Program of Study

The interdisciplinary nature of the program attracts students with diverse backgrounds. To develop an appropriately customized curriculum, each student meets at the beginning of the first year with the program directors to select courses and to discuss laboratory rotations. These meetings continue on a regular basis until the student​ identifies a thesis committee chair. Typically, first-year students participate in three laboratory rotations prior to selecting a thesis lab.

BBSB students will typically take four to six courses in their first year and must complete the following requirements during their graduate education:

DBBS-wide requirements:

BBSB-specific requirements

  • Chemistry and Physics of Biomolecules (BIO 5357)
  • Four (4) semesters of BBSB Student Seminar (BIO 5469) 
     - A student seminar series in which students present their current work to BBSB peers. 
     - Students receive feedback from their peers on both their science and presentation. 
  • Three (3) advanced electives
     - Courses must be offered through DBBS or through ChemistryPhysics, or Mathematics Departments as 500 level graduate courses unless otherwise approved by program directors.
     - MSTP students may use their medical courses to satisfy this requirement.
  • Three (3) semesters of journal clubs
     - A variety of journal clubs provide topics aligned with student interests.
     - Students present at least once in each semester for credit and will receive feedback.
     - Students are encouraged to continue participation in journal clubs aligned with their interests throughout their graduate career. 

After taking the first year of classes and selecting a laboratory, students will develop and defend a novel research project of their own design in the qualifying exam (see guidelines for more details). During this process, which has both a written and oral component, students identify important gaps in knowledge based on primary literature, develop clear hypotheses, and devise quantitative experiments to test said hypotheses. 

Students will then assemble a thesis committee within 6 months and propose their thesis project within 9 months of passing the QE. Large amounts of preliminary data are not required to propose a thesis project.

Significant progress on the thesis project (as judged by the thesis committee and most likely including published works in peer-reviewed journals) is required prior to a thesis defense and graduation.

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