Program Description


Since students enter our program from diverse backgrounds, flexibility in designing the right advanced program for each student is important.

Our curriculum is intended to provide rigorous training in the basic experimental principles that enable the study of any biological problem. We recommend that prospective students take the Logic of Modern Biology course. This course may be augmented with the appropriate combinations of the more specialized courses listed below. Students should also feel free to enroll in advanced courses offered by other programs that may provide the necessary background for the development of their thesis. Your first year advisors will help you with these choices, and more detailed advice is always available from program directors and course leaders.

MEDS 6497-41. Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Journal Club
In this course, students participate in an open and lively forum where students, postdocs and faculty present and discuss “cutting edge” papers. Dr. Christopher Heinen and staff.

MEDS 6444. Molecular Microbiology
Provides first, second and third year graduate students with a broad understanding of the basic microbiology, immunology and clinical consequences of microbial infections. Our goal is to foster an integrated environment in which graduate students and faculty learn to appreciate the important connections between these areas and to think more broadly about the translational implicationsinherent in the infectious disease world. Viral topics include entry, genome replication and gene expression, assembly, viral transformation, pathogenesis, innate and adaptive immune responses, immune evasion, clinical consequences, treatment principles including vaccines and antiviral therapeutics and emerging and re-emerging viruses that threaten human health. Bacterial topics include bacterial ultrastructure, membrane biogenesis, nutrient transport, information flow, genomics and other “omics”, environmental sensing and signal transduction, sporulation, pathogenesis, innate and adaptive immune responses, extracellular and intra cellular pathogens, antimicrobial therapies and resistance, the microbiome and clinical consequences of bacterial infections. The course will include lecture, discussion of primary literature and student presentations. Dr. Sandra Weller, Dr. Justin Radolf and staff.

MEDS 5309. Molecular Basis of Disease
Molecular Basis of Disease is a seminar course for first year MD/PhD students and first and second year PhD students. There are no formal requirements. This is a two-credit course that focuses on the molecular basis of several major human diseases, including cancer, heart disease, ciliopathies, and mental retardation. Oral participation is emphasized, with groups of students formed to discuss controversial topics for each disease module. The final project will be a short News and Views style article on a disease presented in the class. Dr. Kimberly Dodge-Kafka and staff.

MEDS 5369. Advanced Genetics
An advanced course emphasizing approaches to the molecular and genetic analysis of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and their viruses, Drosophila, and yeast. The application of these techniques to problems of genome organization, DNA replication, regulation of gene expression, RNA processing, and differentiation will be discussed. The course combines lectures and discussion of current journal articles. Dr. Asis Das and staff.

MEDS 5351. Biochemistry II (Cool Techniques in Biochemistry)
The goal of this course is to familiarize the students with a variety of powerful and sophisticated modern instrumentations to analyze the properties and interactions of biological macromolecules in vitro and in vivo. The course will cover the principle and practice of various experimental techniques, including titration calorimetry, nuclear magnetic resonance, fluorescence correlation spectroscopy, and DNA microarray technology. In each week, there will be a demonstration of a particular instrumentation, its operation, data acquisition and analysis. In the second part of the course, each student will choose one technique to do a mini-project under the supervision of one participating faculty member to investigate a specific biological problem. Dr. Jeffrey Hoch and staff.

Laboratory Rotations

Laboratory rotations are a major commitment for each student during the first year. They provide practical research experience and exposure to different research approaches and techniques.

Seminar Program

The program hosts a variety of seminars. The Molecular Biology and Biophysics Departmental Seminar Series features invited speakers of international renown. Each year the “Osborne Lecture” celebrates the work of a female scientist who has made significant contributions to her field. There is also a monthly MBB student “Work in Progress” series where students discuss their latest research in an informal setting.

The General Exam

This examination is the formal gateway to the preparation of a thesis. In their second year, students write a research proposal on their proposed thesis topic. This is a remarkable opportunity for students to display their knowledge and expertise in experimental design. In many cases, these examinations have been incorporated into successful fellowship grant applications. This provides the student with direct experience in the grant application process, a critical aspect in career development.

Happy Hours

Individual labs take turns to host the monthly Happy Hour. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the free food and drink and the opportunity to interact with other students, postdocs and faculty.

Annual Research Retreat

Each year, we hold an off-campus research retreat in which labs are given the opportunity to present their research work in the form of seminars and posters. The retreat is run as a mini-conference which provides an excellent opportunity for students to hone their skills in oral and poster presentations.

rev. 10/14