Joint B.S./M.S. degree program in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS - For students enrolled in the program


I am in my final year of the program. Should I be enrolled as an undergraduate student or a graduate student?


The choice is yours. Either option is possible, as long as you have not already graduated with an undergraduate degree. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches and you should evaluate what services you will lose access to once you graduate with the B.S., and what opportunities would be available to you as a graduate student. Past students have found that this decision can affect their access to on-campus housing, certain types of financial aid, tax-status (e.g, if your parents are paying for your tuition, it might affect them), employment opportunities prior to completing the program (e.g., some internships pay better if you already have a BS; some on-campus assistantships are only available to graduate students), etc. Determining which alternative is best varies from student to student and your decision should be based on your personal circumstances.


If you choose to remain an undergraduate student then you should still apply to the graduate school prior to your final year in the program, so that you are in their system. You should also enroll for GRAD 5998 for zero credits (yes, we know it sounds weird, but you can do this!). Enrolling in this course acts as a placeholder for you in the graduate school. If you already have an undergraduate degree then you have no choice, you must enroll as a graduate student.


If I have chosen to remain an undergraduate throughout my entire time in the program, how do I graduate with an MS at the end of the final year?


If you have opted to remain an undergraduate, then you will have both an undergraduate transcript and a graduate transcript within the university's system. (The graduate transcript will only exist if you have formally applied to the graduate school and been accepted. Completing this application therefore is very important, see above.) You should then keep all of your courses on your undergraduate transcript until the end of your final semester. The only exception will be GRAD 5998 (see above), in which you should enroll for zero credits in each semester after you have been accepted to the graduate school. Enrolling in GRAD 5998 for zero credits, ensures that you maintain your place in the graduate school and keeps your graduate transcript active. If you do not keep all your courses on your undergraduate transcript you may be double-billed (as in money, not cabaret) as both an undergraduate and as a graduate student. Once you approach the end of your final semester, you will need to ask the graduate school to transfer all of the courses that will count towards your M.S. over to your graduate transcript. You should check with the graduate school to ensure that this transfer happens. If there are problems contact the program coordinator.


When do I file my plan of study?


The B.S. plan of study should be filed according to regular department procedures for EEB majors. For questions about the B.S. plan of study contact Jennifer Murphy who is in charge of undergraduate advising in EEB. Ideally, the plan of study for your M.S. should be submitted during the semester after you are admitted into the graduate school. Usually, though not necessarily, this will be at the beginning of your penultimate semester. Because some of the required graduate courses are only taught in alternate years, we strongly advise you to develop a draft plan of study for the M.S. program when you finalize your B.S. plan of study, or before you enter the program. If you have questions about your M.S. plan of study talk to your advisor. Once you have a plan of study, please make sure that a copy is given to the B.S./M.S. program coordinator.


How do I determine what should go on my plan of study?


This will be largely determined by the program requirements (return to home page and follow links). When there is flexibility you should talk with your advisor and committee about which of the options are most likely to benefit you in achieving your career goals.


A required course for the M.S. degree is not being taught next semester. Can I substitute a different course instead?


Under most circumstances substitutions cannot be made. Students are expected to plan ahead so that they know when they will need to take each course in order to complete the program in a timely manner. If events beyond the student's control, make it impossible to take a required course in the expected semester, then a substitute course may be permitted by the advisory committee. Permission for substitution can be granted only in response to unforeseeable events (e.g., a course is cancelled at short notice), cannot be granted in cases of failure to plan ahead, and is at the discretion of the advisory committee.


Who should be on my graduate committee? What does the committee do?


Your committee should consist of your major advisor and two others, at least one of whom must be a member of the Graduate Faculty at UConn (usually all graduate committee members are from the EEB department, but this does not need to be the case). The committee's main function is to advise you throughout your M.S., and it should be in place before you start taking courses that will apply to your graduate degree. This committee will also sign off on your M.S. Plan of Study and give your final exam. You should select people who have interests and experience that will help you get the most from your degree. Remember that these are the people on the faculty who you are likely to get to know best, and who you are most likely to turn to for letters of reference and advice on how to find a job. The more their interests overlap with yours, the easier it will be for them to help you.


What "counts" as an appropriate internship?


Decisions about what a constitutes an appropriate internship are made by your advisory committee, and you should consult with your advisor and other committee members before committing to an internship. Internships are intended to give you "real-world" work experience, working for an organization outside of the university. You are expected to work for at least two months gaining practical experience applying your training in biodiversity and conservation biology in a work setting. Internships are arranged by the student in consultation with their advisors and do not have to be taken for credit.


Prior to beginning an internship, we recommend that you create an "internship contract" in consultation with you internship and faculty advisors. The purpose of this document is to describe the terms of the internship so that everyone is clear on what is expected. An example contract can be downloaded here and should be used as a template.


For more information on internships see the web site for the EEB 5891 course


What "counts" as an appropriate research experience?


As for internships, the decision about what constitutes an appropriate research experience rests with your advisory committee, and you should consult with your advisor and other committee members before committing to a given project. The goal of the requirement is to give you experience working in a research setting and you are encouraged to obtain this experience off-campus, perhaps in association with your internship. You are not expected to develop your own research project and no formal thesis is required, but you should be able to talk about your research experience in an informed way appropriate to a Master's-level student. You are required to write a short paper describing your experience and you can expect to be asked questions about the research during your final exam. Research experiences are arranged by the student in consultation with their advisors. Unlike the internship, students are required to take at least 4 graduate research credits. More information is given on the MS requirements page (linked from the main BS/MS web page).


What should I expect in my final exam? What do I need to do to prepare for it?


Every student in the program must pass a final oral exam before their M.S. can be awarded. These exams are administered by the student's graduate committee and the exact format is determined by the student's major advisor. Usually, they take the form of a round-table question and answer session that lasts for approximately 2 hours.


The final exam will be based on the core knowledge that the department and your committee considers important for all students graduating with a degree in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology. So, everyone can expect to get at least some basic questions about biological diversity and some about conservation biology. Generally questions will be based on the courses you have taken and the areas in which you have focused in your internship and research activities. Specific questions about the research you were involved with can be expected. You should also review material from all of your M.S. courses. The members of your committee, however, decide what questions you are asked and you should talk to each committee member about what they will expect from you well in advance of the exam. It will probably also be helpful to you to talk to your advisor about how they intend to run the exam, and to finishing students about their experiences. Simply knowing what to expect during the exam can help reduce anxiety considerably.


When does the exam happen? Who organizes it?


The exam should be taken towards the end of your final semester. It is your responsibility to organize it. This means (a) finding a time when your committee members are all available, (b) reserving a room (talk to someone in the EEB main office), and (c) letting the program coordinator know the date and time.


Is there any paperwork that needs to be filled out for the exam?


Yes. Your advisor needs to complete the "Report on the final examination for Master's degree" and send it to the graduate school right after the exam. It can be accessed from the graduate school's website or by clicking here.


If you have questions that are not answered here, please email the program coordinator.