General BBS Information:
Each entering student is assigned a primary program advisor and back up advisor who provides the majority of advice on academic and non-academic issues in years 1 and 2. Advisors sign ALL forms, including study cards, add-drop forms and rotation registration forms until a lab is declared. A student may request a new program advisor if the guidance or area of interest are not aligned.
For the 2012-2013 academic year the members of the Subcommittee of Program Advisors are:
|Joanne Chan||Cell Biologyfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Bruce Zetter||Cell Biologyemail@example.com|
Harvard Integrated Life Sciences Program (HILS)
In the 21st century, groundbreaking research and discovery in the life sciences are more interdisciplinary than ever, and students studying within the life sciences today can expect to work with a wider range of scientists and scholars than their predecessors could ever have imagined. Recognizing this approach to scientific advancement, in 2004 Harvard created the Integrated Life Sciences (HILS) Graduate Program, which oversees all PhD education in the life sciences. HILS is a federation of Harvard life sciences PhD programs, departments, and subject areas that facilitates cross disciplinary academic and research collaboration, supports student mobility, and encourages extracurricular participation by its student, faculty, and staff members.
Division of Medical Sciences (DMS)
The Division of Medical Sciences was established at Harvard University in 1908. The Division was designed to provide students wishing to pursue careers in research and teaching with a broad education in basic biomedical science fields and specialization in one of them. Classroom and laboratory instruction are conducted primarily by the 450 faculty members of the basic sciences departments and affiliated hospital laboratories of the Harvard Medical School (HMS) in Boston. The Ph.D. degree is awarded by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) of Harvard University. For 100 years, this fruitful collaboration has spawned research achievements across the spectrum from basic science to experimental medicine. Since 1909, over 2,000 Division graduates, including six Nobel Laureates, have gone on to distinguished careers in biomedical research, university teaching, and a number of increasingly diverse careers.
Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS)
The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is under the direction of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. It is the responsibility of that faculty to set the conditions of admission to the school, to provide courses of instruction for its students, to direct their studies and examine them in their fields of study, to establish and maintain the requirements for its degrees and make recommendations for those degrees to the Governing Boards, to lay down regulations for the governance of the school, and to exercise a general supervision of all its affairs.
All students in BBS are required to have a graduate level background in cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology. All BBS students, with the exception of MD-PhD students*, are required to take a total of 8 full semester courses or their equivalent. The only specific course required of all BBS students (including MD-PhD, LHB, and DRB students) is “Analysis of the Biological Literature” (course reference number is BBS 230); it is a critical reading course held during the fall semester of year 1. We highly recommend all four of our core courses in genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry and cell biology (course reference numbers Genetics 201, BCMP 200, BCMP 201 and Cell Biology 201), however, fulfillment of the remaining course requirements can be satisfied from a wide variety of choices, including upper level reading courses focused on an in-depth analysis of the literature, and advanced didactic courses. We have also designed a proposal writing course (BBS 330) held in fall semester of year 2 for all second year students. BBS students may also use short format courses (Quarter courses and Nanocourses) to satisfy required credits, however, a maximum of six Nanocourses may be taken for credit (equivalent to one full semester course credit). A current list of all courses is provided to students at the beginning of each semester. A summary of the BBS core courses and Micro 230 is listed below.
* Due to partial overlap in medical and graduate curricula, MD-PhD students typically take 4-6 courses, at least one of which must be an upper level reading course.
For LHB students, please review their website for course requirements (http://www.hms.harvard.edu/dms/Leder_Human_Biology/Program.html)
For DRB students, please review their website for course requirements (http://drb.hms.harvard.edu/current_students/requirements)
Summary of Core Courses
Fall - Year 1
BBS 230 (formerly Micro 230). Analysis of the Biological Literature
Catalog Number: 36968
Michael Blower, Adrian Salic (Medical School) and members of the faculty
Half Course (fall term). Tu, Th, 3:00 - 6:00
Students participate in intensive small group discussions focused on the critical analysis of basic research papers from a wide range of fields including biochemistry, cell and developmental biology, genetics, and microbiology. Papers are discussed in terms of their background, significance, hypothesis, experimental methods, data quality, and interpretation of results. Students will be asked to propose future research directions, to generate new hypotheses and to design experiments aimed at testing them.
