The Biology Graduate Program 

Program Overview

The Biology M.A. Program at Fisk University is focused on preparing students for PhD level training in the biological and biomedical sciences or advance their skills for careers in the sciences.

Students who complete the M.A. program in biology will be able to:
1. independently search the literature to become aware of advances in subject matter;
2. develop independent research questions in research area of their thesis advisor
3. develop skills to test, interpret and critically analyze data presented in the literature and obtained in the laboratory
4. prepare manuscripts for publication in relevant journals.

The student and advisor will develop a specifically-tailored plan describing courses and other graduation requirements during the first semester of enrollment.  Full-time graduate students are expected to complete their course work by the end of their third semester in the program.

Required course work includes a minimum of 30 semester credits, which includes 6 credits for thesis research.  At least 14of the required 30 semester credits must be completed at Fisk.  A maximum of 13 semester credits may be taken in cross-registration at Vanderbilt University; cross registration at institutions other than Fisk must be approved by the thesis advisor and the  Director of Graduate Studies in Biology and should be selected to align with the research interests and anticipated research of the student.

  1. Program Plan

  2. Courses

Academic YrCourses (and # of credits)
Professional Skills for Graduate Studies (0)
Independent Study / Exploratory Research (2)
Molecular Methods and Lab (4)
Intro to Molecular Neuroscience (4) or VU course in Cell and Developmental Biology (3)
Participation in the Fisk Biology Journal Club (0)
Spring Semester,1st year (12 credits)Developmental Biology and Lab (4)
Fisk Course and Lab (4), depending on research interests and undergraduate studies before Fisk
Biology Graduate Seminar (1): Focus on Scientific Writing
VU course in Cell and Developmental Biology (3)
Participation in the Fisk Biology Journal Club (0)
Summer of 1st year (6-9 credits)Thesis Research (6)
Possibly VU Developmental Biology Bootcamp (3)
Fall Semester, 2nd year (9 credits)Thesis Research (3)
Thesis Preparation (1)
Molecular Neuroscience (4) or, if this taken first year, a course at Vanderbilt [ will be necessary for Bridge students]
VU Cell and Developmental Biology Seminar (1)
Participation and Presentation in the Fisk Biology Journal Club (0)
Spring Semester, 2nd year (9 credits)Thesis Preparation (8)
VU Developmental Biology Journal Club (1)
Participation and Presentation in the Fisk Biology Journal Club (0)
Summer of 2nd year Thesis Preparation (6)

BIOL 500, 500L, MOLECULAR METHODS (may be listed as BIOTECHNOLOGY), 4 credits – lecture and lab.
Principles, methodology, and instrumentation used in biotechnology are part of this course that emphasizes recombinant DNA technology, mammalian cell culture and protein purification from expression of recombinant and epitope-tagged proteins.  Typically taught in the Fall

BIOL 581 AND 582, SPECIAL TOPICS IN BIOLOGY, 2 credits each semester.
This course will be offered for first-year graduate students to provide training in literature searches, planning, and conducting independent research. Each student will be assigned a small project that is expected to be completed by the end of the second semester. A detailed report in the form of a manuscript will be required.

This course will provide a foundation of basic neuroanatomy in order to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control and influence neural processing.  Topics will include an examination of the structure and function of the nervous system, molecular approaches to study neuroscience, and their impacts on understanding cognitive functions of both simple and complex systems.

This course will address the question of how single cells can go on to become the wonderfully complex people, plants, or animals we come into contact with every day,  covering many of the essential processes and cellular machinations giving rise to diverse organ systems and cell types throughout the animal kingdom.  We will introduce some of the model organisms used to study these processes, and use a multidisciplinary approach incorporating elements of cell biology, molecular biology, and genetics.  Discussions will also touch on how an understanding of the processes that occur during embryonic development can inform everything from our ideas about fighting cancer to our theories on evolution.

See Discussion above concerning the expectations for the Graduate ‘Seminar’ for all four semesters of the MA Program.

BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH, variable credits (1-3 credits)
Individual research will be conducted by students. This is a requirement for M.A. degree candidates in biology.

BIOL 599, THESIS PREPARATION, these credits do not count for graduation
Offered for students who have completed all course requirements but have not submitted an approved thesis.

Vanderbilt Courses available to Fisk Biology MA Program Trainees (both Bridge and non-Bridge students)
Terminal Master’s students are encouraged to enroll in some of the Vanderbilt courses identified below to fulfill their academic interests and degree requirements. Bridge students will be expected to take at least two courses at Vanderbilt during the MA phase of their program.
Detailed information can be found at: under ‘Graduate Program – Courses’.  More up-to-date information on important components such as semester and time offered, prerequisites, and instructor info will be found here.

It is imperative that students review off-campus courses with their  advisor to select appropriate courses.  Furthermore, the student and their advisor should contact the instructor to determine whether the student’s background has adequately prepared them for enrollment in a particular course.

CBIO 312. Introduction to Developmental Biology.
This combined lecture and laboratory course will present students with the basics in the analysis of standard animal models used in modern developmental biology. SUMMER [3 credits]

CBIO 313. Introduction to Modern Biological Microscopy.
This lecture course will provide students an introduction to modern microscopy and its biological applications. SPRING [2 credits]

CBIO 314. Basic Biological Microscopy. 
This lecture course will present students with an introduction to microscopy and its applications to biology. SPRING [1 credit]

CBIO 320. Cancer and Development.
A cross-listed CDB/CB graduate-level course that will examine relationships between cellular responses in normal tissue development and cancer. Offered every other year. SPRING [3 credits]

CBIO 330.  Seminar in Cell and Developmental Biology. 
The goal of the course is for graduate students to learn about two cutting-edge areas of research in cell and developmental biology.  FALL, SPRING [1 credit]

CBIO 331. Current Topics in Developmental Biology (Journal Club).
Meets once per week to hear a graduate student, postdoctoral fellow, or faculty member discuss a research paper from outside his or her field of research, followed by an audience Q&A session. FALL, SPRING [1 credit]

CBIO 335. Special Topics in Neuroscience.
(Also listed as Neuroscience 335 and Psychology 335) Basic issues in neuroscience. NOT CURRENTLY OFFERED [2 credits]

CBIO 341. Molecular Developmental Biology.
This course comprises three cutting-edge areas of developmental biology per year. Offered every other year.  SPRING. [Variable credit: 1–3]

CBIO 345. Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience.
(Also listed as Molecular Physiology and Biophysics 345, Neuroscience 345, Pharmacology 345) Goal is to expose students to fundamental concepts and techniques in molecular and cellular neuroscience and provide a theoretical context for experimental analysis of brain function and disease. SPRING. [4 credits]

CBIO 347. The Visual System.
(Also listed as Electrical Engineering 351, Neuroscience 347, Psychology 336) An introduction to the anatomy, physiology, psychophysics, and pathologies of the sense of sight. SPRING. [3 credits]

CBIO 349. Genetics of Model Organisms.
(Also listed as Human Genetics 349, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics 349) Basic genetic principles across a broad range of organisms (yeast, C. elegans, Drosophila melanogaster, plants, mouse, zebrafish). Offered every other year.  SPRING. [3 credits]

More courses are offered in other departments and graduate programs at Vanderbilt University that may match a student’s particular research area.