GRADUATE STUDY GUIDELINES

First Year

In the first year of study, you can expect to:
  • Complete 3 Lab Rotations
  • Take all required classes and participate in departmental seminars
  • Establish WA state Residency
  • Select a Thesis Advisor by the end of Spring Quarter
  • Attend Ethics 101 class in Winter Quarter and 3 BRI lectures during Summer Quarter
  • Select teaching assignments by May

Registration

First year students take 4-5 courses each quarter. Some of these are core courses, others cover special topics. Your choice of elective courses depends on your interests, past experience, and previous coursework.

Sample Class Schedule for 1st year studies

Autumn Winter Spring Summer
BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 600 Laboratory Research (2 credits)
BIOC 540 Literature Review (2 credits) BIOC 541 Literature Review (2 credits) BIOC 542 Literature Review (2 credits) BRI Lectures – 3 required
BIOC 581 Laboratory Rotation (4 credits) BIOC 581 Laboratory Rotation (4 credits) BIOC 581 Laboratory Rotation (4 credits)
BIOC 530 Advanced Biochemistry (3 credits) Conj 53X Conjoint Module Conj 53X Conjoint Module
Conj 53X Conjoint Module Conj 53X Conjoint Module Conj 53X Conjoint Module
Student Seminar – Weekly Student Seminar – Weekly Student Seminar – Weekly
Ethics 101

Note: Tuition costs are the same from 10 to 18 credits for autumn, winter and spring quarters. Students should not exceed 18 credits in these quarters. Summer quarter: 2 credit registration maximum.

Conjoint Classes

These courses cover a broad range of molecular and cellular topics and are available every quarter. A list of Conjoint courses can be found at: http://www.washington.edu/students/crscat/conj.

Requirement: At least 4 Conjoint modules must be taken over the course of your PhD program. 6 classes total are recommended. Classes are typically 5 weeks in length.

Other graduate level courses may be substituted for Conjoint courses with the approval of the Graduate Program Advisor (GPA).

Laboratory Rotations (BIOC 581)

Students complete three separate laboratory rotations in the first year of study. Rotations must be in different research groups unless the student is entering with an advanced degree or from another program or institution. Students are encouraged to select lab rotations that involve diverse biochemical perspectives and approaches.

What to expect in a rotation:

  • Graded credit/no credit.
  • Devoting at least 20 hours/week to the rotation project, although the time commitment may vary depending on the student’s course load and the advisor’s expectations.
  • Attend rotation lab group meetings and journal clubs.
  • Presentation of the rotation project before an audience of faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students at the end of each quarter.

Literature Review Series (BIOC 540, 541, 542)

This course series emphasizes critical evaluation of current literature. The fall quarter focuses on topics in protein biochemistry; students submit short essays addressing specific portions of journal articles and are guided in the preparation of fellowship and grant applications. BIOC 541 focuses on DNA replication, gene structure and regulation, and BIOC 542 focuses on biochemical aspects of cell and developmental biology. Both of these latter quarters emphasize student presentation of journal articles. Several faculty members are in charge of the course each quarter, attend each session, and also meet with students individually.

Weekly Departmental Seminar Program (Biochemistry 520)

The Biochemistry Seminar Series features outside speakers in prominent research areas, and assures that faculty and students alike are up to date. Students are required to attend all regular departmental seminars in the first year, and expected to attend in subsequent years of graduate study.

Graduate Student Seminar

Seminar Information

The Biochemistry Graduate student seminar is a weekly meeting open to all UW graduate students in Biochemistry research groups. The seminar aims to create a friendly supportive environment for students of all disciplines and all levels of technical sophistication to learn from each other. It has two main goals:

(1) To provide students with an opportunity to practice giving a ‘conference style’ presentation, to present their research at any stage, and to receive feedback from fellow graduate students.

(2) To promote a cross-disciplinary community of graduate students with interests in Biochemistry. Fellow graduate students are a great resource for learning about new ideas and methods, and for discussing the ‘every day’ problems one confronts in research. Student Seminars are a forum for dialogue with and feedback from students in other disciplines. It can be very useful to talk with researchers studying similar questions through other disciplinary lenses, or to see familiar methods used in different disciplinary contexts.

The student presenter is encouraged to talk about their research for ~45 minutes, leaving 10 minutes for questions, feedback, and discussion.

