Graduate Bulletin

Spring 2018

Description of the Molecular and Cellular Biology Program

The Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) Graduate Program offers a multidisciplinary course of study leading to the Ph.D. degree. Diverse biological systems of study from plants to humans are pursued in MCB research laboratories. These systems are used to investigate a variety of biological topics including: Cancer, Infectious Disease, Gene Expression, Structural Biology, Neurobiology, DNA Replication, Development, Immune Response, Cell Cycle, Protein Trafficking, Signal Transduction, and Biological Membranes. The MCB Program provides students with the opportunity to select an academic program in one of three specializations:

1.        Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

2.        Cellular and Developmental Biology

3.        Immunology and Pathology.

Each of the specializations enhances knowledge within the field to ensure our graduates are well equipped for a successful career in research.

The program of study in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry includes Physical Biochemistry and any of a number of electives. Training stresses biochemical and structural approaches to solve biological problems. The program of study in Cellular and Developmental Biology includes a course in Developmental Biology and any of a number of electives. Emphasis is placed on the control mechanisms that define and regulate growing and developing systems. The program of study in Immunology and Pathology includes courses in Immunology and General Pathology. This area of specialization emphasizes the cellular and molecular basis of human disease to foster a bridge between basic and clinical research.

The goal of this approach is to provide the student with the widest range of research possibilities. During the first year students participate in several core courses that serve to build a scholastic foundation for further study. The core courses include Graduate Biochemistry, Molecular Genetics, and Cell Biology. In addition, students receive training to critically evaluate original research articles in a Journal Club/Readings course. Students can select an area of specialization at the time of enrollment or they can decide on a course of study during their first year.

The MCB Program involves students in ongoing research projects as soon as they arrive on campus. During the first academic year, students train in four different research laboratories to help in choosing a mentor for thesis dissertation. The first laboratory training, or rotation, is usually at Stony Brook University, but subsequent rotations can be performed at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory or Brookhaven National Laboratory. The MCB Program crosses departmental boundaries and institutions to offer the student thesis research training in nearly 100 different laboratories. A decision for a thesis advisor is generally made by the end of the first academic year and research studies will subsequently form the foundation of a Ph.D. thesis.

All students in the MCB Program gain experience and skills in teaching and oral presentation of their research studies. Students assist in teaching undergraduate laboratory or lecture courses during two consecutive semesters, usually the second and third semesters. The teaching experience can include assistance in formulation/grading of examinations and individual tutoring sessions. In the third and subsequent years graduate students present their research progress to other students and faculty in a seminar forum. The student seminars are an opportunity to gain communication skills and to learn about ongoing research of other students in different laboratories. In addition to student seminars, a number of faculty from outside the institution are invited for weekly seminars. These are opportunities to meet visiting scientists who are leaders in their field and to learn of their latest findings.

In the second year of the MCB Program students take a comprehensive qualifying exam. Following successful performance, students focus on their thesis research. By the end of the second year, students prepare a written Ph.D. Thesis Proposal in consultation with their faculty thesis advisor. The proposal is defended orally before a proposal committee comprised of faculty selected by the student. Following successful defense of the proposal, the student advances to candidacy and the proposal committee along with the faculty advisor become the student’s Ph.D. Thesis Committee. The Ph.D. Thesis Committee meets at least once a year with the student to assess progress and discuss research strategies.

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