First Year

OVERVIEW - The first year of graduate study is spent in coursework, independent reading, and exploratory research. These activities prepare DRSB students to pursue rigorous and rewarding thesis projects once they join a lab. Students receive guidance in choosing their courses and rotations though meetings with the curriculum committee, and one-on-one mentoring sessions with a faculty member who serves as the student's first-year advisor.

QUANTITATIVE BOOTCAMP - In September, incoming students from all graduate programs in the Biological Sciences Division (BSD) attend a week-long Quantitative Approaches Bootcamp that is held at the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, MA. The bootcamp includes workshops, tutorials, seminars, and social activities designed to develop students’ computational, statistical, and professional skills, familiarize them with the MBL, and help them get to know their fellow first-year students in the BSD.

COURSEWORK - All graduate students in the BSD take nine graded courses to fulfill the requirements for the Ph.D.. DRSB students take:

  • 1 course each in genetics, cell biology and molecular biology
  • 3 courses in developmental biology
  • 1 elective, which may be a reading course approved by the curriculum committee
  • 3 rotations 

DRSB students take three additional courses during the first year. During fall and winter quarters, students attend "Introduction to Research" (aka Allstars), which is a series of presentations by faculty to introduce their research programs. During winter quarter, students participate in a scientific ethics course. Throughout the year, students take "Comunicating Developmental Biology Concepts", where they learn to convey data clearly and concisely in a journal club format. Each first-year student presents a paper in the bi-monthly DRSB Data Club during winter quarter. 

LABORATORY ROTATIONS - Students undertake short research projects in at least three different laboratories before beginning their dissertation research - typically one rotation each quarter.

PRELIMINARY EXAM - At the end of June, students take the Preliminary Examination as a first step towards candidacy for the Ph.D. The exam consists of the preparation of a written research proposal in the field of developmental biology and an oral defense of that proposal.  The proposal topic is in the same scientific area as the student's journal club presentation from winter quarter.

JOINING A LAB - Students typically join a lab by July 1st.