PhD, MD/PhD in Molecular & Translational Medicine

www.bumc.bu.edu/gpmm

The Graduate Program in Molecular & Translational Medicine (GPMTM) at Boston University is an interdepartmental interdisciplinary program based in the Department of Medicine. The curriculum consists of a year of basic science courses offered through the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences followed by a second year of electives and an innovative Molecular & Translational Medicine Core Curriculum. This Core Curriculum includes the following courses:

  • Genetics and Epidemiology of Disease
  • Cancer Biology
  • Molecular Basis of Organ System Diseases
  • Molecules to Molecular Therapeutics: The Translation of Molecular Observations to Clinical Implementation
  • Biological Core Technologies

During the first year and intervening summer, students rotate in different laboratories within the Department of Medicine or affiliated laboratories and choose a laboratory where they will conduct their research leading to a dissertation. In the spring following the second semester, students take the Tier 1 Qualifying Examination, which is a review of a scientific paper in an examination format. Following completion of all coursework, students write and orally defend their Tier 2 Qualifying Examination, which is a mock research grant on the topic of thesis research. Following completion of the Tier 2 qualifying exams, thesis committees are assembled and required to meet at least twice per year.

Students are expected to participate in Journal Club, Data Club, seminars, ARCs, the annual Evans Medicine Research Days, and the Henry I. Russek Student Achievement Day.

Course of Study

Candidates for a PhD in Molecular & Translational Medicine will have varied scientific and medical backgrounds. To meet the stated goals of the GPMTM and provide intensive scientific training and research experience culminating in a PhD, as well as equip its graduates to carry out independent research, the course of study will be individualized for each candidate depending upon his/her background. This course will be developed by each candidate and his/her program advisor in the GPMTM. The program of study must be approved by the Student Performance Committee.

The Graduate Program in Molecular & Translational Medicine participates in the Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS), which offers training towards the PhD degree by integrating the foundations of interdisciplinary biomedical research with focused investigation and preparation for career advancement.

The PhD program is divided into three parts: Part I, Basic Science Curriculum; Part II, Molecular & Translational Medicine Curriculum; and Part III, Dissertation Research. After successful completion of Parts I and II and prior to initiating dissertation research, each candidate will be expected to complete the Tier 2 Qualifying Examination.

Part I: Basic Science Courses

The first-year basic science curriculum for almost all PhD programs and departments is set up as one major course called Foundations in Biomedical Sciences (FiBS) that runs the full academic year. This innovative and interdisciplinary core course will encompass material that has been traditionally taught in courses of biochemistry, cell biology, genetics and genomics, and molecular biology. These four major topics will be taught as sequential modules. A fifth module will be available as well with a choice of topics, from development and stem cells to physiology and metabolism. This should be a particularly exciting student experience across the graduate school at BUSM. The goals of this new curriculum are to encourage students to think in a rigorous and interdisciplinary fashion; coordinate content across courses and programs; reduce redundancy in course content; decrease lecture hours; and promote collegiality among participating doctoral students.

Modules

  • Foundations in Biomedical Sciences I: Protein Structure, Catalysis and Interaction (roughly “Biochemistry”)
  • Foundations in Biomedical Sciences II: Structure and Function of the Genome (“Genetics and Genomics”)
  • Foundations in Biomedical Sciences III: Architecture & Dynamics of the Cell (“Cell Biology”)
  • Foundations in Biomedical Sciences IV: Mechanisms of Cell Communication (“Signaling”)
  • Foundations in Biomedical Sciences V: Electives (i.e., Development, Physiology, Bioinformatics, Metabolism, etc.)

Part II: Molecular & Translational Medicine Core Curriculum

The Core Curriculum consists of two semesters covering topics on the scientific basis and research methodology of the molecular basis of disease. These courses are taught as advanced graduate seminars. They are required of all GPMTM students in the second year and are open to other students in the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences.

Five courses are offered that address major fields in the molecular basis of human disease: GMS MM 701, 703, and 707. Each course meets one day a week for two hours. GPMTM students are required to take MM 707 and two of the other three courses and are encouraged to take all four. MM 710 and MM 730 are also required. Each course will have its own outside reading.

GMS MM 701 Genetics & Epidemiology of Human Disease (2 credits)

Elective
Fall Semester, Wednesdays 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
Course director: Lindsay Farrer (farrer@bu.edu)
Topics include: Human Genome Structure and Function; Population Genetics; Genetic Risk Assessment; Non-Mendelian Inheritance; Approaches for Studying the Genetics of Complex Traits; Chromosomes and Chromosome Abnormalities; Principles of Cancer Genetics and Genetic Diagnostics; Methods of Human Linkage Analysis; Identifying Human Disease Genes; Genotype-Phenotype Correlations; and Applications of the “New Genetics.”