Seminar Student Requirements

  • In the first year of study, students participate by attending the seminar.
  • Beginning in the 2nd year, each student will give one annual presentation at the seminar.
  • All students are expected to attend the seminar and attendance is monitored. Biochemistry students should miss no more than 3 sessions per quarter. Either poor attendance or failure to present at these meetings at least once per year will mean that the student is not fulfilling departmental degree program requirements and will be put on graduate school probation beginning in the fall quarter of the following year. Exceptions for extenuating circumstances must be approved by the GPA and Graduate Education Committee.
  • MCB and BPSD students in Biochemistry labs also are encouraged and welcome to participate by giving a talk.

Selection of Thesis Advisor

Students will select their permanent lab by summer quarter of their first year.

Steps for Thesis Advisor Selection:

  • Students are encouraged to discuss potential thesis projects with faculty throughout the first year, but no formal commitment can be made directly between faculty and students.
  • No later than June 1 of the first year, students submit one or two choices of thesis advisor, in order of preference, to the Graduate Program Advisor. The Graduate Program Advisor consults with all involved before formally assigning a thesis advisor. In those rare instances where faculty cannot accept all interested students, students may explore other research possibilities through summer rotations.
  • The Graduate Program Advisor will notify the student of the official assignment of the Thesis Advisor.

Second Year

In the second year of study, you can expect to:

  • Begin work in your permanent lab
  • Select your thesis committee by Autumn Quarter
  • Hold your first thesis committee meeting by Winter Quarter
  • Complete Teaching Assistant assignments

Registration

Standard registration for 2nd year studies

Autumn Winter Spring Summer
BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 600 Laboratory Research (2 credits)
BIOC 600 Laboratory Research (10 credits) BIOC 600 Laboratory Research (10 credits) BIOC 600 Laboratory Research (10 credits)
Student Seminar – Weekly Student Seminar – Weekly Student Seminar – Weekly

Note: Tuition costs are the same from 10 to 18 credits for autumn, winter and spring quarters. Students should not exceed 18 credits in these quarters. Summer quarter: 2 credit registration maximum.

Elective Classes: Students are welcome to consider additional graduate level coursework (normally numbered 500 or above) especially if required as preparation for the thesis project. Such courses should be chosen in consultation with the thesis advisor and Thesis Committee, and require the approval of the Graduate Program Advisor.

Committee Meetings

  • The first meeting of the Thesis Committee: It is strongly encouraged and to the student’s benefit that the first meeting of the thesis committee occur before Thanksgiving Recess in the Autumn Quarter of the second year. It is mandatory that the meeting take place by the end of the following Winter Quarter. Failure to do so will result in being placed on departmental probation.
  • Students should hold committee meetings annually beginning in the 2nd year of study.
  • The Graduate School Representative (GSR) should be invited to attend the first and all subsequent meetings of the Thesis Committee, but the committee may meet without the GSR if the GSR’s schedule precludes timely meetings.

Preparation for the first meeting

  • One week before the first meeting: The student provides committee members with a brief summary of the thesis proposal (2 to 3 single-spaced pages excluding figures) describing the overall plan for the project.
  • The purposes of this document are to outline the thesis project, to summarize the relevant literature, and to provide a written basis for discussion with the Thesis Committee.

General Notes:

  • The proposals are not expected to contain extensive data, as students will have spent relatively little time at the bench before the first meeting of the committee; however, the student should be able to address the feasibility of the project and/or focus attention on what types of feasibility studies still need to be performed.
  • The faculty understands that the nature and amount of experimental data will vary considerably from one proposal to another. Some students may spend their initial time at the bench doing a wide range of exploratory experiments; others may focus immediately on a specific project, or on mastering techniques; and yet other students may concentrate primarily on assimilating the essential background literature.
  • The faculty also understand that thesis projects often change as graduate work progresses, so neither the initial written proposal nor subsequent meetings of the Thesis Committee should be viewed as locking the student into a specific project.

General Examination Preparation:

Topical Areas of Study:

  • During the first meeting of the thesis committee each member of the committee will identify and convey to the student a specific area of biochemistry with which the student ought to become particularly familiar.
  • Over the course of the following year the student should become familiar with the topics identified by the committee members and be prepared to discuss and answer questions about them at the general exam.
  • Immediately following the first meeting of the committee the student will be contacted by the Graduate Program Coordinator requesting the list of topics that were agreed upon during the meeting. These topics will be reviewed by the Graduate Education Committee for approval. If modifications to the topics are required they will be made by consultation of the student, GPA and thesis committee members.

