For Current Students

The Student Handbook

The Program Handbook provides current information and links to important documents, forms, and websites.  Students will find information about guidelines for thesis projects and for writing the thesis.  

Program Handbook for 2018-2019

Graduate school requirements

 Formal coursework for the M.S. degree varies according to the field of study, interests, and career goals of the individual graduate students.

  • Elective courses from supporting fields may be taken in disciplines other than Stem Cell Biology.
  • All requirements of the M.S. degree program must be completed and the degree awarded within a maximum five years of initial enrollment.
  • As per Graduate School requirements, at least 2/3 of course credits must be taken A-F. A minimum GPA of 2.80 (on a 4.0 scale) is required for courses included on any official master’s degree program form.

Stages of the Program


Before the first day of classes, several orientation sessions for new students offer  information and opportunities to ask questions before the academic year begins. 

  • The Stem Cell Biology Program orientation involves discussion of programmatic expectations, course selections, Q &A and an opportunity to meet with other Stem Cell Biology MS students.
  • The University of Minnesota Graduate School offers a half-day program with general information about the University during the week before classes begin. and an early evening resource fair for all graduate students.


To maintain active status, graduate students must register every Fall and Spring term.  Those who are not registered are considered to have withdrawn, and their Graduate School records are deactivated. The minimum amount of 6 credits is considered full time. Anything less than 6 credits is part time. 

Students need to have registration plans approved by Dr. Susan Keirstead prior to registering. Students are not required to register during summer sessions unless required to do so by a funding agency or government, or need to accrue thesis credits in order to graduate by the end of the Fall semester. 

Students register for classes, make payments, track grades, and complete other registration procedures at One Stop, the UMN website.  Find links there to all the important UMN websites and departments.

One Stop

Finding an Adviser (Plan A)

Dr. Keirstead will initially serve as students’ adviser. Early in the Fall semester of Year 1, there will be a Meet and Greet gathering with SCB Faculty who have an opening in their lab for Master’s students. Students are encouraged to contact faculty during the Fall semester to meet and discuss potential projects. By the end of the semester, the student should have reached an mutually agreeable arrangement with a faculty member to be his/her adviser. This agreement can happen early in the Fall semester, and students, in consultation with their adviser, might have the option of attending lab meetings and/or getting oriented to their laboratory immediately. Students must have an adviser arranged before the end of Fall semester so they can start on their research project no later than the first week of January. This allows students to get started in the laboratory before classes start in the third week of January.


Students will complete 9-12 course credits during the Fall semester of Year 1. Students in Plan A begin research for their thesis project in the Spring semester and continue through the summer.  During the Spring semester of Year 1 and Fall of Year 2, students will take courses and work on their research project in the lab.  Students in Plan B will take courses during the Fall and Spring Semesters of Year 1 and additional courses while completing the research project and seminar (SCB 5900) in Fall of Year 2.

Final Projects

  • Thesis Project (Plan A)
    Students will participate in a thesis project carried out over one year in the lab of a member of the Stem Cell Biology Graduate Program.  Most students will finish their course work and thesis project in three semesters, finishing in December of Year 2.  Although students may, if they wish, take more than 3 semesters, advisers are not permitted to extend the project period beyond the one year allowed for lab work and thesis writing.

See Guidelines below for detailed description for the research project and writing of the thesis.

SCB Project Guidelines for Research Project

SCB Guidelines for writing the thesis

Thesis Formatting and Submission

  • Research Project (Plan B)
    Most students will finish their course work and research project in three semesters.  The main research project will be carried out in the Fall of Year 2 with an adviser selected from faculty of the Stem Cell Biology Graduate Program. The seminar would be presented at the end of the Fall semester in Year 2.

Program Learning Goals

Five goals for student learning are defined for the Stem Cell Biology Master’s Program.  These include: 1) a solid knowledge base, 2) critical thinking skills, 3) technical laboratory skills, 4) communication skills, and 5) professional responsibility.

Learning Goals


The degree is conferred at the end of the month in which the examined, revised, and approved thesis and final paperwork have been submitted to the graduate school.  The graduation ceremony typically occurs at the end of the Spring semester.  For information on the process and procedures for graduation, see the next section - Process for completing the M.S. Degree.  

Graduate education student graduation checklist

Deadlines to apply for graduation

Exit Interview

Upon completing the M.S. degree, the Director Graduate Studies or Graduate Program Coordinator will solicit an evaluation of the student’s experience in the SCB graduate program. These evaluations will be used to assess the quality of the M.S. program and faculty, and to provide guidance for improving graduate education.

If your plans change

If circumstances change and a student needs a time extension or leave of absence, to change or withdraw from a course, apply for a change of status, or apply for readmission, the University of Minnesota Graduate School office has the answers.  Students who need to make a change in the program should talk to Dr. Susan Keirstead.