Note: This course is required for first year BBS students. Students who are not first year BBS are welcome to contact the course director to determine if space and receive course materials in advance of class.For the midterm and final exams the students will be asked to submit written critiques of recent papers from the literature, with an emphasis on proposing new experimental directions to test the models proposed in the papers.
Genetics 201. Principles of Genetics
Catalog Number: 4225
Fred Winston (Medical School) and members of the faculty
Half Course (fall term). M., W., F., 9-10:30.
An in-depth survey of genetics, beginning with basic principles and extending to modern approaches and special topics. We will draw on examples from various systems, including yeast, Drosophila, C. elegans, mouse, human and bacteria.
Note: Intended for first-year graduate students. Offered jointly with the Medical School as GN 701.0.
BCMP 200. Molecular Biology
Catalog Number: 5591
Richard Gregory (Medical School) and members of the faculty
Half Course (fall term). M., W., F., 10:45-12:15.
An advanced treatment of molecular biology’s Central Dogma. Considers the molecular basis of information transfer from DNA to RNA to protein, using examples from eukaryotic and prokaryotic systems. Lectures, discussion groups, and research seminars.
Note: Offered jointly with the Medical School as BP 723.0.
Prerequisite: Intended primarily for graduate students familiar with basic molecular biology or with strong biology/chemistry background.
Spring - Year 1
Cell Biology 201. Molecular Biology of the Cell
Catalog Number: 1044
Joan Ruderman, Marcia Haigis (Medical School) and members of the faculty
Half Course (spring term). M., W., 10:30-12; and sections F. at 10:30-12.
Molecular basis of cellular compartmentalization, protein trafficking, cytoskeleton dynamics, mitosis, cell locomotion, cell cycle regulation, signal transduction, cell-cell interaction, cell death and cellular/biochemical basis of diseases. Methodoliogical focus on light microscopy as a research tool.
Note: Offered jointly with the Medical School as CB 713.0.
Prerequisite: Basic knowledge in biochemistry and genetics.
BCMP 201: Proteins: Structure, Function And Catalysis:
Steve Blacklow (Medical School), Steve Harrison (Medical School), Peter Sorger (Medical School), Gaudenz Danuser (Medical School)
Half Course (spring term) . T., Th., mornings; Wednesdasy sessions (2:00-4:00 pm)
This is a course in protein biochemistry with an emphasis on the interrelated roles of protein structure, catalytic activity, and macromolecular interactions in biological processes. The course provides the core background and the perspective required to consider and dissect biological problems at a mechanistic, molecular level. Prerequisite: Knowledge of introductory general biochemistry and elementary physical chemistry is required.
Fall - Year 2
BBS 330: Critical Thinking and Research Proposal Writing
BBS 330 provides a thorough coverage of the essential elements of research proposal writing, a skill that is required throughout one's scientific career but for which formal training is frequently lacking. After an introductory lecture that provides a general overview of the conceptualization and writing of a research proposal, students will be guided through a series of exercises designed to develop these critical skills. The five subsequent meetings will be in the form of small tutorial groups (~5 students each guided by two HMS faculty). Specifically, the introductory lecture will cover the following areas, with important points illustrated by reference to a sample proposal - choosing an appropriate and feasible research topic, identifying significant hypotheses related to this topic, defining specific aims that are focused, connected to each other and of reasonable scope, concisely presenting background material to justify the stated goals, selecting experimental systems and particular technical approaches, anticipating and interpreting results, and considering potential alternative strategies and future directions. Common pitfalls will be mentioned, and the proper format and organization of a written proposal will be discussed. How to write critiques of manuscripts and research proposals will be presented. How to prepare slides for talks will be discussed. Specific guidelines for NSF and NRSA fellowship applications will also be presented (Alex Shimada-Brand from DMS will give a 10-15’ presentation). The five subsequent sessions will include writing a critique and a description of two or three new questions that derive from a provided recent research paper; preparing written critiques for two research proposals prepared by prior BBS students; a 10-15 minute oral presentation on the proposal topic and aims the student will develop for the rest of the semester; going through two drafts and two rounds of critiques and discussions of their own proposals and those of their peers.
