Student Handbook

Required Coursework

The Field of Genetics, Genomics and Development has a core curriculum comprised of a small set of courses designed to foster critical thinking skills and to provide foundational knowledge in Genetics, Genomics and Development. Graduate students must take the following courses prior to graduating (additional details about each course can be found below):

  1. BioMG7810, Problems in Genetics and Development,
  2. BTRY6010, Statistical Methods (or equivalent),
  3. three courses in a breadth requirement,
  4. three semesters of BioMG7800,
  5. a course on ethical issues in science (e.g., BioMG7510, Ethical Issues and Professional Responsibilities)

All GG&D students also are required to attend and participate in the Wednesday Field Seminars (12:20 pm; BioMG7860) and in the Friday Molecular Biology & Genetics Seminars (4:00 pm; BioMG7870). Additional course requirements, including the graduate minor, are set by the members of the student’s Special Committee. Students are strongly encouraged to complete their breadth and minor requirements by the end of their first year. Students are expected to take a minimum of 12 credits of GRADED courses during their first year in our program.

For courses with a letter grade, students are expected to receive a B (3.0) or better in order to remain in good standing in the program. Grades below B- in a student’s major area do not constitute satisfactory performance, and the course(s) must be retaken if it is a required course. If a student receives a grade below B- in two or more classes, he/she is at risk of being asked to leave the program (see First Year Evaluation below).

Please note that based on the academic calendar there appears to be a long break between the two semesters. However, first year graduate students are expected to be working on their first or second rotation (see Laboratory Rotations) during the intersession period.

I. BioMG7810 (2 credits), Problems in Genetics and Development, a problem solving course. All entering students take this course in the Fall semester of their first year. It meets every Tuesday once a week; each week’s discussion is led by a different professor. The problem sets consist of guided critical reviews of instructive and informative research papers, and expose you to a diversity of topics and approaches in genetics and development. Weekly problem sets and papers are handed out a week in advance; written answers are turned in the following week and discussed with the faculty member in charge of that particular week.

II. BTRY6010 (4 credits), Statistical Methods I. This course develops and uses statistical methods to analyze data arising from a wide variety of applications. Topics include descriptive statistics, point and interval estimation, hypothesis testing, inference for a single population, comparisons between two populations, one- and two-way analysis of variance, comparisons among population means, analysis of categorical data, and correlation and regression analysis. Introduces interactive computing through statistical software. Emphasizes basic principles and criteria for selection of statistical techniques.

Students can substitute this course with one of the following courses:

BioMG8340 Quantitative Biology for Molecular Biology and Genetics
BTRY6020 Statistical Methods II
BTRY6381 Bioinformatics programming
BTRY6830 Quantitative genomics and genetics
BTRY6840 Computational genomics
BTRY6700 Applied bioinformatics

III. BioMG7800 (1 credit, S/U only), Current Topics in Genetics and Development, a seminar course. Students will be required to take three BioMG7800 courses, with one on grant proposal writing, one focusing on material presented by each week’s MB&G seminar speaker, and a third one of student’s choice, but not a repeat of the above two.

The BioMG7800 on Grant proposal writing will be co-taught by two or three GGD field faculty members and offered in the fall semester each year. It is required by all first year GGD students. The purpose of the course is to teach students how to write a successful research proposal, mainly in the NSF predoctoral fellowship format. Each student will be required to put together an application during the first month of the fall semester. The proposals will be critiqued by fellow classmates and the faculty instructors through a series of mock review panels. After revising and hopefully improving the proposals through this exercise, all eligible students will submit their proposals to the NSF for real at the end of the class. Before arriving on campus, incoming first year students will be informed by the DGS of this Proposal Writing Course and that their first rotation mentors will serve as their proposal-writing mentors (see more in Laboratory Rotations). They will be asked to research the field website to find possible first rotation mentors that they can either contact before their arrival, or talk to right after they arrive, on campus. The students will then work with their mentors to come up with a research topic and proposal.

The other two forms of BioMG7800 emphasize presentation skills; generally, each student presents one seminar per course based on current research literature in the course topic. Students will be given formal feedback on their presentation by course instructors. This course is led by different faculty members each semester so that the focus varies. Each year, one to two BioMG7800 courses focused on a specific topic, and one BioMG7800 based on the MB&G seminar series will be offered. The latter is designed to encourage discussion of experiments performed by the speaker and his/her field of interest.

