Graduation Requirements

Within the MCB Program there are five degree-granting departments or programs:

Students in these five departments/center complete:

  • Three research rotations in the first year
  • Three-term core course (Fall, Winter, Spring of the first year)
  • One term of a teaching assistantship
  • An ethics course (two part over two terms)
  • A qualifying exam consisting of a written proposal and oral defense
  • Three advanced elective courses from the approved course list
  • Attendance at and participation in journal club meetings and Research in Progress (RIP) seminars
  • Attendance at program functions
  • Preparation, presentation, and submission of thesis (seminar and defense)

Upon satisfactory completion of the qualifying exam, a student will be advanced to Ph.D. candidacy. Students may be advanced to the Ph.D. candidacy before completion of the three advanced courses.

Laboratory Research Rotations and Thesis Lab Selection

During the first year in the program, MCB students are required to perform three research rotations in the labs of three different faculty members. Each rotation lasts approximately three months, covering the periods: September-November, December-February, and March-May. The choice of labs for rotation is based primarily on the interests of the students. After the rotations are completed, students will select a thesis lab from among their three research rotation labs. 

Journal Clubs

Students are required to participate in a Journal Club during each year of their graduate education. Journal Clubs are informal seminars which allow students the opportunity to read, analyze, present and discuss papers from the primary literature. Each student has the choice of which Journal Club to attend. There are several existing Journal Clubs which meet during Fall, Winter and Spring terms:

  • Advances in Biotechnology ENGG 260

  • Advances in Integrative Neuroscience IND 600

  • Bioinorganic Chemistry CHEM 263

  • Biological Rhythms GENE 260

  • Biomass Energy Systems (Winter '23) ENGG 261

  • Cancer Biology GENE 261

  • Cancer Mechanisms and Therapeutics CANB 261

  • Cell Biology  BIOL 263

  • Cell Biology: Cytoskeleton and Metabolism BIOC 259

  • Cell Signaling in Development BIOL 275

  • Cellular Neurobiology BIOL 274

  • Communicating Science (one-time, one-term journal club)  UNSG 300

  • Epigenetic Aging Clocks and their Roles in Disease and Age-Reversal Studies QBS 193

  • Genes and Gene Products  BIOL 268

  • Immunology  MICR 264

  • Lipid Biology and Neurodegeneration  BIOC 262

  • Microbial Ecology/Environmental Microbiology  BIOL 265

  • Molecular Pathogenesis and Host-Microbe Interactions MICR 265

  • Neurobiology  BIOL 274

  • Phosphorylation Signaling BIOC 261

  • Plant Molecular Biology  BIOL 269

  • Structural Biology  BIOC 260

  • Topics in Applied Computer Science  COSC 189/200

Teaching Experience

All graduate students in the MCB program are required to gain experience in teaching. To fulfill this requirement, students serve as teaching assistants for one term, usually in the second year of graduate study. The teaching experience is considered an important part of graduate education and includes instruction from faculty on how to organize and present a lecture. Teaching normally involves supervising laboratory and discussion sections as well as grading lab reports and exams.

Thesis Seminar and Defense

In the second year, students establish a thesis advisory committee. Research progress is monitored by meetings with this committee at least once a year. When the student, thesis advisor, and thesis advisory committee agree that the thesis is near completion, the student begins compiling and writing the thesis. For many students at this stage, thesis research has already resulted in publication in peer reviewed journals. After submission of the thesis and a public presentation, the student defends the thesis before an examination committee. On average, students complete their doctoral training in about six years.