Biology (Biology and Society), MS

As a master's student in this biology concentration, you can explore how the life sciences are shaped and influenced by the world around us. You'll pursue original, interdisciplinary research at this compelling intersection of science and society.

Our students develop critical thinking and analytical skills and are able to draw from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. You can combine a rigorous academic program with marketable skills in science writing and publishing as a writer or editor with the Embryo Project Encyclopedia.

You’ll have a wide range of research options to choose from including working on projects in cutting-edge centers:

This robust master’s program is one you’ll find only at ASU — led by award-winning and accomplished faculty in the fields of biology, philosophy and history of science, and bioethics. Our faculty are renowned for their excellence in research, teaching and mentoring and you’ll work alongside them on a variety of projects.

Graduates of this research-oriented program have attractive career options. Some pursue professional degrees in fields such as law, medicine or education. Others enter doctoral programs including biology and society, history and philosophy of science, bioethics, science policy and life sciences. Careers at the intersection of life science and social endeavors, such as science writing or higher education administration are also exciting options.

1-2 years to degree
100% of students gain research experience
39 faculty

Degree Overview

This 30-hour program includes coursework and a thesis, which draws on multiple disciplinary perspectives grounded in life sciences. Undergraduates can combine this master’s degree with their undergraduate studies in the accelerated (4+1) program

Prospective students should have a relevant background in the area they intend to study. Admitted candidates without relevant preparation in the life sciences may complete this work early in the program. 

Tracks

You may focus your studies in one of four tracks:

Bioethics, policy, and law (BPL)
This track focuses on pressing moral, policy and legal issues raised by biosciences and biomedicine, and on the methods needed to address them.

Biology education research (BER)
This track focuses on using education research to identify ways to improve undergraduate biology education broadly. 

History and philosophy of science (HPS)
This track focuses on the conceptual foundations of science, including the epistemological and methodological assumptions that shape science.

Ecology, economics, and ethics of the environment (4E)
This track focuses on the theory and empirical methods for understanding, analyzing, and shaping policy that steer us toward a more productive, equitable and sustainable ecological future.

How to apply

The biology and society master's program admits one group of students annually to start their program the following August. Before applying, we encourage you to read our Tips for Applying.

To apply, follow the Apply Now link on the left of this page.

Application deadline

Applications are accepted Oct. 1 - Dec. 15, with a preference date of Dec. 1. There is no guarantee that applications received after Dec. 15 will be reviewed. We will notify you of your admissions status by April 15.  

Desired qualifications:

  • Research experience 
  • Undergraduate GPA minimum 3.0 (on 4.0 scale)
  • GRE scores: 50% Verbal and 70% Quantitative 
  • International students: TOEFL score of 100, or IELTS score of 6.5

Note: The admissions committee reviews scores on the general GRE scores and English language exams (for non-native speakers) and considers these scores in the context of the entire application package.

In the biology and society program, I do research in history and philosophy of medicine that is unlike the lab research of many of my peers applying to medical school. The excitement and value of presenting my undergraduate research in a poster session at the annual AAAS Conference compelled me to expand the project and my skills as a master's student. The program supports my work toward a career in medicine.

~Rainey Horwitz, ASU MS student

Curriculum

Training in biology and society follows an apprenticeship model. Students work closely with a faculty advisor and committee to complete required coursework and thesis. The program prepares students to become independent and creative researchers.

Required

Credit Hours

Core course

9

Elective courses

9

Research

6

Thesis

6

Total hours required

30 

Courses and electives

Training in biology and society combines seminars with an individualized set of electives that introduce students to a broad variety of fields. These fields provide the necessary background for students to be successful in completing major research projects. 

Biology and society concentration core courses (9 hours)

Concentration core courses combine to provide broad, basic competency in biology and society. Students chose among a variety of courses to meet this requirement. You will follow a recommended track and take the following as core courses.

Track 1: Bioethics, policy and law

Ethics, as related to life sciences (3 credit hours)
Sample courses include:

  • BIO 516 Foundations of Bioethics
  • BIO 527 Environmental Ethics and Policy Goals
  • BIO 610 Introduction to Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) in Life Sciences
  • BIO 611 Current Topics in Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) in Life Sciences

Science policy (3 credit hours)
Sample courses include:

  • BIO 515 Science, Technology and Public Affairs
  • BIO 517 Uncertainty and Decision Making

Law, as related to science or technology (3 credit hours)
Sample courses include:

  • BIO 691 Biotechnology: Science, Law and Policy
  • BIO 691 Genetics and the Law
  • BIO 791 Health Technologies, Innovation and the Law
  • BIO 791 Privacy, Big Data and Emerging Technology

Quantitative methods or statistics (3 credit hours) Sample courses include:

  • COE 502 Introduction to Data Analysis
  • DCI 691 Introduction to Measurement Theory & Practice
  • DCI 691 Introduction to Quantitative Research Design & Methods
  • EDP 554 Analysis-of-Variance Methods
  • PSY 531 Multiple Regression in Psychological Research 

Learning, educational or psychological theory (3 credit hours) Sample courses include:

  • DCI 691 Advanced Pedagogy in STEM Education

Discipline-based education research (3 credit hours) Sample courses include:

  • BIO 532 Recent Papers in Discipline-Based Education Research
  • BIO 598 Biology Education Research

History of science (3 credit hours) Sample courses include:

  • BIO 518/HPS 516 History of Biology
  • BIO 591 Embryo Project
  • HPS 511 History of Science
  • HPS 598 Studying Science: Theory and Methodology

Philosophy of science (3 credit hours) Sample courses include:

  • BIO/HPS/PHI 598 Philosophy of Biology and Medicine Advanced
  • HPS 512 Philosophy of Science
  • HPS 591 Human Well-Being and Sustainability

History of science or philosophy of science (3 credit hours)

  • Select a second course from either of the two areas above. 

Ecology (3 credit hours) Sample courses include:

  • BIO 598 Ecosystem Ecology
  • BIO 598 Population and Community Ecology
  • BIO 521 Landscape Ecology

Environmental or natural resource economics (3 credit hours) Sample courses include:

  • BIO 591 The Economics of Conservation
  • BIO/AML/SOS 691 Mathematical Natural Resource Economics
  • SOS 512 Environmental and Resource Economics

Environmental ethics or environmental policy (3 credit hours) Sample courses include:

  • BIO 527, Environmental Ethics and Policy Goals

Additional courses related to life sciences (9 credit hours)
These courses provide expertise in the student’s individual research area. Any courses offered under one of the SOLS prefixes (BIO, ELS, EVO, HPS, MCB, MIC and PLB) or any courses taught by biology and society graduate faculty members fulfill the requirement. Sample courses include:

  • BIO 522 Populations: Evolutionary Ecology
  • BIO 530 Scientific Teaching
  • BIO 570 Fundamentals of CAS (Complex Adaptive Systems) Science
  • BIO 578 Environmental Leadership and Communication
  • BIO 591 Ecosystem Services Lab
  • BIO 591 Embryo Project Editing Seminar
  • BIO 591 Embryo Project Illustration
  • BIO 615/HPS 615 Biology and Society Lab
  • HPS 520 Masters of Nonfiction
  • HPS 591 Literary Nonfiction

Research (6 credit hours)
As part of the thesis, students register for at least 6 hours of BIO 592 Research. 

Thesis (6 credit hours)
Students complete exactly 6 hours of BIO 599 Thesis.

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