graduate study as a matriculated student, i.e., as a degree candidate;
  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. Graduate Record Examination scores are recommended but are not required in General Aptitude and Advanced Biology. 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 line at

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 major advisor on a permanent basis 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 by the end of the second semester, or when 24 credits are completed, whichever is later.
  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 Taxonomy (A). Considers the morphology, evolution, and classification of the vascular plants. Lecture topics include structure and ecological significance, reproductive biology, evolutionary history, and principles of classification. Laboratories survey the diversity of plants and teach the use of technical keys. 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. Laboratory and field experiences include the study of anatomy and flight, identification techniques, census methods, and trapping and banding. 4 Cr. Spring.

BIO 533 Instrumental Methods IIIRadioactivity and Enzyme Assay. Covers principles and experiments involving the use of measurement of radioactive isotopes. Examines liquid scintillation counting, and the measurement of enzyme activity using spectrophotometric and radioisotope techniques. Given third four weeks of semester only. (Eight three-hour lab sessions). 1 Cr. Fall.

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 490 is the complementary lab. 3 Cr. Every Other Spring.

BIO 587 Birds of New York. Covers ecological relationships, avian aesthetics, ethological characteristics; evolutionary relationships among birds and their progenitors; techniques of study; skin preparation and use of museum resources; and the significance of avian studies in photoperiodicity, migration, disease and conservation. Includes field identification and optional skin preparation. Requires a topical paper, skin preparation and a field project. 4 Cr. Summer.

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. 4-6 Cr. Summer.

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 599 Independent Study. To be defined in consultation with the instructor-sponsor prior to registration. Variable Cr. Every Semester.

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 Cloning 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-es 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 present---- 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.

Last Updated 7/21/22