School of Graduate Studies

Welcome to the School of Graduate Studies

Fisk University offers MA degrees in Natural Science Disciplines of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, and also in Clinical Psychology. Fisk is also engaged in multiple partnerships with other institutions to link our Master’s trainees with PhD programs in their field of interest. Examples of those programs include the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology (see here).

We encourage interested students to contact:
Dean of the School of Graduate Studies: Dr. Bryan Kent Wallace

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Of Our Graduate Studies Programs
Biology icon

Dr. Brian L. Nelms, PhD

Director of Graduate Studies
School of Biology
Chemistry icon


Director of Graduate Studies
School of Chemistry
Physics icon

Dr. Arnold Burger, PhD

Director of Graduate Studies
School of Physics
Psychology icon

Dr. Sheila Peters, PhD

Director of Graduate Studies
School of Psychology
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Dr. Tdka Kilimanjaro, PhD

Director of Graduate Studies
School of Social Justice

graduate studies overall timeline

Fall Semester First Year


  • Required courses, determined in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies in your program.
  • Participation in the Graduate School Professional Skills and Responsible Conduct of Research Seminar (weekly, required- described in more detail below). The final assignment in this course is an electronic Poster Presentation of the overall research area under investigation in your anticipated research advisor’s laboratory and the probable research project that you will undertake as your research thesis. Note that this assignment requires that students have been aggressively pursuing the identification of their research mentor.
  • Consideration of research mentor: In some programs, students will enter graduate studies knowing who their research mentor will be. In other programs, students will be expected to visit and meet with at least two and generally more thesis dissertation supervisors who are accepting new graduate students the Fall of their matriculation to learn about their work, read their papers, and in discussions with the faculty member, learn if their research program is a match for a student’s interests and preferred learning environment. If students are accepted with already-defined research supervisors/mentor, the student’s mentor will take responsibility for introducing the graduate student to other ongoing work in the discipline ongoing at Fisk and at our collaborating institutions.
  • In those programs where students are matched with a mentor/thesis advisor prior to matriculation, students will be expected to spend a defined minimum amount of time in that laboratory learning methods and reading relevant papers.
  • Declaration of master’s thesis research mentor/supervisor is required by the close of the Fall semester.
  • Fulfillment of any other program-specific requirements, as outlined in Sections II-V.


Spring Semester First Year


  • Coursework required by the program or electives identified by student and or graduate student advisor. Remember that courses at Fisk and Vanderbilt Universities are available for Fisk student registration.
  • In concert with Master’s thesis advisor, outline a detailed research project and plan, and begin a literature summary of state of knowledge in this area, unanswered questions or gaps in understanding, and what aspects of this your research will address. This summary ultimately will be the backbone of the Literature Review section of the Master’s thesis and of the Introduction to the thesis proposal. Thus, in addition to honing scientific writing skills, this expectation has many positive outcomes for the student.
  • Create a thesis committee; summarize your proposed research in a short document. Share with your advisor, and with their approval, share with the rest of your thesis committee. Schedule a Committee Meeting in the SPRING SEMESTER, and certainly no later than within the first two weeks of the Summer Semester, and preferably early in the Spring semester of the first year.
  • Students whose academic performance is below the required B average ( GPA of 3.0) at the end of the Spring semester will be put on academic probation; the status of continued or interrupted funding during academic probation will be decided after consultation of the student’s research supervisor/mentor and the DGS for the program, with approval of their decision by the Dean for Graduate Studies.  Students will not be eligible for tuition waivers from Fisk University while on academic probation.


Summer Beginning of Second Year


  • This time is set aside for fulltime research. It is only applicable for the following programs: Master’s in Biology, Master’s in Physics, and the Vanderbilt Bridge Program.
  • Elective courses that are only available in the summer may be taken, but only with written approval of the Director of Graduate Studies of the Program, cosigned by the Dean of the Graduate School.
  • Selection of appropriate courses for the Fall, if still needed, can be identified and registered for, as appropriate for each Master’s Program, again with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies for that program.


Fall Semester Second Year


  • Courses, as advised by the thesis research advisor and  Director of Graduate Studies, including electives relevant for student’s research project.
  • Participation in Graduate Program-specific required programs, such as seminars, Colloquia, etc.
  • Participation in relevant Graduate School Professional Skills Workshops (these often will occur on Saturdays, but will be advertised well in advance from the office of Paula Hemphill).
  • Continuing research.
  • Meet with Thesis Committee a second time to review progress in summer research; prepare for that meeting in concert with  your research advisor. Based on the recommendation of progress to date by the Thesis Committee, intent to graduate forms must be prepared, signed by appropriate faculty and administrators, and taken to the Registrar’s office by the stated December deadline for the Academic Calendar of that year ( each Academic Year’s calendar is available on line). Students whose coursework, coursework performance, and/or research has not progressed in a timely fashion will develop a timeline for delayed graduation. HOWEVER, please note that stipend funding is only committed for 24 calendar months.


Spring Semester Second Year


  • Continuing research, finding national and regional meetings and other venues for continuing presentation of project results and experimental plans; presentation at the Fisk Annual Research Day in the Spring is expected.
  • Development of an outline of the thesis document, for review by the Committee no later than February 15th, including principal literature sources, and data to be included.
  • Participation in Program-focused seminars/colloquia/activities.
  • Planning for completion of the Master’s degree.