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 Earning Your Degree



Direct experimentation is the exclusive source of biochemical knowledge and the most important training occurs in the laboratory rather than the classroom. To earn a Ph.D., students carry out a research project, write a thesis describing these studies, and pass a final examination in which the research and thesis are defended. Thesis research should be original, represent a significant contribution to the field of study, and be suitable for publication. Our students complete the program with a substantial record of scientific accomplishment as demonstrated by publication of results in respected journals. 

Faculty Mentoring

Students carry out their research in the laboratory of a faculty advisor who provides guidance throughout the project and mentors students as they develop their careers. In our program, mentoring is not limited to the advisor and many opportunities exist for informal training through interactions with other faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, and senior graduate students.  This promotes scientific exchange and enhances the excitement of scientific discovery.

Preparation for Research

Having our students progress from the classroom to the lab bench as smoothly and as quickly as possible is a priority in our program. In preparation for laboratory experimentation, our flexible curriculum ensures that students not only receive a solid foundation in the principles and techniques of biochemistry and molecular biology, but also develop the problem-solving and analytical skills necessary to be successful researchers. A key component of our program is a two-semester literature class, in which scientific articles are discussed in class in order to teach the scientific method and help students acquire the skills needed to interpret and analyze data.

Curriculum Overview

The total classroom requirements are 18 graduate level credit hours, which include: a series of core courses, a two semester sequence in critical analysis of scientific literature, two semesters of a class focused on techniques for oral presentation, and four credits in electives. The latter affords our students considerable flexibility in tailoring their curriculum to fit their individual interests.

Graduate Program Overview

Scientific Communication

Science is not practiced in isolation. If their research or other scientific endeavors are to have an impact on the scientific community and society, our graduates must be effective communicators. Acquiring the skills for effective oral and written scientific communication is a key element of our program. Our curriculum includes two semesters of a course in which students perfect their oral presentation skills. Numerous opportunities to speak also occur through lab group meetings, journal clubs, and seminar programs. Several core courses involve written exercises, but the most important fine-tuning of writing skills occurs while preparing committee reports, publications, and the dissertation under the direct guidance of the advisor.