UConn HealthThe Graduate School

Cell Biology Graduate Program

Program Description

The cell biology graduate program at UConn Health offers training leading to a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences. The curriculum for the first year includes a choice of core courses in the basic biomedical sciences that have been specially formulated to acquaint the student with the principles and practice of modern biomedical research. These core courses include Logic of Modern Biology which covers Genetics, Biochemistry, Cell Biology, Immunology, and Developmental Biology. In addition to these core courses students also participate in the Cell Biology Journal Club and Laboratory Rotations during the first year. During the second year students can choose from advanced courses in a number of topics. In consultation with their advisory committee, students work out a supplementary program of advanced courses, laboratory experiences and independent study based on their previous experiences and interests that is designed to prepare them for general examinations near the end of their second year. All courses are described in the Course Offerings Catalogue found on the Registration page. Thesis research begins in the second or third year, and research and thesis writing normally occupy the third and fourth years.

Guide for Graduate Students

1. Advisory Committee

Upon admission, the Director of the Program will assign to each student an advisory committee made up of three faculty members. The chairperson of this committee, who must be of senior rank, will serve as the student’s temporary major advisor. The committee will meet with the student to assess the student’s background and preparation, working out with the student a program of courses, laboratory experiences, and independent study for the first year. The committee will monitor the student’s progress and serve in a general advisory capacity. When the student chooses a thesis supervisor, the advisory committee will be revised so as to include: the thesis supervisor who will serve as the student’s major advisor; at least one other member of the Program Faculty who will serve as chairman of the committee and must be of senior rank and cannot be the student’s major advisor; at least one other member of UConn Health. All members of the student’s committee must be approved by the program director. The major criteria to be applied for committee membership are appropriate familiarity/expertise in the field and lack of inappropriate conflicts of interests. These committees will meet at least twice during the student’s first year and once each subsequent year.

2. First Year Evaluation Procedure

Grades: All students in the graduate school are required to maintain a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B). For purposes of this computation, grades for courses numbered below 5300 are excluded, and pluses or minuses are considered to raise or lower a grade by 3 points.

Review: At the end of the first year’s work, the Program will review the student’s progress and potential for successful completion of the degree. A favorable recommendation will be essential to entry into the second year of the program.

3. Thesis Supervisor

Selection: All Program Faculty who are members of the Graduate Faculty are eligible to serve as major doctoral thesis supervisors. Occasionally students wish to undertake thesis research in the laboratory of a member of UConn Health faculty who is not a member of this Program. The Program is willing to consider individual requests of this kind as they arise. Approval will be granted by the program director only if a regular member of the Program faculty of senior rank can be identified, who is willing to serve as the student’s sponsor and as chairman of the student’s Advisory Committee. This faculty member will serve as the official thesis supervisor of the student and will accept responsibility for the quality of the thesis research as if it were being performed in his/her own laboratory.

Plan of Study: As soon as the student has selected a thesis supervisor, ordinarily not later than the first semester of the second year, the student shall meet with the revised advisory committee to prepare a plan of study leading to the doctoral degree. The plan will specify all formal courses which are to be completed, the language requirements (or supporting area of study), the scheduling of the General Examinations, and the general area of the thesis research. The plan of study must gain the approval of the student’s advisory committee before the general examination can be taken.

4. Program Requirements

Residence Requirements: Students must comply with the Graduate School’s residence requirement as described in the Student Handbook under The Doctor of Philosophy Degree: 3. Residence Requirement.

Recommended Courses:

  • MEDS 5307 Critical Analysis of the Biological Literature (2 credits)
  • MEDS 5308 Nature of Evidence in Scientific Research (2 credits)
  • MEDS 5310 Responsible Conduct in Research (1 credit)
  • MEDS 5325 Practical Applications of Sequence Analysis (2 credits)
  • MEDS 5329 Immunobiology I  (2 credits)
  • MEDS 5351 Biochemistry II (3 credits)
  • MEDS 5365 Genetics (3 credits)
  • MEDS 5380 Eukaryotic Cell Biology I (4 credits)
  • MEDS 5382 Practical Microscopy and Modeling for Cell Biologist (2 credits)
  • MEDS 5388 Electron Microscopy (1-4 credits)
  • MEDS 6413 Introduction to Cancer Biology (2 credits)
  • MEDS 6497 Introduction to Developmental Biology (1 credit)
  • MEDS 6497 Cell Biology and Pharmacology Journal Club (1 credit)

Laboratory Research - Laboratory research may be formally scheduled under the title "MEDS 6496, Laboratory Rotation."

