Kerry's Korner


what the PhD entails…
June 22, 2007, 10:54 PM
Filed under: grad school

Here is a copy of an email I sent to a group I am on since there seemed to be a general lack of understanding/knowledge as to how the PhD program is set up and what it entails.

OK, so the way a PhD works in the Biological Sciences…. in my case Immunology and Microbial Diseases…

You have a BS and maybe a MS – or really good grades, references and GRE scores with your BS (which was what I did) and apply to all these schools. Most of the upper tier schools with PhDs in Biomedical research offer places in the program that come with garaunteed tuition waivers and stipend support. I only applied to schools that garaunteed support. Some schools require teaching or other various positions in order to receive the support, but not the one I am in.

So, first year students are required to take Biochemistry, Molecular Cell Biology, Immunology and Microbial Diseases. Three lab rotations which involve working in a lab for 10-12 weeks. At the end of the third one you choose the lab you want to stay in as your thesis lab and the PI (primary investigator) will be your mentor for the remainder of your graduate career. Also at the end of the first year are the qualifiers (which I described previously) which must be passed in order to remain in the program.

After 1st year classes are over there are a certain number of electives and upper level “advanced” courses that must be taken over the remainder of your time. The rest of the time you are doing research in the lab, writing your thesis proposal and defending it, writing papers to publish (that are nasty to read if you don’t know what they are talking about) and going to and presenting your work at seminars. Various PIs have different requirements for when you are “ready” to graduate. In my case, my mentor is one of the tougher and I have to have 3 papers published that are at least the quality of a particular journal. Dept regs say 1 paper. Then you write and defend your thesis and finally graduate anywhere from 4 – 7 years after you
started.

Lab research is FT plus… doesn’t follow the business clock and can be very frustrating and exasperating… and is also the coolest thing in the world!

So, in case you were wondering, too, here you go…. 🙂

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