Biology (Biology and Society), MS



Program Description

Degree Awarded: MS Biology (Biology and Society)

In the biology and society concentration of the MS program in biology, students examine topics where biology intersects with society. The concentration tailors individual plans of study to individual needs and interests, with a solid grounding in the life and related sciences and with a rigorous analytical and interdisciplinary education. The program offers suggested courses for those wishing to focus on these areas: bioethics, policy and law; biology education research; ecology, economics and ethics of the environment; and history and philosophy of science.

Bioethics, policy and law

Students are trained in the pressing moral, policy and legal issues raised by the biosciences and biomedicine and in the disciplinary methods necessary to address these issues.

Biology education research 

This focuses on using education research to identify ways to improve undergraduate biology education broadly.

Ecology, economics and ethics of the environment 

This area trains students in the theory and empirical methods for understanding, analyzing and shaping policy for coupled human-natural systems.

History and philosophy of science 

Students are trained in the conceptual foundations of science, especially the epistemological and methodological assumptions that shape science and its progress.

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.

Biology (Biology and Society) Faculty




At a Glance: program details

  • Location: Tempe campus
  • Additional Program Fee: No
  • Second Language Requirement: No




Degree Requirements

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
Track 2: Biology education research

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
Track 3: History and philosophy of science

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. 
Track 4: Ecology, economics, and ethics of the environment 

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.




Admission Requirements

Applicants must fulfill the requirements of both the Graduate College and The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

All applicants must submit
  1. graduate admission application and application fee
  2. official transcripts
  3. academic record form
  4. personal statement
  5. curriculum vitae or resume
  6. writing sample
  7. three letters of recommendation
  8. proof of English proficiency
Additional Application Information
  • Review tips for applying
  • An applicant whose native language is not English must provide proof of English proficiency regardless of current residency.
  • Students are expected to have completed the equivalent of core requirements for an undergraduate major in biology or a related discipline (typically evolution, genetics and other courses appropriate to the student's particular interests).
  • Students without an undergraduate-level competency in the sciences may be considered for conditional admission to the biology and society concentration.
  • Applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in the last 60 hours of their first bachelor's degree program, or applicants must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 (scale is 4.00 = "A") in an applicable master's degree program.
Desired qualifications
  • Research experience 
  • International students: TOEFL score of 100, or IELTS score of 6.5



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Flexible Degree Options

Accelerated program options

This program allows students to obtain both a bachelor's and master's degree in as little as five years.
It is offered as an accelerated bachelor's and master's degree with:


Acceptance to the graduate program requires a separate application. During their junior year, eligible students will be advised by their academic departments to apply.



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