Biochemistry and Cancer Biology

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Alakananda Basu, PhD, Graduate Advisor
Research and Education 437
Phone: 817-735-2487
E-mail: Alakananda.Basu@unthsc.edu

The Biochemistry and Cancer Biology programs are interdisciplinary programs that offer both MS and PhD degrees. The goal of these programs is to provide students with rigorous education and training in biomedical sciences with a specialty in Biochemistry or Cancer Biology. The MS and PhD degree programs are designed to accommodate a broad spectrum of student and faculty interests and require a significant contribution to knowledge through original research. Students receive training through original research, formal classroom education, problem-based learning, seminars, and journal clubs. The programs include faculty members from several departments engaged in various aspects of cancer research, including signal transduction, apoptosis, cell proliferation and differentiation, cancer immunology, drug resistance, tumor invasion and metastasis, DNA damage and repair, gene delivery, cancer therapeutics, molecular carcinogenesis, genetic epidemiological and bioinformatics studies, nanotechnology/imaging and alternative medicine therapies of cancer. The research projects employ state-of-the-art molecular, cellular and biochemical techniques that include genomics, proteomics, mass spectrometry, protein crystallography, molecular cloning, gene targeting, FACS analysis, advanced fluorescence spectroscopy, and optical imaging.

Students may choose faculty advisors from any department according to their research interests. In addition, students will be able to utilize the resources and expertise of faculty members with diverse backgrounds from several departments. During the first year, students will acquire sufficient background in biological sciences, including biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, pharmacology, microbiology and immunology. The students will have the opportunity to rotate in research laboratories in any department prior to selecting their thesis advisors although one rotation must be completed with a faculty member in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics. The student, in consultation with the Graduate Advisor and other faculty, should select additional laboratory rotations to expand their laboratory skills and/or data interpretation analysis methods. Cancer Biology Students are required to take two discipline specific courses, Molecular Aspects of Cell Signaling (MOMG 6435) and Molecular and Cell Biology of Cancer (MOMG 6250). The students will be able to select additional elective courses from any department based on their needs and interests. PhD students are admitted to candidacy after successful completion of their preliminary oral qualifying examination and defense of an NIH R21 research grant proposal. MS students are expected to graduate in approximately 2 years, whereas PhD students usually require 5 years to complete their degrees.

Master of Science

Students enrolled in the Master of Science degree program will conduct original research. The M.S. degree requirements are met upon satisfactory completion of a minimum of 48 semester credit hours (SCH) of coursework and research credits, including the successful completion of a formal public seminar on their thesis research, oral final defense of their research and approval of a thesis.

Doctor of Philosophy

Doctoral studies in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics are broadly interdisciplinary. The Ph.D. degree requirements are met upon satisfactory completion of a minimum of 90 semester credit hours (SCH) of core curricula, specialized upper division courses, and research credits, including the successful completion of the requirements for advancement to candidacy and defense of the dissertation research. Students entering the program with a non-terminal M.S. degree must complete a minimum of 60 SCH beyond that earned in their master’s studies. Prior to the dissertation defense, the doctoral candidates must have one first author manuscript derived from the dissertation research accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal; and, an additional manuscript published, in press, or submitted.   

Advancement to Doctoral Candidacy

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination is to ensure a doctoral student has sufficient mastery of fundamental principles of cancer biology and biomedical sciences, including biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology to be successful as a PhD candidate. The student is expected to become knowledgeable in each of these topics through coursework, individual reading, or discussions with faculty members. The qualifying examination within the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics must be successfully completed prior to earning 72 SCH of coursework. The qualifying examination is an oral exam; it ensures that a doctoral student has sufficient mastery of fundamental principles in biomedical sciences to be successful as a Ph.D. candidate and subsequently, as an independent researcher. Topics included in the oral qualifying exam may consist of fundamental knowledge and understanding of general biomedical sciences, genetics, and research techniques. Individual programs may require specific courses prior to taking the qualifying exam; representative questions tailored to the individual student’s specialty may be included. Refusal to take a qualifying exam will result in dismissal from the graduate program. The University Member must be in attendance for the oral examination. 

The Graduate Advisor, in consultation with the Chair of the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics, will serve as the examination coordinator. The examination committee will include two of the student’s advisory committee members, three faculty members outside of the student’s committee, and the University Member assigned to the student’s committee. The major professor cannot serve on the testing committee or attend the oral qualifying exam. The student will be provided with a list of 12 or more questions 30 minutes prior to the exam and is required to answer a specified number (between 4 and 6) of the questions posed by the committee within two hours. During the examination, the questioning/discussions may be expanded to address related topics. The qualifying examination will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis, following the Scoring Rubric implemented by the GSBS. Following completion of the oral qualifying exam the student must submit the signed Oral Qualifying Exam Notice to the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Office of Admission and Services (GSBS OAS).

Successful completion of the qualifying examination must be accomplished before the student can register for Grant Writing (BMSC 6310). The student is permitted two attempts to pass the qualifying examination. Failure to pass the qualifying examination after two attempts will result in dismissal from the PhD program.

Grant Writing (BMSC 6310)

After passing the qualifying examination, but prior to the completion of 84 SCH, the student must register for Grant Writing (BMSC 6310). This component of the advancement to Ph.D. candidacy process evaluates a student’s aptitude for independent thought and scientific writing. The student is required to prepare a research grant proposal modeled after the current NIH R21 format. The student must present the proposal in a public seminar and orally defend the proposal before their Ph.D. advisory committee. The grant proposal must be original, hypothesis driven, and must describe specific objectives and experimental approaches used to test the hypothesis; this grant proposal exercise can be the basis of the doctoral student’s research.

The student must provide to the advisory committee a final proposal approved by the major professor at least two weeks prior to the public seminar and oral defense. The student’s University Member must be present for committee meetings, the public seminar, and the oral defense of the proposal. The grant proposal, oral presentation, and defense will be evaluated on the basis of originality, feasibility, and ability to communicate the proposal content. The grant writing exercise will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis, following the Scoring Rubric implemented by the GSBS. Following completion of the grant defense the student must submit the signed Grant Defense Notice to the GSBS OAS.

Upon successful completion of the Grant Writing (BMSC 6310) requirements, the student is advanced to candidacy. Two attempts to successfully complete the BMSC 6310 requirements are permitted. If the grant proposal and/or oral defense are not approved on the first attempt, the student may be offered a re-examination during the current semester if sufficient time permits. If a re-examination is not scheduled, the student will receive a failing grade for the class and will be required to re-register for BMSC 6310 in the next long semester. The grant proposal and/or oral defense must be successfully defended on the second attempt, or the student will be dismissed from the PhD program.

Defense of M.S. Thesis and Ph.D. Dissertation

Procedures for defense of M.S. theses and Ph.D. dissertations follow the policies outlined in the current catalog and theGSBS Graduation website.

General Statement

The policies outlined are applicable to all graduate students in the Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics regardless of the date the student entered the graduate program unless otherwise noted. The policies may change during the student’s tenure at the UNT Health Science Center.

This page last updated 01st Aug 2014