Third Year

In the third year of study, you can expect to:
  • Continue your laboratory research
  • Complete the General Exam by Autumn Quarter
  • Take any elective classes needed for your dissertation work

Registration

Standard registration for 3rd year studies

Autumn Winter Spring Summer
BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 800 Laboratory Research (2 credits)
BIOC 600 Laboratory Research (10 credits)* BIOC 800 Laboratory Research (10 credits) BIOC 800 Laboratory Research (10 credits)
Student Seminar – Weekly Student Seminar – Weekly Student Seminar – Weekly

Note: Tuition costs are the same from 10 to 18 credits for autumn, winter and spring quarters. Students should not exceed 18 credits in these quarters. Summer quarter: 2 credit registration maximum.

*For the last quarter of BIOC 600, students should receive a numerical grade that represents their work up to that point in their research.

BIOC 800 – Upon the successful completion of the General Exam, students should register for 800 level lab credits. A minimum of 27 credits at the 800 level are required before sitting for the final exam.

Fourth Year and Beyond

As you continue your research and dissertation preparation, you can expect to:
  • Continue your laboratory research and prepare your thesis work
  • Hold annual committee meetings
  • Take the final exam

Registration

Standard registration for 3rd year studies

Autumn Winter Spring Summer
BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 520 Seminar (1 credit) BIOC 800 Laboratory Research (2 credits)
BIOC 800 Laboratory Research (10 credits) BIOC 800 Laboratory Research (10 credits) BIOC 800 Laboratory Research (10 credits)
Student Seminar – Weekly Student Seminar – Weekly Student Seminar – Weekly

Note: Tuition costs are the same from 10 to 18 credits for autumn, winter and spring quarters. Students should not exceed 18 credits in these quarters. Summer quarter: 2 credit registration maximum.

BIOC 800 – Upon the successful completion of the General Exam, students should register for 800 level lab credits. A minimum of 27 credits at the 800 level are required before sitting for the final exam.

For the last quarter of BIOC 800, students should receive a numerical grade that represents their cumulative work in their research laboratory.

Teaching Experience

Requirements:

  • Students must their fulfill their teaching responsibilities in the 2nd year
  • 3 teaching assistant assignments for 2.5 teaching credits total are mandatory

Teaching is an integral part of graduate education. Students serve as Teaching Assistants in 3 classes (total) beginning in the second year of study. While some students prefer to complete all three teaching requirements in the second year, it is possible to complete the last class assignment during the third year.

Different classes will take different amounts of effort and work as a TA. Therefore, to avoid inequities, the department evaluates each course annually, and assigns the class either 1/2 or 1 teaching credit. The expectation is that students will TA for two 1 credit classes and one 1/2 credit class for a total of 2.5 credits.

Some examples:

1 credit classes: BIOC 440, 441 & 442 series & BIOC 426 (Laboratory class)
1/2 credit classes: BIOC 405 & 406

During the spring quarter the Graduate Program Advisor will announce the open teaching assistant positions for the following year and students will have an opportunity to submit in their class preferences. All assignments will be finalized by the end of spring quarter.

Ethical Responsibility Training

Ethical Responsibility Training

Ethical training is mandatory for Biochemistry students during the first year of study. Participation in the Ethics 101 and BRI lecture series is required during the first year and we encourage each student to maintain a habit of ethical conduct review in subsequent years. If you are supported by a training grant additional contact hours in ethical training may be required.

Ethics 101

Each Winter Quarter the department offers the Ethics 101 class which is an ungraded discussion course in the Responsible Conduct of Science. The sessions will be led by departmental faculty with special expertise in areas such as research and laboratory management; interpersonal relations, minority issues, and harassment; manuscript review and publication; animal and human research protocols; and intellectual ownership, patents, and industrial/academic conflicts. This class is mandatory for all first year students.

Biomedical Research Integrity Lecture Series (BRI)

  • Lectures and discussion sections are offered every summer
  • Requirement: 3 lectures during the first summer of study

This series consists of lectures and discussions dealing with the responsible conduct of science, and is organized by the School of Medicine each summer quarter. All first year students are expected to attend.

For further information on the BRI series, including registration, visit their webpage: http://depts.washington.edu/uwbri/.

Committee Selection

In consultation with the student’s Thesis Advisor, a Thesis Committee must be assembled by the start of the Autumn Quarter of the second year. The Supervisory Committee must have a minimum of four (five recommended) members constitutes as follows:

  • One Chair (typically the student’s Principle Investigator)
  • Two Biochemistry faculty members
  • One non-Biochemistry member (or another Biochemistry faculty member)
  • One Graduate School Representative (GSR)

The GSR is a voting member of the committee whose role is to attest to the validity of examinations (General Exam and Final Exam), indicating approval of the process by which examinations were conducted.

