During the first year, BCMB Allied students must complete the program’s core curriculum courses and a minimum of three (3) lab rotations. Program course descriptions are listed below. Lab rotations are an important component of the students’ first year in that they help him/her to decide on a research focus and select a thesis mentor, which is required by the end of the first year.
Biochemistry and Structural Biology Bootcamp
This course covers equilibria, bond formation, chemical and enzyme kinetics, enzyme reaction mechanism, ligand binding, protein chemistry and structure, nucleic acid chemistry and structure, principles of protein purification, principles of macromolecular analysis, principles of macromolecular recognition and specificity, membrane biochemistry, metabolic pathways and principles of small molecule analysis.
Molecular Genetics Bootcamp
This course is organized around the principles of genetic analysis, with examples chosen from organisms that best illustrate those principles. The course is based on lectures, problem sets and discussion sections. Topics covered include: the nature of the gene, linkage and physical maps, recombination mechanisms, nature of mutations, mutations as tools to dissect gene function, transposition, epigenetics, cancer genetics, genetic analysis of development and cell-cell signaling.
Logic and Critical Analysis
This course is designed to promote the critical analysis skills necessary to be a successful scientist. Students read papers from the primary literature and discuss the experiments described. Questions addressed are:
-“What was the hypothesis?”
-“What were the experiments designed to test?”
-“What other information is necessary to interpret the experiment?”
-“Do the experiments accomplish their goals?”
-“What problems exist in the experiments?”
-“Where might you go from here?”
To develop critical analysis skills, the first group of presentations will emphasize one or two figures only in each paper. Subsequently, two to three papers will be assigned as a thematic group by each instructor and will be discussed sequentially.
From Genes to Cells
This course is Module I of a two-part course that explores the regulatory mechanisms that govern information flow all the way from DNA to cells, involving eleven, week-long topics including: DNA replication and repair, transcription and RNA splicing, mRNA processing and translation, quality control, cytoskeleton, membranes, metabolism, and aspects of cellular homeostasis. The course will be taught in a new format involving primarily literature-based learning, where research papers are matched to each of two lectures on a week-long topic and examined by classroom-based discussion.
From Cells to Organisms and Diseases
This course is Module II of a two-part course that explores how groups of cells function and are arranged within organisms, and mechanisms of cell dysfunction that lead to disease, involving eleven, week-long topics including: cell division and cell death, cell adhesion, cell signaling, mechanisms of organismal development, stem cells, aging-related disorders, infection, and cancer. The course will be taught in a new format involving primary literature-based learning, where research papers are matched to each of two lectures on a week-long topic and examined by classroom-based discussion.
Lab rotations are an important component of a student’s first year curriculum. It is a chance for students to learn new techniques, to demonstrate one’s curiosity for scientific research and reasoning, and more importantly, determine whether a lab is a good match for them. It is also a time for a rotation mentor to evaluate a student’s ability to complete bench research and their understanding of the technical and theoretical aspects of the project, as well as the broader set of questions being addressed in the lab.
Each student completes three laboratory rotations. At the end of each lab rotation, students prepare a brief lab report (a maximum of 2 pages, single spaced) and a written evaluation submitted by the rotation mentor to the program coordinator. Submission of all three rotation reports and evaluations are required to remain in good academic standing and to progress to the elective courses and the qualifying exam!
All first year students meet biweekly as a group with the First year Mentors and Co-Directors. These first year meetings focus on developing scientific presentation skills: each first year student presents several 10 minute chalk talks featuring their rotation projects over the course of the year. Fellow students are encouraged to ask questions and critique each presentation. Held over dinner, these meetings also offer the students an opportunity to discuss the courses and lab rotations in an informal setting.
To remain in good academic standing in the Programs, students must achieve a grade of B or better (High Pass) in each required course and maintain a High Pass average in all course work. A grade of Low Pass or Fail is unacceptable and automatically results in the student being placed on academic probation status. A grade of fail also immediately places the student “on notice” and they are required to petition the Chair of the Curriculum Committee for an appointment to answer questions and offer explanations. Completed rotation reports are also required to remain in good standing. Students in the 2nd year or above are also required to have a thesis mentor to remain in good standing. Students in the 3rd year or above are required to present annually at a scientific meeting (see item J below) and to complete an annual Special Committee meeting to remain in good standing. If a student at any point fails to meet the requirements for good standing, they are automatically placed on academic probation and either the Curriculum Committee or another appropriate committee empowered by the Curriculum Committee will meet to discuss the case and can make one of three recommendations to the Dean: i) that the student be prescribed a course of action for returning to good standing, ii) that the student be allowed to continue to pursue a Ph.D., iii) that the student be asked to leave the Programs. Students will be informed of theses actions from the Faculty immediately. If a student is allowed to attempt to return to good standing, the student will remain on probation until fulfilling all of the specified requirements to the satisfaction of the Curriculum Committee.
The progress of all 1st year students is reviewed by the program directors at the end of the first year and reported to the curriculum committee. If a student has encountered difficulties during the 1st year curriculum, leading to the student being placed on academic probation, the student’s case will be re viewed by the full curriculum committee. The main purpose of this review is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each student, so that, if possible, the student and faculty can work together to remedy any deficiency in training. At the end of the review, the committee will make a decision regarding the resolution of the student’s probation status, which can range from prescribing a course of action to remediate any evident weaknesses (examples include requiring the student to re-take courses or attend specific focus groups, or recommending that the student be dismissed from the program). The student will receive a formal letter describing the committee’s decision, which will be placed in his/her graduate school file.