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. As a new student, you participate in lab rotations to sample the interests, approaches, and styles of three different laboratories. This allows you 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, you take a common core program. The fall core consists of integrated biochemistry, genetics, bioinformatics, and critical analysis of scientific literature. You also do three research rotations during the first semester, after which you choose a thesis lab. The spring core courses include cell biology and developmental biology. In addition, you select one journal-style course in a specific subfield (e.g., chromosome and genome biology).

If your native language is not English, you 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 you with professional development in teaching and is also an opportunity to deeply understand a subject by teaching it to others.

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

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

In addition to your main research advisor (thesis mentor), you select an advisory committee of three faculty members whose expertise is appropriate for your research project. The advisory committee is another invaluable source of advice as your research and career advance.

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 your research (which you 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, you focus on your research. You are expected to make a contribution to your field by publishing your thesis research. You can also present your research in a number of different research focus groups on campus and at international meetings. In addition, you 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 your research advisory committee. Upon successfully defending your thesis, your Ph.D. is conferred by the University Graduate School.