THIBODAUX – Marilyn Kilgen
staff was good.So good, in fact, that she
was ready to vouch for them before the contentious state Board of Regents and defend their teaching and research skills to anybody who cared to listen.
It was five years ago that Kilgen
first entertained the idea of bringing a graduate-level program in biology to Nicholls State University
, a homegrown school known mostly for its education and nursing programs.Kilgen
, head of Nicholls'
Biological Sciences Department, knew a master's-in-biology degree program would serve the needs of many local students who are interested in studying marine science but unable to make the lengthy commute to universities in Baton Rouge or New Orleans.
It took some convincing and thousands of pages of detailed notes, but Kilgen's proposal to add a graduate-degree option for students who enroll in her
15-member department has been accepted by state education officials.Students can opt to get a master's degree in biological sciences at Nicholls
starting in September.
Biology is the first department at Nicholls
– outside education and nursing – to have a graduate-level program."My goal was to become a true research department where graduate students can research with the faculty and be given the higher degrees that many, many state agencies require," said Kilgen, a microbiologist who has spent three decades teaching at Nicholls.
"Of all my years here, this is the most exciting thing I've ever done, by far," said Kilgen
program will be similar to other universities that offer the advanced degree, but because of its location, the school will place perhaps a heavier emphasis on marine and environmental sciences, Kilgen
Students will study Gulf Coast estuaries and be expected to do research on environmental issues that affect southeastern Louisiana, such as burning sugar-cane fields and bacteria in oysters.
"We decided to do research directly applicable to issues here," said Kilgen
."This is one of the best areas in the country to study marine and environmental biology.We hope this will be a place students from everywhere will come to because of the location."
The graduate degree will enhance the productivity of important research coming from Nicholls biology professors, each of whom has a doctorate degree and a specific research interest, said Kilgen
"We do not hire anyone here who does not intend to research," she
Between 400 and 600 undergraduates are enrolled in Nicholls'
Biology Department each year.Thirty-five graduates, including about 10 full-time research assistants, are expected to join this September.
The master's program will require 35 hours of coursework, including 18 hours of core background classes, such as marine and environmental biology.Students will have the opportunity to spend their summers studying at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium research center
in Cocodrie, which offers classes in coastal field geology and coral reef ecology.
Three types of students are expected to enroll in the graduate program:
Although night classes will be offered, the graduate program is mainly intended for serious students who have the time for in-depth research, said Kilgen
Two positions will be added – a master's-level instructor and a bachelor's-level instructor who will teach mostly freshman lab courses.With 17 full-time professors, that would make biology one of Nicholls' largest schools.
Students interested in registering for the graduate biology program can fill out an application online starting next month.For information, visit www.nicholls.edu/biol or call (985) 448-4700.