COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Daily Updates and ResourcesCOVID Resources
With an independent original research project at its core, the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology offers a robust graduate program leading to a doctorate dissertation.
Designed to prepare students for a research-oriented career in academia, government or the private sector, our doctorate program provides a background of courses designed to match the interests and needs of each student. Ph.D. students are expected to enroll as full-time graduate students.
Ph.D. students in our program take courses designed for graduate students with an emphasis on research design and experimentation. Students typically earn about 30 semester hour credits before taking the written examination. For students holding the M.D., D.D.S. or other professional degrees, successful completion of biochemistry and cell biology is equivalent to the BIOC 503-504 series.
With guidance from their advisors and committees, students select courses from this panel. Ph.D. students must enroll full-time (minimum nine credit hours per semester) for stipend eligibility, and 60 credit hours are required for graduation. Most of this coursework should be taken during the first two years of the program, but some may be taken after the comprehensive exam. We encourage students to take additional courses that relate to their personal research project.
The comprehensive exam is comprised of two parts: a written examination consisting of a research proposal in the format of an NIH predoctoral fellowship, and an oral examination consisting of a defense of the proposal, completed within six months of receiving a passing score on the proposal.
The written proposal must be submitted to the graduate advisory committee by the end of the the second year in the program.
In the case of a similar proposal being sent to a granting agency as part of a pre-doctoral fellowship application, the proposal submitted for the written comprehensive exam must be a version that has been written by the student with only minor input from the advisor. The student’s advisor will certify to the student’s advisory committee, in the form of a letter, that the student has been the primary and only writer of the proposal and that no part of the proposal has been taken from the grant application.
Students are subject to the VCU honor system when preparing the grant proposal.
Students who receive scores of marginal to poor are allowed on opportunity to revise the proposal based on the comments and criticisms of the committee. The revision must be submitted within one month of receiving a non-passing grade, and failure to pass the proposal the second time will result in termination from the program.
The oral comprehensive must be completed within six months of completing the written examination.
The oral exam uses the previously prepared grant proposal as a departure point for questioning by the examining committee. The exam tests the student’s knowledge related to the proposal as well as general knowledge of biochemistry, cell and molecular biology. The school requires that the Office of Graduate Education schedule this exam no later than 10 days before the exam date, with the date, time and location posted in advance.
The student’s advisor is expected to attend the exam but does not ask questions or contributes in any way.
Students should complete comprehensive exams and all other requirements for admission to Ph.D. candidacy prior to the end of the third year in the program.
Become biochemistry researchers
This program is designed to provide students with the skills required to advance to positions as bioscience researchers and trainers across a broad spectrum of positions. This provides a framework for the progressive development of a mastery of the current state of the subject matter of biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, an ability to synthesize this information and apply this foundation to the identification of key areas of investigation and experimentation in bioscience.
The program relates the above framework to the development of the ability to design, implement and interpret experimental approaches that address the questions identified. Students will also develop skills in the various means of communicating both the core of bioscience knowledge and the expression of experimental design, results and interpretation to a variety of potential audiences.
Candidates will demonstrate the achievement of an appropriate level of competence in the ability to appraise, modify and/or create and implement experimental protocols and to design and develop experiments. The program will also foster growth and development in the following areas:
The application to our program is available through the VCU School of Medicine’s Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Portal.
If you have any questions about the program or application requirements, please contact:
Tomasz Kordula, Ph.D.