Graduate Coordinator

Sean Lema, PhD, Professor
805-756-1419 FAX

Graduate Degrees

Cal Poly Biological Sciences offers two graduate degree programs at the Master's level. 

Click here to see how to apply for the graduate program.

Master of Science in Biological Sciences

This degree program is designed to prepare students for many types of biological work that require advanced training beyond a bachelor's degree. The M.S. Biological Sciences degree program provides students with the broad-based advanced training needed for careers in industry and/or government agencies, or further graduate work leading to a Ph.D. Graduates of the M.S. program have gone on to careers in private companies, environmental consulting, federal and state government agencies, teaching biological sciences at the elementary, secondary, and community college levels, or continued Ph.D. graduate work at other institutions. The placement rate for M.S. program graduates in jobs or Ph.D. programs in the field has been > 95%. 

Students in the program join a dynamic department with dedicated and productive faculty. A research thesis is required of students. The specialization of a student’s research thesis topic is typically related to the specific field of study represented by the student’s faculty advisor in the department. The M.S. graduate program also complements Cal Poly’s strong undergraduate programs in Biological Sciences, Microbiology, and Marine Sciences. Many graduate students help mentor undergraduate students in research or work as teaching associates (TAs) for undergraduate laboratory sections. 

Master of Science in Biological Sciences — Specialization in Regenerative Medicine

This Specialization within the MS degree program accepts up to 10 candidates per year in Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, or Animal Science. It is a two-year program offering candidates a year of training. In place of the thesis as a culminating experience, students are required to complete a non-traditional Comprehensive Exam that includes a 9-month internship in a stem cell research laboratory, a quarter-long project course at Cal Poly, a written report of their internship research, a written report of their quarter-long project course, and an oral presentation of their internship research. This degree prepares candidates to go into industry at laboratories conducting research in regenerative medicine and stem cells, or to pursue a further advanced degree such as a doctorate.

Read more at about the Regenerative Medicine Program

Application and Admission

Application deadline is the 1st of February annually. Admission is for Fall quarter only. The application cycle for admission to the program in Fall 2024 begins on October 1, 2023. The application deadline is February 1, 2024.

Admission Requirements 

In addition to Cal Poly university-wide admission requirements, admission into the graduate program in the Biological Sciences Department requires the following:

  • Personal Statement
    Please provide a statement that addresses the following points with separate subheadings for each question.  How much space you devote to each subsection is up to you, but the total length should not exceed ~2-3 single-spaced pages: 
    1. Describe your research interests. What biological questions most interest you and what types of research do you aim to pursue? What Cal Poly Biological Sciences research faculty are you interested in working with if admitted as a graduate student and why (NOTE: not applicable if applying for the Specialization in Regenerative Medicine)?
    2. Describe your motivation for pursuing a M.S. in Biological Sciences. What are your career goals? How will graduate training in Biological Sciences at Cal Poly help you achieve those goals?
    3. Describe how your experiences have prepared you to engage in graduate-level research. These experiences can include prior research training, but also other relevant experiences that have influenced your development as a scientist (e.g., a particular course, internship, study abroad, volunteer work, etc.). Given these strengths, what areas do you feel you need to improve by graduate training?
    4. Optional: Describe any special or extenuating circumstances that you want taken into account during the application review process that you consider relevant to your application (e.g., academic, professional, or personal challenges you experienced in the past).  
  • A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 from courses taken for completion of the applicant’s undergraduate BS/BA degree. Applicants with lower GPAs are considered only with extenuating circumstances.
  • Prerequisite courses: one year of majors' level coursework in biology AND one course in each of the following areas: 1) general chemistry, 2) calculus, statistics, or data science. 3) genetics or molecular biology, and 4) evolution. NOTE: If you have not taken one or more prerequisite courses, you may still be admitted with conditional status, and will be required to take the course at Cal Poly or another institution in the summer prior to starting the program.
  • Three (3) letters of reference from persons familiar with recent academic or work performance of the applicant. Carefully select your recommenders and request letters from individuals who know you well and can address how your academic, research, and/or professional experiences support your choice to pursue graduate-level training. You may submit additional letters if you would like.
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
    •    Please submit a CV with your contact information (e-mail address and phone number) and educational and employment histories. In addition, provide the following information as applicable:
    •    list of any academic honors, awards, or distinctions
    •    other experiences or responsibilities in science-related activities, such as outreach, volunteer work, or other relevant work-related experiences.
    •    list of scientific publications and presentations
    •    list of coursework or scientific training that does not appear on your transcripts (e.g., field courses, study abroad, etc.), but has been or will be completed before entering the graduate program
  • Applicants to the regular MS program are STRONGLY ENCOURAGED to contact prospective faculty advisors in the Biological Sciences Department. Admission to the regular MS program requires that an advisor agree to supervise an applicant (not applicable if applying for the Specialization in Regenerative Medicine). Faculty research interests can be found by browsing faculty profiles.
  • Note that GRE General or GRE Biology Subject scores are NOT required for applicants to the M.S. thesis-track program. Applicants do, however, have the option of submitting GRE scores as a supplemental part of their Cal State Apply application, if the applicant would like that GRE information considered as part of the holistic evaluation of their application. Specifically, an applicant may want to submit GRE scores when the applicant considers those scores to provide additional information regarding the applicant’s preparation and readiness for graduate-level study. 

Application Checklist:

Application to Cal Poly’s graduate program in Biological Sciences requires completion of the following steps at two different websites:

  1. Apply to Cal Poly via Cal State Apply by Feb 1.

    On Cal State Apply, the following materials MUST be uploaded by the Feb 1 application deadline: 
    · Statement of Purpose (see note above) (typically 2-3 pages in length) 
    · Three (3) letters of reference 
    · Curriculum Vita (CV) of the applicant (make sure to include a current e-mail address and phone #)

  2. Arrange to send official transcripts from your BS/BA degree granting institution. Official Transcripts should be sent directly to the Cal Poly Admissions Office from the university or college where the coursework was completed. More information about sending official transcripts is provided HERE by the Cal Poly Admissions Office

Graduate Coordinator: Professor Sean Lema, Biological Sciences, Cal Poly, 1 Grand Ave., San Luis Obispo, CA; phone: 805-756-2802; fax: 805-756-1419.



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