Course Requirements and the First Year

The graduate program in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry is built around three areas of science: molecular genetics, biochemistry and structural biology. At Yale, students become scientists by several means: by taking courses; by attending seminars; by informally interacting with other graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty; and by completing a doctoral dissertation, in which students design and carry out a program of independent research intended to address a significant problem in biology. We expect our students to complete the PhD within 5.5 years.

The course work and other elements of the first year are intended to expose students to possible doctoral advisers and prepare them for their doctoral work. During the first year, students take three or four courses each semester, and a total of at least seven during their first two years. Four course are specifically required; the remainder depend on the student’s interests. In addition, students should have current or prior exposure to the material in Molecular Genetics of Prokaryotes. The four required courses are:

  • Methods and Logic in Molecular Biology
  • Macromolecular Structure and Biophysical Analysis 
  • Macromolecular Interactions and Dynamic Properties 
  • Advanced Eukaryotic Molecular Biology 

Students choose from many other courses both within MB&B and beyond it, which typically strengthen their backgrounds in preparation for their thesis research. During the first year, students perform three laboratory rotations of 8 to 10 weeks each. More than 200 laboratories - including laboratories at the School of Medicine and on Science Hill - are open to student rotations. Students are asked to spend at least one rotation in a laboratory with a focus substantially different from the laboratory in which they think they may perform their thesis research.

Second Year Qualifying Exam

At the beginning of their second year, students are asked to propose two research projects based on their current interests. One will serve as the basis for the student’s thesis work. The other should be in an area requiring a very different experimental approach from the first. 

The proposals define the problems, propose different and realistic experimental approaches, and weigh the merits of each approach. These written proposals serve as the basis for an oral examination before three faculty members during which the student defends the feasibility and value of the experiments.