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PhD Program Schedule for Cancer Biology Program

The PhD program is a full-time program with an average time to completion of 6.2 years. The program’s focus is to hone each student’s critical thinking, problem solving, field-specific, communication and career planning skills while promoting their development as advocates for science and ethical research.

To accomplish these goals, students must complete a core curriculum, undertake research rotations, complete field specific advanced topics and undertake thesis research while successfully navigating key evaluation milestones.


Required Courses Year 1

BBS 614 - Foundations in Biomedical Sciences
BBS 850 - 5 or 6 research rotations (48 weeks)
Two Advanced Topic Courses (3-4 credits each)

Required Courses Year 2

BBS 602 - Preparation for Qualifying Exam
One Advanced Topic Course (3 credits) 
BBS 870 - Prequalifying Research
BBS 860 - Qualifying examination
BBS 900 - Thesis Research

Required Courses Year 3

BBS 601 - Professionalism and Research Conduct (PARC)
BBS 900 - Thesis Research
BBS 865 - TRAC meeting

Required Courses Year 4 and Beyond

BBS 990 - Graduate Research
BBS 865 - TRAC meeting

Evaluation Milestones

Year 1

The student selects and is accepted by a Thesis Research Advisor by the end of year 1. The student is in good academic standing (GPA ≥ 3.0) in order to advance to year 2 or is approved for conditional advancement to Year 2 by the Academic Advancement Committee.

Year 2

The student successfully completes a written qualifying proposal and orally defends the proposal no later than June of their 2nd year. Each student is required to demonstrate competence in critical thinking, experimental design and problem solving and substantive area expertise.

Year 3 and Beyond

The student proposes an annual Individual Development Plan in which they:

  • present their immediate research and professional skills development goals to their Thesis Research Advisory Committee (TRAC).
  • receive approval of their research and professional skills IDP goals from their TRAC.
  • present and discuss their career planning goals with the staff of the Center for Biomedical Career Development.

The student’s research performance is reviewed by their Thesis Research Advisor.

Dissertation Defense

The public oral defense of the dissertation allows students to clearly explain their work and its contributions to the field. The closed door defense allows the Dissertation Examination Committee to determine whether the student has satisfied the learning objectives of the doctoral program.