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Thesis Option

A master’s thesis is a piece of original scholarship written under the direction of a faculty advisor. Theses are like doctoral dissertations but are generally shorter and more narrowly focused. Though theses do not have to be published, students should aim for their work to be publishable as a single research article.


The CMBS MS thesis is a graduation requirement for students that have elected the Thesis option for their program of study. Students must make this decision no later than the end of the Spring Semester of their first year as a full-time student. It is preferable that students make the decision around the middle of the spring semester of their first year to ensure that they have enough time to complete the milestones outlined in this section.

Students that have elected the thesis option are required to enroll in GPLS 799.01 Master’s Thesis Research for 6 credits. Students will work with their thesis advisor to choose a course of study that forms a coherent structure and provides advanced expertise in the chosen area of emphasis.

CMBS MS thesis option students are required to participate in and present a poster at the Graduate Research Conference held annually.

Graduate Research Conference (GRC)

The GRC creates a unique and dynamic setting that facilitates the efficient exchange of information and ideas across a wide variety of scientific disciplines via oral or poster presentations. The annual event is held in the spring semester, around mid-term, and additional information is posted to the Graduate School website.

Thesis Project

The research undertaken as part of the thesis is guided by the thesis mentor and the student. In most cases, the mentor will provide substantial input into the project goals and design. It is important that the student and mentor design a project that is consistent with the time frame of the CMBS MS degree, i.e., 2-3 semesters or 6 months of dedicated research time.


Students choosing to pursue the thesis option will select a research mentor. The mentor will guide all aspects of the research program, assist in course selection, and advise the student in their thesis preparation and presentation. The Program Director will advise the student as needed, in addition to approving all necessary paperwork that must be submitted by the student.

The GPILS website is a great resource for a researching potential mentors. It is strongly recommended that students begin the process of identifying a thesis mentor in their first semester and arrange a laboratory rotation for the start of their second semester.


The thesis committee should consist of a minimum of 3 members, though 4 members are recommended, including the thesis mentor. At least one member of the committee must be a regular member of the Graduate Faculty, all faculty are listed on the Graduate School website.

The committee should be selected as early as possible and certainly as soon as a potential thesis project has been selected. Committee members should be selected by the student and the thesis mentor, who are able to assist the student in aspects of their thesis research. Once the committee has been approved by the program director, the committee approval is to formally be filed with the Graduate School.


Thesis proposals should be similar to a grant proposal, and should include the following clearly stated items:

  • Proposed thesis title
  • Scope of research
  • Hypothesis
  • Research aim(s)
  • Methods
  • Preliminary results as appropriate


Theses are to be in the format of a research article, and are to include:

  • Title
  • Table of contents
  • Introduction
  • Materials and methods
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • References/bibliography
  • Acknowledgements (optional)

Final Exam

The final exam consists of a public seminar and a closed oral exam.

Public Seminar

The public seminar should be scheduled upon confirmation by the committee that the thesis is defensible and publicized through the Program Director.  CMBS MS thesis seminars are about 40 minutes in length, followed by questions from the audience.

Oral Exam

The oral exam is closed to the public and includes only the thesis committee.  One member of the committee will be assigned as the Dean’s representative and be responsible for communicating the results of the final exam to the graduate school, as well as serving as the chair of the committee. The oral exam should not exceed 2 hours in length, and specific guidelines for all aspects of MS theses exams are provided at under the heading Graduation and Degree Certification Forms.

Thesis Submission

Upon successful defense, a copy of the final thesis is to be submitted to the Program Director and the Academic Specialist at the same time as the submission to the UMB Graduate School ProQuest ETD Administrator.