Graduate Student Life

The Biochemistry and Structural Biology Theme at UAB has an intensive graduate program, usually requiring four to five years to complete. The coursework is diverse and covers a broad range of molecular genetics and related fields, emphasizing a combination of chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics. The research programs are challenging and contemporary; along with laboratory skills, you will learn the communications techniques vital to presenting your research in oral or published form.  

Upon receiving their degree, our graduates have gone on to successful academic or industrial careers. Among those who graduated at least four years ago, more than 80% have already secured faculty or equivalent positions.
During your first year, you will take a core curriculum covering biochemistry and metabolism, genetics and molecular biology, and biological organization, as well as any remedial work recommended by the BSB Admissions Committee. Students meet each morning for class which lasts for ten weeks.

From November to December, the Laboratory Methods course is taught each weekday for six weeks. You will receive valuable information on subjects such as protein purification, mass spectrometry, NMR spectroscopy, crystallography, cloning and expression of recombinant proteins and much more.  Starting in January through May you will take five courses consisting of molecular enzymology, molecular genetics, RNA biology, stem cell biology and structural biology. 
You will complete three lab rotations during your first year in the program. This will afford you the opportunity to experience first-hand the broad range of research offered. At this time, you will select a thesis advisor, a mentor who will provide on-going support as your work on your thesis. Early selection of an advisor is encouraged. The wide diversity of interests among the UAB Biochemistry and Structural Biology faculty virtually assures you finding a mentor with mutual interests.

During the second year, you and your mentor will select your graduate or thesis committee which will consist of the mentor plus four faculty members who will discuss and formulate your advanced course curriculum. In addition to the first year course requirements, four advanced courses are required.  These courses are generally completed in the second and subsequent years. You will pursue specialized courses that will aid in your thesis research. Advanced courses are available on contemporary topics such as advanced molecular genetics, developmental biology, NMR, physical biochemistry, molecular structure and function, crystallography, and enzymology. In the second year, you must also pass a qualifying examination that includes an oral defense of your thesis proposal. Upon successful completion of the qualifying examination and necessary advanced coursework, you are advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

Each semester you will also participate in a journal club. Here you will present for discussion recently published articles from scientific journals. Participants review and critique these articles, thus developing their analytical and communications skills. Your advisor and graduate committee will work together to tailor a curriculum to match your needs and interests.
In addition to aggressively pursuing your research objectives in the laboratory, you will complete your advanced course requirements, attend national and international meetings in specialized areas of interest and participate in seminars.

The Ph.D. degree is awarded upon successful defense of your dissertation, including an oral presentation of your original scientific investigations and a written dissertation which demonstrates your ability to carry out creative and significant research.