​Course Requirements/Program of Study

Course Requirements:

The objective of our curriculum is to help students develop the skills they will need to pursue a variety of successful careers in science, including academic research, teaching, industry, and intellectual property. These skills include: critical reading of scientific literature, experimental design and data interpretation, oral and written communication, and proposal writing. Students will obtain additional knowledge in specific areas of plant and microbial biology by enrolling in elective and special topics courses and by participating in journal clubs.

Core courses:

  1. Experimental Design and Analysis in Biological Research - Bio 5703 (2 credits, taken in Fall of year 1). Critical reading course; will be offered for first year students. Meets 2 hours every week.
  2. Nucleic Acids and Protein Biosynthesis - Bio 548, or Fundamentals of Molecular Cell Biology - Bio 5068 (3 credits, taken in Fall of year 1)
  3. Graduate Research Fundamentals - Bio 5098 (1.5 credits, taken in fall of year 1)
  4. Current Approaches in Plant Research - Bio 5702 (3 credits, taken in Spring of year 1).
  5. Seminar in Plant and Microbial Biology - Bio 5723 (2 credits, taken in fall of year 2).
  6. One Additional Journal Club - Students in their third year should take one journal club from a different DBBS program - Cell Bio or Genetics being good options.
  7. Ethics and Research Science - Bio 5011 (1 credit, Spring, taken in year 2)
  8. Six Credits of Advanced Electives - 400 level or higher that facilitate specialization in their area of interest.

Year One: 

Integrated Communication Component 

The ability to communicate concisely both in writing and in oral presentations is critical for a successful career in science. To this end, BIO 5703 Experimental Approaches and BIO 4025 Modern Methods include an integrated oral and written component. In addition, first year students are expected to participate in the DBBS Fellowship Writing Workshop. 

​ - During the fall semester (BIO 5703) students will:

  • Write and revise 6 sets of specific aims on different topics under the guidance of the course instructors
  • Select one set of specific aims for a 30-minute oral Power Point presentation.
    • PowerPoint slides are prepared in advance and given to course instructor for feedback and revision prior to class presentation
    • Presentation should include background and significance and outline experimental approaches. Students are expected to be able to defend all aspects of their proposal.

 - During the spring semester (BIO 5702):

  • Students will work to turn the project they selected for the oral presentation in BIO 5703 into a full length NIH NRSA style proposal under the guidance of the course instructor
  • Submit their final proposals for evaluation in faculty led by student run study sections modeled on the NIH. Each proposal will be evaluated by 2 students serving as Reviewers 1 and 2 and by the faculty leader serving as Reviewer 3
  • DBBS Fellowship Writing Workshops (Fall Year 1). To obtain further practice writing, students who have not received outside funding prior to graduate school are encouraged to participate in DBBS predoctoral fellowship workshops during the fall of their first year.
Year Two:
Bio 5723- Seminar in Plant and Microbial Biosciences: 
  • 2 credit course. Will count towards PMB’s journal club course requirement
  • Students will divvy up assigned papers and present them such that each student gets a fair share of the burden
  • Presenting student writes a 1 page primer on each paper to hand out to the class prior to their presentation. (Primers are essentially short reviews of the field that hit only the highest highlights—see Current Biology Quick Guides and Primers for examples)

​Elective courses: 

In addition to the core requirements, students must take at least 6 credits of advanced electives (400 level or higher) that facilitate specialization in their area of interest. Students are strongly recommended to complete their elective requirement by the end of year two. Relevant, popular courses include:

  • How Plants Work: Plant Physiology, Growth and Metabolism (Fall, odd years); Bio 4023; 3 credits
  • Advanced Genetics (Spring); Bio 5491; 3 credits. This course is recommended strongly for all students. In addition to the material covered, students write a research proposal on a topic that can be developed further for the qualifying exam (see below)
  • Fundamentals of Molecular Cell Biology (Fall); Bio 5068; 4 credits
  • Developmental Biology (Spring); Bio 5352; 3 credits
  • Molecular Microbiology & Pathogenesis (Spring); Bio 5392; 3 credits
  • Protein Analysis, Proteomics and Protein Structure Laboratory (Spring); Bio 4522; 3 credits
  • Computational Molecular Biology (Fall) Bio 5495; 3 credits
  • Genomics (Spring) Bio 5488; 3 or 4 credits
  • Statistics for Medical and Public Health Researchers (Spring) Math 507M; 3 credits.
  • Metabolic Engineering and Synthetic Biology (Fall) EECE 596A.
  • Mass Spectrometry (Spring); Chem 550; 3 credits.
  • Biotech Industry Innovators (Spring); Bio 5014; 3 credits.

Important notes concerning course requirements:

  1. Students must earn a grade of B- or better in core courses. Students earning grades lower than B- will need to take the course again so that they can master the material.
  2. Students must earn a grade of C or better in advanced elective courses.
  3. Students who meet only the minimum course requirements take only 15 credits of lecture courses. It has come to the attention of the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences that some universities in the southeastern Unites States have a requirement that their professors must have taken at least 18 credits of lecture courses during their Ph.D. studies in order for them to be eligible to teach. Journal clubs and our ethics course do not count toward this requirement. The Plant Program has opted not to require 18 credits of lecture courses for the Ph.D. degree but students may wish to voluntarily take another course beyond the minimum requirements.

Other scholarly activities:

All PMB graduate students are expected to regularly attend and participate in:

  • Plant and Microbial Biosciences Breakfast, held every Friday at 9:00am - 10:00am
  • The annual PMB Retreat held in the Fall
  • Relevant biology seminars sponsored by the Biology Department, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and the Division of Biology and Biomedical Sciences.

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