Program Curriculum

Photo of CONJ 660 course students.

PBMS is meant to be a flexible program where the educational training plan is custom-built for each student based on their research project and trajectory. Course requirements reflect our desire that students receive a strong scientific foundation in core biomedical disciplines and learn to think critically about their own project and the work of others. Recognizing that graduates in the biomedical sciences follow many trajectories, we provide training in analytical, professional and communication skills that will prepare students for diverse scientific careers.

Year 1: Curriculum Overview

PMCB students in the classroom.

The PBMS academic program for the first year includes three laboratory rotations as well as a core curriculum designed to provide students with a foundation for understanding and conducting research in experimental biology.

  • Fall: All students take the core courses listed below during the fall quarter.  The courses are integrated, such that Scientific Logic and Methods and Models introduce scientific models, methods and fundamental discoveries that are concurrently taught in the core science curriculum.
  • Winter: PBMS students rotate through three labs during winter term, with 4 weeks spent in each lab. To make sure that students are focused on their research, Winter term has a “course-light” schedule, where students are only required to attend scientific seminars and journal clubs.
  • Spring: In the third quarter, students begin research in their thesis labs and take an elective course, allowing them to develop their own areas of emphasis in consultation with their thesis advisor and academic mentor.

Fall Quarter

  • Faculty Auditions
    • Every week, five faculty members highlight opportunities in their lab, in addition to informally presenting and discussing their research.
  • PBMS 606: Scientific Logic 
    • The course is structured around reading and analysis of recent journal articles that (claim to) transform knowledge in a biomedical field. The majority of articles are chosen from the topics covered by the three basic science courses taught during fall quarter (PBMS771-773). Students will develop research skills to find and evaluate scientific literature, evaluate data and the peer review process, identify significant questions and generate new hypotheses, discuss elements of research design, methods, and critical thinking, as well as oral communication and ethical issues.
  • PBMS 607: Methods and Models
    • This course will introduce students to the diversity of approaches and systems available to biomedical scientists and to the imaging, genomics and proteomics core facilities. The course will allow students to observe techniques and interact with faculty who describe the principles, advantages, controls, and limitations (including ethics) of their model systems.
  • PBMS 771: Structure & Function of Biological Molecules
    • This course is designed to provide students with an in depth understanding of macromolecular structure/function. This course will consist of didactic lectures as well as discuss and problem solving sessions. Topics include:
      1. Protein structure
      2. Thermodynamic considerations of protein folding
      3. Nucleic acid structure and topology
      4. The functions of proteins as enzymes and in macromolecular assembly, including quantitative analyses of ligand binding phenomena and enzyme kinetics
      5. Structural and biochemical properties of lipids, membrane assembly and dynamics, and characteristics of membrane proteins
      6. The principles of bioenergetics and metabolism
  • PBMS 772: Genetic Mechanisms and Bioregulation
    • This course is designed to provide students with a deeper understanding of genetic mechanisms and inheritance, and of gene regulation in eukaryotes. This course will consist of didactic lectures as well as discussion and problem-solving sessions. Topics include:
      1. Genetic mechanisms including DNA replication, mutagenesis, repair, and recombination
      2. Prokaryotic genetics and genetic model organisms
      3. Human genetics, epigenetics, transposons, population genetics, the human genome, and gene therapy.
      4. Gene regulation in eukaryotes: genome organization, chromatin structure, epigenetics
      5. RNA and protein metabolism, macromolecular complexes and systems biology
  • PBMS 773: Molecular and Cell Biology
    • The goal of this course is to provide students with a foundational understanding of cell biology that will accelerate their future scientific endeavors as well as introduce them to cutting edge areas of cell biological research. This course will consist of didactic lectures as well as discussion and problem-solving sessions. Topics include:
      1. Cellular structure and dynamics: cell contacts and cell junctions, cell polarity, cytoskeleton, cell migration, actin- and microtubular-based transport, secretoty machinery, mitochondria, and nuclear trafficking
      2. Cell signaling, communication and death: cell signaling, organelle communication and interaction, apoptosis, cell cycle

    Winter Quarter

    • Scientific seminars and journal clubs
    • PBMS 650: The Practice & Ethics of Science
    • PBMS 601: Research Rotations
      • Students rotate through three labs during winter term of their first year, with 4 weeks spent in each lab. Lab rotations are facilitated by "faculty auditions" during fall term, during which faculty present the research opportunities in their labs and answer questions from students. To be eligible for a lab rotation, the lab's PI must be Graduate Faculty and a member of Research Hub, and be approved by the PBMS Director. Upon the completion of the third rotation, the student choose a lab and are affiliated with a specific Research Hub in which to complete their PhD requirements

    Spring Quarter

    • Scientific seminars and journal clubs
    • PBMS 601: 1st Year Research
    • Choose one elective from Research Hub curriculum, examples include:
      • Development, Differentiation and Diseases
      • Organ Systems
      • Molecular Biophysics and Experimental Bioinformatics
      • Principles of Chemical Biology
      • Advanced Virology
      • Advanced Immunology
      • Dynamic Interface between Pathogen & Host
      • Eukaryotic Genetics
      • Communication and Professional Development (select from list of choices)

    Summer Quarter

    PBMS 601: Research

    • Research
    • Computational skills and methods (elective)

    Year 2: Curriculum Overview

    PMCB students in the classroom.

    In addition to research, students continue to develop their scientific knowledge through elective courses as well as professional and quantitative skills. Biostatistics (PBMS 620) and scientific writing (PBMS 621) courses are taken during Year 2 towards fulfilling professional requirements.

    By the end of the second year, students undergo the qualifying examination. This examination consists of two parts, a written examination (an NRSA-style proposal), and an oral defense. In addition, a member of the PBMS steering committee may attend the examination as a non-voting observer. The student is expected to answer questions regarding the scientific background, rationale, and methodologies of the proposal.

    Upon successful completion of both portions of the qualifying exam, the student is advanced to candidacy.

    Fall Quarter

    • PBMS 601: Research
    • Journal Club and Seminars within research community
    • Communication and Professional Development (select from list of choices)
    • Advanced topics courses within Education Plan

    Winter Quarter

    • PBMS 601: Research
    • Journal Club and Seminars within research community
    • Communication and Professional Development (select from list of choices)
    • PBMS 620: Biostatistics (or equivalent)

    Spring Quarter

    • PBMS 601: Research
    • Journal Club Seminars within research community
    • PBMS 621: Scientific Writing (Professional Development)

    Summer Quarter

    • PBMS 601: Research
    • Qualifying exam