MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth
Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

Students in the MS in Biomedical Sciences program are expected to complete a research based thesis project while completing coursework relevant to their scientific interests.  Students must reach a number of academic milestones in order to earn their degree. Adhering to the schedule of these milestones ensures a timely progress to completing the program.

The module below details the milestones required for the MS in Biomedical Sciences degree. Please click on each milestone to expand for more details.

MS Biomedical Sciences Milestone Requirements

Complete Ethical Dimensions of the Biomedical Sciences (End of fall term of 1st year)

Every GSBS student is required to demonstrate knowledge in biomedical ethics by passing a one-credit-hour course entitled The Ethical Dimensions of the Biomedical Sciences. The course, taught by over 12 GSBS faculty, provides students with a framework to recognize, examine, and resolve ethical conflicts in their professional lives. By design, students typically take the Ethical Dimensions of Biomedical Sciences course in their first fall of enrollment so they have critical ethical awareness and conflict-resolution tools for the duration of their education.

Identify a Research Advisor (End of fall term of 1st year)

MS students must identify a primary research advisor with whom they will complete their thesis research. Students may begin contacting GSBS faculty once they receive their offer of admission. While some students may identify a research advisor during the summer, students have the option to interact with faculty on campus during the fall semester and participate in trial periods to find the best fit.

 Information about MS student financial support can be found here.

 Required Forms:

Accountable Mentorship Agreement
Core Tenants of Graduate Education

Select Area of Research Concentration and Program Association (End of fall term of 1st year)

Students admitted to the MS Program in Biomedical Sciences may choose to select an area of research concentration by associating with one of the PhD Programs. Each program has a specific set of requirements for MS students in addition to the general curriculum requirements.

Form Advisory Committee (End of spring term of 1st year)

The Advisory Committee bears the primary responsibility for monitoring the student's progress until all degree requirements are met and assists in:

  • Selection of courses
  • Development of a research project

The committee consists of at least five members, including the student's advisor who chairs the committee, chosen to assure representation by faculty competent in the student's major area of research.

 Required Forms:

Selection of Advisory Committee

Hold First Advisory Committee Meeting (End of summer term of 1st year)

Once your committee is approved, you are expected to hold your first meeting soon after.

  • At least 4 members must be present at the meeting or attend via video/call-in. Students must meet individually with any members that are not present at the meeting.
  • You must provide your committee with a pre-meeting progress update at least 5 days before the meeting
  • During the meeting, the committee will complete part of the committee meeting report and each member will sign, whether they are present or not for the meeting.
  • After the meeting, you will complete the student response to the committee’s recommendations section of the committee meeting report.
  • The committee meeting report, which includes the student's progress update and the student's response to the committee's recommendations, should be submitted to the student, all members of the Advisory Committee and to gsbs.reports@uth.tmc.edu within 10 business days from the date of the meeting. The meeting will be recorded only if a report is received.

Goals of your first Advisory Committee Meeting – The primary goal of your first meeting is to introduce yourself and describe your plan (rationale, significance, hypothesis, and aims) for your project so that the committee members can actively give you input. If you have preliminary data, it should be presented but should not be the primary focus of the meeting. You are looking for high-level advice from your committee on the planning of the project.

 DO be sure to explain all aspects of your project and ask the committee for their advice on it.

DON’T start off the meeting by presenting data without first providing a sound rationale for the project and experiments.

Submit Petition for MS Candidacy (End of summer term of 1st year)

MS students are expected to submit the Petition to Candidacy for the MS degree form, once their advisory committee has approved the student’s research project.

The petition contains:

  • A list of the student's completed/prospective courses
  • A one-page summary of the student's research proposal
  • Petition to Candidacy for the MS Degree

Once the petition has been approved by the Academic Standards Committee, the student may register for Thesis for Master of Science instead of Research in Biomedical Sciences.

Hold Advisory Committee Meetings (Every six months)

Students are expected to hold an advisory committee meeting every 6 months, and MS students must hold a minimum of 2 meetings to be eligible to defend their thesis.

  • At least 4 members must be present at the meeting or attend via video/call-in. Students must meet individually with any members that are not present at the meeting.
  • You must provide your committee with a pre-meeting progress update at least 5 days before the meeting
  • During the meeting, the committee will complete part of the committee meeting report and each member will sign, whether they are present or not for the meeting.
  • After the meeting you will complete the student response to the committee’s recommendations section of the committee meeting report.
  • The committee meeting report, which includes the student's progress update and the student's response to the committee's recommendations, should be submitted to the student, all members of the Advisory Committee and to gsbs.reports@uth.tmc.edu within 10 business days from the date of the meeting. The meeting will be recorded only if a report is received.

