Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Sciences

The mission of the Ph.D. Program in Biomedical Sciences (BMS) is to educate graduate students in scholarly, interdisciplinary approaches to conducting research from the molecular basis to systems level approaches for the study of human disease, and the function of the human genome in aging, development, neuropathology, cancer, and other diseases. Graduates of this program will be prepared to join the scientific workforce trained and ready for careers in an interdisciplinary environment.

Ph. D. students in the BMS program are required to take the following courses offered by faculty in the BMS and Biology departments:

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Research Rotations
New students are required to perform at least three laboratory rotations in the first year before choosing a home lab for dissertation research. These rotations are meant to provide students with scientific training and opportunities to become familiar with faculty research projects, new techniques, specific lab environments, and lab personnel. For each rotation, students are required to write a project summary of their experience. Students match to their thesis lab after the final rotation.

Introduction to Biomedical Sciences
This literature-based course provides students with rigorous and interactive training in the areas of: i) reading and evaluating experimental studies, ii) interpreting experimental outcomes, and iii) clearly communicating scientific results and implications to the scientific community. Upon completion of this course, students will be comfortable reading the literature to keep up to date in diverse biomedical topics, provide critical evaluations of published experimental studies, formulate testable hypotheses based on the available literature, and to design and interpret experiments to assess specific experimental questions.

Advanced Molecular Biology
This lecture-based course introduces students to advanced concepts in molecular biology. Students read published literature in molecular biology and discuss during classes. 

This highly interactive course covers recent advances in molecular and cell biology, including transcription, post transcriptional control, translation, signal transduction, DNA repair, cell cycle, apoptosis, and proteomics. Students receive a comprehensive overview of the progress in relevant fields. In addition, students read assigned publications and discuss during classes.

Advanced Cell Biology
This course is mainly lecture-based, but includes reading of some significant milestone research publications. Students ultimately gain a comprehensive understanding of recent advances in the field of cell biology.

Ethics and Professional Integrity in Research
This course is focused on the ethics and responsible conduct of research relevant to biomedical and behavioral sciences, including both human and animal research. The course is grounded in introductory moral philosophy, exposing students to some of the major moral theories of Western tradition. This course is offered every other year (taken during the first or second year). Successful completion can be used to satisfy Responsible Conduct of Research training requirements of the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health.

This course introduces students to statistical methods used to enable data analysis in biomedical science. Topics include data collection, sample variation, probability, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing, contingency tables, correlation, regression, and nonparametric methods. Principle components analysis and clustering are also included. This course is offered every other year (taken during the first or second year).

Professional Development
This career development course is designed to equip students with the professional skills they need to complement their ongoing laboratory training and to prepare them for the transition to the next phase of their career. In this course, students are exposed to different aspects of research related topics, such as bioinformatics, experimental design, research commercialization, career development, interview skills, time and personnel management, grant applications, collaboration, and publication. This course is offered in the summer every other year. First and second year students are strongly encouraged to take this course.

The BMS Ph. D. program is also offering the following elective courses for our graduate students:

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Scientific Presentations
In this seminar-based course, students learn how to develop their public speaking skills by interacting with expert presenters. Students present multiple seminars under the guidance of their instructor. Students are expected to answer questions about the science presented in a Socratic method. Written, constructive feedback from the audience is also provided. This course is offered in the summer every other year. Second and third year students are expected to take this course.

Molecular Mechanisms of Human Diseases
The main objective of the course is to introduce modern and translational biomedical research. Students gain general knowledge of the most common human diseases with respect to clinical relevance, pathophysiology and molecular medicine. In addition, the course discusses the challenges and attempts to find the cure for these diseases.

Human Congenital and Developmental Diseases
This course typically covers following three topics with regard to the molecular basis of congenital and developmental disorders: genomic instability and cancer development, stem cell and its application in disease treatment, and neurodevelopmental disorders. Instructors present research articles, which is followed by an instructor-led discussion. Active involvement is expected from every student. At the end of the course, students present a research article from one of the three focus areas and are evaluated by the instructors and peers.

This course introduces students to important principles in neuropsychopharmacology, including basic principles in pharmacology (e.g., distribution and elimination of drugs), and the cellular (e.g., drug-receptor interactions) and molecular (e.g., second messenger/signaling pathways) bases of drug effects in the central nervous system. The basics of pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics, as well as how various drugs alter the functioning of the autonomic system and CNS, are covered in detail.

Modeling Human Diseases
This course combines lectures, student-led presentations, and discussions of journal articles, all of which focus on organismal and other models for human diseases. Students gain knowledge of model organisms or model systems (computational and otherwise) to understand the etiology of disease and to design and test disease interventions. Students design an experiment focused on their own dissertation research project by using a new model to answer a unique problem, which is presented to the group.


In addition to take the required courses as well as some of the elective courses, the students in the BMS Ph. D. program will meet the following requirements for graduation:

Qualifying Exam
The qualifying exam includes two parts, the written section and the oral defense of the prospective. Students are expected to finish the written section during the summer of their second year and the prospective defense during the fall semester of their third year. The questions for the written section are from the thesis committee members. The students will become Ph. D. candidates after they pass the qualifying exam.

Department Presentation
Students in the BMS Ph.D. program are required to give a department presentation before their thesis defense. The purpose of this presentation is part of the communications skills training for graduate students.