Cancer Biology Graduate Program

Message from the program director

Jeffrey Tyner, Ph.D.

The Cancer Biology Program constitutes the foundation of basic science research of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. The overall goal of the Cancer Biology Program is to investigate the underlying cellular, genetic and molecular mechanisms in the development of cancer and in the regulation of both normal and abnormal cell growth. The scientific thrust of the program is in four related areas of investigation: Signal Transduction, Carcinogenesis/Genetic Instability, Apoptosis and the Tumor Microenvironment.

About the program

The Graduate Program in Cancer Biology is designed to train students for a career in basic and applied cancer research. Modern cancer research is based on a broad range of technical skills including: Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Genetics, Biochemistry, and Bioinformatics, which the students will learn through course work and extensive laboratory training. Students in this program will receive training in the application of biotechnology to basic and applied cancer research, and to the dissemination of information to the next generation of scientists and the lay public. Training will include exercises designed to develop independent thinking, oral and written presentation skills, data and information analysis, and dissemination of information through teaching. Students in this program will enter their graduate careers at OHSU through the Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

PMCB is an interdisciplinary program that brings together over 150 faculty from seven basic science departments and research institutes to provide graduate students with rigorous training in chemical, molecular, cellular, and systems biology during their first year at OHSU. The first-year curriculum consists of courses that all students will take, and emphasizes all aspects of cancer biology (cellular, molecular, systems, and disease). The curriculum is flexible and courses are largely completed in the first term, permitting students to focus on the essence of graduate training, independent research in a mentor's laboratory, as soon as possible.

First year students will be advised by faculty members, who will guide them through courses including advanced electives and rotations. Students also participate in laboratory rotations in the first year, using these rotations to help choose a dissertation lab. At the end of the first year, students will take a comprehensive written exam, which tests students on their grasp of the core curriculum and on their skills in understanding the primary literature. Also at the end of the first year, the students choose a mentor and officially enter the Program in Cancer Biology. At the end of their second year, students take the oral qualifying exam, which allows them to become a Ph.D. candidate. The qualifying exam consists of a written component, which is a thesis proposal in the format of an NRSA grant, and an oral defense. Subsequently, the student chooses a dissertation advisory committee, who guides their dissertation research. Students are evaluated at several points during their participation in the program, and are subjected to several yearly requirements, including a dissertation committee meeting and a talk on their research. Finally, the culmination of a student's graduate career is the assembly of a written Ph.D. dissertation and its oral defense. Thus, the proposed program combines rigorous course work with laboratory training and exercises in writing, speaking, and teaching, designed to provide students with the necessary theoretical and practical skills to launch productive careers.

Graduating students will be in a position to competitively pursue a wide range of potential careers including: basic and applied research in the academic, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, as well as in undergraduate and graduate level teaching and science writing. 


Mailing Address
Cancer Biology Graduate Program, L357
3181 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road
Portland, OR 97239

Graduate Program Coordinator
Lola Bichler

Admissions information
Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology

Graduate Studies