PhD in Molecular Biology

Program of Study

During the first year, students in the Ph.D. program take two core courses (BISC 502a/b) that provide an in-depth understanding of modern molecular and computational biology, genetics, and biochemistry. Students also complete three laboratory rotations with different advisers as part of their research training (BISC 504L). At the end of the first year, each student chooses a permanent advisor who supervises the thesis research.

At least one additional elective course is required. The required elective will usually be taken in the first semester of the second year and is chosen in consultation with the thesis advisor. The possible electives include a variety of courses in the areas of bioinformatics, genomics, developmental biology, and neurobiology. In addition, a range of elective courses in areas relating to Molecular Biology are available in Neurobiology, Marine Biology, Computer Science, Gerontology, Physiology, Mathematics, and other relevant departments, including those located on the Health Sciences campus.

Throughout their time in graduate school, students present their ongoing thesis research to all members of the Molecular Biology Program at “MolBio Lunch” (BISC 542). In addition, a variety of different advanced lecture and seminar courses on specialized topics are offered by various faculty members each semester. The content of these courses changes from semester to semester according to the interests of the students and faculty.

Students complete most of their academic requirements during their first three semesters of study.

Qualifying Examination

The student then takes the Qualifying Examination (second year, second semester). This examination consists of two parts: a written part which measures knowledge of many aspects of the field of molecular and computational biology, and an oral part in which the student defends a research proposal unrelated to his or her own thesis research. Upon passing, the student becomes a candidate for the Ph.D. degree.

Dissertation and Oral Defense

After completion of the thesis research, the dissertation committee approves the written thesis and the student presents a final public oral defense. Further details are given in the Procedures for the Molecular and Computational Biology Ph.D. Program, which is distributed to all first-year students.

Teaching Requirements

Students will normally be required to teach two semesters during their first year. The extent to which there will be further teaching is decided upon consultation with the research advisor. Students may have the opportunity to do additional teaching if they wish to gain more experience.

  • Department of Biological Sciences
  • University of Southern California
  • Allan Hancock Foundation Building
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0371