Master's Degree

The JMP Master’s in Science program supports students to conduct research in any field of human knowledge with a link to health. We aim to produce physicians with a broad trans-disciplinary understanding of the social determinants of health, who are equipped to design, conduct, and interpret research, who work well in multi-disciplinary teams, and who have the skills to teach and challenge assumptions in the context of a fulfilling career.

To support students in accomplishing these goals, we have developed a step-wise program of MS research classes and mentorship. Our MS is based on the design and implementation of an individualized, independent mentored research project. This project culminates in the crafting of a thesis, including an in-depth literature review in the student’s area of expertise and a scholarly product, often a manuscript for submission to a journal.

Master's Curriculum

Below is a brief overview of the master’s degree curriculum by year.

MS 1
During the first year, students participate in a fall first-year research seminar. They are concurrently enrolled in UC Berkeley courses outside the JMP to enhance their methodological and content knowledge of the topic of their choosing. By year’s end, under the guidance of MS faculty, each student completes a draft research proposal, conducts a preliminary literature review and/or an application to the research ethics committee, and identifies a thesis research mentor. Students present their interim progress throughout the year and give a year-end formal presentation of their research plan to their class and MS faculty.

After the first year, most students dedicate much of the summer to advancing their MS research. They explore possible field sites for their research, work on their literature review, and/or begin to collect data. 

MS 2

During the second year, students complete their formal literature review, obtain the appropriate ethics (IRB) approvals for their research, begin data collection and analysis, and take additional content and methods coursework on campus. Students present a second-year “Works in Progress” talk to the JMP community. Many students present their research at conferences during the second or third year. 

During the summer after the second year, students are actively engaged in data analysis and begin writing their final thesis. 

MS 3
During the third year, students complete their final data analysis and write up their thesis. Although we encourage writing the thesis in a format consistent with an appropriate scientific journal, there is no requirement for publication in order to receive the MS. At the end of the fall semester, 3rd year students present their findings at the Annual JMP Research Symposium. This full-day, celebratory event is open to the entire UC Berkeley community and is well attended by the JMP community, UC Berkeley and UCSF faculty, UCB graduate students, alumni, and students’ family members and friends. Students file their thesis in December. Most students elect to publish their thesis, either by submitting it for publication before JMP MS graduation or during the time of their clinical rotations at UCSF.


JMP students take JMP MS courses, and even more importantly, have access to courses across the UC Berkeley campus to meet their requirements and educational needs.

First-year research seminar: During their first fall, JMP students explore possible topics, mentors, methods, and theoretical frameworks for their research as well as deepen their understanding of research ethics.

Thesis Working Groups: As of the second semester of the first year, students are enrolled in a methodologically-focused thesis working group along with 2nd year students. Students stay enrolled in the seminar with a consistent faculty member through their third year.

As of their first semester, JMP students take courses across the UC Berkeley campus to develop MS-level expertise in their area of research. You can explore the UC Berkeley 2018-19 course catalogue here.


JMP students benefit from an advisory team that is committed to supporting them towards academic success, including their JMP advisor, MS advisor, research mentor, and thesis committee. The JMP advisor, assigned on a student’s arrival to the JMP, is the student’s advocate across the 2.5 years in the program, advising them in all aspects of JMP life. In the fall of Year 1, a student’s research seminar instructor acts as the student’s initial MS advisor. In Spring of Year 1, a student is assigned an ongoing MS advisor, a JMP master’s faculty member who advises the student throughout the process of planning and completing a thesis project. During the first year, students identify a research mentor, most often (but not always) a faculty member at UC Berkeley or UCSF. The research mentor is the primary mentor to the student regarding the content and conduct of their research project. In addition to these faculty members, a student assembles a thesis committee of three faculty members. Generally, committee members are required to be UC Berkeley faculty members, though the committee may include one UCSF faculty member. Committees are responsible for reviewing and approving the MS research and thesis, ensuring its academic rigor.

What areas of study have JMP MS theses covered?

The broad range of our students’ research is part of what makes the MS unique. No other single joint MD-MS program to our knowledge offers students the opportunity for training in such a wide range of topics. Over the last 5 years of research by graduates and by current students, these topics have included, but are not limited to: African American Studies, White Studies, Medieval History, Bioengineering, Developmental Psychology, Economics, Environmental Sciences, Gender and Women studies, Health Policy, Human Rights, Immunology, Jewish Studies, Law, Clinical Medicine (multiple fields), Public Health, Applied Mathematics, Microbiology, Native American Studies, Neuroscience, Philosophy, Public Health, Public Policy, Social Welfare, Sociology, and Toxicology. If you interests lie outside of these, we welcome you too!

Methods employed by students over the same period have included qualitative research (ethnography, film ethnography, PhotoVoice/VideoVoice, and interviews), epidemiological studies, policy evaluation, evaluation of community interventions, geographic information systems (GIS), social media-based research, clinical research and pilot clinical interventions, mathematical modeling, philosophy and ethics, historical study of primary documents, organic chemistry, engineering, and mixed methodologies.

Furthermore, our students’ work has spanned multiple communities in the Bay Area and across the United States, and communities globally in Central and South America, East and South East and Southern Asia, the Middle East and in Africa. U.S.-based studies by JMP students have addressed health needs across the life course from newborns to elders and have addressed the needs of Latino, African American, Chinese American, Afghan American, Native America,n and South Asian American communities, among others. You can explore the range of topics that JMP students have studied in our searchable e-scholarship database, which includes the electronic version of the vast majority of submitted theses over the last 30 years. The most recent theses are embargoed for a two- to three-year period.

What is the difference between the JMP MS and a UCSF Bridges Inquiry project?

The JMP MS is an academic degree from UC Berkeley, giving students the opportunity to work with a team of UC Berkeley faculty to complete a project of their own design. Students are able to explore the project in depth over the 2.5 years they are in residence. Students at the JMP take 32-37 units of coursework and research time on campus with campus experts from across the campus. No two students take the same classes. Students receive intensive personalized mentoring from a team of faculty, all focused on helping them to succeed and can study an extremely wide range of topics.

How do students fund their research?

Though some students apply for grant support during the first year (particularly for the summer after the first year), the vast majority apply for grant support by the end of their second year. The sources of support are very broad, again reflecting the range of topics pursued by students. All students are eligible for up to $2,500 for their research project though a formal faculty review process. Students often employ the final approved grant they develop for applications to other funding opportunities from Berkeley, UCSF, or a wide range of outside sources. Combined, these experiences give most of our students a great deal of experience in applying for funding.