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 - BMB students are required to take Protein Fundamentals, Biophysical Properties of Biomolecules, Fundamentals of Biological Data Analysis, one course in Cell Biology, and one of the following two courses: one course in Molecular Biology OR Nucleic Acid Structure and Function. The remaining two elective courses can range from a variety of topics including, but not limited to, chemical biology, evolution of biological molecules, computational biology, molecular immunology and membrane protein biochemistry. In addition to the didactic courses, students participate in additional activities during their first year (1) Students attend the bi-weekly Faculty Research Seminar Series (“Allstars”) where principal investigators present their research to help expose students to the ongoing projects in each laboratory. (2)  In the Fall Quarter students participate in a course focused on the BMB seminar program, in which research of the invited seminar speakers is discussed and the seminar evaluated.  This experience gives students valuable training in presenting their research. (3) In the  Winter Quarter, students participate in the ethics course required by the Division of Biological Sciences.  

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 is optional but requires approval from the Curriculum Committee Chair. 

PRELIMINARY EXAM - Students complete a proposal writing workshop at the end of June, and take the Preliminary Examination at the end of July/early August, 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.