The Program


The academic year at Baylor College of Medicine is divided into five terms of approximately two and a half months each. During their first year, the students complete a rigorous series of courses including core courses in biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular and classical genetics, and four specialized courses in developmental biology. Additionally, students participate in a weekly Seminar in Developmental Biology every term during their stay at Baylor.

The concentration of the majority of the coursework in the first year enables the graduate students in Developmental Biology to progress rapidly to full-time laboratory research efforts.

Computational Biology Track

The core courses have evolved over the years to cover the rapid advances in technology and expanding amounts of biological data. Several courses have integrated lectures to introduce genomics, proteomics, microarrays, high-throughput sequencing and genome-wide data analysis. For those interested in incorporating more quantitative methods in their research, the DB Program has initiated a Computational Biology Track. Students in the Computational Biology Track are required to take three out of four courses listed below. Based on the student’s research interests and in consultation with the Program Director, these electives will be used as a substitute for some first year courses. Students may also opt to take some of the computational biology courses during their second year.

First Year Curriculum

Term I

Organization of the Cell (2 hrs)
Molecular Methods (3 hrs)
Genetics A (2 hrs)
Classical Developmental Biology  (2 hrs)
Seminar in Developmental Biology  (1 hr)
Research Rotation (2 hrs)

Term II

Genetics B (2 hrs)
Cell Division (2 hrs)
Development (2 hrs)
Cancer (1 hr)
Seminar in Developmental Biology (1 hr)
Research Rotation

Term III

Gene Regulation (3 hrs)
Neuroscience (1 hrs)
Evolutionary Conservation of Developmental Mechanisms (3 hrs)
Seminar in Developmental Biology (1 hr)
Research Rotation

Term IV

Neural Development (3 hrs)
Topics in Development  (3 hrs)
Introduction to Biostatistics (2 hrs)
or Bioinformatics and Genomic Analysis (3 hrs)
Seminar in Developmental Biology (1 hr)
Research Rotation

Term V

Seminar in Developmental Biology (1 hr)
Research Rotation

Courses for Computational Biology Track:

Computational Mathematics for Biomedical Sciences (8 hrs, Terms I-II)
Computer-Aided Discovery Methods (3 hrs, Term IV)
Introduction to Biostatistics (2 hrs, Term IV)
Bioinformatics and Genomic Analysis (3 hrs, Term IV)

Faculty Research Presentations

In order to introduce incoming graduate students to the Program faculty, a series of informal presentations is scheduled in August and September. The objective of these presentations is to acquaint new students with the research projects of the faculty and to provide an opportunity to meet faculty members who are interested in supervising students for rotations and thesis research.

Research Rotations

Students carry out several research rotations. The purpose of these rotations is to expose the students to the actual research environment of the selected faculty’s laboratories, and to help them choose a major advisor. By the end of the first year, each student is expected to have chosen a research advisor. Following the choice of a thesis advisor, the student enters the advisor’s laboratory.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination takes place after the fourth term of the student’s first year, typically in June or July. It is conducted orally by a committee consisting of four faculty members who question the student to test his or her knowledge of all areas of developmental biology, capability for original thought, and ability to approach research problems scientifically.

Upon successful completion of the examination and coursework, the student will pursue a thesis research project under the direction of the major advisor and a thesis advisory committee.

Thesis Proposal Examination

The thesis proposal examination is conducted by the student’s thesis advisory committee and typically takes place at the end of year two.

The student writes a proposal that encompasses his or her research project but is not limited to it. The proposal will contain all the sections required for submission of an N.I.H. grant (specific aims, background and significance, preliminary results with the data obtained in the student’s first year of laboratory work, experimental design, and literature cited).

At the examination, the student gives an oral presentation describing the background, significance and experimental design of the proposal. Following the oral presentation, the student is questioned about the content and experimental design, as well as about the basic knowledge required to succeed with the project. The student will be an expert in the area of the proposal and will also be prepared to answer questions on general scientific knowledge.

Thesis and Defense of Thesis

The final step to completion of the Ph.D. is the preparation of a thesis and presentation of the thesis research work at a formal seminar, followed by a defense to the thesis advisory committee.

The thesis research work is the single most important component of the doctoral program and is carried out under the supervision of the major advisor and the thesis advisory committee. It must be of sufficient importance, rigor, and originality to warrant publication in high-quality scientific journals.

Continuing Education

Continuing professional enhancement is achieved by participation in numerous lecture and seminar series. The weekly Seminar in Developmental Biology provides an important opportunity for students to learn how to approach scientific literature directly and how to improve communication skills.

An excellent Seminar Series exists in the Program in Developmental biology at which internationally-known scientists present their research.

Throughout the tenure of the graduate students at Baylor College of Medicine, attendance at seminars and journal clubs is strongly encouraged.

Financial Assistance

The Program is supported by the school, a National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) training grant, by the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter of the March of Dimes Foundation (MOD).

Financial aid, including tuition coverage, health insurance, and a competitive stipend ($31,000 effective July 1, 2017), is guaranteed for all students admitted to the Program. An Office of International Services provides assistance to international students.




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