All students are expected to acquire training in biochemistry, molecular biology, cell structure and function, genetics, and developmental biology, through laboratory research, course work, and teaching. Students are also expected to participate in the intellectual life of the Department through regular attendance at seminars and the weekly research talks of students and postdoctoral fellows (MMB - Mostly Molecular Biology), and by participating in journal clubs.
Please refer all questions to our Education Program Manager.
Students rotate through four laboratories of their choice to become familiar with the research programs, gain technical expertise, and immediately become involved in research. In addition to the research labs in MCDB, students may also choose from labs in several of the other departments here at CU. Projects begun during laboratory rotations often develop into doctoral thesis projects. Final decisions regarding choice of research adviser and thesis topic are usually made during May of the first year.
All graduate students are required to complete a rigorous core set of courses during the first and second years. These are team taught by two or more faculty members and are designed to provide advanced instruction in the areas of cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, eukaryotic molecular biology, and developmental biology, including the methods and logic of contemporary research in these areas. Critical analysis and discussion of research papers from the original literature is heavily emphasized.
Two semesters of teaching in undergraduate courses are required. These courses include Biology of the Cancer Cell, Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Introduction to MCD Biology, Genetics, Molecular Biology, Immunology, and others.
By the end of the first-year, students must pass a preliminary examination that consists of eight exams administered over the course of the first year. The student must maintain a B average for these exams.
At the end of the second semester, students decide on a laboratory for their thesis research by mutual consent between the student and prospective advisor and begin research work during the Summer.
Elective graduate courses are available in MCDB, as well as in the Departments of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EBIO), and a few other departments. In satisfying elective credit requirements, all students are strongly urged to enroll in MCDB 6440, Scientific Writing or an equivalent course when offered.
In addition, 30 semester hours of doctoral thesis credit are required. Up to 10 of these hours may be taken in any one semester, but no more than 10 thesis hours are allowed prior to the semester in which the comprehensive exam is taken.
The Graduate School requires that students maintain a 3.0 (B) average in all work attempted. For the Ph.D. a course mark below B- is unsatisfactory and will not be counted toward fulfilling requirements for the degree.
In early February of the second year, each student is required to take a comprehensive oral examination administered by a committee of MCDB faculty. During the comprehensive exam, the student orally defends a written research proposal of her or his thesis topic. The wirtten proposal should be in the format of a grant application. The oral exams generally begin with a brief presentation of the written proposal by the student. The oral exam can include, if desired, a small number of overhead graphics. Subsequent discussion will be roughly based on the written exam but is not restricted to it. The committee is charged with exploring the student’s knowledge of related areas and topics of major importance to the proposed work. The committee also expolores the student's ability to integrate and interpret data in areas deemed important to the MCDB training program. The Graduate School allows all students two attempts to pass the comprehensive exam.
Advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree requires passing all sections of the Core Curriculum with no more than one section repeated, and satisfactory completion of the Preliminary and Comprehensive Examinations. These requirements (see below) are normally met, in that order, by the end of the second year.
At the beginning of the spring semester of the second year, students are expected to present a departmental talk each academic year (September through May) in the ongoing departmental research seminar, Mostly Molecular Genetics (MMB). Shortly after this presentation the committee and student meet to discuss progress of the project. These meetings provide an opportunity for the student and committee to discuss the student's successes and problems. They also provide an opportunity for the committee to provide useful scientific and practical suggestions. Following the meeting, the Chair of the Thesis Committee submits a brief report to the Graduate Office, with copies to the thesis advisor and the student, indicating that the committee has met and that progress is satisfactory, or noting any specific problems or suggestions, or both, and stating goals for the next year.
Students in MCDB should be able to complete the Ph.D. program in approximately five years. However, under Graduate School rules, doctoral students have six years from date of matriculation in the program to complete all requirements, including filing of the dissertation with the Graduate School.
The doctoral thesis is based upon original research approved and supervised by a member of the Graduate Faculty. The thesis must meet the general requirements of the Graduate School and is usually judged by the standards used to evaluate research for publication in a leading professional journal in the student's area of specialty. Students must have a first author or co-first author paper describing their research "in press" or published to be granted a Ph.D. degree.
Six Month Committee Meeting
At least six months in advance of planned departure, the student should meet with the thesis committee for a review of progress toward completion of the thesis. If the committee does not already include a member from outside MCDB, plans should be made at this time to recruit an outside reader to be included in all activities of the committee until the final acceptance of the thesis. To qualify for consideration of graduation in a given semester, the student must submit the thesis to the committee no less than one month in advance of the University thesis deadline for graduation and three weeks in advance of the planned date for the oral defense.
The oral defense (Final Examination) includes presentation of a public seminar on the thesis research, followed immediately by a meeting between the student and the thesis committee. Other members of the Faculty may attend this meeting if they choose. The candidate may be questioned about the thesis and about areas of science related to the thesis. A successful thesis defense requires the affirmative vote of at least four of the five committee members.
- MMB feedback (working on an update).
- Bi-annual committee survey.
- Comprehensive Exam Evaluation Sheet (pdf), an outline of how the comprehensive exam is graded.
Graduate Program Guide
- Overview of MCDB's PhD Program (pdf).
- Graduate Guidebook (a.k.a. Blue Sheets, pdf), a departmental document outlining what graduate students may expect from year to year.
- The 2023 - 2024 schedule.