First Year Requirements

Lab Rotations

During the first year, each student carries out research in three different laboratories. To help students become familiar with the many different research opportunities in BCMB, a retreat is held for faculty and student research talks. Faculty research presentations continue throughout September.

Students have the opportunity to present one talk and one poster on two of their three rotation projects at our semi-annual Rotation Presentations. At the end of the three rotations, each student selects a laboratory for thesis work.


Foundations of Modern Biology

Students are required to complete (or place ​out of) all 8 courses of the Foundations of Modern Biology core curriculum:

Macromolecular Structure and Analysis: The structure and properties of biological macromolecules will be presented. Experimental and computational methods used to study macromolecular structure including X-ray crystallography, magnetic resonance, spectroscopy, microscopy, and mass spectrometry will also be covered. 

Biochemical and Biophysical Principles: The physical and chemical principles underlying biological processes are presented and discussed. Topics include thermodynamics, chemical equilibrium, chemical and enzymatic kinetics, electrochemistry, physical chemistry of solutions, and structure and properties of water. Elementary concepts of statistical thermodynamics will be introduced as a way of correlating macroscopic and microscopic properties.

Principles of Genetics: This course covers fundamentals principles of genetics, focusing primarily on yeast, the fruit fly, and the mouse. Problem sets are an integral learning tool in this course.

Molecular Biology and Genomics: This course covers the Molecular Biology and Genomics of both prokaryotes (using E. coli as the model organism) and eukaryotes, with a focus on "model organisms" including yeast, flies, worms, mice as well as humans. Both the Molecular Biology (reductionist) perspective and the Genomics (systems biology) perspective will be provided on each topic, and there will be heavy emphasis on mechanism and regulation of fundamental processes in biological information transfer DNA->RNA-> protein. This course will cover genes and genomes, transcription and RNA world, replication, chromosome structure and function and genome instability.

Organic Mechanisms in Biology: This course deals with the chemical mechanisms of enzymes. It is intended to illustrate how catalysis in biological systems can be understood using principles derived from organic reaction mechanisms. 
Cell Structure and Dynamics: The objective of this course is to provide the basics of cell biology, including the structure, function and biogenesis of cellular organelles. Also covered are essential concepts on the cytoskeleton, cell-cell and cell-extracellular matrix interactions, cell motility, chaperones, and protein turnover.
Pathways and Regulation: This course will cover the principles of membrane transport, bioenergetics, metabolic pathways, cell cycle and cell death with particular emphasis on regulatory mechanisms including receptor-mediated signaling, small GTPases, lipid molecules, kinases and phosphatases. 
Bioinformatics: This course introduces students to commonly used high throughput analysis tools, both in a GUI/web-based platform and in command line form (UNIX and R). Topics covered include sequence databases, genome browsers, alignment tools, common analysis platforms, and programs used in sequence analysis. The course is heavily hands-on, and laptops are required.​

The above core courses are completed in the first three quarters of the academic year (Sept. - March). 


Core Discussion 

Core Discussion is a small-group discussion which corresponds to the core course lectures.



First Year Electives 

In the fourth quarter (March-May), first year students take two short elective courses, in addition to the Method, Logic, & Experimental Design and the BCMB Responsible Conduct of Research course (see below). 

Students begin to focus on a research area of interest through choosing these electives. Courses are offered in Neurobiology, Developmental Biology, Molecular Immunology, The Cytoskeleton, Transcription Mechanisms, Computational Genomics Methods, Microbial Pathogenesis, etc.

MD/PhD and MSTP students doing their PhD research in the BCMB program are exempt from the first year electives requirement. However, they are required to complete two elective courses of their choice during their BCMB tenure.


Method, Logic, & Experimental Design Course

Students meet in small groups with faculty members to read and discuss current research articles. The goal is to learn to critically evaluate experiments, results and to design controlled experiments. 



BCMB Responsible Conduct of Research

First year BCMB students complete research ethics training in a variety of formats. The School of Medicine requires online training in certain areas such of conflict of interest, scientific misconduct, and HIPPA compliance. BCMB has a spring course just for first year students, "BCMB Responsible Conduct of Research." Topics include Issues of Diversity, Mentoring, Misconduct/Fraud, Authorship Issues, Conflict of Interest, Scientific Record Keeping, and Animal and Human Experimentation.