Chemical Biology

Program of Study and Formal Academic Requirements

The Chemical Biology Program prepares investigators with diverse backgrounds for independent research careers in which the concepts and methods of chemistry are used to solve biological problems. This objective is met through individually designed programs involving formal courses both in the Chemical Biology Program and in related fields, rotations in different labs, a qualifying examination, independent research, and dissertation writing.


The program co-directors meet with each student at least two times during their first year to monitor progress.

After completing the qualifying examination, students choose a dissertation advisory committee (DAC) that will annually review and advise on students’ progress toward completion of dissertation.


Students are required to take CB300: Introduction to Chemical Biology Research; Chem170: Chemical Biology; CB2200: Introduction to Chemical Biology; BCMP 236: Modern Drug Discovery: from principles to patients; MedSci 300: Conduct of Science; and three additional courses chosen in consultation with the program co-directors. These courses must be passed with a B average or better.

Laboratory Rotations

Students are expected to complete two–four laboratory rotations. The program does not set time limits on rotations, but most rotations are expected to be 6-12 weeks long. Rotations allow students to explore different research areas, identify potential collaborators, and experience the environment in different research groups. The purpose of the rotation is to facilitate the choice of the dissertation laboratory, not to accomplish a research project. Students may rotate in the labs of faculty outside of the program with program approval.

First year students must choose their dissertation laboratory no later than June 30th.

Teaching Requirement

Students are required to serve as a teaching fellow for one course. It is recommended that students complete this requirement by the end of their second year of graduate study. The course should be relevant to chemical biology.

Preliminary Dissertation Qualifying Examination

The aim of the PQE is to assess the student’s ability to review research in a particular field, to identify a problem or formulate a central hypothesis that is significant for the field, to design line(s) of experimentation to address the problem or test the hypothesis, and to describe how they will interpret the data that would result from the proposed experiment. The topic for the proposal may be related to a student’s dissertation research or the topic may be completely independent.

Students must take the exam by April 15th of their second year.

Dissertation Advisory Committee

Each student, in consultation with their dissertation advisor, will nominate a dissertation advisory committee (DAC) to oversee the progress of their research. A DAC must be appointed by the end of October of the student’s third year and a meeting scheduled by the end of December. Subject to program approval, any three faculty may be on the committee.

Preparing for the Dissertation Defense

The Dissertation Advisory Committee, in consultation with the Dissertation Advisor, determines when it is time for a student to stop laboratory work and begin to write a dissertation. It is expected that students will defend their dissertation in their fifth or sixth year of graduate study. The final manuscript must conform to the requirements described in Dissertations.

The student and the student’s dissertation advisor must select three examining committee members to be submitted to the co-directors for approval. The student is expected to give a public seminar of approximately one hour on the day of the examination, prior to a defense of the dissertation with the examination committee.