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Graduate Student Year-by-Year Schedule


First YearFinal Year
Second YearAcademic & Scientific Review
Subsequent Years

First Year

1. Required Courses:
Foundations of Modern Biology:
 Macromolecular Structure and Analysis (ME:100.709)
 Biochemical and Biophysical Principles (ME:100.710)
 Molecular Biology and Genomics (ME:260.709)
 Cell Structure and Dynamics (ME:110.728)
 Organic Mechanisms in Biology (ME:330.709)
 Pathways and Regulation (ME:360.728)
 Bioinformatics (ME:800.707)
Organ Physiology (ME:360.720)

Research (ME:330.801; Year)
Topics in Pharmacology (ME:330.802; Biweekly Seminar Series,Year)
Primary Source Readings and Analysis (ME:330.708; Year)

2. First year Research rotations: Two research rotations are required, three are recommended; the three rotations run between September and May and are each ~10 weeks in length. These experiences will familiarize students with research in the department and help in the selection of a lab for thesis research.

3. Primary Source Readings and Analysis (ME:330.708): This course is designed to help students 1) strengthen their ability to critically analyze scientific literature, 2) refine skills in experimental design, 3) correctly report and authenticate key research reagents, 4) enhance data recording and reporting, 5) understand the do's and don'ts of data processing and presentation, and 6) learn new trends in scientific publishing.

4. Statistics coursework is required of all students in the Program matriculating in Fall 2019 and later. Development of a comprehensive statistics course is currently in progress, and students will be kept updated on changes as the course is created to fit the new academic calendarIn the meantime, students may take Statistics for Laboratory Scientists (PH:140.615) through the School of Public Health. Students must complete the statistics requirement by the end of Year 3, though it is strongly encouraged that students do so as early as Year 1.

5. Research Rotation Presentations: After the conclusion of the first two research rotations, first-year students give a presentation of their project. 

6. Selection of Faculty Preceptor: At the end of the first year, students usually select a laboratory in which they wish to do their thesis research. If, following the three scheduled research rotations, a student has not made a choice, it is possible to do additional research rotations.

7. Two approved elective courses must be taken prior to the completion of Year 4.

Second Year

1. Required Courses:
Graduate Pharmacology I (ME:330.707)
Graduate Pharmacology II (ME:330.715)
Essential Grantsmanship: Writing the Research Grant Proposal (ME:330.714)
Topics in Pharmacology (ME:330.802)
Research (ME:330.801)

2. Electives: See #7 above.

3. Doctoral Board Oral Examination: This is a University requirement for all Ph.D. candidates. This examination takes place in May of the second year. Refer to the Student & Faculty Handbook for the DBO format.

4. Individual Development Plan: The IDP is a yearly meeting between the student and his/her faculty preceptor to discuss progress, concerns, and goals. Prior to meeting, students complete a questionnaire to facilitate discussion. The completed questionnaire is confidential between student and preceptor, and the student must provide a completed signature form to the Program to document the meeting. The IDP meeting must take place by June 30 of the second year, after completion of the DBO. Thereafter, the IDP must take place in conjunction with the annual thesis advisory committee meeting.

Subsequent Years

1. Required Courses:
 Research (ME:330.801)
 Topics in Pharmacology (ME:330.802)
 Elective courses, if not completed

2. Progress Meeting: In the Fall of Year 3, all third-year students meet with the Graduate Program Steering Committee to discuss research progress and plans for submitting the thesis proposal, and to provide formal feedback to the Program.

3. Thesis Proposal: After completing the Doctoral Board Oral Examination, students prepare a written proposal describing their thesis project and research plan. The proposal is due by the end of January of the third year. A Thesis Advisory Committee, selected by the student and faculty preceptor, is then convened to evaluate and discuss the proposed research. This committee will meet with the student yearly (or more often, if deemed useful) to provide guidance, help set research objectives and priorities, and to aid in determining when the student has fulfilled the Ph.D. thesis research requirement.

4. Thesis Advisory Committee Meeting: Students meet once or twice yearly with their Thesis Advisory Committee to update them on research progress and discuss specific aims for the coming year. These meetings should occur in March or April of the third year. The date of the first meeting becomes the deadline by which all subsequent annual meetings must be held.

The progress of biomedical research is often unpredictable. Therefore, the time it takes each student to complete the doctoral degree will vary. Each student’s research progress will be evaluated by the student’s preceptor on a day-to-day basis, and by their Thesis Advisory Committee on an annual or semi-annual basis. The program expects most students to complete their degree within 6 years of entering the program. After completing the fifth year, students are required to hold semi-annual thesis committee meetings as they near the completion of the research requirement.

5. Research in Progress Seminars: Participation in this biweekly series is expected in Years 3 through 5.

Final Year

1. Final Meeting with Thesis Advisory Committee: When the student and faculty preceptor feel that the thesis research project is nearing completion and it is time to begin writing the dissertation in preparation for graduation, a meeting of the Thesis Advisory Committee is held. At this meeting, the student, preceptor, and committee members agree to and specify any remaining experiments or conditions that must be completed to fulfill the Ph.D. research requirement.

2. Write Dissertation: Guidelines for the Ph.D. dissertation are provided by the Graduate Board of the Johns Hopkins University. 

The document is a scholarly effort that describes the scientific question that your thesis research addressed, the approaches that you used to answer this question, the results that you obtained from your studies, and the conclusions that you drew from your work. Students should discuss the style and format of their thesis with the Program Director prior to writing.

3. Thesis Review: Once a complete draft of the dissertation is written, it must be submitted to the Program Director, who will determine whether it complies with style and format requirements. Subsequently, a minimum of two "readers" (one of whom is the mentor) will provide a written critique of its contents. Note, however, that each member of the thesis committee, “readers” and “non-readers” alike, must approve the thesis. The Program Director, readers, and/or non-readers may require alterations in the text prior to acceptance.

4. Thesis Research Seminar: After the thesis has been reviewed by the thesis advisory committee, the student presents a public seminar describing their thesis research.

5. Thesis Submission: The final approved thesis must be delivered to the university via the ETD system.

Academic & Scientific Review

1. The Program Director and Graduate Program Steering Committee will monitor performance in courses and laboratory rotation evaluations of the first-year students.

2. In May of the second academic year, each student will take the Doctoral Board Oral Examination the Steering Committee will conduct a short informal interview with each student to help ensure that course work and laboratory work are on schedule.

3. In the third academic year, the Steering Committee will conduct a short interview with each student to help ensure that course work and laboratory work are on schedule, and to receive formal feedback about Program activities and the student experience.

4. After the thesis proposal has been presented and approved by the Program (January of the third year), scientific review, advice, and guidance are formally provided by the student's preceptor and thesis advisory committee. The student meets with this committee at least once per year.

5. When the student has generated sufficient novel research findings to constitute a doctoral thesis, the student’s thesis advisory committee, at a regularly scheduled meeting, will advise the student that they may write and submit their doctoral thesis. At that time, the committee will decide whether to assemble for a final “thesis defense meeting” or whether they prefer to forego that meeting and review the thesis individually. In either case, the final thesis must be approved by all of the members of the student’s thesis advisory committee.