Jul 21, 2024  
2017-2018 Academic Bulletin (Catalog) (Jan 2018) 
2017-2018 Academic Bulletin (Catalog) (Jan 2018) [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Biomedical Sciences, Genetics, Genomics and Informatics Concentration, PhD

Program Description

The PhD in Biomedical Sciences is an integrated, interdisciplinary, research-oriented graduate program in which students train in UTHSC faculty laboratories. There are six research concentrations, or tracks: cancer and developmental biology; cell biology and physiology; microbiology, immunology, and biochemistry; molecular and systems pharmacology; neuroscience and genetics, genomics and informatics. Students who wish to train in any one of the six research tracks should apply to the program, and will then have the option of considering multiple tracks or directly entering a specific track.

Admission and Selection

Applications for the PhD in Biomedical Sciences are normally accepted from students with a biological or physical science related bachelor’s or advanced degree from an accredited college or university; degrees in other fields of study are acceptable with appropriate preparation. The normal admission time for new students is in the fall term, which begins about mid-August. Most students apply before December, and those applying before January 15 will be given priority status. The final application deadline is March 1. Applications are reviewed as received. The admission requirements are:

  • A minimum grade point average of 3.0
  • A minimum revised Graduate Record Examination (GRE) combined verbal and quantitative score of 300.
  • Any applicant to the graduate program whose first language is not English and who has earned neither a bachelor’s nor a master’s degree from a college or university in an English-speaking country must have achieved a TOEFL score of at least 213/79 on the computer-based/Internet- based exam or an IELTS score of 6.5 (earned within 2 years prior to application). Any applicant whose first language is not English but who has earned a baccalaureate or advanced degree from a college or university in an English-speaking country where instruction was in English may be exempted from the requirement for the TOEFL or IELTS examination.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • Transcripts from any non-US institution must be verified and certified to generate a grade point average (GPA) based on a 4.0 scale. Verification must be completed before March 1.

Track (concentration) admission committees recommend their selections to the Program Director. Offers of admission are made by the Program Director with approval by the Dean of the College of Graduate Health Sciences.

Technical Standards and Accommodations

The minimum abilities for eligibility to participate successfully in educational programs and activities by students enrolled in the College of Graduate Health Sciences are listed below. All persons who wish to enter one of the programs in the College should be aware of the minimum abilities required for success. Admission decisions for the College programs do not take disabilities into consideration; students may disclose their disabilities after admission.

Minimum abilities are as follows:

  1. To make proper assessments and ethical judgments regarding research and professional decisions.
  2. To communicate effectively with colleagues and professional staff.
  3. To acquire necessary information developed through classroom instruction, laboratory experience, independent learning, and consultation.
  4. To search and evaluate articles in the scientific literature.
  5. To obtain, interpret, and accurately document research data.
  6. To complete computer-based assignments and use computers.
  7. To understand and carry out safety rules and precautions in the laboratory.
  8. To handle emergencies in the laboratory, including fire, exposure to dangerous agents, and explosions.

These abilities may be accomplished through direct student response, use of prosthetic devices, or personal assistance (e.g., readers, signers, and note takers). Upon admission, students are invited to disclose any disabilities (with certification) to the Student Academic Support Services and Inclusion (SASSI) https://www.uthsc.edu/sassi/. The college will provide reasonable accommodations, as required by the student’s documented disabilities with SASSI, and at the student’s written request to the Dean, College of Graduate Health Sciences. Purchase of prosthetic devices to aid the student in meeting these requirements is the responsibility of the student. On a case-by-case basis and upon written request of the student, the College may assist in providing attending services.

GGI Curriculum

The field of genetics, genomics and informatics is growing rapidly. Methods in gene expression, epigenetics, gene mapping and linking genetics to biochemical processes and pathways, out of reach a mere 20 years ago are now routinely applied to unlock the secrets of the genome. The Ph.D. track is designed to prepare new scientists broadly so that they may develop their careers in a variety of venues.