GMS MM 703 Cancer Biology and Genetics (2 credits)

Elective
Fall Semester, Mondays 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
Course director: David Seldin (dseldin@bu.edu)
This course will cover topics in human tumor biology including: Tumor Progression, Invasion, and Metastasis; Viruses, Immunodeficiency, and Cancer; Chemical Carcinogenesis; Signal Transduction; Anti-Oncogenes and Familial Cancer Syndromes; Apoptosis and Cancer; Cell Cycle Control; DNA Repair; Principles of Cancer Therapy; Immunotherapy of Cancer; Anti-Angiogenesis Therapy; and Modern Molecular Diagnostic Techniques.

GMS MM 707 Organ System Diseases (2 cr)

Required
Fall Semester, Tuesdays 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
Course director: William Cruikshank (bcruiksh@bu.edu)
This course will address current topics in the molecular basis of non-malignant and non-immunologic diseases of man in the fields of Cardiovascular Disease; Hemostasis; Metabolic and Endocrine Diseases; Genetics of Renal Disease; Pulmonary Disease; and Gastrointestinal Disease. Examples of topics that will be covered include the molecular basis of atherosclerotic heart disease and cardiomyopathy; molecular basis of pre-thrombotic disorders (such as Factor V Leyden); leptins and obesity; chloride channels and cystic fibrosis.

GMS MM 710 Molecules to Molecular Therapeutics: The Translation of Molecular Observations to Clinical Implementation (4 credits)

Required
Spring Semester, Mondays and Wednesdays 10 a.m.–12 p.m.
Course directors: Martin Steinberg (mhsteinb@bu.edu) and David Seldin (dseldin@bu.edu)
This course is designed to teach basic research, translational research, and clinical research skills to students in the Molecular & Translational Medicine Curriculum using two disease models: sickle cell anemia; and disorders of protein misfolding, including neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s disease, prion diseases, etc.) and the systemic amyloidoses. Students will first be exposed to the basic mechanisms of gene expression, protein chemistry, pathophysiology, membrane biology and transport, and then shown how to use this information to develop molecularly targeted therapeutic and diagnostic approaches to the disease. By the end of the course, they will have learned how to design and execute clinical trials of targeted therapeutics and even how to move such therapeutics through the FDA approval process.

GMS MM 730 Biological Core Technologies (3 credits)

Required
Spring Semester, Tuesdays 9 a.m.–12 p.m.
Course directors: Katya Ravid and Louis Gerstenfeld (lgersten@bu.edu)
The major goal of this course is to provide an overview of the principles and applications of modern techniques, which are regularly employed in academia and industry as tools for biomolecular and biomedical investigation. This course will focus on technologies that are available at BUSM. Specific technologies include microscopy, FACS, IHC, qPCR, genomic (next gen sequencing and microarrays), proteomics techniques, HTS, fluorescence molecular tomography, ultrasound, and metabolic phenotyping techniques. Offered alternate years.

Research and Facilities

The Department of Medicine occupies modern research laboratories on the Boston University Medical Campus in the Center for Advanced Biomedical Research and the Evans Biomedical Research Center. These buildings provide state-of-the-art research space in an open, spacious environment that is fully supported by research core facilities for computing, animals and transgenic mice, sequencing, microarrays, and others.

Boston University is among the top 20 institutions in the country in NIH-derived research support. The faculty of the Evans Department of Medicine at the Boston University School of Medicine conducts research programs in basic biomedical sciences, translational medicine, and clinical outcomes and epidemiology.

Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research

The Graduate Program in Molecular & Translational Medicine avails itself of the Evans Center for Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research. The purpose of this center is to promote growth and discovery in emerging interdisciplinary biomedical research and educational areas by providing faculty affiliated with the Department of Medicine and various schools, departments and centers at Boston University with a dynamic, interdisciplinary organizational structure that allows investigators with different areas of expertise to collectively address mechanisms of disease and to facilitate new training opportunities.

Medical Campus

Boston University’s Medical Campus (BUMC), which comprises Boston University School of Medicine, Boston Medical Center, BU School of Public Health, and BU’s Goldman School of Dental Medicine, is located in the city’s historic South End, approximately one mile south of downtown Boston.

Admissions & Financial Assistance

Students can matriculate into the Graduate Program in Molecular & Translational Medicine after completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree program or through the combined MD/PhD program at Boston University School of Medicine. In addition, MDs who desire to pursue rigorous scientific training in preparation for a career in academic medicine and research are encouraged to apply. Students admitted to the program are offered full tuition support and an annual stipend.

Applicants interested in the Graduate Program in Molecular & Translational Medicine should apply to the first-year Program in Biomedical Sciences (PiBS) through the Boston University School of Medicine, Division of Graduate Medical Sciences. Applicants should forward an undergraduate transcript, a medical school transcript (post-MD candidates only), and GRE, MCAT, or Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) scores, if applicable.