MS Biology (Biology and Society)

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

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 598 Advanced Bioethics
  • BIO 598 Big Data in Context: Ethics, Policy, History and Philosophy 
  • 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
  • PHI 521 Bioethics
  • POP 633 Population Health Ethics

Science policy (3 credit hours)
Sample courses include:

  • BIO 515 Science, Technology and Public Affairs
  • BIO 517 Uncertainty and Decision Making
  • BIO 598 STS Reading Group
  • HSD 601 HSD I: Human Dimensions of Science and Technology 
  • HSD 602 HSD II: Science, Power and Politics

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

  • BIO 591/LAW 617 Genetics and the Law
  • BIO 591/LAW 631 Environmental Law
  • BIO 591/LAW 689 Health Technologies, Innovation and the Law
  • BIO 591/LAW 693 Privacy, Big Data, and Emerging Technologies
  • BIO 591/LAW 703 Law, Science and Technology
  • BIO 591/LAW 714 Biotechnology: Science, Law and Policy
  • BIO 591/LAW 791 Artificial Intelligence: Law, Ethics & Policy
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 591 Papers in Inclusive Teaching in College
  • BIO 598 Biology Education Research
  • BIO 791 Science Education Research Seminar
Track 3: History and philosophy of science

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

  • BIO 591 Embryo Project
  • BIO 591 Embryo Project Editing
  • HPS 598 Advanced History of Science
  • BIO 598 Big Data in Context: Ethics, Policy, History and Philosophy 

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

  • BIO 598 Advanced Philosophy of Science
  • BIO/HPS/PHI 598 Philosophy of Biology and Medicine Advanced

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 519 Physiological Plant Ecology 
  • BIO 598 Population and Community Ecology
  • BIO 521 Landscape Ecology
  • BIO 522 Populations: Evolutionary Ecology

Environmental Economics or Environment and Society (3 credit hours)
Sample courses include:

  • ASB 530 The Changing Nature of the Human-Nature Relationship (cross listed with SOS)
  • BIO 515 Science, Technology, & Public Affairs (cross listed with SOS)
  • BIO 517 Uncertainty & Decision Making (cross listed with SOS)
  • BIO 591 The Economics of Conservation
  • BIO/AML/SOS 691 Mathematical Natural Resource Economics
  • ELS 591 Resilience and Robustness in Social-Ecological Systems
  • ERM 527 Environmental Resources and Regulations
  • ERM 540 International Environmental Law & Policy
  • LAW 631 Environmental Law
  • PAF 504 Microeconomics of Public Policy I
  • PAF 546 Environmental Policy & Management
  • SOS 512 Environmental and Resource Economics
  • SOS 525 Social-Ecological-Technological Systems

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.

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.

Applicants are eligible to apply to the program if they have earned a bachelor's or master's degree, in a related discipline, from a regionally accredited institution.

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.

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 (if applicable)

Application Deadline

  • Applications are accepted between the open date, September 1st and close date, December 1st for consideration for the following August
Additional Application Information
  • The Biology (Biology and Society) MS program admits one group of students annually to start their program the following August
  • There is no guarantee that applications received after December 1st will be reviewed 
  • You'll be notified of your admission status by April 15th
  • 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
  • Review tips for applying
Desired Qualifications
  • Research experience 
  • International students: TOEFL score of 100, or IELTS score of 6.5

To apply, follow the Apply Now link.

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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.

Global Opportunities

Global Experience

With over 250 programs in more than 65 countries (ranging from one week to one year), study abroad is possible for all ASU students wishing to gain global skills and knowledge in preparation for a 21st-century career. Students earn ASU credit for completed courses, while staying on track for graduation, and may apply financial aid and scholarships toward program costs.

Program Contact Information

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