II. Academic Program Requirements

ABBS Major Coursesstudent working in lab jp

The Major courses include courses outside the Core courses and include key courses essential to training in the general discipline of Animal Science, with emphasis on Molecular and Cellular Biology. A list of Major Courses is givne below but students should check SPIRE as not all courses are offered every year and new courses are added. Several Statistics courses are included since statistics is a requirement for ABBS Graduate Students. Only one statistics course can be applied towards the ABBS Major course credits requirement.  With guidance from their Major Advisor, ABBS students may choose courses outside of the Animal Science Departmental offerings to fulfill their requirements, as listed below. Courses in other fields of study unrelated to the major can be taken at the 500 level (or greater) for graduate credit with the approval of the student’s Major Advisor and Graduate Program Director.

ABBS Core Courses

A specific set of courses is considered to be the ‘core courses’ for the ABBS Graduate Program. These courses are taught by members of the ABBS program’s faculty and offer advanced training to students. Master’s degree students must take one of these courses while PhD students must take two.

ANIMLSCI 640 - Cancer Biology
ANIMLSCI 687 - Cells, Genes and Development
ANIMLSCI 670 - Advanced Immunology
MOLCLBIO 641 - Advanced Cellular Biology (this course is designed for PhD students, Masters students should request permission to take it)

Statistics Course

All students are required to take an intermediate level biometry or statistics course unless they have passed a similar, approved course with a grade of B or better previously (such courses may include those with undergraduate designations). The Graduate Committee or Graduate Program Director will make the determination.

Independent Study Credits

A maximum of 6 credits earned through Independent Study courses can be applied towards the major course credit requirements for the PhD Degree and Master’s Degree with thesis. Non-thesis Master’s students may take up to 10 credits of independent study. Independent Study levels 596, 696 and 796 all constitute graduate work.


All ABBS graduate students in the Department must attend the Departmental Seminars each semester during which they are a member of the ABBS Graduate Program unless there is a conflict with their TA assignment or a course being taken for credit. Students must officially register for the ABBS seminar for at least 1 credit for Master’s and 3 credits for PhD. It is mandatory and important for ABBS students to attend luncheons and receptions with seminar speakers; the luncheons and receptions provide students with an opportunity to interact with scientists in a social setting. Interactions with these scientists may provide future post-doctoral or other employment opportunities.

While students may feel that in some instances the seminar presentations do not appear to be relevant to their direct research interests, skilled and attentive students will often be able to abstract information from seemingly unrelated fields for application to their own projects. Moreover, seminars in a variety of areas dealing with eukaryotic biology will reinforce coursework and enhance the breadth of knowledge of the student. Finally, well-constructed seminars illustrate the scientific methodology for approaching and answering research questions - a skill essential for graduate students to obtain and the essence of graduate research training

Journal Clubs

Critical review of scientific literature is an integral part of scientific research – in fact it is the step prior to conducting any bench work. Thus it is required that graduate students within the Department attend a journal club each semester they are in the program. Students are required to present at least one paper per year unless they are granted a special waiver during their first one or two semesters; waivers are decided by the course instructor(s).

Attending journal clubs keeps students abreast of research in the field as well as broadening their knowledge base. Moreover, presentation of papers in this setting is an opportunity to learn to organize knowledge - a skill needed both for classroom teaching and for seminar presentation - and provides an opportunity for public speaking.

There are four ABBS journal clubs whose topics are:

ANIMLSCI 795A - Cells, Genes and Development
ANIMLSCI 794A - Immunology  (this is the longest running journal club on campus, held at 12:20 on Fridays since 1983)

Students should register in these to fulfill their credit requirements but subsequently may attend any journal club offered at UMass to fulfill the need to attend a journal club every semester. For credit, Master's students are required to receive at least 1 credit whereas PhD students are required to receive at least 3 credits from the departmental journal clubs.

Typical Course of Study

Credit Requirements for Master's Degree


May be fulfilled by

 30 credits total

 Traditional lecture courses and labs, Seminar,   Journal Club, Thesis & Independent Study

 21 credits must be in   the "major field"

 See lists below. These 21 credits include all ABBS seminars, Journal Clubs and courses, both those listed with the Graduate School as ABBS courses and ABBS Major courses.

 Minimum of 6 cr.  600-800 level (thesis) 12 cr. (non-thesis)

Includes all graded courses as well as Independent Study, Journal Club and Seminar but NOT Thesis Research credits

 15 credits must be   graded course

 ‘Graded course’ refers to those receiving a letter grade (A, B etc.) not P/F pass/fail or S/U satisfactory/unsatisfactory courses

Up to 10 credits can be Thesis Research 

This is for students writing a traditional Master’s thesis. Minimum: 1 credit but can take up to 10 credits.


Limit on Independent Studies

Not more than 6 credits from Independent Studies can be applied to degree requirements for a Master’s with Thesis; up to 10 credits may be taken by non-thesis Master’s students.

Journal Club

Attend all semesters, but register for >1 credit


Attend all semesters, but register for  > 1 credit


If the student has not previously taken a statistics course, they must take one.

ABBS core courses

Take at least one of the major core courses listed.


Credit Requirements for Doctoral Students


May be fulfilled by

60 credits total Traditional lecture courses and labs, Seminar, Journal Club, Dissertation & Independent Study

ABBS Core courses

Take at least 2 of the ABBS major core courses

ABBS Major courses

Take an additional 3 major or core courses
(>9 credits)

> 18 Dissertation Credits

18 credits minimum needed; can register for any number of credits.

Independent Studies 696 and 796

Can be used for Rotation credits; rarely used     otherwise by PhD students.