For further information

Visit the Current Student Toolkit hosted by the Graduate School for more helpful resources.

Process Guidelines

Filing of an official Graduate Degree Plan

At the end of spring semester of Year 1 (after completing at least 10 credits), the student should file an official program using the Graduate Degree Plan Form.  This form lists all completed and planned coursework, transfer credits, and distribution of credits between the major (i.e. required) and supporting (i.e. elective) coursework. The Graduate Degree Plan is submitted to the Dr. Keirstead, Director of Graduate Studies, and then filed with the Graduate School.

Graduate Degree Plan

Choosing/Assigning Examination Committee

After the graduate degree plan form has been approved by the graduate school, and before the beginning of the last semester of the program, the examination committee must be organized by the student.  The chair of the committee will be Dr. Susan Keirstead. Other members include the student’s adviser, and at least one outside/minor field examiner. The student should consult with his/her adviser to identify faculty members who can serve as the external examiner. 

External examiners should be asked if they would be willing to serve, and informed by the student or adviser that their role as examiner involves reading the thesis, which they will receive a minimum of 2 weeks, but preferably 4 weeks, before the exam date.  Students should confirm that potential examiners will be available during the last week of November or within the first two weeks of December. Examiners are expected to attend the thesis exam (1.5 hours duration) and ask questions they have prepared beforehand.  The goal of the exam is to determine that the student understands what was written in the thesis, has a good understanding of the context of their work in the greater body of literature in their field, and understands the methodology and data analysis that they have undertaken.  The thesis exam date and time will be set collaboratively among the student and the members of the examination committee.

Assign/Update Master’s Final Committee

Request  Graduation Packet

Immediately after the Examination Committee has been approved, students must download a Graduation Packet.  This packet will include the Graduate Application for DegreeMaster’s Final Examination Report form and Reviewers’ Report form.

Graduation Packet Request

Apply to Graduate

This form must be filed on-line via MyU by the first day of the anticipated month of graduation.  If a change is needed in the expected graduation term or month after submitting an application, please email

Apply to Graduate

Submitting the Thesis for examination (Plan A only)

Deadline for submission of the thesis to Dr. Keirstead for examination is the second Friday in November.  After an initial review, Dr. Keirstead will send the thesis to the remaining members of the Examination Committee. 

Review of the thesis

The thesis is read by the entire examining committee which must be unanimous in certifying that the thesis is ready for defense, as indicated by their signatures on the thesis reviewer’s report form (found in the Graduation Packet). As noted above, the Graduation Packet will be available only if the student has a degree program form approved by the Graduate School and has assigned an examination committee and maintained an active status. The students must present the Final Examination Report Form to all reviewers for signatures before the final exam.

Final Oral Exam

Candidates for the master’s degree, Plan A, must pass a final oral examination. The examination covers the major field and the minor or related fields, and may include any work fundamental to these fields. This includes a 30 minute presentation by the student followed by questions by the examiners about the thesis.  The final oral exam for the master’s degree, about 90 minutes total, is conducted as a closed examination, attended by only the student and the examining committee.

Revisions to and submission of the thesis to the Graduate School

Revisions, as detailed by the examination committee, must be approved by the adviser.  Once all revisions are complete, the adviser will sign the signature page to confirm that it is complete and satisfactory in all respects and that all revisions required by the final examining committee have been made.  The thesis must be submitted online to ProQuest ETD Administrator by the last business day of the anticipated month of graduation.  A hard copy of the Signature Page and Title Page must be submitted to Graduate Student Services and Progress (333 Bruininks Hall). 

NOTE: Students should consult with their faculty adviser to determine if they want to delay the release/publication of the thesis. The process for a “Hold Request” can be found in the Thesis Formatting and Submission document 

ProQuest ETD Administrator

Submit Final Examination Report, Signature Page, and Thesis Title Page

Following the final examination (Plan A) or Seminar and Research Paper (Plan B), students must file the Final Examination Report (included in the Graduation Packet) signed by the examination committee no later than the last business day of the anticipated month of graduation. Plan A students must also submit the signature page signed by their adviser, a Deposit Agreement Form (included in the Graduation Packet) , and a hardcopy of the thesis cover page to the graduate school before the last business day of the anticipated month of graduation.  It is recommended that students submit these documents at least 5 business days before winter break for a December graduation.  




End of Spring semester, Year 1

File Degree Program Form

Before start of Fall semester, Year 2

Assign Examination Committee

Beginning of Fall semester, Year 2

Request Graduation Packet (after Examination Committee has been approved)

2nd Friday in November, Year 2

Submit Thesis to Sue Keirstead

Before 1st day of December (or anticipated month of graduation), Year 2

Apply for degree