Degree Expectations / Timeline

Laboratory Rotations

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.

Teaching/Community Education

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.

Preliminary Qualify Examination (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) will be selected by student and their mentor.

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.





BBS Program Office

25 Shattuck Street

Gordon Hall, Room 005

Boston, MA 02115


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