MA Thesis

Thesis Timing 

While there is no official course enrollment necessary, the MA Thesis is typically completed in the last semester of the Program, when course requirements and 2 Residence Unit have been fulfilled.  This often means that practical training in Supervised Research or Supervised Internship is happening concurrently with writing the MA Thesis over the summer semester for full-time students.  The following guidelines should be followed to coordinate this process and satisfy the Continuous Registration Requirement of GSAS.  For those part-time enrolled students, who may be full-time employees, discuss the timing for completing the MA thesis with the Program Director to optimize effort.

The thesis can be about any scientific subject connected to biotechnology. This includes but is not limited to, almost anything covered in the Fall & Spring Core courses, as well as research interests of the faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences and in the Health Sciences Campus.  Non-natural science issues such as business (e.g, investment, regulation), law, and ethics, can be included as a small section of the major theme. 

Electronic submissions to the MA Program should be made to [email protected].

Application-For-Degree information can be found here.    The Registrar now allows the application-for-degree step to be completed online using a "Degree Application Status" tab on SSOL.

Thesis Deadlines

MA Thesis Completion

Thesis Formats

Option 1: Literature Review with strong "views" and "future" components. The thesis shall give in-depth evaluations of the chosen field, including the history, key signaling pathways, current status of drug development, and future directions, for instance. 

Option 2: Research Proposal at the level expected for a Predoctoral Fellowship - Specific Aims, methodology, anticipated results and potential pitfalls.

Option 3: Scientific Report for students who have done more research during the MA Program beyond that for Supervised Research.  Remember that data (figures & tables) already used for Supervised Research should be included as appendices.  Be sure to give appropriate credit for the contributions of others.

Faculty Mentors

Columbia faculty members, who agree to serve, may act as thesis mentors. If a non-Columbia faculty is sought as a scientific mentor, prior approval from the Program is needed.   The level of mentorship varies, but regular engagement with students on a timely subject of interest to the mentor is crucial.  Be sure to share the information and deadlines on this webpage with a faculty member before asking them for an agreement to act as a thesis mentor.  Availability of the mentor given the timing of the deadlines will be critical.  Once a faculty member agrees to be a thesis mentor, he/she should send a short confirmatory email to [email protected].


Organization of Contents

Formatting & Style Requirements

Follow the formatting requirements exactly. It not only makes a better-looking thesis, it facilitates the needed approval from the Program Director, who will be reviewing the thesis draft in parallel with the Thesis Mentor.

Here is an abbreviated list of Formatting & Style Requirements:

Font: Consistently use Times New Roman 12 point or Arial 11 point.  Only major headings should appear as font size 14 in boldface at the top of the page.

Margins: Left-hand 1.5” for binding, elsewhere 1".  Use Block Justification of all text.

Figures & Tables: Each item should fit on one page with the associated legends, giving full credit to the source of the information.  Data should be inserted where it is first mentioned in the main body of text, and not at the end of the thesis.

Spacing:  Double-space the text.  Start major sections on the top of the next page.  

Page Numbering:  Do not number the Title page, copyright page, and Abstract.  From the Table of Contents to the Dedication, number the pages i, ii, iii... centered at the bottom of the printed page.  From the Introduction to the end of the References, number the pages 1, 2, 3... at the top right corner of the page.  

Length:  20 page minimum excluding figures, tables and references.

References:  Use primary scientific articles and journal reviews whenever possible.  Use of the primary article is preferred.  (Avoid website citations.)  Cited papers should have been read, so do not include citations that have not been used.  List all author names (Last, First initial).  Do not abbreviate journal names.  Single space each entry and skip a space between each one. Include all page numbers.

List paper either alphabetically by the first author's last name OR numerically in the order in which the paper appears in the text.  


    Single-sided, color printing on good quality white paper 8.5" x 11"...

    When binding your thesis please remember: NO SPIRAL BINDING!  For examples of acceptable thesis binding formats, see the image below

    Thesis binding may be done at Staples, Kinko's, Village Copier, or through Columbia Print (2950 Broadway-106 Pulitzer Hall; 212-854-3233).  The last option is desirable for those already out-of-town, because Columbia Print delivers on campus.


    Thesis Bindings