Before graduation, students must complete additional elective coursework 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.
BCMB Student Seminars
Learning how to effectively communicate one's science is an important skill to acquire during the PhD training. BCMB student seminars involve two 30-minute research-in-progress presentations from BCMB graduate students, to be scheduled at the beginning of each academic year. These will typically occur on Friday afternoons from 1:30-2:30 pm. BCMB students are required to attend in years 3-5 and are required to present seminars in years 4-5. All other BCMB students are encouraged to attend, and opportunities to present are available to all students on a volunteer basis. Required attendance can be excused only by written permission from a course director or program director. BCMB Student Seminars can also be taken for one-quarter elective credit by BCMB students with special permission from the program co-directors.
Focus Groups are available for one-quarter elective credit and are student organized, journal club-style discussion sessions primarily literature. Discussion topics proposed by students must be approved by the program co-directors, and students must recruit a minimum of two Weill Cornell Graduate School faculty members and five students to participate in the focus group. Focus groups must meet together for a minimum of ten sessions, involving in-depth discussions of primary literature that addresses the chosen topic.
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.
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.
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.