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  • Year 1 - Select Mentor for thesis project
  • Year 2 - Select Thesis Committee - Pass Oral Qualifying Exam
  • Year 3 - Yearly Committee Meeting and Evaluation
  • Year 4 - Yearly Committee Meeting and Evaluation
  • Year 5 - Write Dissertation - Oral Thesis Defense

First Year

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


Second & Subsequent Years

The second year, when students begin work in their advisor's laboratory, is focused on advanced disease-oriented studies as opposed to general background. While only one elective is required and may be taken in either fall or spring, students may take additional electives depending on their background, areas of demonstrated competence, and research interests.

Fall Semester, 2nd Year

Spring Semester, 2nd Year

Some recommended electives

  • PTH 507 Cancer Biology
  • MBI 473 Immunology
  • CVS 401 Cardiovascular Biology & Disease
  • BST 463 Introduction to Biostatistics
  • PHP 447 Signal Transduction

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 Director. It is composed of four faculty, two faculty from within the Ph.D. Program in Pathology and one faculty member from outside of the student's Advising Department or Center. The fourth faculty may be from either Program faculty or the Advising Department. 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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