model of molecular structure

PhD Program in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Program Expectations & Forms


Year 1

During the first year, students complete a comprehensive core curriculum offered by the College of Graduate Studies (CGS) that lays the groundwork for advanced coursework and research training in their selected PhD program. Students also complete three 9-week laboratory rotations before selecting a Mentor who will oversee their dissertation research. Students should discuss the Student-Advisor Compact with their prospective Mentor.

  • Compact Between Students and Advisors
  • Appointment of Dissertation Advisor Form

By the end of the first year, students should meet with their Mentors to develop a personalized program of study based on their research project, scientific interests, and career goals. As part of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program, students are required to attend and present annually at the Departmental Research and Methods and Science Club seminar series, and to attend at least two thirds of the MCBP seminar series.

  • Program of Study Form

Year 2

In the second year, students complete additional coursework and conduct research that will establish the basis of their dissertation. Students also select an Examination Committee that includes: their Mentor, two faculty members from the Department, two faculty members whose primary appointment is outside the Department, and a CGS representative from an approved list. 

Admission to Candidacy

To qualify for admission to Candidacy, PhD students must pass both the written and oral components of a Qualifying Examination, typically by the end of June. For the written exam, students will write an NIH-style research proposal based on their proposed dissertation project (Specific Aims – 1 page, Research Strategy – 6 pages, single-spaced text, excluding references). Students will present their dissertation proposal to the Examination Committee followed by an oral defense covering both the research plan and underlying concepts. After passing all components of the Qualifying Examination, a student is certified as a Candidate for the PhD degree. Please refer to the College of Graduate Studies website for more information about the exam schedule and format.

  • Oral Examination Rubric
  • Evaluation of Oral Presentation
  • Evaluation of Written Proposal
  • Admission to Candidacy Outcome Form
  • Admission to Candidacy Form 

Year 3+

After admission to Candidacy, a student’s primary effort is devoted to the completion of their research dissertation. Typically, the Examination committee continues to serve as the student’s Dissertation Committee, minus the CGS representative. Students are required to meet with their Dissertation Committee at least once a year and complete a summary of recent progress as part of the Committee Evaluation form. Changes to the Dissertation Advisory Committee must be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies for approval.

  • Appointment of Dissertation Committee Form
  • Change to Dissertation Committee Form
  • Committee Evaluation Form

Dissertation Defense

Students should consult with their Mentor and Dissertation Committee to establish an appropriate timeline for completing all program requirements and scheduling the Defense. Students are required to publish at least one first-author research article in a peer-reviewed journal prior to graduation. A signed Notification of Defense Form must be submitted to the College of Graduate Studies at least three weeks in advance of the proposed Defense date. In common with all PhD students at MUSC, the Candidate presents their dissertation research at a public seminar, followed by a closed-door Defense administered by the Dissertation Committee. All requirements must be complete and submitted by the last day of class for the degree to be conferred that term. Please refer to the College of Graduate Studies website for more information about the Defense and Commencement.

  • Notification of Defense Form
  • Dissertation Guidelines
  • Oral Defense Rubric
  • Successful Defense Form
  • CGS Final Requirements Checklist