Welcome to the Cell and Molecular Biology PhD Program

Program

The UTSA CMB PhD program has been in place since 2003 and has graduated more than 50 students with PhD degrees. Most of these graduates have progressed into postdoctoral research positions at prestigious universities or research facilities. UTSA CMB PhD students typically publish 2-3 original, first-author papers describing their dissertation research, and these articles have appeared in top-ranked journals in all fields of cell and molecular biology. The UTSA CMB PhD program spans a wide range of faculty research interests which provide extensive and varied opportunities for student training. See descriptions of research interests of individual CMB PhD program faculty.

The UTSA CMB PhD program of study includes required core courses including Principles of Cell Biology, Principles of Molecular Biology, Principles of Chemical Biology, Principles of Scientific Writing, and Principles of Scientific Teaching. Three electives provide students an opportunity to take additional lecture courses in their specific areas of interest, and participation in a colloquium each semester affords students yet another opportunity to learn more about their subfield of interest as well as providing experience in oral presentations. Doctoral Research and Doctoral Dissertation credit is given for effort directed toward completion of the student's dissertation research project.

Curriculum

The curriculum is highly structured to facilitate efficient matriculation during a student's tenure in the program. The order of courses is shown below. This structured format ensures that students progress in an efficient and timely manner. The program is designed on the basis of a five-year schedule; however, some CMB Ph.D. students have completed the curriculum in as few as four years.

The qualifying exam requirement is fulfilled in two parts – a set of written qualifying exams taken during the first year in association with the Cell Biology and Molecular Biology core courses, and an oral qualifying exam taken in the spring of the second year based on the student's dissertation research proposal.

The Department Symposia held at the end of the fall and spring semesters each year feature presentations by second-fifth year CMB PhD students describing progress toward their dissertation research projects and providing additional valuable experience to develop oral presentation skills. A full-length professional seminar is presented by each CMB PhD student prior to graduation.

These seminars are presented in either the Developmental and Regenerative Sciences Seminar Series or the South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases Seminar Series.

The five-year CMB Ph.D. program curriculum is summarized below.

Year 1

Fall Semester
  • BIO 5133 Principles of Cell Biology (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7041 Cell Bio QE* Colloquium (1 hr)
  • BIO 5000-7000 Level Elective Course (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7572 Research Rotation (2 hrs)

* Written Qualifying Exam

Spring Semester
  • BIO 5123 Principles of Molecular Biology (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7041 Mol Bio QE* Colloquium (1 hr)
  • BIO 5213 Principles of Chemical Biology (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7572 Research Rotation (2 hrs)

* Written Qualifying Exam

  • Written Qualifying Requirement to be completed by May 30
  • Student selects a Dissertation Laboratory no later than August 20, but preferably by June 1

Year 2

Fall Semester
  • BIO 7143 Principles of Sci. Writing (3 hrs)
  • BIO 5000-7000 Level Elective Course (3hrs)
  • BIO 7041 Colloquium (1 hr)
  • BIO 7212 Doctoral Research (2 hrs)
Spring Semester
  • BIO 5000-7000 Level Elective Course (3hrs)
  • BIO 7113 Teaching in Life Sciences (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7041 Colloquium (1 hr)
  • BIO 7212 Doctoral Research (2 hrs)
  • Submit written dissertation proposal as application for extramural funding
  • Oral Qualifying Exam will be completed by May 30 of second year
  • Advancement to Candidacy

Year 3

Fall Semester
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7312 Doctoral Dissertation (2 hrs)
  • BIO 7041 Colloquium (1 hr)
Spring Semester
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7312 Doctoral Dissertation (2 hrs)
  • BIO 7041 Colloquium (1 hr)

Year 4

Fall Semester
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7312 Doctoral Dissertation (2 hrs)
  • BIO 7041 Colloquium (1 hr)
Spring Semester
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7312 Doctoral Dissertation (2 hrs)
  • BIO 7041 Colloquium (1 hr)

Year 5

Fall Semester
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7312 Doctoral Dissertation (2 hrs)
  • BIO 7041 Colloquium (1 hr)
Spring Semester
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7313 Doctoral Dissertation (3 hrs)
  • BIO 7312 Doctoral Dissertation (2 hrs)
  • BIO 7041 Colloquium (1 hr)
  • Full-Length Seminar
  • Dissertation Defense

Summers

Summer Coursework

Students will enroll in BIO 7211 Doctoral Research (1 hr) during each summer following years 1 and 2.
Students will enroll in BIO 7311 Doctoral Dissertation (1 hr) following years 3 and 4 and, if necessary, year 5.

Specialized Tracks

There are two specialized tracks within the CMB PhD program – the Molecular Microbiology and Immunology Track and the Stem Cell Biology Track. Students enrolled in the CMB PhD program may opt to follow one of the specialized tracks or may choose to follow the general CMB PhD program curriculum. Both tracks require the same standard core requirements of the CMB PhD program. Each track requires that students following that track take electives and colloquia focused on the topic area of the relevant track and pursue their dissertation research on a topic related to the relevant track.

Molecular Microbiology and Immunology Track

The primary objective of the track in Molecular Microbiology and Immunology is to provide graduates with advanced academic and research training in all aspects of Microbiology and Immunology, especially in those areas that pertain to infectious diseases. This track will provide expertise in bacteriology, virology, parasitology, mycology, immunology, vaccinology, biodefense, and molecular genetics. The information derived from research in this area has an enormous impact on biology and medicine.

Students in this track follow the regular core curriculum for the concentration in Cell and Molecular Biology; however, their Doctoral Dissertation topic, proposal, and research need to be in an area related to Microbiology and Immunology. Likewise, students are also encouraged to select the majority of their elective courses and colloquia from those offered that are broadly related to the field of Microbiology and Immunology.

Stem Cell Biology Track

Stem Cell Biology is a rapidly emerging field rooted in basic principles of Cell and Molecular Biology that has provided new avenues to investigate normal cellular and developmental processes as well as novel approaches to learning more about and/or treating complex diseases and other debilitating conditions. The Stem Cell Biology Track will allow students pursuing their doctoral degree in Cell and Molecular Biology the opportunity to focus on Stem Cell Biology, including topics related to the basic biology of stem cells (from any species) as well as those related to translational research involving potential contributions of stem cells to tissue engineering or other therapeutic approaches. This will include, but is not be limited to, molecular biology of stem cells, cell biology of stem cells, epigenetic programming in stem cells, maintenance of genetic integrity in stem cells, and the use of stem cells to study disease etiology, and will be based on studies of embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, germline stem cells, neural stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells or other tissue-specific stem cells, as well as stem cells from non-mammalian organisms including lower vertebrates, microorganisms and/or plants.

Students in this track will follow the standard curriculum and program of study for the concentration in Cell and Molecular Biology; however, their Doctoral Dissertation topic, proposal, and research must be in an area related to Stem Cell Biology. Among the three elective courses required for the standard Cell and Molecular Biology program of study, students in this track will be required to take two courses focused on Stem Cell Biology — Cell Biology of Stem Cells and Molecular Biology of Stem Cells. Finally, students in the Stem Cell Biology track will be required to enroll in colloquia that address topics related to Stem Cell Biology.

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