Cell Biology Graduate Study

Study mode:On campus Study type:Full-time Languages: English
8 place StudyQA ranking:11091 Duration:5 years

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The Graduate Program in Cell Biology offers students outstanding opportunities for research and training leading to the Ph.D. degree. Reflecting the truly multidisciplinary nature of cell biology today, students in the program engage in independent research on a broad spectrum of exciting topics concerned with cellular structure, function, development, and organization in complex systems, with particular emphasis on molecular mechanisms and relevance to human diseases.

The curriculum is rigorous and comprehensive, providing in-depth exposure to the wide range of methodological approaches used by contemporary cell biologists, from molecular genetics and structural biology to functional genomics and cellular imaging. Yet it is flexible as well to accommodate the individual interests and needs of students. Collaborative research is fostered by a highly interactive community of students, postdocs, faculty, and staff, and by communal research facilities. The overall goal of the program is to provide students with the skills for independent, critical, and creative thinking necessary for successful future careers as scientists in academia or industry, or in related professions.

Research: Primary emphasis is placed on independent research on a thesis topic. The student chooses the thesis topic in consultation with the faculty advisor. After passing the qualifying exam on the thesis topic by the end of the second year, students devote full-time to their research. A committee of 4 faculty members, including the advisor, meets with the student every year to provide guidance and to ensure adequate progress. Students design their curriculum based on their individual needs and interests, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. Only five courses are required, including core courses in molecular cell biology, genetics, and biochemistry, an advance seminar course, plus an elective in any area of the student's choosing such as in development, neurobiology, and immunology. Most students complete the course requirement in the first year.

Teaching:  Teaching is an important skill valued by the program. Students are expected to teach the equivalent of two terms, and can fulfill this requirement by teaching in any of a large number of lecture, laboratory, and seminar courses taken by undergraduate, graduate or medical students. Some students elect to teach an additional term for pay. The Cell Biology program puts special emphasis on the development of effective communication skills, which are critically important for future success as scientists. Students, along with postdocs, participate in the weekly Progress Report series where they describe their research and hone their presentation skills in front of an audience of students, postdocs, and faculty. Students are also encouraged to attend national and international scientific meetings to present posters or to give talks about their research.

Coursework: In addition to regular coursework, the seminars presented by scientists invited from other institutions in this country and abroad represent another integral component of the Cell Biology program. Students are expected and encouraged to enhance their knowledge of their own research area and to develop a broad appreciation of other scientific fields by attending these seminars scheduled regularly throughout Yale. In the Cell Biology program, students have exceptional opportunities to meet seminar speakers, and to play an active role in choosing, inviting, and hosting seminar speakers.

Students design their own curriculum of courses to meet individual interests and needs, in consultation with the director of graduate studies. During the first year, students are also required to participate in three laboratory rotations. In the second year, a committee of faculty members determines whether each student is qualified to continue in the Ph.D. program. There is a written and oral qualifying examination at the end of the fourth term. In order to be admitted to candidacy, students must have met the Graduate School Honors requirement, maintained a high pass average in course work, passed the qualifying examination, and submitted an approved prospectus. The remaining degree requirements include:

  • Completion of the dissertation project, dissertation and its oral defense
  • The formal submission of copies of the written dissertation to the Graduate School
  • Deposit of an additional copy with the department. Note: Laboratory rotations and thesis research may be conducted outside of the department.

An important aspect of graduate training in cell biology is the acquisition of teaching skills through participation in courses appropriate for the student's scientific interests. These opportunities can be drawn from a diverse menu of lecture, laboratory, and seminar courses given at the undergraduate, graduate, and medical school level. Ph.D. students are expected to participate in two terms (or the equivalent) of teaching. Students are not expected to teach during their first year.

All students admitted to the Cell Biology program, and to the larger BBS program, are given complete financial support , including a 12-month stipend and full tuition, during the entire time they are working toward the Ph.D. degree. Students are supported for the first 3 years usually by NIH training grants and thereafter by their faculty advisors' research grants. A number of students receive fellowships from the NSF and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and students in the first and second years are encouraged to apply for these prestigious awards. A limited number of Yale fellowships are available for outstanding foreign students.

The non-refundable application fee is $100. Credit card (Visa or MasterCard) payment from within the online application is the only method of payment accepted. Fee waivers may be granted to U.S. citizens or permanent residents only. 

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