TO SATISFY THE COURSE REQUIREMENTS ADDITIONAL COURSES SHOULD BE TAKEN DURING SPRING OF YEAR 1 AND EITHER SEMESTER OF YEAR 2. The program advisors recommend that at least some of these courses be upper level reading courses focused on an in-depth analysis of the literature. A list of recommended courses will be provided prior to the beginning of each semester.
Enter September Graduate Year 1 (G1)
Laboratory Rotations (minimum of 2): Fall Semester through Summer of G1*
*Students can request early rotations during the summer before G1 Fall Semester
Core Courses (required): BBS 230 (Fall Semester G1)
Core Courses: Genetics 201 (Fall Semester G1)
BCMP 200 (Fall Semester G1)
BCMP 201 (Spring Semester G1)
Cell Biology 201 (Spring Semester G1)
BBS 330 (Fall Semester G2)
Declare Thesis Laboratory and Advisor on or before August 1st G1 year
Preliminary Qualifying Examination: September, November or January of G2
First Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC): within 3 months of PQE Clear Pass
Subsequent Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC): every 9 months until G5
every 6 months after G5
Approval to prepare doctoral dissertation: at discretion of DAC (“box check”)
Dissertation defense: within 6 months of approval to prepare dissertation
Laboratory rotations allow students the opportunity to explore important questions asked in different fields and the many approaches that are used to address these questions. Rotations also allow students to get a feel for the research happening in a lab, a sense of the lab community, and help to determine if the environment would be suitable for their dissertation research.
BBS requires that all students undertake 2 laboratory rotations before selecting a Dissertation Advisor. Three lab rotations are strongly recommended and are typical for most students. The average rotation is about 10 weeks; however, depending upon the nature of the rotation, they may be as short as 6 weeks or as long as 12 weeks. Students register for laboratory rotations by listing BBS 333r on their study card and the laboratory head assigns a grade of satisfactory or unsatisfactory upon completion of the rotation. Rotations during the semester are usually not full time and must be managed along with course work. Rotations are full time in the summer and during the month of January when there are no classes.
Before a laboratory rotation is undertaken, the student, in consultation with the laboratory head, must reach an agreement on the proposed project and complete a rotation registration form. The program advisor must also approve the rotation and sign the rotation registration form. The completed form is filed with the BBS program office before the start of the rotation. It is expected that the laboratory head and student will meet for an “exit interview” at the conclusion of the rotation. The program also recommends students schedule a mid-stream evaluation with the laboratory head. The laboratory head must, within 4 weeks of the conclusion of the rotation, complete a rotation evaluation form, assign a grade of SAT or UNSAT and return the form to the BBS program office. The grade will be requested ahead of the summary if the rotation has not been concluded when grades are due.
To facilitate the choice of laboratory rotations, a list of students who have recently rotated within program laboratories will be available in the BBS program office. Entering students are encouraged to attend the BBS rotation club where current students share rotation experiences with their peers. Students should feel free to contact others who have experience in a particular laboratory to help guide them when selecting rotations. Program advisors are also a great resource for rotation advice.
Student may rotate in non-BBS labs and should check the HILS website to assure the person is affiliated with a graduate program: http://www.gsas.harvard.edu/hils/
Teaching/Community Education (TA)
Gaining some experience with teaching is required in the BBS program. Each student must fulfill one semester (60 hours, including preparation time) as a non-paid teaching assistant. When possible, the student should be a teaching assistant (TA) in a BBS or other HMS graduate course.
BBS has also established a Community Education Initiative, which provides teaching opportunities for BBS students in secondary school and after-school programs in the Boston area. Many students volunteer in the community schools and can apply to fulfill their teaching requirement (60 hours, including preparation time) in this way.
