Research

A unique aspect of the CMB Program is the interdisciplinary nature of the individual faculty research projects, which are often highly collaborative and cross traditional department boundaries. CMB faculty have primary appointments in clinical as well as basic science departments, which brings a broad perspective of contemporary problems in cell, molecular and biomedical sciences. Graduate students in the Program have instant exposure to this vast array of research to learn directly from experts skills to apply toward their PhD research in one of three rotations in the first year.

The research enterprise within the CMB Program is well-funded by extramural support with 60 million grant dollars generated annually by the CMB faculty in individual research awards, program projects grants, and pre- and post-doctoral training grants. Large interdisciplinary, multi-investigator grants fund research projects in cancer biology, cardiovascular biology and cell motility, environmental pathology, immunobiology, neuroscience, and pulmonary function and disease. In addition, students have access to cutting-edge core facilities including those in Bioinformatics, X-Ray Crystallography, DNA Analysis, Flow Cytometry, Microscopy and Imaging, and Transgenic Mice.

Shortly after students arrive on campus, they are exposed to a rich and diverse research environment. As part of the orientation in August, CMB faculty members present their research to the incoming students in the form of short talks that provide an initial introduction to variety of research opportunities available in the CMB Program. The CMB Retreat, held during orientation, is an excellent opportunity for new students to network with CMB members and set up laboratory research rotations.

First year students complete a series of 2-3 laboratory rotations with different faculty members to gain experience with a variety of research techniques and select a dissertation advisor. The rotation similarly provides faculty an opportunity to evaluate a student’s potential to continue research in their laboratory. The rotations are 2-3 months in length and can be initiated in the summer before classes start.

Students and faculty complete a Microsoft Office document icon CMB Rotation Agreement (DOC) (31.5 KB) at the start of a rotation to set goals and expectations. Following each rotation, students write a rotation report in the format of a PNAS journal article. The summary helps develop students’ written communication skills and provides valuable experience in framing their work within the larger research context. In addition, the faculty advisor completes an evaluation of the student's performance, noting areas of strength and areas that need improvement.

Students select their graduate research advisor and initiate their dissertation research by the start of the second year. In consultation with their advisor, students select studies committee members consisting of at least 3 additional faculty members to help guide the student in their scientific development. Dissertation research usually takes 3-4 years to complete.