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Programs/Education » Program of Study,
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology Track


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Tulane University Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

Concentration in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology


Program of Study for the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Track

Studies are individually tailored and designed to prepare students for careers in biomedical research and education.  Emphasis is placed on developing the student’s breadth of knowledge and ability to think critically about scientific problems.  These training goals are accomplished through a multifaceted approach that includes core and elective courses, laboratory rotations, seminars, journal clubs, and several years of original laboratory research.  Combined M.D./Ph.D. and M.D./M.S. training is also offered to students enrolled in the School of Medicine.

Coursework in Year One

BMS Program courses total 27 credits in year one.  A total of 48 credits are required for years one and two.

Coursework in Year Two

First Semester/Credits

Electives* (7 h required for full time status)/7+




Second Semester        

Chromosome Instability in Cancer/4

Structure and Function of Biomolecules/4

Metabolism (online course)/2




Total for Year Two/ 21

     *Available electives include didactic and independent-study courses offered by all departments and programs associated with the BMS Program.  


Examinations and Committees

The Preliminary Examination

The Preliminary Examination Committee will consist of at least five members, including at least three members of the full-time Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Faculty and at least one member from outside the Department. One member of the Mentoring Faculty may take the place of one member of the full-time Faculty.  The members will be selected by the student's Research Director in consultation with the student. The Research Director will submit in writing to the Graduate Studies Committee and Departmental Chair the suggested members of the Preliminary Examination Committee for approval.

The Preliminary (or General) Examination for Ph.D. candidacy will consist of an oral defense of an original research proposal prepared by the student independent of significant help from his/her advisor or other members of the faculty or graduate student body. The purpose of this proposal is to determine the student's ability to define a meaningful problem and to apply fundamental principles of research to its solution. The subject of this proposal should originate independently with the student. It may be related to the student's dissertation research but must be significantly different from all ongoing research projects in the Department. The specific topic must be approved by the Preliminary Examination Committee. The student will notify, in writing, the Preliminary Examination Committee of the specific title of the proposal and suggest a date for its completion and defense. The completed proposal must be submitted to the members of the Preliminary Examination Committee at least two weeks prior to the oral defense of the proposal.

The research proposal should take the form of a grant proposal similar to the Research Plan section of an NIH postdoctoral fellowship and should include the following sections: Summary, Background and Significance, Research Design and Methods, and References. Forms and sample proposals are available in the Biochemistry office.

The defense will consist of an oral presentation (approximately 30 minutes) followed by questions from the Committee. Originality, feasibility, reliability of conclusions, adequacy of controls, and the ability of the student to critically evaluate the proposed methods and probable results will be the major criteria by which proposals are evaluated. In addition, the student may be examined on fundamental concepts of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The Preliminary Examination must be successfully completed prior to beginning the sixth semester of graduate studies.

The following procedure must be followed at all Preliminary Examination, Prospectus Approvals, and Final examinations. After presentation and questioning, each voting member of the committee will receive a ballot, which will provide three options: pass, table, or fail. If all members vote to pass, no discussion is required. If any member voted to table or to fail, discussion is mandatory. The charge of the committee is to strive for a consensus as to the areas of weakness that the candidate needs to address before a pass can be awarded. Following discussion, each member will fill out a final signed ballot. The chairman of the committee and the student's thesis advisor together will communicate any requisite changes to the student. A conditional pass will be entered into the student's record as "tabled" until the student corrects the specified weaknesses to the committee's satisfaction.  If a student's oral defense is unsatisfactory the committee may allow a re-examination. The nature and time of the re-examination will be determined by the Preliminary Examination Committee. The Research Director will notify, in writing, the student and the Chair of the GSC of the result of the Preliminary Exam and a copy of the notification will be included in the student's file.

Prospectus and Dissertation

The Prospectus-Dissertation Committee will consist of at least five members including at least three members of the full-time Biochemistry faculty and at least one member from outside the Department.  One member of the Mentoring Faculty may take the place of one member of the full-time Faculty.  The Research Director will notify, in writing, the GSC and Departmental Chair of the composition of the Prospectus-Dissertation Committee for approval.

The Prospectus-Dissertation Committee will form the nucleus of the final examination committee (see below) and it will have its first meeting within three months of the successful completion of the Preliminary Examination.

In addition to approval of the prospectus (see BMS Program Policies) by a formal meeting, the function of the Prospectus-Dissertation Committee is to regularly review the scholastic and research activities of the student in order to provide advice and guidance throughout the course of the student's research. The Prospectus-Dissertation Committee will meet as often as necessary to fulfill its function but not less than once every academic year. The student will be responsible for scheduling each meeting of the committee. Prior to the first meeting of the committee, the student will submit a brief outline of the research plan. For all other meetings, the student will prepare and distribute to each member of the committee, at least two weeks in advance of the meeting, a written summary of his/her work since the last meeting of the committee. Following each meeting, the Research Director will prepare a written summary of the meeting; one copy of which will be given to the student and one copy to the Graduate Studies Committee for inclusion in the student's permanent file.

The Final Examination

The final examination committee includes all of the five members of the Prospectus-Dissertation Committee, but it may also include faculty members of other departments or other universities. The maximum number of voting members of the Final Examination Committee will be seven.

At least three weeks prior to the Final Examination, the student will submit to each member of the committee a complete copy of the dissertation. The final examination will consist of a departmental seminar by the student summarizing his/her work followed by questions from the Final Examination Committee and other members of the Department. The Final Examination Committee will then determine by a written ballot whether the student passes or fails. At least 70% of the committee members must vote "pass" for the dissertation to be accepted (This means that for five and six member committees, the student must receive at least four and five "pass" votes, respectively, to pass; for seven member committees, the student must receive at least five "pass" votes to pass. Abstentions will be considered negative votes).




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