Graduate Studies in Biochemistry
Ph.D. Degree Requirements
Degree requirements include course work, research rotations (to facilitate the selection of an advisor), participation in formal and informal seminars, a qualifying exam, and publishable research and dissertation. Teaching opportunities are also available but teaching is not a requirement to complete the degree.
All first year Ph.D. students take a set of two core courses in "Cell and Molecular Biology" (10 hours of lectures each week), with lecturing faculty representing most of the Departments in the School of Medicine. Six advanced science courses are also required, three in Biochemistry (one course must be either BIOC 412 or BIOC 434), and the remaining three from other disciplines. Physical chemistry may also be required for students who choose to conduct research in the fields of X-ray crystallography or protein structure and function.
During the first year students also become acquainted with research opportunities by participating in three one-month long rotations in Biochemistry research laboratories. A research advisor is selected upon completion of rotations in December, in consultation with the Graduate Education Committee. Students who select a faculty member conducting metabolic research become eligible for admission to the Metabolism Training Program, an interdisciplinary program funded by the NIH.
At the end of the second year students must pass a preliminary qualifying exam. The exam consist of a NIH style written proposal and an oral defense. The chosen topic must be unrelated to the student’s thesis research. The exam provides students with experience in formulating and assessing the feasibility of original research ideas and defending their scientific merit. Successful completion of the qualifying exam advances the student to Ph.D. candidacy.
Dissertation research is the most important part of the Ph.D. Program. Original research is carried out in close consultation with the dissertation advisor. The purpose of the dissertation is to give the student a deep understanding of one area of biochemistry, as well as training in research methods and scientific writing. In consultation with the advisor, students select four members to join their pre-thesis committee. The committee is typically composed of two faculty from the Department and two outside members. The advisor and pre-thesis committee members provide recommendations for areas of specific study and assist the Ph.D. candidate to ensure a successful and timely completion of the degree. Students prepare a completed research proposal for the first pre-thesis committee meeting and are strongly encouraged to seek guidance from all members of the Department.
In addition to course and research work students participate in a variety of formal and informal research seminars. Students attend weekly Biochemistry Program seminars and special symposia throughout the year featuring speakers from Case and outside universities. During the second year each student is required to present a Departmental seminar describing research from the current literature. A Departmental seminar is also required for presentation of a students thesis research upon completion of their degree.