PhD in MCBB
The PhD in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, & Biochemistry (MCBB) is designed to build a solid foundation in these three related fields through coursework and seminars, and to develop the skills for achieving cutting-edge research accomplishments. The program is based on an interdisciplinary environment and a breadth of approaches and biological interests, including faculty from multiple departments (e.g. Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Health Sciences). Its goal is to propel students into successful careers in academia, research institutions, industry (e.g. biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries), or in government as policy makers. The program accepts applicants with degrees in related disciplines where the focus has been on biology, chemistry, biotechnology, biochemistry, or a relevant field.
The MCBB Program guarantees support for five years for all PhD students, contingent on satisfactory performance in the program.
How to Apply Frequently Asked Questions
1. Demonstrate academic mastery in the interrelated biological disciplines encompassing at least two of three biological areas: 1) molecular biology, 2) cell biology, and 3) biochemistry, plus in computational analysis.
2. Attain research expertise and complete a significant body of original research that advances a specific field of study in the biological sciences.
3. Follow the ethics for appropriate behavior in the scientific discipline.
4. Be able to teach and promote the field of biological sciences.
5. Be prepared to enter the job market.
Coursework & Other Requirements
A total of 64 credits is required. Of these, a minimum of 32 credits must derive from lecture or seminar courses, and a minimum of 12 credits from elective courses. Remaining coursework normally consists of research credits. Course requirements are as follows:
- BI 735 Advanced Cell Biology (4 credits)
- BI 753 Advanced Molecular Biology (4 credits)
- MB 721 Graduate Biochemistry (4 credits) OR MB 722 Advanced Biochemistry (4 credits)
- MB 697 A Bridge to Knowledge: A Practical Seminar for First-Year Graduate Students (1 credit)
- MB 581 Grant Writing Seminar (2 credits)
- BI 583 Progress in Cell & Molecular Biology (2 credits)*
- BI 584 Progress in Cell & Molecular Biology (2 credits)*
- MB 791 Graduate Laboratory Rotations 1 (2 credits)
- MB 792 Graduate Laboratory Rotations 2 (2 credits)
- Quantitative course, as most appropriate for the student’s PhD research (3-4 credits, see Graduate Program Guide for recommendations)
- 8 credits of elective courses chosen in consultation with the student’s advisor
- The final credits required for the Ph.D. degree, for a total of 64, consist normally of research credits (MB 907/MB 908 Research in MCBB)
All students participate in the MCBB seminar program that consists of one required weekly seminar, and a number of optional seminars and colloquia.
Required seminar – CM/MCBB Graduate Student Seminar (BI 583/584): This seminar is the keystone of the program. It offers a chance each week for students in the biological sciences and faculty to meet, and creates a forum for the exchange of ideas. PhD students annually present their laboratory research. MA students must also attend.
*Students are required to attend BI 583/584 throughout their graduate career but only 4 credits may count toward the degree.
First-year PhD students who enter the MCBB Program are required to perform three laboratory rotations of their choice during their first academic year. These laboratory rotations are with MCBB faculty, and each rotation is 6-8 weeks.
All MCBB students are required to submit an annual report each academic year. This report is completed on forms provided by the Graduate Program Specialist. These forms include a summary of courses completed, research progress, courses taught, examinations passed, committee members and meetings held, publications and presentations, a current transcript, and an assessment by the student’s Faculty Advisor.
The PhD program requires a minimum of two semesters of teaching during a student’s graduate career. During the first semester of teaching, students are required to enroll in our first-year seminar course, GRS MB 697 A Bridge to Knowledge. The course provides guidance and training on pedagogy and other aspects of graduate school.
This 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 the proposed research project and ability to synthesize findings and propose and experimentally test hypotheses. It consists of an oral qualifying exam defending a written research proposal, 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 qualifying exam should be completed within 2.5 years of matriculation into the MCBB PhD program.
Dissertation & Final Oral Examination
Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation must be completed and approved by the readers, the director of graduate studies, and the department chair/program director. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as a valuable contribution to knowledge in their fields and demonstrate a mastery of their fields of specialization in relation to their dissertation. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.
Forms and additional information about PhD graduation can be found on the GRS website.
9 – 12 months before proposed graduation date
- Dissertation Prospectus & approval form due to Graduate Program Specialist for program review and submission to GRS
Semester prior to your intended graduation cycle
- Intent to Graduate Form completed online
About 2 months before dissertation defense
- Meet with Graduate Program Specialist to review requirements for defense
- Arrange for Special Service Appointments if committee members are not BU faculty
- Send first draft of dissertation to readers
Once defense date is confirmed with committee
- Reserve room(s) for public seminar and defense
At least three weeks prior to dissertation defense
- Schedule of Final Oral Exam with Abstract Approval due to GRS
- Properly formatted draft of dissertation submitted as PDF to firstname.lastname@example.org
At least two weeks prior to dissertation defense
- Send dissertation to all committee members
At least one week prior to dissertation defense
- Send program information to Graduate Program Specialist
See the Graduate Program Guide for final dates to submit dissertation to ETD
- Submit final dissertation to ETD (online submission)
- Submit signature page to Graduate Program Specialist with original signatures from readers
MA Degree (En Route to PhD)
PhD candidates may apply for an MA degree in MCBB after they have successfully passed their Qualifying Examination and completed 32 credits of graduate-level course work. Applications are available online using the GRS Intent to Graduate for a Master’s Degree Form. The student’s major professor receives notification of this application process.
Officially, the PhD must be completed within seven years after the first registration for doctoral study. PhD degrees are conferred in either May, August, or January, as specified on the GRS website. In addition, the PhD candidacy expires after the fifth anniversary of passing the Qualifying Examination. Petitions to extend this deadline are possible at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies, the Department Chair, and the Dean of the Graduate School, and can be obtained from the Office of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
The MCBB Program guarantees support for five years for all PhD students, contingent on satisfactory performance in the program. PhD students are encouraged to apply for fellowships and grants at funding agencies. All domestic students should apply for NSF Graduate Research Fellowships in the Fall semester of their first or second year.
Travel Grants may be available to assist students in their travel to professional scientific meetings; students presenting papers or posters on their research will receive first consideration.
Common Types of Funding:
Dean’s Fellowships: These are non-service fellowships allocated to first-year PhD students that do not have immediate teaching requirements.
Teaching Fellowships: These provide a stipend plus full tuition and fees for up to four full courses per semester plus a 2-credit teaching course. Teaching responsibilities usually require approximately 20 hours per week. Full or partial awards may be given.
Doctoral Research Fellowships: These awards are given to students who assist individual faculty with specific areas of research. These Research Fellowships provide a stipend and full tuition. The supervising faculty member determines the specific duties of the Research Fellow.