The thesis committee is a valuable resource for the graduate student in their pursuit their degree. Students are strongly encouraged to interact with committee members outside of the required annual meetings on matters relevant to their research and scientific interests.

How to determine if a faculty member can be on the committee:

Members of the committee should be appointed Graduate Faculty. At least three of the members must be endorsed to chair doctoral supervisory committees; this includes the Chair and the Graduate School Representative (GSR).

To verify faculty eligibility, review the information on the Graduate Faculty Locator. It is possible to locate a faculty member either selecting the faculty name or department. The results of the search will appear and give you detailed information about the faculty member’s appointment status.

The Graduate School committee selection requirements are listed in Memo 13.

GSR Selection Guidelines:

  • The student selects the GSR.
  • The GSR cannot be in the same department as the Supervisory Committee Chair, have an adjunct appointment in the same department as the Chair, nor be an affiliate faculty member.
  • Verify appointments through the Graduate Faculty Locator.

Final Steps:

Once the members of the Supervisory Committee have been chosen (and have agreed to serve), email your graduate program advisor the names of the committee members including: name, department and email address. Be sure to identify the Chair and the GSR of your Supervisory Committee. These names will be submitted to the Graduate School by the GPA.

General Exam

The General Examination must be scheduled before or during Fall Quarter of the third year. Failure to hold the General Exam during the Autumn Quarter of the third year will mean that the student is not fulfilling departmental degree program requirements and will be put on graduate school probation beginning in the winter quarter. Exceptions for extenuating circumstances must be approved during fall quarter by the GPA and Graduate Education Committee.

General Exam Content for Biochemistry:

The following steps are required:

  1. Two weeks before the exam, the Thesis Committee should receive a detailed thesis proposal that has been reviewed and approved by your thesis advisor (8 to 10 single-spaced pages excluding figures and tables). The Thesis Proposal normally includes an abstract, background, objectives, key experiments and techniques, anticipated problems, alternative approaches, significance, and future directions.
  2. One week before the General Exam, the Thesis Committee should either accept the initial proposal as a basis for the oral examination, request modest modification, or require major modification followed by resubmission. This should be done by email from each member of the committee to the student and cc’d to the GPC.

The format for the General Examinations is as follows:

  1. 20-30 minute presentation of the research proposal to the thesis committee (with minimal interruptions).
  2. 30-45 minutes of questions from the committee about the thesis proposal.
  3. 30-45 minutes of questions from the committee about the specific biochemistry topics proposed by the committee members. These questions should be discussed in the committee meeting that occurs in the second year.

The Thesis Advisor attends the General Examination, and can ask questions or provide clarification, but one of the other Biochemistry Department faculty members chairs the exam. Students may pass the General Examination outright or conditionally. Conditions may include revision or expansion of the proposals, or additional coursework. A student who fails the General Examination may be allowed to retake the exam or be asked to withdraw from the Ph.D. pathway.

Upon successful completion of the General Examination, you will be admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. as soon as you have amassed a total of 60 credits (including at least 18 graded credits) as required by the Graduate School Doctoral Degree requirements. The additional 42 credits required to reach a total of 60 usually reflect 6 to 7 quarters of thesis research, not additional academic coursework. Thesis research is formally considered a course, designated BIOC 600 before the General Examination and BIOC 800 afterwards, for which 10 credits are awarded each quarter.

Committee Meetings:

  • Following the general exams students should continue to hold annual committee meetings. Based on the progress of the student the committee may request additional meetings during the year.
  • Well before each Thesis Committee meeting, the student should provide all members of the committee and the GPA with a Progress Report outlining accomplishments, complications, and plans for the coming year.
  • During the 4th year or 5th year the student provides the committee with a 2-3 page written proposal that describes his or her plans for post-graduate work. This may include, but it not restricted to, a description of a postdoctoral research project. During the meeting the student should present their proposal to the committee. The proposal serves as an opportunity for the student to hear feedback and advice from the committee about their future plans.
  • It is the joint responsibility of the student and thesis advisor to schedule these meetings, but the Graduate Program Advisor will keep track of the meetings and alert the student if meetings did not take place.

Final Exam

There are several steps to take to prepare for the final exam and graduation. For more detailed information, download the PhD Procedures Checklist.

