Genome, Cell, and Developmental Biology Ph.D.

Genome, Cell and Developmental Biology graduate program

Our interdisciplinary program provides students with a large number of potential research projects. New students participate in lab rotations to sample the interests, approaches, and styles of three different laboratories. This allows students to make well-informed decisions about what area of research to pursue and which laboratory to join. Students in the program may graduate with a Ph.D. in Genome, Cell, and Developmental Biology; Genetics; or Plant Sciences.

Degree requirements and professional development

The GCDB program consists of formal coursework, laboratory research, and professional development. During the first year, GCDB students take a common core program. The fall core consists of Integrated Biochemistry, Genetics, Bioinformatics, and Critical Analysis of Scientific Literature. In addition, students do three research rotations during the first semester, after which they choose a thesis lab. The spring core courses include Cell Biology and Developmental Biology. In addition, students select one journal-style course in a specific subfield (e.g., Chromosome and Genome Biology).

Students whose native language is not English are expected to become sufficiently fluent to pass the university's A.I. exam during the first year.

GCDB students are required to teach one semester. This experience provides graduate students professional development in teaching, and also an opportunity to deeply understand a subject by teaching it to others.

In the fall of the second year, students take a professional development course in grant writing. In this course, students learn to write a persuasive proposal on their own research and how to apply for external funding. In the spring, students enroll in a course in ethics and professional development.

During years 2-3, students take minor courses in a subfield of their choosing. Most GCDB students minor in genetics. Upon consultation with their advisor and the GCDB program director, however, students can choose to minor in another subfield that matches their research and career goals.

In addition to a student's main research advisor (thesis mentor), each student selects an advisory committee of three faculty members whose expertise is appropriate for the student's research project. This advisory committee is another invaluable source of advice for the student as his/her research and career advances.

Students in all programs take a preliminary examination at the beginning of their third year. This exam consists of two parts: 1) a written proposal on the student's research (which the student began writing the previous year in Grant Writing), and 2) an oral defense of that proposal. Students who pass this examination are admitted to formal candidacy for the Ph.D.

In subsequent years, students focus on their research. Students in GCDB are expected to make a contribution to their field by publishing their thesis research. Students can also present their research in a number of different research focus groups on campus and at international meetings. In addition, students have the opportunity to attend weekly seminars by world-class visiting scientists and to meet with these scientists over lunch.

The final requirement is a written Ph.D. thesis, which must be defended in a public research seminar and a private meeting with the student's research advisory committee. Upon successfully defending his/her thesis, the student is conferred a Ph.D. Guidance is provided during the pursuit of career goals.