Requirements for the Ph.D. Degree in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

The predoctoral training program offers its students the opportunity to study questions in virology, bacteriology, mycology, immunology, biochemistry, cancer biology, and cell and developmental biology utilizing the experimental approaches of the molecular biologist and geneticist. Instruction and course planning involve faculty members from the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology and selected members from the Departments of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Medicine, Pathology, Physiology and Biophysics, and Pharmacology, and from three outside institutions (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research). The general philosophy of the Program is that a successful research career in the diverse and heterogeneous area of molecular biology requires a broadly based background, familiarity with at least all of the above areas, and a frame of mind that is receptive to new approaches.

The Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology has an active seminar program of outside speakers who present topics relevant to molecular genetics and microbiology, and there is a yearly retreat in which ongoing research in the Department and recent progress in the field are presented and discussed. This retreat is held early in the fall in order to introduce new students to the faculty, to other students, and to the areas of ongoing research within the Department. The Department also presents a colloquium periodically on human diseases, with outstanding scientists from throughout the world presenting their current work on the selected topic. Students in the program are encouraged to attend all of these programs as part of their training.

In addition to the minimum requirements of the Graduate School, the following are required:

A. Course Requirements
It is the policy of the Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology that a student must obtain a grade of B or higher in each course. The decision to have students who receive a final grade below 3.0 re-take a course will be made by the Program’s Executive Committee on a case-by-case basis.

First Year

MCB 520 Graduate Biochemistry I

HBM 503 Molecular Genetics  

HBM 509 Experimental Molecular Genetics and Microbiology (laboratory rotations)*

HBM 690 Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Seminar    

HBM 522 Biology of Cancer

MCB 656 Cell Biology

HBM 510 Experimental Molecular Genetics and Microbiology (laboratory rotations)*

HBM 690 Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Seminar

HBM 692 Experimental Methods in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

GRD 500 Integrity in Science

Teaching Practicum

*Students rotate through three different laboratories over the course of their first year. At the end of that year, students must identify and enter the laboratory in which they will conduct their dissertation research.

Second Year

HBM 640 Molecular Mechanisms of Microbial Pathogenesis

HBP 533 Immunology

HBM 599 Graduate Research

HBM 690 Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Seminar

HBM 691 Readings in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Literature

Teaching Practicum


HBM 599 Graduate Research

HBM 690 Molecular Genetics and Microbiology Seminar

HBM 693 Research Proposal Preparation in Molecular Genetics and Microbiology

B. Qualifying Exam
After the successful completion of all required courses, the student must write and defend a research proposal in an area distinct from his/her graduate research for the qualifying exam.

C. Dissertation Proposal Exam
Within 16 months of passing the qualifying exam, each student submits a written proposal of his or her dissertation research (similar to an NIH grant proposal) and orally defends the proposal before his or her dissertation committee shortly thereafter.

D. Advancement to Candidacy
After successfully completing all required and elective courses, the qualifying exam, and the dissertation proposal exam, the student will be recommended to the Graduate School for advancement to candidacy.

E. Attendance and Participation in Student Seminar
After being advanced to candidacy, the student is expected to participate actively in the Program’s student seminar series.

F. Ph.D. Dissertation
The research for the Ph.D. dissertation is conducted under the supervision of the dissertation committee, which is appointed by the Program and approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. A formal public oral defense of the dissertation is scheduled, at which the student presents his or her findings and is questioned by members of the dissertation committee and other members of the audience. A closed oral examination before the dissertation committee follows the seminar.

G. Teaching Practicum
It is expected that each graduate student completing a doctoral degree will have functioned as a teaching assistant during at least one semester of his or her graduate studies.

H. Publication Requirement
All students must be the first author of at least one publication of original research in order to graduate.  Students may schedule the dissertation defense, with the approval of the dissertation advisor, once the first-author manuscript has been submitted for publication.