Graduate Program:

FAQs about our Program:

What is the "Molecular Biosciences Cluster"?
Our “cluster” system was designed to help coordinate the activities of our many degree-granting programs. The Molecular Biosciences cluster consists of five academic programs with related interests that share student recruiting, admissions, an annual retreat, and several common courses. In the Molecular Biosciences cluster students can transfer from one program to another, with the approval of the Curriculum Committee, during the first year, to accommodate possible changes in academic interests.

How many lab rotations will I do?
At least two, and in many cases three. We want every student to find the ideal intellectual home in which to pursue their thesis research. Each student is appointed an academic advisor from the Curriculum Committee, who will help them to decide the labs in which they should rotate. Generally, rotations are completed by the end of the first year, with some students dividing the summer into two rotation periods.

What exams will I take?
The Preliminary Exam tests each student’s knowledge, ability to synthesize the literature, and understanding of experimental design. This exam occurs in the September following the student's first year. Students are given a list of questions to choose from and have two weeks to prepare. They give an oral presentation of their answers to an examining committee of three faculty members.
The Qualifying Exam evaluates a student's ability to propose and defend a proposal for their doctoral research. It occurs in Spring of the second year. Students prepare a written research proposal and present their proposal orally to their Thesis Committee.

How do I choose my Thesis Committee?
The student and mentor propose a group of three additional faculty who they feel are best suited to advise on the research topic. The Curriculum Committee reviews the proposal and occasionally recommends addition of a supplemental member. At least two members of the Thesis Committee must have appointments in the Committee on Development, Regeneration, and Stem Cell Biology. After the initial meeting for the Qualifying Exam, students meet at least once a year with their Thesis Committee. Before each meeting the student provides committee members with a brief written report.

Will I get teaching experience?
Researchers as well as educators need to be able to communicate effectively. To help develop this skill all graduate students are required to serve as teaching assistants (TAs) for two quarters. Some students choose to do additional teaching beyond this requirement with the agreement of their advisors. TAships are usually performed during the second and third years.

When will I get my Ph.D.?
The total time to a degree in our program is usually 5.5 to 6.0 years.


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