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Course Descriptions

Helpful Documents: Degree PlanProfessional Outcomes

Required Coursework

Core Curriculum – Genes
Fall (1st half)
2 credit hours
Molecular genetics of model organisms; DNA replication, repair and recombination; transcription; RNA catalysis, processing and interference; translation; protein turnover; developmental biology; and genomics.

Core Curriculum – Proteins
Fall (1st half)
2 credit hours
The energetic basis of protein structure; stability; ligand binding and regulation; enzyme mechanics and kinetics; methods of purification; and analysis by spectroscopic methods.

Core Curriculum – Cells
Fall (2nd half)
2 credit hours
Cell structure; membrane biology; intracellular membrane and protein trafficking; energy conversion; signal transduction and second messengers; cytoskeleton; cell cycle; and introductory material in microbiology, immunology, and neurobiology.

Cancer Biology I – Hallmarks of Cancer and Cancer Stem Cells
Spring (1st half)
1.5 credit hours
Tumorigenesis is a multistep process driven by genetic and epigenetic changes that occur over time. Although cancer is a heterogeneous disease, many human tumors exhibit similar acquired physiological features, defined as “The Hallmarks of Cancer” by Hanahan and Weinberg. This course will cover the underlying molecular and cellular biology involved in carcinogenesis, tumor growth, and metastasis. The implications of the biological findings on cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment will be covered.

This course will provide the student with a solid background in general cancer biology. Upon completion of the class, students should have basic understanding of the mechanisms by which tumors gain and maintain a growth advantage, and of potential therapeutic targets.

Cancer Biology II – Advanced Concepts in Cancer Biology
Spring (2nd half)
1.5 credit hours
Students will develop a keen appreciation of the tools available at hand to dissect the molecular mechanisms controlling cancer development such that they can take this knowledge to the bench to develop their own graduate research.

At one level, the goal of this course is to provide students (especially those who have taken CBI) with knowledge of the latest concepts in cancer biology and cancer therapeutics and a general appreciation of the rapid advances made in this area of biomedicine. An attempt has been made to arrange the lectures thematically to provide the student with an understanding of: 1) how specific cellular processes are altered during cancer initiation and progression, 2) how different cancers are being modeled and studied in the laboratory, 3) how the genetic landscape of human cancers is being deciphered, and 4) how novel therapeutics are being designed to target an individual tumor based upon its genetic signature.

At another level, this course aims to arm beginning graduate students with a working understanding of different cutting-edge methods that are being used to answer key questions in cancer biology and therapeutics. Each lecturer would emphasize at least one key technique or analytical tool that is in use in his or her laboratory. This would, hopefully, empower students to tackle their own graduate research using multidisciplinary approaches.

Independent Study: Core Knowledge
Fall full semester (2nd year before qualifying exam)
1.0 credit hour
During the Fall semester prior to starting the Cancer Biology III Qualifying Exam Course, each Cancer Biology student will need to do independent reading to master specific core competencies. There will be a written exam (pass/fail) over a subset of cancer related topics (not open book). A passing score will be required to proceed to the CB III course.

Cancer Biology III – Hypothesis Testing Grant Writing Course
Spring full semester (2nd year coincident with qualifying exam)
1.5 credit hours
This course prepares students for the qualifying exam that must be passed to officially enroll in the Cancer Biology Ph.D. program, by providing lectures that introduce grant writing and hypothesis-driven experimental science. Following those introductions, the course supports the students through the qualifying exam, with an orientation to the exam process and a series of classes modeled after real NIH-style grant review study sections in which the students critique each other's hypotheses, abstracts, and proposals. It finishes with the qualifying exam itself. This course is for second-year Cancer Biology graduate students who have completed the other Cancer Biology courses.

Professionalism, Responsible Conduct of Research, and Ethics I
Fall full semester
1 credit hour
Lectures and small group discussions will cover: goals of education in RCR; professionalism; collaboration; teambuilding and professional behaviors; everyday practice of ethical science; mentorship; data management and reproducibility; animal research; genetics and human research.

Professionalism, Responsible Conduct of Research, and Ethics II
Spring full semester
1 credit hour
Topics covered through lectures and small group discussions: codes of ethics and misconduct; building interprofessional teams; conflict of interest; sexual boundaries and professional behavior; applications of genetic testing; technology transfer and intellectual property; plagiarism, authorship, and citation; peer review; image and data manipulation.

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