Preparation of the Doctoral Thesis

All dissertations are now submitted on-line via the Electronic Thesis/Dissertation (ETD) web page. For more information on thesis submittal, review the ETD guidelines: http://www.grad.washington.edu/students/etd/info.shtml.

Graduate School rules and regulations for the preparation of the thesis must be followed (see the Graduate School’s Thesis and Dissertation policies and the Format Guidelines For Theses And Dissertations).

Establish a Reading Committee

After the General Exam, the student chooses a Reading Committee and informs the Graduate Program Advisor who will notify the Graduate School.

The Reading Committee is composed of 3 members of the Thesis Committee

  • At least two must be Biochemistry faculty members
  • At least one member of the reading committee must hold an endorsement to chair doctoral committees

The student provides the Reading Committee (and all other members of the Thesis Committee) with copies of the thesis, allowing adequate time for them to read the thesis. This is typically done after the final exam takes place.

Preparation Notes: Manuscripts, preprints, and reprints may be included as an integral part of the thesis, or as an appendix, with permission from the Reading Committee. These articles cannot take the place of comprehensive Introductory and Discussion sections; however, the amount of additional material to be included under Materials and Methods, and Results, as well as all questions of style, are left to the discretion of the student, thesis advisor and Reading Committee.

Scheduling a Final Exam

Doctoral candidates are to schedule their final exam online using the MyGrad – Student View. For more details refer to the PhD Procedures Checklist.

The candidate schedules the thesis seminar (“Thesis Defense”) for a time when all members of the Thesis Committee and the Graduate School Representative can attend. The seminar is open to the department, university, and general public; it is followed immediately by the Final Examination (a brief discussion with the Thesis Committee) and very soon thereafter by celebration.

Graduation

In order to complete graduation requirements students must:

  • Successfully pass the final exam
  • Submit their thesis on-line through the ETD system by 11:59 pm of the last day of the quarter
  • Submit the Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee Approval Form by 5:00pm of the last day of the quarter
  • Submit the Survey of Earned Doctorates Certificate of Completion by 5:00pm on the last day of the quarter

The Graduate School will process all of these materials after the end the quarter that they are submitted. Degrees will be conferred as of the final quarter of study. For example, if a student passes their final exam in October and submits in all the necessary materials on time, the degree will be posted for Autumn Quarter (December graduation).

Satisfactory Progress

Minimum Grade Requirements

Throughout their academic career, students will take a combination of classes that are numerically graded and others that will be awarded credit/no credit. It is expected that students maintain satisfactory grades as detailed below:

  • Credit/no credit classes – It is expected that students will receive a grade of “credit” for all such classes attempted. A grade of NC (no credit) is considered to be a failing grade and may lead to being placed on probation.
  • Students must achieve a minimum grade of 3.0 in each numerical graded class taken. Students with grades below 3.0 may be required to retake all or part of a course.
  • Cumulative GPA – Students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. Students whose cumulative grade point average falls below 3.0 will be placed on probation.

The Graduate School outlines the standard grading scale in the General Graduate Student Policies section. Note that while the Graduate School indicates that a 2.7 grade in a class is a passing grade, receiving less than a 3.0 grade in a class is still considered unsatisfactory for the departmental requirements and may result in having to retake the class.

Maintaining Satisfactory Progress Toward a Degree

The Biochemistry Graduate Program is structured to provide students with a strong background in Biochemistry and in their area of research while making steady progress toward their degree. However, it should be noted that failure to make acceptable progress could result in academic probation.

Failure to accomplish the following items will result in academic probation for the student during the following quarter:

  • Maintain a cumulative 3.0 GPA
  • Hold the first committee meeting by the Winter Quarter of the second year
  • Complete the General Exam during the Autumn Quarter of the third year
  • Conduct annual committee meetings
  • Miss no more than 3 Graduate Student Seminars per quarter

Exceptions for extenuating circumstances are considered, but must be approved by the GPA and the Graduate Education Committee.

Academic Progress Review:

Degree progress is assessed on a quarterly basis for first year students with a formal annual review occurring for all students in good standing.

The M.S. Degree

M.S. Degree: A student who has completed at least 36 credits and has performed significant rotation or thesis research, but chooses not to continue toward the Ph.D., may be eligible for the M.S. degree. Research required for the M.S. degree need not be conclusive, or publishable; however, a formal M.S. thesis must be written in consultation with the Thesis Advisor and Thesis Committee and a formal thesis presentation must be made to the Thesis Committee as required by the Graduate School’s Summary of Requirements. M.S. candidates may also request to present their thesis work in a seminar open to the entire department.