[Skip to Content]

Biomedical Sciences PhD Program Details

Accepted students to the Ph.D. Program enter through a general undeclared Biomedical Science program where they have great flexibility in charting their future. Their first year at Upstate includes core classes and three lab rotations, of the student's choosing, where they are exposed to a variety of research projects. The student then selects a mentor and becomes affiliated with a degree-granting program at the end of their first year. These degree-granting programs include Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, Cell & Developmental Biology, Microbiology & Immunology, Neuroscience, Pharmacology, and Physiology.

Our research focuses on some of the most critical diseases that affect human health and our outstanding faculty features international experts in many areas including neuroscience, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, molecular genetics, stem cell research, structural biology, infectious disease and cancer biology.

Our graduate students receive training in the latest scientific research techniques using state-of-the-art technology and instrumentation. In addition, we are committed to helping our students become well-trained scientists by providing mentoring, opportunities to hone presentation skills and a solid grounding in writing grants and research papers.

Program Overview

First Year

In the first year, all students are exposed to a variety of core courses.   The main one is a course called Foundations in Biomedical Sciences that provides a graduate-level survey of biochemistry, molecular and cell biology in addition to some systems biology.  This course is given through lectures and small group discussions of papers.  All students are also required to take courses in bioethics. biostatistics and experimental design, grant writing, and critical reading and presentation as part of the general curriculum.   In addition to taking classes, students do rotations through three different laboratories in their first year.  Rotations are approximately 10 weeks each and run in the Fall, Winter, and Spring.  These rotations are chosen by the student and offer a wide selection of opportunities in biomedical sciences.  In June of the first-year students decide on one of these three labs to join and then become a member of that specific program. 

Second Year

Once the student joins a specific program they continue with the program and specific coursework.  During the second year, laboratory research becomes the student’s major commitment. Students are in the laboratory conducting work that will lead to the development of their dissertation research. Throughout the entirety of their time on campus, they will participate in departmental seminars as well as university-wide student events. 

All students must complete their qualifying exam by the end of their second year.  This exam is a culmination of a yearlong process of writing development that starts with a scientific writing course, followed by a grant-writing course that leads to the qualification exam.  The exam is both written and oral and includes a unique grant focused on what the students propose for their thesis research.

Third year and beyond

During the research years, students are followed by a three-member thesis advisory committee.  This committee of faculty, chosen by the student and the advisor meets twice a year to discuss with the student their research progress and direction.  Once every year, students also are required to do an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and present that to their committee.  The degree culminates with a dissertation with an emphasis on publishing.  Most of our students publish at least one first-author manuscript.  The goal is for students to complete their degree in five years.