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Degree Requirements

Degree Requirements

The degree of Doctor of Philosophy is awarded for mastery of subject matters and demonstration of research ability. It is given in recognition of the candidate’s achievements and abilities in his or her major field. A student must maintain high academic standards to retain matriculated status in the doctoral program. Normally, three to five years of full-time study and research beyond the bachelor’s degree are needed to complete the doctoral program. At least 60 credits of approved graduate work are required for the degree, most of these in research.

Students are required to complete core courses in general biochemistry (bioenergetics, enzymology, metabolism and molecular biology), bioorganic chemistry, and physical biochemistry. Also required are one or two advanced courses in biology and advanced biochemistry topics. In addition, students must actively participate in biochemistry seminars for five semesters by making at least one oral presentation during each semester. Further course work inside or outside of the Ph.D. Program in Biochemistry is undertaken as advised by the student’s mentor, doctoral dissertation committee and Executive Officer.  Biochemistry doctoral students may specialize in Molecular Biophysics by choosing that track in their second year of study. Matriculated Graduate Center doctoral students may cross register for doctoral study among member institutions of the Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium. Permission of the Executive Officer is required.

In addition to the course requirements, the student is required to complete two qualifying examinations dealing with course and literature material, and to present a dissertation defense.

Qualifying Examinations

Each student must pass the First Level Examination - Part I and Part II - in their first year in order to continue in the Program. Each part of the First Level Examination consists of a written examination based on the subject matter of required courses and tests in-depth understadning of that material . A student may be asked to re-take the examination or parts thereof and must pass on the second try to remain in good standing.

The First Level Examination - Part I - must be taken at the end of the first semester, usually in January. The First Level Examination - Part II - must be taken at the end of the second semester, usually in June.  A student who performs poorly may be re-tested before the start of the following academic year, usually in August.
Students must pass both parts of the First Level Examination as well as earn a grade of "B" or better in both Advanced Biochemistry I (BICM 71010) and Advanced Biochemistry II (BICM 71020) courses to complete their first year of doctoral study.
Students are expected to begin laboratory work toward the dissertation by the end of the first year in residence.

The Second Examination in Biochemistry is in the form of a research proposal which the student must develop and then defend before the Doctoral Dissertation Committee by the end of his/her second year in the Program. The members of the Committee are selected by the student and his/her thesis advisor and are approved by the Executive Officer.

The proposal is based on the student's planned thesis research and should include the following sections:

  1. Abstract
  2. Hypothesis and Specific Aims
  3. Background and Significance: Concise presentation of the background which bears upon and leads to the Specific Aims.
  4. Experimental Design: Presentation of the experimental approach and methods for each Specific Aim and a discussion of the expected results including possible alternatives.
  5. Conclusion: Discussion of the expected results.
  6. References

Procedures for the Second Examination:
1. An electronic copy of the proposal is delivered to each thesis committee member and to the Program Office at least TWO weeks before the date of the examination, or in printed form if requested. Students should obtain an indication from all members of the committee that the research proposal is defensible BEFORE scheduling the oral defense.

2. The Second Examination oral defense may be held either at the student's home campus or at the Graduate Center, but if any faculty member prefers to have the examination at the Graduate Center, it should be scheduled there.

3.  The Biochemistry Program Office will arrange for a room and notify the examination committee and the student once the date, time and location have been reserved.

4. The Committee Chairperson (Thesis Mentor) will submit the results of the examination immediately after its completion to the Biochemistry Program Office using the Report of Second Examination form provided to students. 

5. The Committee Chairperson will also notify the Biochemistry Program Office if and when required corrections have been made (see Report of Second Examination form).


At the heart of the program leading to the Ph.D. is the dissertation or thesis. The thesis is a report of original research accomplishments and is usually based upon published work the student has participated in.  An oral defense of the dissertation will be scheduled through the Program Office upon agreement with the mentor and thesis committee members and will be held at The Graduate Center.