The requirements for the Ph.D. degree offered by Scripps’ Graduate Program are broken into five main components: coursework, rotations, advisory committees, program activities, and dissertation. An entering student initially focuses on coursework during the first year with the goal of extending his/her undergraduate education to the current frontier of knowledge. Course selection is guided by the interests of the student and is balanced by providing breadth and depth in an area of specialization.
Rotations are a crucial part of the student's academic experience. They are designed to give students an opportunity to experience different laboratory environments. All students are required to complete at least one laboratory rotation, which may begin during the summer months. However students are encouraged to rotate through multiple labs, as it allows students to broaden their experience and get to know several faculty members.
The Advisory Committee is a key component of a student's ongoing education. It is comprised of four or five faculty members with expertise broadly related to his/her dissertation work. This committee serves several purposes; it conducts the qualifying examination, meets annually to provide advice and guidance on their dissertation project, and mentors the student through the graduate program. Students are expected to meet at least once per year with their Advisory Committee.
Throughout the program, there are a number of programmatic requirements in which the student must participate, including seminar series, journal clubs, and the annual retreat. These activities provide forums complementary to course and laboratory work for exchanging ideas, improving oral and written communications skills and networking with fellow students, postdocs, and faculty.
The oral defense and the written dissertation are the culmination of the student’s research efforts and program experience.
A Ph.D. in Biology is one of five tracks of study offered by the Graduate Program. This track consists generally of four core courses and two recommended electives. Core courses are taken for letter grades, while elective courses may be taken for pass/fail. Course offerings that are appropriate for students who elect to pursue graduate research in Neuroscience include those listed below. A complete listing of courses offered by the program and descriptions of curriculum tracks, including customized curriculum sequences that can be designed to accommodate the specific interests of our students, are available at http://education-test.scripps.edu/graduate_programs/doctoral/custom_curriculum.html
Core Courses appropriate for students interested in Neuroscience
Molecular biology: This course focuses on essential biological processes at the molecular level, including DNA replication, transcription and processing of RNA, regulation of gene expression, and protein synthesis. Offered Fall term.
Cell biology: This course covers cellular organization and functions, with focus on membrane trafficking, nuclear organization, cell motility and the cytoskeleton, and cell signaling, adhesion and communication. Offered Winter term.
Neurobiology: The neurosciences course focuses on the nervous system at a molecular, cellular, and systems level. Topics include chemical transmission in the nervous system, electrical transmission in the nervous system, the molecular and cellular structure of neurons, the neurobiology of sensation, neural development, and neuropharmacology. Throughout the course, emphasis is placed on relating the basic functions of the nervous system to behavior and disease. Offered Spring term.
Genetics and Genomics: The focus of this course is on human DNA sequence and in particular on naturally occurring DNA sequence variations and their impact on molecular physiology, clinical phenotypic expression, and the gene pools of populations. Basic DNA sequence manipulation and query technologies/tools are discussed. The classes each week are paired with one didactic lecture offered first and one student-led discussion-oriented session involving two papers of relevance to the topic covered in the didactic lecture: one 'classic' paper and one contemporary high-impact paper. Offered Spring term.
Electives appropriate for students interested in Neuroscience
Concepts of Learning and Memory: This course is designed to introduce students to the field of learning and memory. The course will cover classical and modern concepts of learning and memory across all levels at which learning and memory is studied, including behavioral, anatomical, cellular, molecular and genetic levels of analysis. The basic concepts of learning and memory will also be related to the diseases of learning and memory. Offered Winter term.
Molecular Medicine: Teaches basic concepts underlying the working understanding of the biology of health and disease. Highlights opportunities for studying fundamental challenges defined in the practice of medicine using the tools of the basic biological and chemical sciences. In this dynamic process, the solutions advance both disciplines and define the foundations of translational medicine. Offered Spring term.
Immunobiology: This course focuses on the constituents of the immune system and the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in generating a protective or pathologic immune response. Lecture topics cover various aspects of innate and adaptive immunity, including MHC genes and structure, antigen presentation, antigen recognition, lymphocyte development and function, receptor signaling, autoimmunity, tumor immunology and immunologic aspects of AIDS. Offered Spring term.
Other Relevant Courses
Introduction to Biostatistics: The focus of this course will be on the principles and concepts of biostatistical analysis. Basic probability theory, distribution theory, parameter estimation techniques, hypothesis testing techniques, and model building approaches will be discussed. The lectures will be given in sequence with each lecture building off the material covered in prior lectures. The lectures will focus on the application of various statistical procedures in addition to discuss the concepts and theory behind them. Offered Fall term.
Protein Folding in the Cell: This is a 0.5 credit course designed to highlight the important biological mechanisms that regulate protein homeostasis in the crowded intracellular environment. Specifically, we will focus on the biological and chemical factors that mediate protein folding, trafficking, and degradation in vivo, the intracellular signaling cascades that regulate cellular protein folding efficiency, and the involvement of protein folding in human diseases. Offered Spring term.
Scientific Proposal Writing: Successful proposal writing is increasingly a critical component of doing research throughout a scientist's career. This interactive class will combine a few lectures, a workshop, and grant writing and review to provide students with an in-depth view of the key components of a successful grant proposal. At the end, participants will also have developed a peer-reviewed proposal with feedback on a topic of their interest, for use in guiding current research or as the basis for a proposal to be submitted for funding. The review process will also provide interesting insight into the dynamics of proposal peer review of the type that usually occurs when a proposal is submitted to a funding agency. Finally, broader benefits of the class are development of critical thinking, reading, and writing skills, as well as a closer look at a range of the research ongoing at TSRI.