During the first year after entry into the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program, students begin to organize their research proposals with the help of their permanent advisors. At the end of this year, each student prepares a written proposal outlining their dissertation research plans. The preliminary examination for the Ph.D. degree includes approval of the written dissertation proposal by the student’s faculty advisory committee, followed by an oral defense of the proposal before the advisory committee.
Advancement to Candidacy
The second, third, and fourth years are devoted mostly to research related to the student’s dissertation problem. The student is usually advanced to candidacy in the third year. In the final year, the dissertation is written and defended in a departmental seminar. This constitutes the final oral examination for the Ph.D. degree. The completion of the program usually requires five years, including the first year in the Graduate Programs in the Biomedical Sciences. The minimum residence requirement is three years.
Macromolecules: Structure, Function and Interactions (BCHM-6230)
Students participate in self-directed problem-solving exercises and laboratory demonstrations designed to provide familiarity with concepts and methodology in the analysis of enzyme catalysis, protein-protein and protein-nucleic acid interactions, and protein function and regulation. Emphasis is on independent investigation of information resources, development of a research plan, design of experimental approaches, and evaluation of data. Offered every fall semester. (Required)
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Journal Club (BCHM-6910)
Students are expected to attend the weekly Journal Club on a regular basis. Students are also required to present a recent and noteworthy scientific research paper prior to their 3rd year in the program. Students should give an oral presentation of the scientific background and a critical evaluation of the data and conclusions. At the end of the fall semester, all 3rd year students will give 20 minute presentations on their research together in one session.
In addition, senior students (4th year and above) are required to give a Journal Club presentation of their own research project each year. Students work with faculty advisors to master the ability to critically evaluate scientific publications and to present their research effectively. (Required)
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Colloquium (BCHM-6920)
Students attend a weekly seminar on topics in the literature of biochemistry and molecular biology. Students are required to select a scientific research paper outside the area of their dissertation topic, critically evaluate the data and conclusions, and present the information to faculty and students. Each student presents once during the semester. Students work with faculty advisors to master public presentation of scientific research and to develop the ability to critically evaluate scientific publications. (One semester required)
Preparation and Evaluation of Scientific Research Proposals (BCHM-6250)
The ability to write a fundable grant proposal is one of the most important skills biomedical research scientists will need after graduation. A systematic strategy to address this skill is taught, practiced, and evaluated in this one-semester course, which is used to evaluate advancement to dissertation status.
Students identify a topic and select a committee in order to develop and prepare their own research proposals through weekly meetings and presentations. Lectures include the basic organization of an NIH-style grant proposal, the purpose and importance of each aspect of the proposal, and how to respond to reviewer critiques. Students submit a mid-term proposal and give an oral presentation to their committee. The students then revise their proposals in light of the written critiques, and resubmit them for final evaluation and grading.
Students who pass this Written Exam will then schedule the Oral Comprehensive Exam. Both the written and oral exams must be passed in order to advance to dissertation status. Offered every spring semester. (Required)
Advanced Topics: Molecular Basis of Human Disease (BCHM-6240)
The course is designed to study biochemical mechanisms, principles, and concepts relevant to understanding the pathogenesis and treatment rationale for human diseases. This lecture-based course is offered every fall semester and meets three days per week.
Assigned reading material supplements the lectures and includes original papers or reviews. Students will gain in-depth knowledge of biochemical processes, critically evaluate the assigned readings and demonstrate knowledge of the concepts, learn about medical applications of the fundamentals of biochemistry to human disease, and develop specific aims to test a hypothesis focusing on filling gaps in understanding the biochemical processes of human diseases. (Required)
Introduction to Bioinformatics and Genomics (BCHM-6280)
This course introduces students to current practices in genomics and bioinformatics. Topics covered include computational techniques for finding information in biological sequence, genome, and molecular structure databases and developing skills needed to write a results section of a manuscript.
Students learn to use publicly available tools used for identifying genes, modeling phylogenetic relationships, and analyzing molecular structure and biochemical properties. This course also covers identification of informational patterns in DNA and approaches to linking genome data to information on gene function. Lectures are integrated with practical hands-on exercises designed to reinforce the concepts and to develop the necessary skills to effectively use the publicly available databases and tools. Offered every summer. (Elective)
Additional Elective Options
Students may choose to take additional courses outside the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department. Each of the five graduate programs in the School of Medicine offers a wide variety of graduate courses in, for example, virology, signal transduction, pharmacology and a hands-on course in microsopy. Additionally, through a local university exchange program, students may also enroll in courses offered at nearby Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Thus advanced courses are accessible to students in virtually any specialty area in the biomedical sciences that might interest them.
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Edward A. Doisy Research Center
Saint Louis University School of Medicine
1100 South Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63104