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College of Graduate Studies

Academic Progression Timetable & PhD Guidelines

First Year 

Foundations in Biomedical Sciences - Common Curriculum

Laboratory Rotations

At the end of the first year:

  • Selection of a mentor & graduate program of study
  • Preparation of Individual Development Plan (IDP)  Policy

Second Year

Selection of Graduate Advisory Committee

After the student has chosen an advisor, he/she will form an advisory graduate committee with the help of his/her advisor of at least four other members of the graduate faculty. The advisory committee needs to be organized no later than November of the second year. The advisory committee will provide guidance and monitor progress during the remainder of the student's Ph.D. program. Students are required to have their first committee meeting by December of their second year. At this meeting, students should present a brief outline of the specific aims of their proposed research. You are required to meet with your committee once a year.

Advanced Course Work

Students are required to take 12 units of advanced course work beyond the common first year curriculum. Students can take any course offered in any of the MCBP Divisions. In addition, students may take courses offered by any of the other departments in the graduate program at MUSC.
Predoctoral students must enroll for 15 hours each semester. Students can elect to take their advanced courses during their second year or to spread them out into their third year as well. It is expected that the majority of the student's time from the second year on will be devoted to research.

MCBP Seminar Series (MCBP 724)

Students must register for Seminar, MCPB 724, every semester while in the program. The Thursday 4:00 pm MCBP External Seminar Series invites leading scientists from the United States and foreign countries to present their work to both students and faculty in the MCBP Program. These seminars are on a broad range of topics representing each of the six divisions within the MCBP Program. Importantly, students have the opportunity to meet informally with the speakers over lunch. Students must attend two thirds of the Thursday Seminars during the semester. Excused absences must be approved by the MCBP Course Directors.

Select an MCBP Division Journal Club

Sometime in the second year with the help of their mentor, students will pick a division in the MCBP program. Each Division offers track-specific advanced courses as well as one or more journal clubs.
Students must register for one of the Journal Clubs offered each semester.


Written Qualifying Examination

The MCBP written Qualifying Examination is administered once a year in June. The students will have one week to answer one long answer question and three short answer questions. The objectives of the examination are to determine if the student understands the principles of cell and molecular biology, are able to read and comprehend relevant literature related to the question, and can synthesize a coherent and well-written response.

When the student has passed the written examination, a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the student's performance will be compiled and forwarded to the student's dissertation committee, along with the student's graded examination questions. A critique of the student's performance on each exam question will be provided to the student. If a student fails 1-2 examination questions but has an overall passing grade on the exam, he/she has the opportunity to retake the question(s) within 2 weeks of receiving their grade for the examination. If a student fails the entire exam, the student must petition the MCBP Examination Committee to be allowed to retake the examination the following June. The student's progress in the program, performance on the exam, and letter from the student's advisors will be important factors in determining if the student will be permitted to retake the examination. If the examination is failed after a second attempt, the student will be dismissed from the MCBP Doctoral Program.

Third Year


MCBP Thursday Seminar Series (MCBP 724)

Journal Club

Annual Meeting with Graduate Committee

Advanced Course Work

Oral Qualifying Examination

The oral qualifying examination must be taken within 6 months of successfully passing the written qualifying examination. The student will submit the SPECIFIC AIMS page of his/her research proposal to his/her graduate committee at least 7 days before the oral examination. The examination committee consists of the student's dissertation committee, (but not the student's mentor) and is chaired by a senior MCBP faculty member appointed by the MCBP Director. The examination will consist of general questions to test the student's background, questions related to areas covered on the student's written examination, and general questions focused on the student's proposal Specific Aims. The objectives of the oral examination are to test the ability of the student to think on his or her feet, test the student's general knowledge of cellular and molecular biology, knowledge of his/her area of research and to examine weaknesses in the student's knowledge base that were identified in the written examination.

Research Proposal:

Within 3 months of successfully passing his or her oral qualifying examination, the student will submit a research proposal in NIH format on his or her research topic. The length of the research proposal is suggested to be between 5 and 8 pages. It must be submitted to each member of the thesis committee at least 1 week before the student's committee meeting. The student will orally present his/her proposal to the committee in a 30-minute seminar. The student's committee will evaluate the proposal and the student must make all changes to the written proposal recommended by the committee. The committee must approve the research proposal, but this committee meeting is not part of the oral examination, and committee members may be helpful in advising the student on experimental strategies or alternative approaches in the aims proposed by the student.

Review of IDP (less than 1 month after candidacy)

Fourth/Fifth Year


MCBP Thursday Seminar Series (MCBP 724)

Journal Club

Annual Meeting with Graduate Committee

Advanced Course Work

Review of IDP (annually)

Dissertation in Seminar & Defense

During the fourth and subsequent years of graduate study, students are primarily responsible for conducting their research project and meeting with their committee at least once a year. A dissertation based on original investigation is required which gives evidence of mature scholarship and critical judgment, indicates knowledge of research methods techniques and demonstrates the ability to carry out independent investigation. After your mentor has approved your written dissertation, it should be submitted to each of your graduate committee members. The graduate committee requires 7-14 days to review your dissertation before they sign the dissertation notice certifying that it is ready to defend. The Dissertation Defense Notice needs to be turned in to the graduate office at least 3 weeks before the scheduled public defense.

Publication of doctoral dissertations is required of all students. The dissertation committee will not sign the Dissertation Defense Notice form until the candidate has a first author manuscript accepted for publication. Each candidate must present his/her Dissertation in a public seminar. Following this formal presentation of approximately 50 minutes, general questions are taken from the audience, which includes student and faculty members of the MCBP program as well as general faculty. After general questions, a closed-door examination is conducted by the student's dissertation committee and graduate faculty. The dissertation committee will have the primary responsibility for evaluating the student's research, including the written dissertation, the formal oral presentation, and for administrating the final oral examination. Approval of the advisory committee with no more than one dissenting vote is necessary for recommendation for awarding the degree. In the event of disapproval by the committee, the candidate may be permitted to retake the final oral examination in not less than six months and not more than two years from the time that this decision was made. Only one opportunity for re-examination is given.

PhD Program Requirements

    •    Successful completion of the first year core curriculum.
    •    Successful completion of twelve credit hours of core coursework from the MCBP course curriculum or from other MUSC graduate courses.
    •    Successful completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations.
    •    One first author original research article accepted in a peer-reviewed journal before approval is given by dissertation committee to defend your dissertation.
    •    At least one additional manuscript (preferable first author) must be either accepted or submitted in a peer-reviewed journal at the time of student's defense. (There are cases where the students first publication carried such major impact in the field and contained the majority of the dissertation that a second publication is not required. In these cases, the decision to allow a student to graduate with only one first author publication will be made by the MCBP Progress Committee).
    •    Successful completion of dissertation proposal and final defense of dissertation.
    •    Successful completion of all corrections of the dissertation proposal and signatures of the dissertation committee on the front sheets of your dissertation.


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