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Lab Rotations

Students complete a minimum of two and a maximum of three research rotations in the laboratories of program faculty during the first 12 months of the program. The rotations provide the student a broad experimental experience and help the student to select a laboratory in which to pursue thesis research.


A variety of elective courses are available dealing with subspecialties of biological research as well as with biomolecular structure, techniques in structural elucidation, pharmacology, molecular and cellular biology, and chemistry.

Candidacy for PhD

After successful completion of the Preliminary Exam (typically taken in June of the first year), students elect a thesis mentor and generate a thesis proposal which is presented and defended as part of the Comprehensive Exam. This exam is administered and student progress is monitored by a five-member thesis committee. The thesis work is expected to be completed, written up, and defended within five years after the Preliminary Exam.

Making the Right Moves A practical guide to scientific management.pdf


First year coursework required of all graduate students in any of the Basic Science graduate programs consists of the 5-part Biomedical Sciences Core Course, 3 Research Rotations, Seminars and Ethics in Research.

Specific to the Structural Biology Program, STUDENTS MUST TAKE 5 credits OF THE following STRUCTURE COURSES; STBB 7608, 7609 7631, 7632, or 7633 during their first and/or second year:

Course Description
Molecular Interactions3 hours -Taught Spring of Odd Years Dr. Elan Eisenmesser & Dr. David Bain
Course Description: Provide chemical/physical basis for protein structure, folding, function and stability. Presents methods/principles of protein/peptide purification and enzyme catalysis including electron transfer and mutagenesis. The role of molecular dynamics and use of molecular simulations in the investigations of protein-ligand/protein-protein interactions.
Biophysics & Spectroscopy3 hours - Taught Spring of Even YearsDr. Brad Bendiak & Dr. Krishna Maellela
Course Description: The Biophysics and Spectroscopy course will teach fundamentals of modern molecular spectroscopies and biophysical techniques as applied to biomolecules and the structural/dynamic information they afford.
Molecular Structure A (NMR)1.5 hours-Taught first half of the semester Fall of Odd Years Dr. David Jones
Course Description: Gain an in depth understanding of the underlying principles of an NMR experiment, so that student can turn NMR theory into NMR practice for their research.
 Molecular Structure B (X-Ray Crystallography)1.5 hours-Taught second half of the semester Fall of Odd Years Dr. Rui Zhao
Course Description: Understand the theory and practice of structural determination using x-ray crystallography.
Molecular Structure C (Mass Spec)1.5 hours-Taught first half of the semester Fall of Even Years Dr. Kirk Hansen & Dr. Robert Murphy
Course Description: The purpose of this course is to provide students with a concise understanding of biological mass spectrometry and it application to study and characterize various classes of biomolecules in state of the art research.
Research in Structural Biology & Biochemistry1 credit hours--Taught each SemesterDr. Mair Churchill
Course Description: Research work in Structural Biology and Biochemistry.
Structure Seminar1 credit hour--Taught Fall and Spring SemestersDr. Mair Churchill
Course Description: Seminar series provides a forum for the presentation of scientific experiments and information in structural biology by faculty, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.
Doctoral ThesisVariable 1-10 credits--Taught each SemesterDr. Mair Churchill
Course Description: Doctoral thesis work in Structural Biology and Biochemistry.
Genomics3 credit hours   Taught in Spring of Even YearsDr. David Pollock
An introduction to the theory and practice of genomics. Topics include sequencing and mapping overview of genomes, transcriptomes, bioinformatics and statistics, population-level variation, ethics, evolutionary genomics,epigenomics, proteomics, metagenomics, and function genomics.
Independent Study in Structural Biology and Biochemistry1-3 Variable CreditsDr. Mair Churchill and collaborating faculty
This course is listed for the benefit of the advanced student who desires to pursue one or more topics in Structural Biology & Biochemistry in considerable depth. Supervision by a full-time faculty member is necessary.

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