Graduate Coursework

Research Rotations

To acquaint students with research laboratory settings, all incoming students participate in at least three research rotations during the first academic year. The purposes of rotations for the student include learning about laboratories of potential thesis advisors and exploring new areas of science. Thus, rotations in very different focus areas are highly recommended.

Each rotation is exactly eight weeks. Two rotations are performed in the first semester with the second rotation ending the Friday that classes end.  The third rotation begins on the Monday two weeks before the Monday of Martin Luther King Day.

Thesis/dissertation research (Biochemistry 9090)

Prior to successfully completing the comprehensive examination, a student must complete nine credit hours per semester, or four per summer, to remain a full-time graduate student. Following successful completion of both parts of the comprehensive exam, each student should register for a minimum of two hours of thesis/dissertation research per semester (or one in summer) to maintain continuous enrollment. More than the minimum may be needed to obtain the 72 credit hours required by the MU Graduate School for completion of the PhD.

Core course work

Required Courses

During the first semester PhD students are expected to complete:

  • Biochem 8240: Introductory Graduate Biochemistry I — Macromolecular Structure & Function (4 credits)
  • Biochem 9085: Graduate Biochemistry, section 4 (1 credit)
  • Biochem 9087: Seminar (1 credit)

Required Additional Elective Coursework

A PhD student must take a minimum of 10 additional hours of graduate science courses at the 8000 or 9000 level, and must earn a grade of “B or better.” Courses can be suggested or be required by the student’s doctoral program committee. To satisfy the need for electives, students are encouraged to enroll in courses such as, but not limited to the following “pre-approved” Biochemistry courses towards their required 9 hours:

  • BiochEm 8434 — Signaling in Molecular Biology (3 credits)
  • BiochEm 9432 — Molecular Biology II (4 credits)
  • BiochEm 9001 — 01: Methods in Structural, Molecular Cell Biology: NMR Biochemistry and Biophysics (1 credit)
  • BiochEm 9001 — 02: Modern Analytical Biochemistry (2 credits)

Other graduate level sciences courses may complete this requirement; please submit individual requests for approval by the GEC before enrolling.

Ethics Seminar

Biochem 8060: Ethical Conduct of Research (1 credit), or the equivalent offered in another department, is required of all Biochemistry graduate students. We recommend you complete this in your second semester (only offered in Spring).

Seminar, Biochem 9087 (4 credits total)

In their first term, students should enroll in the one-hour seminar Biochemistry 9087 during the fall semester. This term of Biochemistry 9087 is designed to teach professional skills to first year students with a primary emphasis on learning to prepare scientific presentations. As reading and analyzing scientific literature are required skills for organizing a seminar, we will spend time on round-table discussions of assigned papers in preparation for individual presentations. In addition, the course will also provide first-year students with information about professional conduct and other professional skills to help them start their graduate careers.

Students should complete three additional semesters of Biochem 9087 in Spring semesters of years 3, 4, and 5. (A student may ask the director of graduate studies for permission to take 9087 in year 2, but this is not typical). In year 3, a student’s second 9087 seminar is devoted to a presentation of their research. The third seminar should provide an update of research progress or a review of major journal papers in the student’s research area.T he fourth and final Biochem 9087 should be a practice for the dissertation defense. The student’s thesis committee (Doctoral Program Committee or DPC) is expected to attend each of these presentations at the specific invitation of the student. A meeting with the DPC can often be conveniently arranged after the seminar presentation and serve as the required annual meeting.

Credit Hours

The Graduate School requires a minimum of 15 credit hours of course work at the 8000-level or higher (exclusive of research, problems and independent study experiences). The aforementioned core course work will fulfill 15 hours or more of this requirement. Ethics and Biochem 9087 (seminar) do not count towards the 15 credits. The student and his/her advisor in consultation with the student’s DPC may decide upon additional courses. A minimum of 72 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree is required for the PhD. Within any limits imposed by the Graduate School or DPC, additional classroom graduate credit hours can apply to the requirement of 72 credit hours.

Minimum Enrollment and Continuous Registration

Graduate students must maintain full-time status until they have passed both portions of the comprehensive exam. Full-time status is achieved by enrolling for nine hours in Fall and Spring semesters and four hours during Summer term; students typically enroll in Biochem 9090 Research in order to complete their required hours. Students are responsible for signing up for the appropriate number of credits each semester. Late fees will be charged to student’s accounts.

Completion of the comprehensive exam admits a student to candidacy for the PhD. After the comprehensive exam has been passed, students must maintain continuous enrollment by registering in Biochem 9090 for at least two credit hours in Fall and Spring semesters and one credit hour in the summer. However, in order to meet the requirement for 72 hours of post-baccalaureate credit required by the Graduate School, students may need to enroll for up to nine hours of Biochem 9090 per term to accumulate the 72 hours. Students may enroll in other courses in addition to 9090 and reduce the total 9090 hours taken, with approval of their advisor. Failure to enroll in any semester terminates PhD candidacy by the Graduate School. Students entering their sixth year without a defense date planned will be required to meet with the Graduate Education Committee (GEC) twice a year until graduated.

Department Seminars

Students are required to attend all departmental seminars, which are currently held Fridays at 1 p.m. in the Monsanto Auditorium of the Bond Life Sciences Center.

Financial Support

All PhD candidates are provided with a graduate research assistantship from departmental or institutional sources for a maximum of 12 months of study. As the university fiscal status changes, the departmental support may also be altered. Special university and extramural fellowships may be used to supplement or extend this award. Laboratory rotations and the majority of the course work should be completed while students are supported by departmental sources. After departmental support, students will be supported by research grants, fellowships or other sources available to their mentors.

For more detail, please review the MU Biochemistry Graduate Student Handbook.