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The Graduate Program in Genetics was founded in 1980 as an inter-institutional program, combining the strengths in genetics at Stony Brook University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and Brookhaven National Laboratory.  With nearly 100 faculty, the Genetics Program encompasses expertise that ranges from fundamental studies on classical animal, plant, and microbial model systems to cutting-edge research on behavior, cancer, and other human diseases.  Students enjoy superb opportunities for training that reflect the ever-expanding role of genetics in modern biological and biomedical research.  For instance, alongside traditional mutagenic screens with model organisms, the rapidly growing discipline of genomics is producing an explosion of information, which in turn is revealing the genetic circuitry of and relationships among all forms of life.  Data gathered by both traditional and new methodologies underscore the central importance of genetics in delineating the connection among genes, their biological functions, and the evolutionary processes that shape life on earth.  Genetics also gives practical insights into how defects in genes contribute to disease, as well as how gene products and genetic engineering can be used to improve the human condition.

The first-year student experience includes three core courses that establish a foundation for further study. In addition, each student rotates through three laboratories; these rotations furnish a basis for selecting a dissertation research advisor in May of the first year.  All Genetics students further deepen their knowledge and experience by participating in a student seminar series, thematic journal clubs, and elective courses chosen from a wide array of offerings.  The breadth of the Graduate Program in Genetics draws trainees from throughout the world with varied backgrounds and research interests, and the Program provides the options and flexibility to meet each student’s particular needs.

A. Course Requirements 

  1. Molecular Genetics (MCB 503)
  2. Graduate Genetics (BGE 510)
  3. Cell Biology (MCB 656)
  4. Research Proposal Preparation (BGE 693)
  5. Graduate Student Seminar in Genetics (BGE 531) must be taken each semester.
  6. During their first year, Genetics students rotate in the laboratories of three or four different faculty members, with the goal of selecting a mentor and environment for their dissertation research. The specific laboratories are selected by students based on their interactions with individual faculty. Rotation selections must be approved by the Graduate Program Director.
  7. Three semesters of Readings in Genetics (BGE 691) are required. These “Journal Clubs” are typically taken during the first and second years of study. Students select from thematic journal club topics that are organized each semester by faculty at the different institutions. This exercise provides important training in critical analysis of the literature while also allowing students to broaden their knowledge base on selected topics of interest.
  8. Each student must take two or more elective courses, for a minimum total of 6 credits. Electives must be approved by the Program Director. Typically, these courses are in the biological sciences (e.g., Developmental Biology, MCB 657; Immunology, HBP 533; Microbiology, HBM 640; or Molecular Evolution, BEE 565), but courses may also be taken in other relevant areas (e.g., computer sciences, bioengineering).
  9. Integrity in Science (GRD 500) is required of all Life Science graduate students. This half-semester course on ethics is typically taken in the Spring semester of the student’s first year.
  10. Requirements for any specific student, in addition to those enumerated above, that will be beneficial due to a student’s prior training and/or area of specialization will be determined by the program director and executive committee in conjunction with the student and appropriate advisory committee.
  11. Students must attain a grade of B or better in each of BGE 510, MCB 503, and MCB 656, as well as an overall average of B (3.0) or better in their elective courses.

B. Comprehensive (Preliminary) Qualifying Examination 
At the beginning of the fourth semester, students will take a comprehensive (preliminary) examination covering diverse areas of genetics which tests each student’s ability to read and interpret primary scientific literature.

C. Dissertation Proposal Examination 
After successful completion of the comprehensive (preliminary) examination, the student prepares a written proposal for the dissertation research project. This proposal has the format of a grant application, including information on the background and significance of the project, a detailed research plan, and any preliminary results that the student has generated that indicate the feasibility of the project. This written proposal is orally defended before a dissertation proposal examination committee. This committee does not include the student’s thesis advisor, but is selected by the student in conjunction with his or her advisor and program director. The dissertation proposal defense should occur during the fifth semester of graduate study. Generally, the faculty who participate in a student’s proposal examination committee then join with the advisor to form the student’s dissertation advisory committee.

D. Advancement to Candidacy 
After successful completion of all required and elective courses, the comprehensive (preliminary) examination, and the dissertation proposal examination, the student will be recommended to the Graduate School for advancement to candidacy. Each student must meet with his/her dissertation advisory committee at least once a year to inform the members of his/her progress and solicit the members’ advice.

E. Ph.D. Dissertation 
The research for the Ph.D. dissertation is conducted under the supervision of the dissertation advisory committee. Upon approval of the completed dissertation by this committee, a formal public oral defense of the dissertation is scheduled, at which the student presents his or her findings and is questioned by members of the audience. Subsequently, the candidate defends the dissertation to the examining committee in a closed session.

F. Teaching Requirement 
It is expected that each graduate student completing a doctoral degree will have functioned as a teaching assistant during at least two semesters of his or her graduate career (BIO 600).

G. Publication Requirement

To be eligible for graduation, each student must submit as first author at least one manuscript of original research to a suitable peer-reviewed journal (as determined by the Program’s Executive Committee).  Moreover, the journal’s editors must deem the paper of sufficient quality to merit evaluation by external reviewers.

H. Residence Requirement 
The University requires at least two consecutive semesters of full-time graduate study. The demands of the course of study necessitate a longer period of residence.

The Graduate Program in Genetics requires the following in addition to the minimum Graduate School admission requirements:

A. Superior undergraduate performance, which should include some formal training in genetics.

B. Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test scores. Note that subject-specific tests (i.e., Biology) are not required, but are helpful when available.

C. Three letters of recommendation, ideally from previous research mentors and faculty.

The program does not require, but prefers to see, evidence of research activity as an undergraduate. Whenever possible, prospective students are invited to visit for interviews with program faculty.

D. Acceptance by the Graduate Program in Genetics and by the Graduate School.


All students accepted into the program receive full support in the form of a tuition scholarship, stipend and subsidized health insurance. The annual stipend for the 2014-2015 academic year is $27,680. Although future stipend increases cannot be guaranteed, it is reasonable to expect periodic increases. Students who remain in good standing with both the Genetics Program and the Graduate School receive full tuition scholarships, health insurance benefits and stipend support throughout their graduate careers.

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