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 Graduate Program Overview


The following provides an overview of the major activities and requirements needed to obtain a Ph.D. in the biochemistry program.

First Year

Orientation: Students participate in an orientation program held the week prior to the start of the fall semester. Placement examinations in biochemistry and organic chemistry are given to assess knowledge in these areas. The biochemistry 1st year Graduate Achievement Chair assists students with their fall course schedule based on placement test scores.

Laboratory Rotations: To aid in the selection of a permanent laboratory and thesis research topic, students are required to perform three 8-week lab rotations (with an optional 4th rotation) during their first year. Rotation assignments are coordinated with the biochemistry 1st year Graduate Chair.

Rotation Presentations: At the conclusion of each rotation period, students are required to give short presentations to the department about their research studies. Presentations provide students the opportunity to practice preparing and delivering scientific talks as well as provide a learning opportunity for the audience.

Selection of Advisor: Upon completion of lab rotations in May of the first year, students work with the biochemistry Graduate Career Chair to select a major professor.

Initiate Research: Students initiate their thesis research during the summer of the first year. Research becomes the most important component of the program and students are expected to pursue it aggressively in subsequent years.

Thesis Advisory Committee: During the summer of the first year, in consultation with their major professor, students select a Thesis Advisory Committee. This committee will review the progress of thesis research and provide constructive input on issues pertaining to the student’s work and scientific development. The Thesis Advisory Committee consists of the major professor and three additional faculty, one of which must be a member of a different department.

Plan of Study: A draft Plan of Study is to be submitted to a student’s Thesis Advisory Committee at their first meeting in the fall of their 2nd year. The final Plan is to be decided upon in consultation with the major professor and the other members of the student's Thesis Advisory Committee. The final Plan is submitted to the Graduate Career Chair for approval by the end of the fall semester.





Second Year and Beyond

General Electives: The general electives provide students the flexibility to have formal coursework fit individual needs. The general electives (4 credit total) are usually taken during the second year. 

Thesis Advisory Committee meetings: Students are required to hold a committee meeting once each semester during the fall and spring of their second year and at least annually beyond the second year.  

Instruction in Scientific Presentation: Students must take two semesters of BCHM 690, a course providing formal instruction in preparing and delivering scientific presentations. Scientific meetings and lab presentations also provide students experience delivering talks.

Preliminary Examination: The Preliminary Examination is given in the fall semester of the third year of study if the core courses were taken during the first year. Prior to taking the examination, the student must have met twice with their Thesis Advisory Committee: once each semester during the fall and spring of the second year. At the spring meeting, the Thesis Advisory Committee will determine whether the student is eligible to take the Preliminary Examination. 

Complete Research: Research conducted under the guidance of an advisor begins during the summer of the first year. Evidence of creative research ability is required to fulfill the Ph.D. requirements and research activities become the focus of graduate studies from the second year forward.

Teaching Experience: Students are required to serve as a half-time teaching assistant for a minimum of one semester.

Publication of Research Results: Research should address original and important scientific problems that will yield results suitable for publication. Students are required to be the major author on a minimum of one paper that has been submitted or published in a reputable journal. The preparation of manuscript(s) is done under the supervision of the advisor and is an excellent opportunity to develop and refine scientific writing skills. Publications are an important measure of scientific achievement and individual potential as a researcher. 

Prepare Thesis: Students must write a thesis, which will describe and document the results of their research. The thesis is reviewed by the major professor and Thesis Advisory Committee in preparation for the final exam.

Final Examination and Thesis Defense: Upon completion of the thesis, students present a seminar to the department describing their research. Following the presentation, students meet with their Thesis Advisory Committee for an oral exam about their research and related topics. The granting of the Ph.D. degree is approved by the Thesis Advisory Committee.

For more information, see Graduate Course Requirements.