Department of
Cellular and Structural Biology

Ph.D. Program

 

Effective in the fall, 2011 semester all IMGP students will be appointed as graduate research assistants. IMGP students will receive a stipend of $26,000 for the 2011-2012 academic year. Resident tuition, fees and basic student health insurance will be paid on their behalf. This plan will also apply to doctoral students in the basic science programs in Biochemistry, Cellular & Structural Biology, Microbiology & Immunology, Pharmacology, and Physiology who were admitted before 2008. The Integrated Multidisciplinary Graduate Program (IMGP) is described on the GSBS webpage.

 

Four tracks of this program are located in Cellular & Structural Biology:

The requirements of these four tracks are listed below.

 

Coursework: Doctoral students in the Integrated Multidisciplinary Graduate Program begin with a comprehensive course: Fundamentals of Biomedical Sciences. This common course gives the students a foundation in biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, immunology and microbiology and systems biology. After the students complete this course, they will begin track-specific core courses. First year students also participate in Graduate Colloquium and Ethics in Research. In subsequent years, students are required to complete Experimental Design and Data Analysis (a biostatistics course) and at least two electives in their area of interest. Descriptions of the graduate level courses are found at the end of this section.

 

Other requirements: Ph.D. candidates register for Seminar (CSBL 6090) every fall and spring semester. In partial completion of the Seminar Course, students will attend the department's seminar program and journal club. Each Ph.D. student will present two journal clubs. In addition, this exercise is designed to prepare the student for the qualifying exam (see below). Each Ph.D. student is also required to present an oral seminar based on his/her research conducted at this institution in the second and all subsequent years. These seminars are designed to ensure that students receive adequate opportunity to present their research results.

 

Laboratory experiences: During the first year of graduate study, each predoctoral student will participate in research in the laboratories of three different investigators. Each rotation will last a minimum of six weeks (no longer than 12 weeks) and will typically be conducted in the fall of the first year. Ideally, the student will have selected a laboratory in which to complete his/her dissertation research by the spring semester of the first year. In the second, the student will then write a Dissertation Proposal and in consultation with the mentor, select a Supervisory Committee. Therefore, the student will present a seminar and the faculty will vote to approve both the proposed research plan and the committee.

 

Teaching Requirement: Doctoral candidates are required to spend one semester assisting in one of the departmental courses taught in the medical, dental, allied health, or graduate schools. A student must first satisfactorily complete the course in which he or she intends to teach and/or obtain approval from the course director.

 

Qualifying Examination: All Ph.D. students are required to pass an oral Qualifying Examination which is typically taken in the spring semester of the second year. The student will write and then publicly defend a research proposal. The topic chosen for the proposal can be related to, but not the same as, the student's pending dissertation project. The purpose of the Qualifying Examination is to test the ability of the student to formulate an original hypothesis, design feasible experiments to test that hypothesis, and defend the resulting proposal. In addition, questions may be posed to ascertain the student's breadth of general knowledge in cell and molecular biology. Exemptions for Double Degree, Transfer and Advanced Students: Students enrolled concurrently in medical or dental school, those transferring from another graduate program and ones with Master's degrees may petition the Committee on Graduate Studies (COGS) for exemption from one or more of the courses or degree requirements.

 

Dissertation Committee: After completion of the Qualifying Examination, the student, in consultation with his/her advisor, selects a Dissertation Committee. The Dissertation Committee consists of faculty members from the core track, a member from another track and a member from outside of the institution. The Committee will assist the student in the planning of his or her dissertation project and in the writing of the dissertation proposal. Thereafter, the Dissertation Committee will meet with the candidate to ensure continued satisfactory progress towards the degree.

 

Dissertation Proposal: In the spring semester of the second year, students will prepare a research proposal outlining the dissertation project. The proposal should include a hypothesis, the specific aims, the significance and experimental design. Once approved by his/her Committee, the student will present the research plan to the department in a seminar to be given by the end of the summer semester of the second year.

 

Admission to Candidacy: After the student has passed the Qualifying Examination and has successfully presented the dissertation proposal to the COGS, he/she is admitted to candidacy by the Dean of the Graduate School.

 

The Final Oral Examination & Dissertation Defense: The Final Oral Examination is conducted by the Dissertation Committee. It is preceded by a seminar-type presentation of the research findings which is open to all members of the Health Science Center Community. The examination is designed to certify the candidate's ability to conduct independent research and to re-affirm his/her knowledge of the cell and molecular biology. Once all of the degree requirements have been satisfied, COGS recommends awarding of the Ph.D. to the Dean of the Graduate School.

 

Time to Completion of Degree Requirements: Ph.D. students are expected to complete all degree requirements, including the dissertation defense, in approximately five years of full-time study.