Individuals who are interested in pursuing advanced graduate study in the field of cell and molecular biology may want to enroll in a Ph.D. program. Schools typically offer courses which aim to hone students' research, ethical, and analytical thinking skills in the field.
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Information About Cell & Molecular Biology Ph.D. Programs
Ph.D. programs in cell and molecular biology typically take around five years to complete and require that students pass a number of qualifying exams before beginning work and research on their doctoral dissertation. This research is normally done during the last three years of the program, while the first two years are reserved for coursework. Below, we will look at five different courses that are often found in the curriculum of these programs.
These programs will likely include one or more courses that has a strong focus on genetics. In such a course, students will learn about topics like DNA replication and repair, protein turnover, transcription, and genomics. The course may have a more specific focus than just genetics, like medical molecular genetics, in which case it could cover additional topics like genetic diseases and cytogenetics.
Another course that will likely be found in programs in cell and molecular biology is a course in bioinformatics. In this course, students will gain a broad understanding of the field of bioinformatics by providing them with information about how computers can be used when conducting molecular biology research. The course will likely cover different operating systems and programming languages like Unix and Perl.
Cellular and Molecular Signaling
A course that covers cellular and molecular signaling is also commonly found in these Ph.D. programs. Students will learn about the pathways by which cellular signals travel through the body, as well as ways in which these pathways are disturbed. Additionally, students will learn about the different types of cellular receptors, like nuclear transcription receptors and G-coupled protein receptors.
Pharmacology and Drug Action
A course that focuses on pharmacology and drug action is another common course in these programs, as it is essential for students to understand the basics of pharmacology and the ways in which various drugs affect the body. Topics which may be discussed in this course include drug receptors, drug development, drug metabolism, and pharmacodynamics. Other topics include gene therapy, prodrugs, anticancer chemotherapy, and selective drug delivery.
Ethics and Responsible Conduct of Research
Students will also likely be required to take a course that focuses on ethical questions that may arise in this field as well as how to properly and responsibly conduct research. In this course, students will learn about ethical science, implications of using animals or humans as test subjects, and appropriate professional behavior when conducting research. Additional topics that may be discussed include data manipulation, plagiarism, genetic testing, and conflicts of interest.
Admission Standards for Ph.D. Programs in Cell & Molecular Biology
Students who would like to enroll in Ph.D. programs in cell and molecular biology will first have to gain admission into the program they are interested in. These programs generally expect that applicants will have achieved at least a bachelor's degree by the time of enrolling in the Ph.D. program. While no undergraduate major is required, specific previous coursework is typically required including calculus, organic chemistry, biology, and physics. When applying, students will need to submit undergraduate transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Also, programs may or may not require that applicants submit results from the GRE examination.
To summarize, Ph.D. programs in cell and molecular biology require that students complete both independent research and various coursework in this field. Though specific admission requirements may vary, most programs expect that prospective students have a strong undergraduate preparation in the sciences and mathematics.