Interdisciplinary Curriculum

Students are admitted to the PhD degree-granting programs through the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Graduate Program. The first year of study is a focused interdisciplinary core program that covers the basic knowledge and skills necessary for research in all areas of biomedical sciences. After the first year, students choose one of the specialized degree-granting programs for their advanced courses and dissertation work.

First Year

The Interdisciplinary Biomedical Graduate Program curriculum emphasizes research experience and practical skills from the first day. The approach is flexible, and accommodates students whose research interests are still evolving by introducing them to a variety of fields through interdisciplinary courses and laboratory experiences. For those students who have a clearly defined research interest, the program offers the opportunity to move quickly into a dissertation project and accelerate their study.

The first year includes three research rotations selected by students to meet their research interests. These research rotations provide an opportunity to experience individual laboratory environments, including the techniques being used in the laboratory and the research questions being addressed. These experiences also help students make an informed choice of a dissertation mentor. A first year faculty mentor aids the selection of research rotations. A web site also lists rotation projects available to students here.

Foundations of Biomedical Science is the first course taken by students entering the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Science Graduate Program. The course is designed to convey knowledge of the molecular mechanisms controlling cell and tissue function and to develop an understanding of the experimental evidence supporting these concepts. The conceptual breadth of modern biomedical science is covered through a longitudinally integrated presentation of material drawn from disciplines such as biochemistry, cell biology, and molecular genetics. The development of critical thinking skills is emphasized through an evaluation of experimental evidence and reading of the primary literature. Contemporary approaches to problem-solving in biology as well as principles underlying modern methods of biomedical research are integrated through the analysis of mechanisms underlying biological phenomena. Foundations is followed by courses in statistics and scientific ethics and then increasingly specialized coursework in the program the student has chosen.

Transfer and Completion

At the end of the first year, the program administers a preliminary evaluation of student performance. When students have successfully completed their preliminary evaluation, they select a dissertation advisor and transfer into one of the six degree-granting programs. Students then complete the core courses of the selected degree-granting program and prepare for the comprehensive examination. Upon successful completion of the comprehensive exam, the student forms a dissertation advisory committee, presents a dissertation proposal and completes the dissertation. Timelines in meeting the curriculum requirements will allow for completion of the PhD program in four to five years.


A strong sense of community and support is the mainstay of the Interdisciplinary Biomedical Graduate Program. Although the program is designed so that students make their own choices throughout their graduate tenure, a mentoring structure exists to support these choices and the timely completion of the PhD. Mentors assigned by the program guide students through the selection of their first year research rotations and courses. Once identified, the dissertation advisor then continues the mentoring process to ensure milestones and other graduation requirements are met. In addition to the first year mentor and dissertation advisor, many program faculty members employ an open door policy offering support and research collaboration in a truly interdisciplinary environment.