Elective Course Work
Before graduation, students must complete additional elective course work prior to submission of their thesis. This includes at least three (3) quarters of Focus Groups taken over the course of their tenure in the program. This requirement is typically fulfilled during their 2nd and 3rd years. In addition, 2 more quarters of electives that can consist of either additional Focus Groups or traditional courses.
- Focus Groups
Each Focus Group counts as 1 quarter toward the 5 quarter total elective requirement. These consist of semester-long courses that aim to instill a deep appreciation for the history of each field. These groups will be in the format of a student-driven journal club. A detailed syllabus will be provided for each focus group prior to each semester. Students in the second and third years will be required to choose a first and second choice from a menu of four focus groups, and will be placed in groups of 10-15. Each group will meet every week or every other week and discuss two papers per session for approximately 10 sessions per semester. Focus groups will be graded similarly to the core courses according to a honors/high pass/low pass/fail scale, with active participation required to achieve a high pass. A failing grade will result in no credit being awarded. By the end of the second year, students are expected to have completed the five core courses, Biostatistics and successfully passed their ACE. In addition, students are encouraged to have completed one Focus Group. Failure to successfully complete the five core courses, Biostatistics and the ACE will place a student in poor standing. Once three focus groups have been completed, taking additional focus groups is optional.
- Traditional Courses
To fulfill the remaining 2 quarter elective requirement, students may substitute a traditional course on a subject relevant to their thesis project. Possible courses offered at Weill Cornell include Methods in Biophysics, Principles of Developmental Biology, and Cryoelectron Microscopy of Macromolecular Assemblies (@NYSBC). Alternative courses offered at other institutions can also be used to fulfill this requirement but require prior approval by the program directors. Upon review of the course syllabus, the course directors will determine if elective courses will be awarded either 1 or 2 quarters of credit.
The Curriculum Committee may exempt a student from elective courses, if the Committee determines that an equivalent course has been taken at other undergraduate or graduate institutions. If a student wants to obtain a course exemption, one of the program directors must be notified and a written petition must be submitted to the Curriculum Committee. Courses taken prior to matriculating in the BCMB Program may not be used to substitute for any of the Focus Group requirements.
Formal presentations of scientific data
The ability to accurately and effectively present scientific data in a formal setting is vital to a productive scientific career. To encourage students to gain such experience, all students upon completion of their ACE must annually present original data at a formal scientific venue. This requirement can be fulfilled by presenting a Talk or Poster at the annual Vincent Du Vigneaud Memorial Symposium hosted by the Weill Cornell Graduate School, the annual BCMB Program Retreat held every Fall, various Departmental Seminar Series or at any National or International Scientific meeting. Fulfillment of this requirement must be verified at the student's annual special committee meeting. The student is required to submit to the special committee the abstract of the presentation.
Yearly meetings with the Special Committee
The student is required to meet with their Special Committee at least once a year. For each meeting, the student must prepare a 2 page document, excluding illustrations and references, that summarizes work completed since the prior meeting, including current work and future directions, as well as listing any meeting presentations, recognition and awards received, and publications. This document should be submitted to the Special Committee at least one week prior to the Special Committee meeting. The student will discuss their progress with the Special Committee.
Thesis research is typically completed within 4-6 years of tenure in the Program. At a final Special Committee meeting, the student should present a proposed outline of their thesis as well as ‘final’ versions of their data and figures for approval by the Special Committee. Following this final approval of the Special Committee, the thesis is written by the student under the direction of the Major Sponsor. The Oral Thesis Defense (Final Examination for the degree of Ph.D.) is scheduled with the Graduate School Office at least 30 days in advance. A completed written thesis must be submitted to the Examining Committee two weeks prior to the Thesis Defense date. The first part of the Thesis Defense is public (friends and family are welcome) and consists of a 40-60 min seminar-style presentation by the student that summarizes their thesis research. This is followed by the departure of all attendees, other than the student, Examining Committee, and members of the graduate school faculty who wish to observe the exam. The Examining Committee consists of four members: the Special Committee (major and two minor sponsors), and a chairperson (suggested by the student, approved by the Dean). If desired by the student, an external examiner (selected by the student and major sponsor) can also join the committee. A successful oral defense and acceptance of the written thesis will result in a recommendation to the Dean for award of the Ph.D. degree.