Curriculum and Concentrations

student working in the lab

First Year

The first year curriculum for PhD trainees provides each student with the opportunity to build a strong foundation and understanding of the core concepts, basic techniques, key model systems and strategic scientific discipline. Students receive a thorough grounding in molecular and cellular biology, structural biology, genetics, developmental biology, quantitative biology and biochemistry. 

The curriculum is logically sequenced so that didactic, interdisciplinary training is reinforced in journal clubs and seminar-based courses. Together with the successful completion of four laboratory rotations, this experience provides each trainee with a strong foundation in the basic biomedical sciences while offering individualized hands-on training that will prove instrumental as students acquire special skill-sets for their research. The training experience will enable each trainee to develop specific areas of expertise in the subsequent years of training.

Second Year & Beyond

Upon completion of the first year, each CMDB trainee will be required to select a concentration area. In keeping with the blending of interdisciplinary training with the acquisition of specialized skills, half of the journal club meetings attended by students will cover general topics, and the other half are specialized journal club or joint lab meetings within a particular concentration area. Currently, CMDB has three areas of concentration:

  • Structural & Chemical Biology

Our students will receive in-depth training in modern biochemistry, and will learn to use chemical, biophysical, and computational methods to design novel therapeutics and understand how biomolecules function. A wide array of experimental approaches are used:  crystallography, NMR, fluorescence, chemical cross-linking, and biochemistry. Particular emphasis will be placed on understanding three-dimensional structure, and on quantitative analysis of biochemical data. Students specializing in SCB will be well equipped to help develop and characterize the next generation of new therapeutics and molecular probes.

  • Cell & Developmental Biology

CMDB graduates with a research specialization in developmental and regenerative biology will have a strong foundation in the many areas of pathobiology in which “disease recapitulates development”. Faculty in Cell and Developmental Biology directly link fundamental mechanisms of development—including stem and progenitor cell biology—to pathologic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, neurologic disease, inflammatory disease, aging, and tumorigenesis. A wide array of experimental approaches are used: biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, tissue engineering, and model systems such as Zebrafish, Drosophila, and C. elegans. Students specializing in this track will be well equipped to help develop the next generation of precision-medicine tools.

  • Cancer Biology

Researchers in this specialization track will investigate how genetic and environmental factors result in cancer through the molecular and cellular analyses of cancer stem cells, the disruption of cellular growth control or organismal development. Collaborative studies wedding together clinicians and laboratory scientists not only will help to unveil the biological mechanisms that govern normal and abnormal cellular processes; but, successful outcomes will enable the development of diagnostic tests for early detection, better diagnostic methods using biological markers, more effective treatments and prevention strategies that may offer ‘next generation’ and ‘personalized’ therapeutics.