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The Curriculum

The curriculum is designed for students to complete the Ph.D. degree in five to six years and is geared to train students for successful careers in biomedical research. The number of courses required is fairly limited, thus providing ample time and flexibility for pursuit and development of individualized research interests. There are no teaching assistant requirements. Stipends for students are provided for laboratory research.

First year. The first year is devoted largely to course work, plus students rotate through three different laboratories each year to learn about research areas and methods from different selected Molecular Biology Faculty. The laboratory rotations also serve to familiarize students with laboratories and mentors that they may choose for their thesis research. Each laboratory rotation is followed by a 15-minute research seminar presentation by the student to the entire Program in the regular Program seminar series. At the end of the first year, the Program administers a general written examination on all of the first-year course work. Students in the first year and all subsequent years also participate in Program sponsored journal clubs, research seminars, mini-courses and the annual retreat (see Program Activities). After successful completion of the first-year curriculum, students select a thesis mentor and begin their thesis research project.

Didactic courses:

  • Biomedical Sciences Core Course (10 hours, Fall semester). This is a core course required for 1st year Ph.D. students from all CU programs, which covers the fundamentals of biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, molecular biology, and physiology.
  • Advanced Topics in Molecular Biology (4 hours, Spring semester).
  • Electives (2-4 hours in Spring semester)

Second year. Although most of the didactic courses are completed in the first year, some additional course work is taken in the second year to round out the curriculum.

Didactic courses:

  • Ethics in Research (1 hour, Fall semester)
  • Scientific Writing (2 hours, Spring semester)
  • Electives (student/mentor choices)

The majority of time in the second year is spent in the laboratory developing a research thesis project. After completion of the 2nd year, students take the qualifying examination to advance to the Ph.D. candidacy. This examination consists of a written thesis proposal in the form of a research grant application and an oral defense.

Third-Fifth Years. The remaining time in the Program is devoted to completion of the thesis research project. The thesis research should be completed within the next 2-3 years. Throughout the remainder of their studies, students are given many opportunities to develop analytic and communication skills and to interact with colleagues and peers in the scientific community at large. Students give frequent formal and informal presentations of their research at laboratory group meetings, at the weekly Program seminar series, and at national/international scientific conferences. Students are expected, during the course of their research, to write and publish papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.