Students should inform the program office as they make plans to fulfill their teaching requirement. Time-T (catalog # 8811) should be entered on the study card for the semester in which they will teach. If a student is TAing for a HMS course, the course director signs for Time-T on the study card. If a student is fulfilling the TA requirement through the Community Education Initiative, then Fred Winston signs for Time-T.
Preliminary Qualifying Exam (PQE)
All BBS Students are required to take a qualifying examination in their second year. The primary goal of the Preliminary Qualifying Examination (PQE) is to ensure that you have achieved a high standard of scientific scholarship and skills that are critical for successful completion of your Ph.D. thesis and beyond. In addition to assessing your foundation in genetics, molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry, the PQE will test your ability to:
- Develop a set of original, testable hypotheses
- Prepare a compelling research plan to test these hypotheses
- Orally explain and defend these hypotheses and your research plan
- Critically analyze and interpret data
Dissertation Advisory Committee Meetings (DAC)
After passing the Preliminary Qualifying Examination a Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC) of at least three members (not including the Dissertation Advisor) must be appointed and a meeting scheduled within 3 months of the completion of the PQE.
The role of the DAC is to assist the student in defining the dissertation project, review scientific progress, offer critical evaluation, suggesting extension or modification of objectives, arbitrate differences of opinion between the student and the advisor if and when they arise, and decide when the work accomplished constitutes a dissertation. Our hope is that the committee will help students in the early stages to get their research off to a good start, and that they will be a resource for students at any point during their graduate career.
The Chair of the committee MUST be from the BBS Program and MUST have prior experience as a DAC committee member. The student’s Dissertation Advisor cannot serve as a formal committee member or committee chair – although the Dissertation Advisor is expected to attend all meetings. Faculty on the DAC committee may be from the DMS Program, other Harvard departments, or other Boston area universities. If a student chooses to have a committee member from outside the BBS program, it should be only one member of the committee. A faculty member that is currently collaborating with your thesis lab can NOT be a member of DAC committee. We suggest that the student choose committee members who are generally accessible and whom s/he would feel comfortable consulting informally. Students should consult with their Dissertation Advisor about possible DAC members very soon after choosing a dissertation lab.
Extracurricular activities are considered part of the informal training of all students in the Program and student participation is strongly encouraged.
For first year students to become acquainted with faculty there is a weekly BBS Faculty Seminar Series. New BBS faculty members are invited to give a seminar, in an informal setting, with food provided for students and the speaker.
Also for first year students, there is a weekly BBS Rotation Club, where lunch is provided. Two to three students will give a 15 - 20 minute presentation on their lab rotations, sharing the techniques they have learned, the data they have acquired and the scope of the project. Rotation Club is held from September through December.
All current BBS students are invited to attend the BBS Student Retreat. The schedule for the weekend will be planned by students and will include student talks, a poster session, a guest speaker, topical discussion groups, and social gatherings.
At the beginning of each academic year, there will be a series of Poster Sessions. All faculty and students are invited to participate. The poster sessions are an excellent way for new students to meet BBS faculty and students and for faculty and current students to learn what is going on in the program. Many students learn about possible rotations through these sessions.
All students are welcome to participate in the Harvard Biomedical Graduate Student Organization (BGSO) sponsored events and activities. Some of the events are the following: The Mountain Club plans outings such as ski trips, hiking and bike rides throughout the year. Some other BGSO activities include the Graduate Student Council and Graduate Student Course Evaluation Committee.
Dissertation Preparation and Defense
The Dissertation Advisory Committee (DAC), in consultation with the Dissertation Advisor, determines when it is time for a student to stop laboratory work and begin to write his or her dissertation.
It is at this point that the Division of Medical Sciences (DMS) comes in, as the responsible party for managing the dissertation defense process. Once a student has been given permission to write, he or she must contact the DMS office at 617-432-0605 or firstname.lastname@example.org, to schedule an appointment for a “Packet Meeting.” At this meeting, the student receives the dissertation information packet, which contains all necessary forms and information to complete the defense process. Requirements and deadlines are discussed, as well as questions the candidates may have.