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Graduate Program
General Information

Research Undergraduate Prerequisites Application Procedure
Student Outcomes
Ph.D. M.S. Course Descriptions

We offer programs of study leading to both the Ph.D. and Masters degrees in the core areas of biochemistry - molecular biology, cell biology, cancer biology, neuroscience, and selected areas of biophysics. The Ph.D. program is designed to train students for a career of  research and teaching, recognizing that a strong Ph.D. training program can also lead graduates to many interesting and challenging alternative careers. Our newly redesigned Masters program was created for students who wish to improve their qualifications for more advanced degrees such as the M.D. or Ph.D., or who are interested in obtaining an M.S. degree to meet other career objectives (e.g. teach secondary school, work in industry, obtain a law degree).

Each student works closely with a faculty mentor during their research training. Ph.D. candidates must pass a comprehensive qualifying exam which includes both a written test of critical thinking and problem solving skills as well as the preparation and review of a grant related to their proposed dissertation research. Masters students take a year of concentrated coursework, then participate in a focused research project which culminates in a departmental seminar. A formal thesis is not required for the M.S. degree.

There are approximately 130 graduate students and 520 medical students at the Medical Center campus. The Graduate Program in Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry has about 15 graduate students from 6 states and 4 countries. There are also graduate programs in Anatomy, Microbiology/Immunology, Physiology, and Pharmacology and interdisciplinary programs in Neuroscience and Molecular Biology.

Student Outcomes

Most new graduates obtain postdoctoral positions at nationally ranked institutions, such as Harvard, Stanford and Northwestern Universities; the University of Chicago; government laboratories; the NIH; Mayo Clinic and others.  Some students pursue traineeships in industry.  Scientists graduating within the past fifteen years are pursuing careers as teaching/research faculty members at universities, research scientists in industry, or full-time college teachers.  Graduates have begun their own technical companies or have obtained further professional training in medicine or law and are utilizing their scientific training as physicians or lawyers.


Research is being conducted in the following areas: (1) molecular biology -   Regulation of gene expression by transcription factors, protein co-factors, and by chemical modification of histone proteins; transcriptional activation by steroid hormones; chromatin structure of active genes; molecular basis of alcohol effects on hormone gene regulation. (2) molecular neurobiology/neurochemistry and neurotoxicity - brain neurodegeneration and/or neuroprotection mechanisms during parkinsonism and other neurodegenerative diseases; therapeutic and neuroprotective mechanisms to prevent the damaging effects of alcohol on the developing brain; effects of maternal alcohol consumption on development of the serotonergic system;  effects of alcohol on hypothalamic and pituitary gene transcription; molecular mechanisms of neuronal calcium channel function in normal and pathological conditions. (3) cellular biology, cancer biology, and metabolic biochemistry - metabolism of peptide hormones and neurotransmitters, role of aminopeptidase P in blood pressure control/ cardioprotective mechanisms and development of drug-like inhibitors of this enzyme;  mechanisms involved with the control of expression of genes required for the malignant properties of tumor cell by activated oncogenes; role of tumor suppressor in the regulation of the cell cycle; pathways of cellular apoptosis; signal transduction pathways in cancer cells; mechanisms by which the regulation of lysosomal protease synthesis and trafficking in tumor cells might facilitate tumor  cell metabolism; structure/function characterization of the inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor family; heat shock and chaperone proteins in regulation of apoptosis; angiogenesis in wound healing; effects of steroid hormones on sexual differentiation of the brain; cytokine signaling - T helper cell differentiation; biochemistry of oxygen radical reactions; effects of gender, aging and alcohol exposure on inflammation and cell mediated immunity.

Undergraduate Prerequisites

Applicants for the Ph.D. and M.S. Degree Programs should have completed courses in biochemistry, differential and integral calculus, organic chemistry, physics, and have a strong biology background.  Additional recommended courses for Ph.D. and M.S. applicants include molecular biology, cell biology, and genetics.

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Last Reviewed: July 2009

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