Curriculum 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, five to six years of full-time study and research beyond the bachelor’s degree are needed to complete the doctoral program.

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.

Course Requirements

The Ph.D. Program in Biochemistry requires 60 credits of approved graduate work, most of these in research.

Typically students complete the core courses and two semesters of seminars during their first year (30 credits).

Students are required to complete core courses in general biochemistry (bioenergetics, enzymology, metabolism and molecular biology), bioorganic chemistry, physical biochemistry and bioinformatics.

The core curriculum also includes the Research Techniques in Biochemistry course sequence (lab rotations), which exposes students to a variety of doctoral faculty research groups.

Year 1, Fall Semester
BICM 71010 Advanced Biochemistry I
BICM 72010 Basic Seminar in Biochemistry I
BICM 75000 Bioorganic Chemistry
BICM 71110 Research Techniques in Biochemistry I
BICM 71120 Research Techniques in Biochemistry II
BICM 81000 Seminar in Biochemistry (research at CUNY)
Year 1 Spring Semester
BICM 71020 Advanced Biochemistry II
BICM 72020 Basic Seminar in Biochemistry II
BICM 77000/77001 Physical Biochemistry
BICM 71110 Research Techniques in Biochemistry I
BICM 71120 Research Techniques in Biochemistry II
BICM 81000 Seminar in Biochemistry (grant-writing seminar)

Year 2, Fall Semester
BICM 81000 Seminar in Biochemistry (at home campus)
BICM 82000 Doctoral Dissertation Research
BICM 87001 Bioinformatics/Computer Coding

Year 2, Spring Semester
BICM 82000 Doctoral Dissertation Research
One elective, chosen from Advanced (80000-level) Biochemistry (or CHEM or BIOL) courses at The Graduate Center or taken at another NYC University through the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium is recommended. 

Years 3-5
BICM 90000 Doctoral Dissertation Research

Students can choose to follow a Molecular Biophysics track by replacing the standard core curriculum courses in year 2 with the following:

Fall Semester
CHEM 80541 Advanced Seminar in Molecular Biophysics
CHEM 87901 Molecular Biophysics
BICM 82000 Doctoral Dissertation Research
BICM 87001 Bioinformatics/Computer Coding

Spring Semester
CHEM 80541 Advanced Seminar in Molecular Biophysics
BICM 82000 Doctoral Dissertation Research

Exams and Dissertation

Students must pass the First Level Examination - Part I and Part II - in their first year in order to continue in the program. Each part consists of a written examination based on the subject matter of required coursesand recent publications in the scientific literature to test in-depth understanding of that material.

The First Level Examination - Part I - must be taken before the end of the first semester. The First Level Examination - Part II - must be taken before the end of the second semester.

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. A student performing below program standards may be asked to repeat a course and /or re-take the First Examination or parts thereof and must pass on the second try to remain in good standing.

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 no later than the end of the fifth semester in the Program. The members of the Committee are selected by the student and 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:

  • Abstract
  • Hypotheses and Specific Aims
  • Background and Significance: Concise presentation of the scientific background which bears upon and leads to the Specific Aims.
  • Experimental Design: Presentation of the experimental approaches and methods for each Specific Aim and a discussion of the expected results including possible alternative outcomes.
  • Conclusion: Discussion of the expected results.
  • 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, at The Graduate Center, or remotely when circumstances require.
  3. 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 (PDF) provided to students. 
  4. 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.