Journal Club

Attend all semesters, but register for >3 credit of ABBS journal clubs; after this the student can attend any Journal Club on campus


Attend ABBS seminar each semester, but register for > 3 credit


If the student has not previously taken a statistics course one must be taken and will count towards the ABBS major course requirements above


2 contiguous semesters (Fall/Spring or Spring/Fall) registered for at least 9 credits each semester

Course Requirement Waivers

Waivers or alternatives to ABBS program requirements are granted by the student’s Advisory Committee, in consultation with the Graduate Program Director. Course waivers will be extended based upon having recently completed the same or similar courses while pursuing a Master's degree in the Department's ABBS program or at another University, as an extramural Graduate Student or while in pursuit of a terminal professional degree (PhD in another field, MD, DVM, etc.).


Graduate students register using the SPIRE system online. Graduate students usually register for Spring semester courses in November and Fall semester courses in April. Students should register as early as possible to secure a place in the courses needed.

List of Core Courses

     ANIMLSCI 640 - Cancer Biology (3 credits, Jerry, Pobezinsky)
     ANIMLSCI 687 - Cells, Genes & Dev.(3 credits, Alfandari, Cousin, Cui, Fissore, Mager, Tremblay)
     ANIMLSCI 670 - Advanced Immunology (3 credits, Osborne, Minter, Pobezinskaya, Pobezinsky, Rothchild)
     MOLCLBIO 641* - Advanced Cellular Biology (4 credits, Visconti, Maresca)
      * Open to MS/PhD students in MCB program only. Other students may require Instructor Consent.

Additional Major Courses  

     ANIMLSCI 521 - Physiology of Reproduction, 3, spring
     ANIMLSCI 572 - Infection and Immunity, 3, spring 
     ANIMLSCI 581 - Cancer BioIogy, 3, fall
     ANIMLSCI 610 - CV/Resume Writing 1,
     ANIMLSCI 620 - The 10-Minute Talk: Putting on a Great Scientific Show, 3, fall
     ANIMLSCI 630- Scientific Paper Writing, 3, spring
     ANIMLSCI 797T - Frontiers in Biotechnology (meets with CHEM 797T), 3, fall
     BIOCHEM 523* - General Biochemistry I , 3
     BIOCHEM 524* - General Biochemistry II , 3
     BIOCHEM 623 - Advanced General Biochemistry, 3
     BIOCHEM 642 - Advanced Molecular Biology, 3, fall & spring
     BIOLOGY 559 - Cellular & Molecular  Biology II, 3, fall
     BIOLOGY 568 -  Endocrinology, 3, spring
     BIOLOGY 569* -  Experimental Endocrinology, 3
     BIOLOGY 572 - Neurobiology, 3, fall & spring
     BIOLOGY 580 - Developmental Biology, 3, fall & spring
     BIOLOGY 583 - Advanced Genetics, 3,fall & spring
     BIOLOGY 597GE - Evolutionary Genetics, 3, fall
     BIOLOGY 791C - Writing for Graduate Students, 3, fall
     BIOSTATS 540 - Intro to Biostatistics, 3,fall & spring
     BIOSTATS 597D - Intro Stat Computing with R, 3
     BIOSTATS 640 -  Intermediate Biostatistics, 3, spring
     EHS 666 - Environmental and Occupational Toxicology I, 3,  fall
     EHS 667 - Environmental and Occupational Toxicology II, 3, spring
     MICROBIO 542 - Immunology Lab, 3, fall
     MICROBIO 550 - Infection & Immunity, 3
     MICROBIO 552 - Pathogenic Bacteriology lab, 3, spring
     MICROBIO 565*- Lab in Molecular Genetics, 3
     MICROBIO 570 - Animal Virology, 3, fall
     MICROBIO 590L* - Parasitology Lab, 3
     MICROBIO 590S* - Parasitology , 3
     MICROBIO 597NST* - Parasitology and Neglected Tropical Diseases, 3
     MICROBIO 660*- Genomics & Bioinformatics, 3
     MICROBIO 685* - Concepts in Molecular Genetics, 3
     MOLCLBIO 642 - Advanced Molecular Biology, 4, fall
     MOLCLBIO 657* - Drug Design, 3
     MOLCLBIO 691B* - Signal Transduction & Development, 3
     SCHMGMT - 797NST - Science-based Entrepreneurship and the Lean Launchpad, 3, spring
     STATISTC 501 - Methods of Applied Statistics, 3, fall
     STOCKSCH 661 - Intermediate Biometry, 4, fall
       * Inquire with the department offering the course to learn when the course will be offered


ANIMLSCI 792 -  ABBS seminar, 1 credit, letter graded, Wednesday 4 pm

Independent Study

Independent Study - (all Research Faculty) is taken for graded credits (ranging from 1 to 6 credits). Register with the interested faculty member using this form . Faculty should email form directly to mjschnei [at] umass.edu for enrollment.
ANIMLSCI 596 - Used for the first graduate level Independent Study taken or can be used by Undergraduate students during their senior year with the intention to transfer these credits into the fast-track Master’s program.
ANIMLSCI 696 - Can be used by Master's students to review literature in their chosen topic for the thesis introduction or for thesis research or other appropriate topics.
ANIMLSCI 796 - Used by PhD students as needed.


Typical Master’s Degree
    4 Formal Graded Courses
   *ANIMLSCI 792 Seminar series during each semester enrolled
    1 Journal Club during each semester enrolled
    10 Thesis/Independent Study credits
Typical Doctor of Philosophy Degree
    5 Formal Graded Courses
    ANIMLSCI 792 Seminar during each semester enrolled
    1 Journal Club during each semester enrolled
    18 Dissertation Research credits (minimum)

Typical Course of Study