First Year

OVERVIEW - The first year of graduate study is spent in coursework, independent reading, and exploratory research. These activities prepare BMB students to pursue rigorous and rewarding thesis projects once they join a lab. Students receive guidance in choosing their courses and rotations though one-on-one mentoring sessions with a faculty member who serves as the student's first-year advisor. 

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. The bootcamp includes workshops, tutorials, seminars, and social activities designed to develop students’ computational, statistical, and professional skills, familiarize them with the MBL, and help them get to know their fellow first-year students in the BSD.

COURSEWORK - All graduate students in the BSD take nine graded courses to fulfill the requirements for the Ph.D. BMB students are required to take Protein Fundamentals, Biophysical Properties of Biomolecules, one course in Cell Biology, and one of the following two courses: one course in Molecular Biology OR Nucleic Acid Structure and Function.  Students are required to attend a series of presentations given by Faculty called “Faculty All Stars” and Current Seminar Topics in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Additionally, BMB students are required to participate in two workshops associated with the curriculum.  The first is the Data Science with R Bootcamp that takes place during the fall quarter.  The second is a Proposal Writing Workshop that takes place at the end of spring/beginning of summer quarter and is associated with the Preliminary Examination Process. 

LABORATORY ROTATIONS - BMB students enroll in at least two Research Rotations (one each in the winter and spring quarters) before identifying the lab in which they will pursue their dissertation research. The two rotations are graded and count towards the nine courses required to fulfill the division’s requirements for the Ph.D. Each rotation last ten weeks, coinciding with the academic quarter.  A third rotation in the summer quarter in optional but requires approval from the Curriculum Committee Chair. 

PRELIMINARY EXAM - At the end of June, students take the Preliminary Examination as a first step towards candidacy for the Ph.D. The exam consists of the preparation of a written research proposal in the field of developmental biology and an oral defense of that proposal.  The proposal topic is in the same scientific area as the student's journal club presentation from winter quarter.

JOINING A LAB - Students typically identify a Research Advisor and join a lab by summer quarter.