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Graduate Courses

GRADUATE HANDBOOK– Be sure to print a copy and keep as a handy tool.

During the first year, students are required to take four core courses that cover fundamental concepts in molecular and cell biology, genetics and biochemistry, as follows:

Fall Quarter: Protein Structure and Function (Mol. Bio. 204)
Winter Quarter: Structure and Biosynthesis of Nucleic Acids (Mol. Bio. 203)AND: Cell Biology (Dev. Bio. 231B)OR Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Neurobiology (Dev. Bio. 231D)

AND: T.A. Training Workshop (DB 202B)

OR: Cell Biology (Dev. Bio. 231B)

OR: Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Neurobiology (Dev. Bio. 231D)

OR: System Cell Biology (Dev. Bio. 232)

Spring Quarter: Regulation of Gene Expression (Mol. Bio. 206)AND: Responsible Conduct of Research (MMG 250)OR Molecular Genetics (Mol. Bio. 207)

OR Developmental Genetics (Dev. Bio. 210)

In addition, during the first two years of graduate study students may take elective courses relevant to their area of specialization. Certain tracks may have specific recommendations for Elective courses. The GRADUATE HANDBOOK is also a very helpful tool to help guide our students through the Ph.D. Program in Dev & Cell.

Research Rotations

In order to become familiar with the research opportunities available in the program, and to obtain technical training in appropriate areas, students are required to complete two laboratory rotations, each lasting one quarter, in different laboratories during the first year. Three are recommended in order to increase exposure to diverse research topics and experimental approaches. Information on the rotations available can be obtained at any time from the Program Director, and an overview of the opportunities will be provided by the CMB faculty advisors during orientation week.

During the first two weeks of the quarter the student must identify the rotation project and write a rotation proposal which must be approved and signed by the faculty advisor and rotation supervisor and then turned into CMB by October 12th, 2009. During the last two weeks of the quarter the student must write a rotation report (up to three pages not including figures and bibliography) which must be completed, approved and signed by both the rotation supervisor and the faculty advisor by the end of finals week, then submitted to CMB by December 7th, 2007. The rotation report must be approved and signed by the faculty advisor, and will count toward the grade for the course. Copies of both the proposal and the signed report must be handed in to Kimberly McKinney in the CMB office (4139 Natural Sciences II) and will be added to the student’s file. The rotation advisor prints out the rotation evaluation form, completes it and sends it to the CMB office where it becomes part of the student’s file.

A rotation that was performed in an CMB laboratory during the summer before entry into the program will count as one of the two required rotations. Laboratory rotations earn between 2 and 6 credits and are graded as Satisfactory (S) or Unsatisfactory (U). A grade of “S” will not be averaged in the student’s overall GPA.


Faculty Advisors

For the first year, students will be paired with a faculty advisor. They will meet at the beginning of each quarter for personal academic advising emphasising the importance of laboratory rotation experience. Included will be the value of identifying potential sponsors, making clear intentions after selecting a potential thesis advisor, and the need to demonstrate a commitment to research. There will be four advisors from each of the seven departments, thus each advisor will meet with two students. Participation each quarter will include a 2 hour rotation assessment, a critique, and a mini-symposium.

Thesis Advisors

Students must have selected a thesis advisor and entered the advisor’s laboratory by the end of the third quarter of the first year. The thesis advisor must be a faculty member associated with the program who has agreed to advise and sponsor the student for the entire period of graduate study.

Graduate Advisors

In the second and subsequent years, students become affiliated with one of the seven participating departments in the CMB program. Each department has a faculty member who serves as the Graduate Advisor for that department and who can also answer questions on curricular and other requirements. The Graduate Advisors are also available to advise first-year students who are developing an interest in a specific department. They can give advice on selecting laboratory rotations or elective courses.

The list of graduate advisors is shown below:

Anatomy & Neurobiology Dr. Martin Smith x47079 masmith@uci.edu
Biological Chemistry Dr. Kyoko Yokomori x41137 kyokomor@uci.edu
Developmental and Cell Biology Dr. Lee Bardwell x46902 bardwell@uci.edu
Microbiology and Molecular Genetics Dr. Marian Waterman x42885 mlwaterm@uci.edu
Molecular Biology & Biochemistry Dr. Christopher Hughes x48771 cchughes@uci.edu
Pathology Dr. W. Edward Robinson, Jr. x43431 ewrobins@uci.edu
Physiology & Biophysics Dr. James Hall x47780 jhall@uci.edu

The Program Administrator, Ms. Kimberly McKinney, (kamckinn@uci.edu, x48145) should be consulted on administrative issues related to student finances, requirements to establish residency, scheduling of TSE exams, scheduling of TA training etc.

