During the first year after entry into the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program, students begin to organize their research proposals with the help of their permanent advisors. At the end of this year, each student prepares a written proposal outlining their dissertation research plans. The preliminary examination for the Ph.D. degree includes approval of the written dissertation proposal by the student's faculty advisory committee, followed by an oral defense of the proposal before the advisory committee.
The second, third, and fourth years are devoted mostly to research related to the student's dissertation problem. The student is usually advanced to candidacy in the third year. In the final year, the dissertation is written and defended in a departmental seminar. This constitutes the final oral examination for the Ph.D. degree. The completion of the program usually requires five years, including the first year in the Graduate Programs in the Biomedical Sciences. The minimum residence requirement is three years.
Students participate in self-directed problem-solving exercises designed to provide familiarity with concepts and methodology in the analysis of enzyme catalysis, protein-nucleic acid interactions, and protein function and regulation. Emphasis is on independent investigation of information resources, development of a research plan, design of experimental approaches, and evaluation of data. Offered every fall semester.
Students attend a weekly Journal Club on current topics in the literature. Students are required to select a scientific research paper in the area of enzymology, macromolecular interaction, cellular regulation, molecular biology, or genetics and give an oral presentation of the scientific background and critical evaluation of the data and conclusions. Each student presents once during each semester. Students work with faculty advisors to master the ability to critically evaluate scientific publications. (Two semesters required)
Students attend a weekly seminar on topics in the literature of biochemistry and molecular biology. Students are required to select a scientific research paper outside the area of their dissertation topic, critically evaluate the data and conclusions, and present the information to faculty and students. Each student presents once during the semester. Students work with faculty advisors to master public presentation of scientific research and to develop the ability to critically evaluate scientific publications. (One semester required)
The ability to write a fundable grant proposal is one of the most important skills biomedical research scientists will need after graduation. A systematic strategy to address this skill is taught, practiced, and evaluated in this one-semester course. Lectures include the basic organization of an NIH-style grant proposal, the purpose and importance of each aspect of the proposal, and an overview of the grant review process. These are followed by presentations of published papers selected by students in areas outside of their fields of dissertation research. The students then develop and prepare their own research proposals on this topic through weekly meetings. Near the end of the term, faculty and students critique the proposals in an NIH-style grant study section. The students then revise their proposals in light of the written critiques, and resubmit them for final evaluation and grading. Offered every spring semester.
The course is designed to study biochemical principles and concepts relevant to understanding the molecular bases of specific human diseases. This lecture-based course is offered every fall semester and meets three days per week. Assigned reading material supplement the lectures and include original papers as well as reviews. This fall, the topics will deal primarily with defects in (1) signal transduction e.g. in cancer, diabetes and vision, (2) protein folding and turnover e.g. in lysosomal storage or aging-related diseases, and (3) metabolic regulation, e.g. in diseases of amino acid metabolism, bleeding disorders, and of the cardiovascular system.
This course introduces students to current practices in genomics and bioinformatics. Topics covered include computational techniques for finding information in biological sequence, genome and molecular structure databases. Students learn to use the publicly available tools used for identifying genes, modeling phylogenetic relationships, molecular structure and biochemical properties. This course also covers identification of informational patterns in DNA and approaches to linking genome data to information on gene function. Lectures are integrated with practical hands-on exercises designed to reinforce the concepts and to develop the necessary computer skills to effectively use the publicly available databases and tools. Offered every summer.
Students may choose to take additional courses outside the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department. Each of the five graduate programs in the School of Medicine offers a wide variety of graduate courses in, for example, virology, signal transduction, pharmacology and a hands-on course in microsopy. Additionally, through a local university exchange program, students may also enroll in courses offered at nearby Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Thus advanced courses are accessible to students in virtually any specialty area in the biomedical sciences that might interest them.