PhD Timeline

See the program handbook for additional information on requirements, policies, and procedures. The graduate student office posts forms and guidance for current students.


First Year: Ph.D. Program in Pathology

The course requirements for the first year of studies provide a strong foundation in cellular and molecular biology and afford maximum flexibility. This year also includes three laboratory rotations, one per calendar quarter (October-December, January-March, April-June). These provide an opportunity for students to experience various laboratory environments and to work with research scientists in selected areas of interest.

Course catalog

Fall Semester, 1st Year

Spring Semester, 1st Year

PTH 509 Pathways of Human Disease

PTH 510 Pathways of Human Disease

PTH 504 Student Seminar

PTH 504 Student Seminar

IND 408 Advanced Biochemistry

IND 410 Molecular Biology & Genetics

IND 409 Cell Biology

One elective is required (see suggested electives under Second Year)

IND 501 Ethics in Research


Second & Subsequent Years: Ph.D. Program in Pathology

The second year, when students begin work in their advisor's laboratory, is focused on advanced disease-oriented studies as opposed to general background.

Fall Semester, 2nd Year

Spring Semester, 2nd Year

PTH 504 Student Seminar

PTH 504 Student Seminar

One elective is required


Some recommended electives

Some recommended electives

PTH 571 Molecular Basis of Disease

PTH 507 Cancer Biology

MBI 473 Immunology

CVS 401 Cardiovascular Biology & Disease

BST 463 Introduction to Biostatistics

PHP 447 Signal Transduction

While two electives are required (one in the first year and one in the second), students may take additional electives depending on their background, areas of demonstrated competence, and research interests. At least one of the electives must be a PTH course, unless waived by the program directors.

Qualifying Examination

Upon completion of required coursework (at least 30 credit hours of coursework and research rotations), students are eligible to take the qualifying exam. This usually happens between the second and third years. The exam evaluates the student's understanding of basic principles, critical thinking, and his or her ability to synthesize and develop testable hypotheses.

In preparation for the exam, the student writes a hypothesis-based research proposal in NIH grant format. Preliminary data and experimental approaches are based on the student's progress to date in his or her chosen laboratory. This document is reviewed in advance by the Qualifying Exam Committee which also conducts the oral exam.

The Qualifying Exam Committee is composed of faculty chosen by the student and thesis advisor and approved by the Graduate Program Co-Directors. It is composed of two faculty from within the Ph.D. Program in Pathology and one faculty member from outside of the Program. The thesis advisor is required to attend the exam as an active, but non-voting participant. While the submitted proposal provides a valuable example of the student's comprehension of the scientific method and can be the basis for examination questions, the qualifying exam tests the full scope of the student's knowledge and reasoning skills.

Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination, students are awarded the M.S. degree in Pathology.

Research and Thesis Preparation

The remaining time is spent in research under the direction of the thesis advisor. The Qualifying Exam Committee assumes the role of Thesis Committee and meets with the candidate no less than yearly to review the student's progress. Students generally take three years to finish their research and thesis, for a total of five years to complete the entire program.


Seminars and Events

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