Preliminary Examination

At the end of the first year, students must demonstrate proficiency by passing a preliminary qualifying exam. The purpose of this exam is to verify that you have completed the goals of the CMB first-year program. These are:

  1. To establish a foundation of knowledge in the relevant disciplines.
  2. To acquire an understanding of research methods including the responsible conduct of research.
  3. To sharpen your critical thinking abilities so that you are ready to begin thesis research in which you will take major responsibility for the design, conduct and publication of Ph.D.- level research projects.

The possible outcomes of the exam are:

  1. Pass.
  2. Fail with an opportunity to retake the exam within one month (same committee). Possible outcomes are 1 & 3 on this list.
  3. Fail.

The committee decision is referred to the Program Director for action. Students who pass the exam will normally move immediately to departmental Ph. D. Programs.

Teaching Requirement

Teaching is a formal degree requirement of the doctoral degree in the School of Biological Sciences. In the CMB program, three quarters of 25 % appointment or one quarter of 25 % and one quarter of 50 % appointment are required. Teaching assignments will generally be satisfied in the spring of the first year and during the second year of study, but if not completed by the end of the second year they must be completed in subsequent years. The teaching requirement must be completed before Advancement to Candidacy, or be specifically deferred or waived by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies for the School of Biological Sciences at that time.

To be academically qualified to serve as a Teaching Assistant (T.A.), a grade point average of 3.1 is required by the Division of Research and Graduate Studies at UCI. In addition, all students for whom English is not the first language must have passed the Test of Spoken English (TSE) exam with a score of 50 or better. No exceptions will be made.

Teaching assignments will be made according to the following priority:

  1. first year students (spring quarter);
  2. second year students; and
  3. students in the third year and beyond.

Students who were qualified to teach in the spring of the first year and during the second year by virtue of having a GPA greater than or equal to 3.1 and having successfully completed the TSE if applicable, but who did not complete their teaching requirement, will be placed at lowest priority in the third year and beyond.

Students who have been ineligible (less than 3.1 GPA, failure to participate in TA training, etc.) to teach at any period during the first and second years will be prioritized as second year students until the requirement is completed.

Advancement to Candidacy Examination

Before the beginning of the 10th academic quarter and usually during the third year of graduate study, students advance to candidacy by presenting a thesis proposal to a committee of five faculty members, including a majority from the relevant department and one member from outside the department. The student’s thesis advisor usually serves as Chair. This committee guides and advises the student and monitors research progress throughout the remainder of graduate training at UCI.

Thesis Research

Students select a thesis mentor and laboratory at the end of the first year and then devote most of their time to laboratory research leading to publications and a Ph.D. thesis. They also continue to take courses and to participate in seminars as specified by departmental and track requirements and recommendations.


Graduate students in this program gain valuable teaching experience to aid them in future career endeavors. They serve as teaching assistants in one of the undergraduate laboratory or lecture courses for each of three quarters beginning during the spring quarter of the first year and continuing into the second year of graduate study.

Financial Support

Students admitted to the program with financial support are guaranteed full financial support for the entire time they are in graduate school, provided they remain in good academic standing.

Employment outside of the CMB Program

Employment while a graduate student in a doctoral program at the University of California is NOT ALLOWED in any capacity, not even part-time employment. This is a regulation of the University of California. Any student who has a job while holding an appointment as a graduate student in the CMB program may be considered for automatic dismissal. Students should be aware that graduate study towards the Doctor of Philosophy degree is a full time endeavor. For this reason, the UCI Division of Research and Graduate Studies does not allow students to pursue a doctoral degree on a part time basis. All Ph.D. students must be enrolled as full time students every quarter of their graduate training at UCI.

Time to Ph.D. completion

Completion of the Doctoral degree should normally occur before the beginning of the 16th academic quarter (beginning of sixth year). The maximum time to complete a doctoral degree is before the beginning of the 22nd academic quarter (beginning of eighth year).


First-year students should consult with their CMB faculty advisor on any academic issues including rotations, courses, graduate requirements, and exceptions.