Typical Course Schedule:
Courses to be taken by individual students will be determined through discussion between students and their supervisory committees.  However, the following schedule serves as a general guideline:

First Year

MEDS 5327-F40
Logic of Modern Biology
MEDS 5380-F40
Eukaryotic Cell Biology

MEDS 6496
Lab Rotation
MEDS 5329-F40
Immunobiology I (Aug-Oct)
Alternate: MEDS 5309-F40, Molecular Basis of Disease

MEDS 5310-F40
Responsible Conduct in Research
MEDS 6497-F42
Cell Biology Journal Club
MEDS 5382-F40
Practical Microscopy and Modeling for Cell Biologist
Alternate: MEDS 5369-F40, Advanced Genetics & Molecular Biology

MEDS 6496
Lab Rotation
MEDS 6497-F42
Cell Biology Journal Club

  MEDS 6496
Lab Rotation


Second Year

MEDS 6455-F40
Introduction to Systems Biology

MEDS 6497-F42
Cell Biology Journal Club

MEDS 6950
Doctoral Research
MEDS 5418-F40
Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology

MEDS 6950
Doctoral Research
MEDS 6497-F42
Cell Biology Journal Club

MEDS 6950
Doctoral Research

If not taken in Fall of 1st year:
MEDS 5309-F40
Molecular Basis of Disease

Thesis Research
- A total of 44 credits of graduate work is generally expected by the University for the Ph.D. degree. This includes all courses numbered in the 5300 or 5400 series. In most cases, students doing thesis research will need to register for GRAD 6495, a variable credit course, in order to bring their total credits to 44.

5. General Examination

The general exam consists of the preparation and defense of a 5 year research proposal centering on the student's projected dissertation topic and prepared according to the complete NIH grant application format, including face pages, budgets, etc. The preparation of the proposal and the examination takes place in three stages.

  • A synopsis of the proposal and tentative specific aims are presented to the Advisory Committee so the committee can approve the tentative plan or suggest changes before in-depth work begins.
  • Upon approval, the student prepares the proposal over a period of one month and distributes it to the Advisory Committee.
  • After the Advisory Committee has studied the proposal, a meeting is convened and the student will defend the proposal in an oral examination.

Ideally, this examination take place during the second/early third year of residence after most of the formal course work has been completed but before the student has become completely immersed in dissertation research.

6. Candidacy

Upon passing the General Examination and satisfactory progress in the Plan of Study, the student becomes a candidate for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and is expected to devote full-time to the completion of the dissertation. When full-time experimental work on the dissertation has begun, the student will present a seminar to the Program describing the background of the proposed thesis research and the plan of investigation that the student expects to follow. The student summarizes his/her plans in a Dissertation Prospectus, which must be approved by his/her advisory committee and by the Biomedical Sciences Area Review Committee (i.e., the UConn Health’s Graduate Program Committee), within 12 months of passing the General Examination.

7. Thesis

The Advisory Committee will authorize final preparation of the thesis. The thesis will be written in the format of one or more papers suitable for publication accompanied by an introduction consisting of a scholarly and critical review of the current status of the field, and by a discussion of the significance of the data presented.

The completed thesis is submitted to a group of Readers for approval. Readers will normally include the Advisory Committee plus at least one faculty member from outside of the Program. All Readers of the thesis must be approved by the program director. The readers will be allowed a minimum of one month to study the thesis prior to scheduling of the Closed Thesis Oral Examination. The closed thesis examination must be completed at least one month prior to the open thesis presentation in which the student describes the work to the Program and interested members of the UConn Health community. If any reader fails to approve the thesis, the open thesis presentation will not be scheduled. Instead, the Advisory Committee (student excluded) will meet with all local Thesis Readers and the program director to decide on an appropriate course of action. The Oral Examination will be chaired by the Chairman of the Advisory Committee with the Readers as the official examiners. The examination must be attended by the program director or his/her designate.

The Advisory Committee will make the final decision as to whether a student has passed or failed the Oral Examination, but the committee cannot pass a student without the recommendation of a majority of the Thesis Readers.

The Thesis Supervisor shall communicate the results of the examination to the student and the Dean of the Graduate School.

The Graduate School Bulletin should be consulted for other requirements concerning the preparation of the thesis and the conduct of the final examination.

8. Summary of Major Events


First Year
  • Course work, approximately 24 hours
  • Selection of major advisor


Second Year
  • Plan of study devised
  • Language requirement satisfied
  • Additional course work
  • Thesis project selected and work begun
  • General examination


Third Year
  • Thesis research
  • Seminar participation
  • Preparation of dissertation prospectus


Fourth Year
  • Thesis research completed
  • Thesis written and approved
  • Oral Examination and thesis seminar

rev. 11/14
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