IV. BioMG7510 - Ethical Issues and Professional Responsibilities, a discussion course. All students are required to take this or a comparable course in scientific ethics. BioMG7510 is offered in the Spring semester. The opportunity to discuss these issues openly will be an important and valuable part of your graduate training.

V. BioMG7860 and BioMG7870 - All post first year students sign up for one credit of BioMG7860 (in-house seminar series) and one credit of BioMG7870 (invited seminar series) each semester. First year graduate students only sign up to audit these two courses. The bulletin board across from the first floor elevator in the Biotechnology Building is the place to check for topics, times and places of talks.

Friday Molecular Biology and Genetics Seminar (BioMG7870): 4:00-5:00 pm Fridays during Fall and Spring semesters and occasionally during the Summer in the Biotechnology Building Conference Room (G10). These talks are given by scientists visiting from other institutions and provide an opportunity to hear and meet some of the most distinguished researchers in the areas of genetics and development. Speakers are usually invited and hosted by faculty members, but graduate students can play a significant role in choosing whom to invite. First, students can suggest names of desirable speakers to their major professor, and second, at least once a year graduate students have the opportunity to independently invite and host a distinguished scientist. Very popular speakers who would otherwise be “too busy” will often find time in their schedules if they are invited by students rather than faculty. Coffee, tea and cookies are available at 3:45 pm, and there is usually an informal “Meet the Speaker” Happy Hour immediately after the seminar in one of the lounges upstairs. In addition, there is usually an opportunity for a group of graduate students to take the speaker to lunch on Friday. If you are interested in talking individually with a speaker, see the host listed at the bottom of the seminar notice and he or she will be glad to try to schedule you.

Wednesday Field Seminars (BioMG7860): 12:20-1:20 pm Wednesdays in 226 Weill Hall. All graduate students give seminars to present their research progress.  Students join the cycle in their second year and present their work at least once a year. Second and third year students are only expected to give a half hour talk. Students in their final semester are not required to give a field seminar but can opt out of presenting ONLY IF they plan to give a B-exam seminar during that same semester. In such cases, the student must have set a specific date for their B-exam with the approval of their committee and also must notify the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Field Assistants prior to the start of the semester.

Starting in Fall 2016 we are adding a new emphasis on Data Reproducibility to the Wednesday student seminar program. The first week’s session will be a panel discussion of data reproducibility issues in contemporary GG&D-related research areas, led by the DGS and the Program Director along with 1-2 additional faculty. Subsequently, all students will be asked to include at least 1-2 slides in their presentation about this issue. These could include, for example: specific measures they have taken to validate the reproducibility of their own data, challenges they have faced in reproducing published data sets, how they are documenting and making available to others their data analysis procedures, and/or how data reproducibility issues are being considered for future experiments. These changes will augment our long-standing emphasis on critical discussion of experimental design that has always been a major element of the student seminars.

A draft schedule of Field seminar assignments will be circulated at the beginning of each Academic year. Students should notify the Graduate Field Assistant if they have a scheduling conflict with their assigned slot. Once the schedule is set at the beginning of the semester, students that want to reschedule their talk must find another student willing to switch slots with them. Students will be given ample notice of the date of their seminar, and must submit a title and short abstract to the Graduate Field Assistant (Room 107) one week before their talk so that it can be distributed to members of the Field. Please note that attendance will be taken at the Wednesday Field Seminars (you must register for this course); students are required to attend at least 2/3 of the seminars in order to receive a satisfactory grade in BioMG7860.

VI. Breadth requirement. Students are to take a minimum of three courses from the list below (categories A-E) with at least one course taken from each of three separate categories. The Field recommends that a student with limited background in a particular category take a course in that group that stresses fundamental concepts. Note that classes a student takes in the breadth requirement can count towards the minor requirement. Although some courses are listed in multiple breadth categories, a single course cannot be counted more than once for the breadth requirement.

A. Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cellular Biology

BIOMG4370   Cell Proliferation and Senescence (F)
BIOMG6310   Proteins: Structure, Function and Dynamics (F)
BIOMG6330   Biosynthesis of Macromolecules (F)
BIOMG6390   The Nucleus (S)
BIOMG6360   Functional Organization of Eukaryotic Cells (S)
BIOPL4440   Plant Cell Biology (F)
BIOPL4620   Plant Biochemistry (S)

B. Development

BIOMG4450   Stem Cell Biology: Basic Science and Clinical Applications (S)
BIOMG4610   Development and Evolution (S) - offered alternate springs
BIOMG6870   Developmental Genetics (S) - offered alternate springs
BIOPL4220    Plant Development (F)

