In the fall semester, the core curriculum consists of an interdisciplinary foundational course coordinated with a paper-based class that teaches students to embrace the primary literature while exposing them to fundamental experimental methods and quantitative data analysis. Students enroll in Fundamentals of Molecular Biosciences, Experimental Methods in Molecular Biosciences and Essential Skills I (Course Descriptions).

In the spring semester, mini courses that span four-week blocks focus on specific topics that take advantage of faculty expertise and research interests on campus. Mini courses give students opportunities to develop writing, speaking, presentation, modeling or other skills as appropriate. Mini courses allow for close interaction of small groups of students with faculty engaged in cutting-edge research. Students select a total of six mini courses for the spring semester and also enroll in Essential Skills II, Ethical Scientific Conduct (Course Descriptions).

Throughout the first year, students attend the weekly Graduate Student Research Seminar to become familiar with the research carried out by upper level students and participate in three 8 to 10-week laboratory rotations to select a thesis lab.

Printable Rotation List


List of current rotation faculty

Fundamentals of Molecular Biosciences
Fall semester, 15 weeks
6 credits

Foundational material necessary for graduate students to become fluent in the language of modern molecular and cellular biology, genetics and biochemistry in order to engage in experimentally based discovery. Through textbook and supplemental readings, instructor led lecture and discussion, students will establish the foundational knowledge base on which to build critical reasoning skills and identify open questions in molecular biosciences.
Experimental Methods in Molecular Biosciences
Fall semester, 15 weeks
2 credits
Emphasizes experimental methodologies underlying foundational concepts in molecular biosciences.  Through reading and discussion of a range of primary papers, students will become familiar with essential experimental approaches, as well as the importance of proper controls, data interpretation and quantitative methods to address problems in molecular biosciences.
Mini Courses in Molecular Biosciences
Spring semester, 4 weeks each
1 credit each x 6 courses 
Topics cover the broad range of interests reflected by the faculty in the programs in molecular biosciences. Students select six (from a collection of 15) four-week long courses and take two courses simultaneously.

Spring 2024 Mini Course List

Courses are designed to engage students in reading, analyzing and discussing the literature, giving oral or written presentations, or carrying out independent or group projects that require active participation on the part of the student.

Spring 2024 Mini Course Descriptions

Spring 2023 Mini Course Descriptions

Spring 2022 Mini Course Descriptions

Spring 2021 Mini Course Descriptions

Essential Skills I/II
Fall and Spring semester
1 credit, pass/fail
Presents students with basic skills needed in a biological research setting. Topics range from expectations for graduate school and managing student-advisor relationships, to basic laboratory calculations, hands-on use of tools for communicating science and applications of basic statistics. Students are introduced to tools for management of the scientific literature, including database searching for relevant papers, and how to cite references properly. Students engage in hands on use of presentation software and bioinformatics tools, exposure to resources to aid in preparation of fellowship and grant applications, and creation of an Individual Development Plan to facilitate success in graduate school and beyond.
Laboratory Rotations
Fall and Spring semester
6 credits total 
Students spend 8 to 10 weeks in each of three laboratories of their choosing. Faculty interested in taking rotation students are asked to provide assurance that they have the financial resources to support a student following completion of the first year.  Students are assigned projects that allow them to appreciate the nature of and approach to science, as well as the atmosphere and work ethic of the laboratory, while gaining experience with relevant experimental tools. The PI of the laboratory has the opportunity to assess the compatibility of the student for the research group.
Ethical Scientific Conduct
Spring semester
1 credit, pass/fail
Discusses the definitions of and ethical problems caused by fabrication of data, falsification of results, plagiarism, and other behaviors inconsistent with ethical scientific conduct. Case-based discussions facilitated by faculty members expose students to the need for meticulous record keeping and responsibilities they have as scientific researchers.
Graduate Student Research Seminar
Fall and Spring semester
0 credit, pass/fail 
Students reflect on and synthesize their research progress over the previous year and practice public speaking to a broad scientific audience. Students in the audience are exposed to the array of techniques and approaches used by their colleagues, and have the opportunity to ask questions in a comfortable environment.  Research presentations delivered by students in year 2 and beyond. Each week, two students give 25-minute oral presentations with slides. Students are asked to provide context for their research project, describe their progress and future goals, and field questions from the audience.