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A synopsis of GMB program requirements is listed here. Links to full descriptions of policies will be added as they are approved.


Each student must take at least five scientific courses, including:

  • Core course in genetics and molecular biology:
    • GNET 621:  Principles of Genetics Analysis
    • Either GNET 631 or 632: Advanced Molecular Biology
  • One seminar/journal club course where the primary emphasis is on reading and interpreting research papers. This must be a full-semester course of 2 credit hours or more). Seminar courses outside of GNET are acceptable. See the GNET courses page for examples. Only one such course may count toward the 5-course total.
  • The remaining two courses can come from elective courses in genetics, molecular biology, bioinformatics and computational biology, or another relevant area of science. Any combination of modules totaling 3 credit hours may be combined to count as one elective course.
  • Every student must take at least one module or course with a quantitative, computational, or statistics focus. This may count toward the two electives or may be in addition to the electives (e.g., you may take two 3-credit courses plus one q/c/s module, or you may take a 3-credit q/c/s course that counts as one of the electives, or you may take a 1-credit q/c/s plus a 2-credit module to count as one elective). Examples include (other courses or modules may be used, subject to approval of the DGS):
    • GNET 645: Quantitative Genetics
    • GNET 742: UNIX and Python for Biomedical Scientists
    • GNET 747: Development of Newn Applications for Next-Generation Sequencing
    • GNET 749: Practical RNA-Seq
    • Any BCB module

Some GMB program requirements involve being registered for additional training courses. These do not count toward the requirement for five scientific courses. Examples include GNET 850 (for TAing), GNET 701-3 (student and faculty talks), GNET 888 (Responsible Conduct of Research), GNET 994 (Dissertation Research), etc.

Please see the GNET courses page for descriptions of GNET courses and a partial listing courses that may be used to meet the seminar course requirement.

Please see the page on certificate programs for information on how to combine requirements with those programs.

Teaching assistantship

Each student must serve as a teaching assistant (TA) for one approved undergraduate or graduate course (or set of modules). Assignments are made by the Director, based on availability and student preferences.  Students register for course credit (GNET 850 – Training in Genetics Teaching) and do not receive payment toward the stipend and tuition. A list of available courses will be available to students and every effort will be made to match students to desired courses.

Students that enter through BBSP and select an advisor in the Department of Biology or Chemistry and whose funding is administered by that department are required to TA for a service course (e.g., Biology core courses) to meet the BBSP reinvestment requirement (how those departments contribute financial resources to run BBSP). This TA appointment will meet the GMB TA requirement.

Written exam

A written examination is given in mid-to-late June each year. Students take the exam after year 1 or year 2, depending on when the appropriate coursework has been completed. This decision is made between the student and the Director at the time the student joins GMB (usually May of the first year). The exam is created and graded by a committee of six Curriculum faculty selected by the Director. Each member assigns a reading list of research papers in a topics of their choice.  These are distributed to students two weeks prior to the exam. Each student is expected to become thoroughly familiar with the topics and the assigned papers. The exam is administered across two days, with questions on three topics each day. The Student Services Manager emails these questions to the students at 9 am, and responses must be returned by email by 5 pm. Students are notified of their performance approximately four weeks after the exam. Any student who does not pass the exam will be given another opportunity to take the written exam one year later. A second failure of the exam results in academic ineligibility to continue in the Ph.D. program.

Please see the written exam policy page for a full description.

Meetings with the dissertation committee

The student assembles a dissertation committee by the end of the 2nd year. Committees consist of at least five faculty members, a majority of which (typically 3/5) must be members of GMB. Others outside the Curriculum or the University are permissible, provided they are full members of the Graduate Faculty or made “Fixed Term Appointees” by the Graduate School. A member other than the advisor is chosen to chair the committee, including during the preliminary oral exam meeting.  The committee should be established and the first meeting held before the end of the 4th semester.  The 2nd meeting is usually the oral exam (see below). Thereafter, a meeting should be held at least once every 12 months through the 5th year, then every six months.

Please see the dissertation committee and meeting policy page for a full description.

Preliminary oral exam

The oral exam consists of a written dissertation proposal and an oral defense of the proposal. The written proposal takes the format of an NIH NRSA grant proposal, as described in the document below.  Proposals are provided to committee members at least one week prior to the oral exam. The exam must be taken by the end of the fall semester of the 3rd year.  For the oral examination students prepare a formal presentation of approximately 30 minutes (if uninterrupted). During this presentation, the student should expect to be interrupted with questions, yet retain the flow of the presentation. The committee’s questions should focus on the dissertation work, in particular to determine whether the proposed work is feasible, and whether the student has an adequate grasp of the literature and the skills to accomplish the work in a timely fashion. General, scientific questions that do not directly pertain to the dissertation are also permitted.  For the full policy, please click on the link below.

Please see the oral exam policy page for a complete description.

Seminar participation

Attendance at the GMB faculty (Fridays at noon) and student (Tuesdays at 9am) seminar series is mandatory during the 2nd and 3rd years of graduate school. Each students in their 3rd year or above presents their research annually in this seminar series.  Students participate in the formation of the Friday faculty seminar series by serving on a student committee that invites and hosts faculty from other institutions.

Please see the seminar attendance policy page for a complete description.

Retreat participation

One weekend each fall the Department of Genetics and GMB co-host a scientific retreat, usually at a beach or mountain resort, in which students, postdocs, and faculty present talks or posters in a conference format. Student participation in the annual retreat is expected throughout the graduate training period.


Publish a first author peer-reviewed research paper

All GMB Curriculum PhD candidates must publish at least one first-authored (includes co-first authorship), peer-reviewed research manuscript. This paper should be formally accepted for publication prior to defending the dissertation. The dissertation committee may allow the student to defend the dissertation if a publication is under review, but graduation will still be contingent on acceptance of the paper. In rare extenuating circumstances, exceptions to the publication requirement may be granted. Requests for exceptions require a written petition to the GMB Director explaining the reason(s) for the request. All members of the student’s dissertation committee must sign this petition. The GMB Director will present the petition to the Advisory Committee, which will decide the outcome by majority vote.

Please see the publication policy page for a complete description.

Publications by GMB Students

Final oral defense of the written dissertation

The final oral exam is preceded by a public presentation of the dissertation research lasting 45-50 minutes. The oral defense is then held with the dissertation committee, using a format chosen by the committee.

Please see the dissertation and defense policy page for a complete description.