C. Genetics

BIOMG4860   Advanced Eukaryotic Genetics (S) - not currently offered
BIOMG4850   Bacterial Genetics (F)
NS6080    Epigenetics (F)
PLBR 6060   Advanced Plant Genetics (S)

D. Genomics

BIOMG4000   Genomics (F)
BIOMG4870   Human Genomics (F)
BTRY6010    Statistical Methods (F)
BTRY6381    Bioinformatics Programming (S)
BTRY6830    Quantitative Genomics and Genetics (S)
BTRY6840    Computational Genomics (F)
BTRY6700    Applied Bioinformatics (F)

E. Population Genetics and Evolution

BIOMG4810   Population Genetics (F)
BIOMG4840   Molecular Evolution (S) - not currently offered
BIOMG4870   Human Genomics (F)
BTRY 6830   Quantitative Genomics and Genetics (S)
BIOEE4800   Ecological Genetics (S)
BTRY 4/6820   Statistical Genomics: Coalescent Theory and Human Population Genomics

VII. Minor Requirement in One Subject Area: You should discuss with potential committee members the requirements of the program in which you plan to minor since some have quite specific course requirements. Below are the current requirements for several of the common minors. In general, completion of the minor requires at least two courses at the 400 level or higher. You are urged to discuss, as soon as possible, how you will satisfy the minor requirements with both the prospective committee member and if necessary with the DGS for the field under which the minor is administered. Again, you cannot major and minor in the same subject (e.g., genetics).

  1. Development (Field of Genetics, Genomics and Development) - requires two courses in Development that are beyond BioMG3850. Note that BioMG3850 should be taken in addition to these two courses if a student lacks the appropriate background. Participation in a weekly Developmental Biology Journal Club is strongly encouraged (see Journal Clubs).
  2. Genetics (Field of Genetics, Genomics and Development) - has no formal requirements; individual course requirements may be specified by your committee members (usually 2 or 3 advanced courses at the 400 level or above and BioMG2810, if necessary).
  3. Biochemistry (Field of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology) - requires 6 or more credits of advanced course work. Some suggestions for appropriate courses: BioMG4370, 6310, 6320, 6330, 6360, 6380, 6390, 7380 and Chem6680, 6720, and 6770. The 6 credits can be put together in any way that satisfies the BMCB faculty member representing the minor. If the student's lab background in this area is weak, the BMCB faculty committee member may require that the lab course BioMG4400 also be taken. He/she might also approve a course not offered by BMCB but still relevant, including any of the one-half credit minicourses.
  4. Cell Biology (Field of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology) - same requirement as for Biochemistry minor (above).
  5. Microbiology (Field of Microbiology) - the requirements for a minor in Microbiology are ultimately up to the discretion of your minor advisor. Generally, students are expected to complete at least two of the five one-credit modules in Microbiology (BioMI6900). The Modules in Microbiology include Microbial Structure and Function, Microbial Genetics, Microbial Pathogenesis, Microbial Physiology and Diversity, and Environmental Microbiology.
  6. Plant Molecular Biology (Field of Plant Biology) - completion of three 1-credit sections of BioPL6530 and 6520 (including BioPL6530, Section 01, Concepts and Techniques in Plant Molecular Biology) with a grade of B- or better, as well as satisfactory completion of two other courses to be selected by the minor advisor in either a plant-related area or in genetics, biochemistry, or cell biology. Satisfactory participation in the Plant Molecular Biology Journal Club for two semesters is also required (BioPL7420, Current Topics in Plant Molecular Biology).
  7. Plant Cell Biology (Field of Plant Biology) - satisfactory completion of Plant Cell Biology (BioPl4440) or Survey of Cell Biology (BioMG4320), and the following three 1-credit sections of BioPl6520: Section 5/Molecular Biology of Plant Organelles, Section 6/Proteomics in Plant Biology; and Section 7/Plant Cell Walls: Structure to Proteome) or alternative courses as approved by the minor advisor.
  8. Evolutionary Biology (Field of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) - no specific requirements. Discuss expected background with your prospective minor committee member.
  9. Genomics (Minor Field) - requires BIOGD 4000 (A Genomics approach to studying Life) and two one credit modules as approved by the Special Committee.
  10. Biometry (Field of Biometry) - discuss course work with your prospective minor committee member.
  11. Computational Biology (Field of Computational Biology) - discuss course work with your prospective minor committee member.
  12. Neurobiology and Behavior (Field of Neurobiology and Behavior) - discuss course work with your prospective minor committee member.