Graduate Doctoral Program

doctoral-landingThe Department of Cell and Molecular Biology offers students the opportunity to earn Ph.D. degrees in a stimulating, dynamic research environment.

Our small group of exceptional faculty perform cutting-edge research and provide hands-on training to students in areas such as cellular neurobiology, developmental biology, bacterial cell differentiation, and neuropharmacology. The Department's research is well-funded, with one of the highest per capita levels of external funding at Tulane University.

Program Description

The graduate program in the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology is designed to train students for careers in research, academics and/or professional service in the areas of Cell Biology, Molecular Biology, Developmental Biology, and Neurobiology. This involves 1) the acquisition of a basic body of knowledge and a conceptual understanding of the current problems in these fields; 2) gaining an in-depth understanding of and developing the capacity to conduct independent research or professional service in one or more of these areas; 3) developing the necessary research skills (including knowledge of instrumentation, specific laboratory techniques and the ability to evaluate experimental data) to pursue a career in the biomedical sciences; and 4) learning basic skills in the presentation of materials, including an ability to evaluate, synthesize and organize information into a coherent view of a particular problem, the ability to clearly present organized information to students and peers, and the ability to write scientific papers. It is the goal of the graduate program to provide the opportunity for students to develop these skills through course work, seminars, research and teaching.

Prior to the start of the first year, all incoming graduate students will meet with the appropriate graduate director to discuss the student's academic background and scientific interests. At this time, the graduate director will make recommendations concerning course requirements, and students enrolled in the Ph.D. program will be assigned a temporary faculty advisor. The faculty advisor will be responsible for advising the student on academic matters such as course selection, laboratory rotations, exams, and teaching requirements, and will monitor the student's progress. The graduate director will also monitor all students’ progress during the first year in the program. Ph.D. students are required to take core courses in molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology and/or neurobiology. They are expected to take additional elective courses tailored to their own interests, which can include courses offered by other departments at the uptown campus and the nearby Tulane Health Sciences Center. Ph.D. students will finish all course work by the end of the second year.

Normally by the end of their first year, students enrolled in the Ph.D. program select a laboratory in which to carry out their research. There are two mechanisms available to assist students in the selection of an appropriate laboratory. First, during the first semester, all new students will take an orientation seminar course that will introduce them to the research interests of the department faculty. Second, each graduate student enrolled in the Ph.D. program will undertake two to three 3-month rotations in the laboratories of individual departmental faculty members. If the student and the faculty member agree, the length of the rotations can vary. The goal of these rotations is to allow students to become acquainted with different faculty members, their research problems and methodologies, and to get a feel for the general atmosphere of the different labs. Each student will make a commitment to a particular laboratory, with the approval of the head of the laboratory, by the end of the first year. Once the student selects a laboratory in which he/she will conduct his/her dissertation research, the faculty head of the laboratory will become the student's faculty advisor (dissertation advisor).

During their second year, Ph.D. students name a thesis committee consisting of their advisor and at least three faculty members with whom they will subsequently meet on a regular basis (at least once per year) to ensure that adequate research progress is made. With the help of their thesis committee, Ph.D. students submit and present orally a research proposal. After successful completion of their coursework, students focus exclusively on their research until the submission and defense of a Ph.D. dissertation, which typically occurs after their fourth or fifth year.

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