First Year

OVERVIEW - CMB graduate students spend their first year doing coursework, exploring research opportunities, and performing laboratory rotations. A strong emphasis on developing a rigorous knowledge base in cell biology, molecular biology, and genetics prepares students to identify important research questions, define appropriate experimental approaches, and interpret data.

QUANTITATIVE BOOTCAMP - In September, incoming students from all graduate programs in the Biological Sciences Division (BSD) attend a week-long Quantitative Approaches Bootcamp that is held at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, MA. This program brings students together to learn computational, statistical, and professional skills through workshops, tutorials, seminars, and social activities. The result is that all students share a core vocabulary and understanding of computational and quantitative approaches that they can use to communicate across program boundaries.

COURSEWORK - For the doctoral degree, CMB graduate students are required to take a total of nine graded courses. CMB students take one course each in Cell Biology, Genetics, and Molecular Biology, plus another course in one of these areas.  CMB students are also required to take two supplementary courses during the first year: in fall quarter, students attend a series of presentations by faculty to introduce their research programs; during winter quarter, students participate in a scientific ethics course.

LABORATORY ROTATIONS - CMB students perform at least three lab rotations before identifying the lab in which they will pursue their doctoral research. Rotations familiarize students with what it is like to actually work in the labs they are interested in, exposing them to diverse intellectual and technical frameworks, which helps them make an informed decision about which lab they would like to join. Rotations in fall, winter or spring quarter are ten weeks; two rotations of five weeks each may be done in summer quarter. Two rotations will count towards the nine courses required by the division for the PhD degree.

PRELIMINARY EXAM - At the end of the spring quarter, students take the Preliminary Examination as a first step towards candidacy for the Ph.D. Students prepare an original written research proposal over a period of several weeks, which they subsequently present orally to an examining committee of faculty.

JOINING A LAB - Students typically choose research advisors by the beginning of the Summer Quarter after the first year, and begin developing a doctoral thesis research project.