PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry
Curriculum and Requirements
The Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry (MCBB) program offers post-bachelor’s and post-master’s PhDs. Course descriptions are located in the Courses portion of this Bulletin. For details on requirements regarding grade point averages, annual reports, and responsible conduct in research, please see the MCBB graduate program guide at www.bu.edu/mcbb.
For the post-master’s PhD, a total of 32 course credits is required. The required courses are the same as described below for the post-bachelor’s PhD. However, depending on the student’s background, one or more of the required courses may be waived in consultation with the instructors of those courses, subject to the approval of the MCBB Program Committee. No more than 4 credits may be derived from 2-credit seminar/readings courses.
For the post-bachelor’s PhD degree in MCBB, a total of 64 course credits is required. Of these, a minimum of 32 credits must come from lecture, seminar, or laboratory courses, distributed as follows:
Required Core Courses (20 credits total)
- CAS BI 583 Progress in Cell & Molecular Biology (2 cr)
- CAS BI 584 Progress in Cell & Molecular Biology (2 cr)
- GRS BI 735 Advanced Cell Biology (4 cr)
- GRS BI 753 Advanced Molecular Biology (4 cr)
- GRS MB 697 A Bridge to Knowledge: A Practical Seminar for First-Year Graduate Students (1 cr)
- GRS MB 721 Graduate Biochemistry (4 cr) OR MB 722 Advanced Biochemistry (4 cr)
- SPH BS 704 Introduction to Biostatistics, at the School of Public Health (3 cr)
Elective Courses (at least 12 credits total)
For the post-bachelor’s PhD, students, in consultation with their advisor, choose an additional 12 credits in elective courses. The final 32 credits required for the post-bachelor’s PhD , for a total of 64 credits, normally consist of research credits.
For the post-master’s PhD, students, in consultation with their advisor, choose a minimum of four additional credits in elective courses. Remaining credits, for a total of 32 credits, consist of research credits.
Appropriate courses are listed below. However, other courses, subject to the approval of the MCBB committee, may also be appropriate depending on the student’s area of research:
- CAS BB 522 Molecular Biology Laboratory (4 cr)
- CAS BF 527 Bioinformatics Applications (4 cr)
- CAS BI 502 Topics in the Theory of Biological Networks (4 cr)
- CAS BI 505 Evolution and Development (4 cr)
- CAS BI 545 Neurobiology of Motivated Behavior (4 cr)
- CAS BI 551 Biology of Stem Cells (4 cr)
- CAS BI 554 Neuroendocrinology (4 cr)
- CAS BI 556 Membrane Biochemistry (4 cr)
- CAS BI 572 Advanced Genetics (4 cr)
- CAS BI 576 Carcinogenesis (4 cr)
- CAS BI 581/582 Seminar in Biology (2 cr each)
- CAS CH 525 Physical Biochemistry (4 cr)
- ENG BE 500 Epigenomics (4 cr)
- ENG BE 508 Quantitative Studies of the Respiratory and Cardiovascular Systems (4 cr)
- ENG BE 517 Optical Microscopy of Biological Materials (4 cr)
- ENG BE 560 Biomolecular Architecture (4 cr)
- ENG BE 561 DNA Protein Sequence Analysis (4 cr)
- ENG BE 565 Molecular Biotechnology (4 cr)
- ENG BE 705 Single Molecule Approaches to Biophysics and Bioengineering—Fundamentals and Applications (4 cr)
- ENG BE 706 Quantitative Physiology for Engineers (4 cr)
- ENG BE 768 Biological Database Analysis (4 cr)
- ENG BE 777 Computational Genomics (4 cr)
- GMS BT 520 Biology of Cancer (4 cr)
- GMS MI 713 Comprehensive Immunology (4 cr)
- GMS MI 823 Special Topics in Microbiology
- GRS BI 610 Cellular Aspects of Development and Differentiation (4 cr)
- GRS BI 642 Physiology and Biochemistry of Reproduction (4 cr)
- GRS BI 645 Cellular and Molecular Neurophysiology (4 cr)
- GRS BI 646 Biology of the Cell Cycle (4 cr)
- GRS BI 655 Developmental Neurobiology (4 cr)
- GRS BI 681 Molecular Biology of the Neuron (4 cr)
- GRS BI 708 Biochemical and Molecular Aspects of Development (4 cr)
- GRS CH 625 Enzymology: Mechanisms of Enzymatic Reactions (4 cr)
- GRS CH 626 Epigenetics (4 cr)
- GRS CH 627 RNA Structure and Function (4 cr)
- GRS CH 629 DNA Nanotechnology (4 cr)
- GRS CH 632 Advanced Coordination Chemistry II: Inorganic Reaction Mechanisms (4 cr)
- GRS CH 633 Physical Methods for Inorganic and Bioinorganic Chemistry (4 cr)
- GRS CH 634 Metallobiochemistry (4 cr)
- GRS MB 701/702 Graduate Readings in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry (2 cr each)
- GRS PY 771 Concepts in Biophysics (4 cr)
- SAR HS 560 Muscle Biology in Health and Disease (4 cr)
- SPH BS 723 Introduction to Statistical Computing (4 cr)
PhD candidates in the post-bachelor’s program may apply for the MA upon successful completion of the qualifying examination, provided that the coursework requirements for the MA have been satisfied. In this case, no thesis or scholarly review paper is required.
For the PhD, a qualifying examination must be passed. The examination is designed to test the student’s general knowledge encompassing molecular biology, cell biology, and biochemistry as well as the student’s grasp of areas related to the proposed research project. It is normally taken in the second year after most or all of the formal coursework has been completed. It consists of a written preliminary exam, offered twice a year, and an oral qualifying exam administered by a committee of no fewer than five faculty, at least four of whom must be members of the MCBB program (including the thesis advisor). The oral qualifying exam should be passed within six months of the preliminary exam. Any student failing this examination may, at the discretion of the examination committee, have the opportunity to take it again. Failure of the second examination will be grounds for automatic dismissal from the PhD program and the loss of any further financial aid, although the student may still be eligible for the MA provided that those degree requirements are met.
The program requires a minimum of two semesters’ participation in teaching during a graduate student’s career as part of the PhD.
For the PhD, a dissertation of publication quality describing original research is required. The first reader must be a member of the MCBB program. The thesis committee consists of no fewer than five faculty, of whom at least three (including the first reader) must be members of the MCBB program. At least one outside member is encouraged. After passing the qualifying examination, the student is required to meet with this committee on a regular basis, usually at least once a year, at which time the student’s research progress will be evaluated. Before the thesis defense is scheduled, the committee will agree on the body of work that is sufficient to constitute the thesis. Defense of the research embodied in the thesis includes a public seminar and a private meeting with the faculty committee.