Complete Online Ethics Modules (Before graduation)

Because students complete The Ethical Dimensions of the Biomedical Sciences at the start of their graduate training, students are also required to complete two on-line modules – Data Acquisition and Management and Responsible Authorship and Publication – prior to completing their degree, as a “just-in-time” supplemental review of key ethical issues.

 Instructions for completing these modules are sent to students via email after completion of the ethics course. Once complete, please email the two completion reports showing the final score you made for each module to Bunny Perez in the GSBS Office of Academic Affairs.

Complete Coursework Requirements (Before graduation)

Students must complete a minimum of 36 semester credit hours. Specific course requirements can be found here.

If a student chooses an area of research concentration, they must complete those specific program requirements as well.

The majority (i.e. over 50%) of the 12 credit hours of graded didactic coursework and the 36 total credit hours of coursework, plus the majority of any additional coursework required by the Academic Standards Committee or the student's Advisory Committee, must be GSBS courses. Courses with GSBS inter-institutional course codes may be taken at other UTHealth schools, or at an institution with which we have consortium arrangements (e.g., Rice University, University of Houston, or Baylor College of Medicine, etc.).

Submit Petition to Defend Thesis (Two weeks before defense)

Within two years after advancement to candidacy, and with approval of the Advisory Committee, the student will write and defend their thesis.

 The student must be in good academic standing in order to request the defense of the thesis.

 Two weeks prior to the defense, the student must complete and submit the Petition for the Defense of the MS Thesis or PhD Dissertation to the Office of Academic Affairs Grad Team gsbs.gradteam@uth.tmc.edu

 With this form, students will include:

  • Electronic version of your abstract for distribution in GSBS Essential (the abstract should be in MS Word -- not a PDF)
  • Electronic version of your thesis for anti-plagiarism check that includes complete thesis/dissertation without the references.
  • PDF of the draft of your thesis for formatting check – include all pages (i.e., approval page, title page, abstract, acknowledgements, table of contents, figures, figure legends, references, vita, etc.)
  • PDF of your updated C.V. (please include your publications, presentations, awards, etc.)

 Once the petition for defense has been approved, you will receive exit documents from Bunny Perez.

 Information regarding thesis preparation and a handy graduation checklist can be found here.

Defend Thesis (Before graduation)

Purpose of the MS Thesis Defense

 To evaluate:

  • Understanding of the thesis research
  • Ability to report information in a well-organized and interesting form

 Presentation Details:

  • 45- to 60-minute public presentation of the research project
    • Detailed description of the background
    • Rationale
    • Materials and Methods
    • Results and Conclusions

Following the presentation, the student will respond to questions from the audience.

 Advisory Committee Examination and Results

  • The student's Advisor will serve as moderator of the examination.
  • The student will be expected to respond to questions from those GSBS faculty attending on any aspect of the written thesis or the material presented at the seminar.
  • After the defense, the student will meet privately with the Advisory Committee to discuss the results.
  • The Advisory Committee will determine what recommendation to make to the Deans and the Academic Standards Committee
    • Unconditional Pass
    • Conditional Pass
    • Additional research
    • Modifications to the thesis
    • And/or another defense

Submit Final Signed Thesis & Complete all Exit Paperwork (Before graduation)

After the completion of the defense, the student will make all necessary edits to their thesis and submit the final copy (approved by their committee), along with all exit paperwork to the Office of Academic Affairs. 

 All exit paperwork is sent to the student when their Petition to Defend is approved. Any questions regarding the exit process should be sent to Bunny Perez.

Complete All Degree Requirements (Within three years of admission)

The MS degree will be awarded when the student has:

 Completed all courses listed in the student's program of work

  • Successfully completed the MS defense
  • Submitted the final thesis, approved by the Advisory Committee, to Academic Affairs for the Deans signature
  • Completed all exit forms

 The degree will be issued as of the final day of the semester in which all degree requirements have been met.

 The MS degree must be completed within three years of registration in the Graduate School. Students may continue registration after the three-year limit only with the expressed written permission of the Deans.