Students in the GGI Track complete their core curriculum described below. Students will choose at least 8 credit hours of additional elective courses that suit the individual student’s needs. Any course required by the other Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. tracks is acceptable as an elective. Other graduate level courses can be used to satisfy the elective requirement upon approval from the track director.

Seminar - Students must register for the GGI Seminar for credit which includes a discussion of a publication by the seminar speaker followed by a meeting with the seminar speaker.

Bioinformatics Summit - All GGI students must take the Informatics Summit in the Spring term of each year. Students may opt not to take this course if they are defending their dissertation that term.

Required Curriculum

Minimum 52 credits, consisting of 24 credits of IP 900, 12 credits of core courses, 8 credits of electives and 8 credits of symposia & seminars are required

Core Courses
  •  OR  (One of these must be chosen and constitutes 1 of the 4 elective courses required)
  • GGI 902 - Pharmacogenomics
Additional requirements
  • GGI 905 - Bioinformatics Summit - every Spring term
Laboratory Rotations

Students are required to do at least three, and up to six, 6-week lab rotations with IBS program faculty. These rotations can occur during any of the six Biomedical Sciences Program prescribed rotational periods during the first year. After three rotations a student may begin work in their chosen mentor’s lab or may elect to do more rotations. A mentor’s lab must be identified by the end of the first year.

Admission-to-Candidacy Exam

At the end of their second year students must pass a qualifying exam before admission to Ph.D. candidacy. For the exam students write a grant application in the form of an NIH F31, National Research Service Award (NRSA) on the topic of their research. As part of the examination the student must give an oral presentation and defend the application to their graduate committee. Students are expected to demonstrate mastery of the required GGI coursework. Passing this exam is required for continuation in the program. If the first submission and defense are found to be unsatisfactory, the student is given one and only one chance for re-examination. Students who do not complete this examination satisfactorily will not be allowed to continue in the program.

Curriculum Summary and (Typical) Sequence

Spring 1

Spring 2

Minimum Total for the Degree: 52 credit hours†

*Repeats until degree requirements are met
†Additional credit hours may be required to maintain full-time status. Continuous registration for dissertation research is required until the degree requirements are met.

Promotion and Graduation

Students must maintain a 3.0 grade point average or greater throughout the program.

Non-Completion of Degree

A student who has satisfactorily completed a minimum of 30 credit hours may choose not to finish the additional coursework and research required for a PhD and instead choose to graduate with a Master of Science (MS) in Biomedical Science degree. This option requires notification of the College with a request for admission to MS degree candidacy no later than the second month of the term in which the student intends to graduate. Completion of the MS degree requires full-time registration and an oral and written analysis of the work completed.

Admission to Candidacy

The student must apply for PhD degree candidacy no later than two terms prior to the term in which the dissertation is presented. A comprehensive examination (oral and written) covering the fields indicated by the program must be passed prior to admission to candidacy. In the event of failure, the candidate may not appear for reexamination until permission is granted by the program. The result of the second examination is final.

Admission to candidacy for this degree depends upon the student’s (1) passing the required comprehensive examination, (2) demonstration of research potential and accomplishment at least equivalent to that for completion of a master’s thesis, (3) certification by the student’s Faculty Committee and the Program Chair, and (4) approval by the Dean. Upon admission to candidacy, all graduate students, including those who have been enrolled part-time, must be enrolled full-time for the remainder of their program, unless an exception is approved by the Dean.

Research, Electronic Dissertation, and Oral Defense

Research accomplishment is a principal requirement for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, and the dissertation must show substantial evidence of independently achieved and original results. This research and preparation of the dissertation must in each case be conducted in accordance with general College policies and under the immediate direction of the student’s Research Advisor and Faculty Committee. The dissertation is written after completion of experiments or other graduate studies designed to answer the questions posed by the statement of the problem. The scientific content and style of the dissertation are the responsibility of the student and student’s Faculty Committee. The dissertation must be formatted and delivered according to the electronic thesis and dissertation policies outlined in these bylaws under “ET/D Program Policies”.