Education & Training

The Department of Molecular Biology offer programs for graduate and postdoctoral education. We welcome students of various educational backgrounds and take pride in offering research training that uses the latest equipment and technology.

The Department is comprised of 19 faculty members who participate in the Genetics and Development Graduate Program, one of the nine programs offered by the Division of Basic Science through the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Our faculty use a wide array of experimental systems and multidisciplinary approaches to discover fundamental mechanisms relevant to processes such as stem cell development, microRNAs and gene silencing, cell growth and cell death, and the genetics of disease. In addition, there is a tradition of collaboration among laboratories that provides each student access to expertise and techniques beyond those available in their home research laboratory.

The Curriculum

Students in the Ph.D. program participate in the two-semester Division of Basic Science core course in the basic biomedical sciences, unless that requirement is waived because of prior advanced education taken elsewhere. The core courses include: Advanced Genetics I, Gene Expression, and Hypothesis-Driven Grant Writing. In addition, students must take three additional electives chosen from any advanced course offered by the Division of Basic Science. Typically, students are expected to complete advanced coursework by the end of their second year.

During the first year students also participate in laboratory rotations. Students will help conduct research in different faculty laboratories to learn about their experimental approaches, techniques and strategies. Students are then expected to select a mentor and affiliate with a graduate training program shortly thereafter.

Students complete advanced course work and qualify for candidacy by the end of the second year. All students participate in Works-in-Progress seminars, Journal Clubs and periodic symposia or retreats sponsored by the program. In the second year of study, each student takes a qualifying exam by preparing an original research proposal and orally defending it before a panel of program faculty.

Thesis Committee

Prior to the selection of their Thesis Committee, students will be advised by their mentors and the program assistant. The Thesis Committee will consist of the student’s mentor and three or more faculty members of one of the graduate programs in the Division of Basic Science. After forming the committee the student will provide the committee members with a statement of the proposed Ph.D. research. The Thesis Committee will meet with the student during the dissertation research period. These meetings will be devoted to evaluating the progress made and reaching a consensus regarding the proposed goals of the research. 

Qualifying Examination

Following completion of the core course requirements for the Genetics and Development Program, each student will undertake an examination for candidacy for the Ph.D. degree. To take this examination, students must have at least one meeting with their Thesis Committee. The examination will have written and oral components and will be organized by the Qualifying Examination Overseer. A satisfactory written portion of the exam, approved by the Qualifying Examination Chair with concurrence from the exam committee, is required before the student can take the oral component of the examination. The proposal will include a statement of purpose, a brief review of the literature, a list of proposed experiments and methods, and a discussion of the anticipated results, conclusions and likely directions for further investigation.

The oral component of the examination will begin with a brief summary of the proposal by the candidate. Questioning by the committee members is intended to deal with issues directly relevant to the proposed experiments including new or modified experiments developed during the examination and may include probing of the candidate’s knowledge of basic principles underlying the experiments. In general, passing this examination will entail submitting a well-written, thoughtful and relatively complete proposal, successfully correcting or defending during the oral portion any shortcomings noted by the examiners and demonstrating a good grasp of the theoretical and technical foundations of the topic.