PhD in Biomedical Sciences Curriculum

Faculty member and student looking at publication

Our PhD curriculum is designed for independent students who seek an interactive, challenging and creative research environment.

We offer students:

  • A focused training experience, with outstanding support designed to allow graduation in five years.
  • Diverse options across scientific fields for laboratory rotations and dissertation research, and close mentoring by top-tier faculty.
  • Training in state-of-the-art research methods and technologies.
  • Clinical care experiences to help inform scientific research directions, including interaction with patients and clinical research faculty.
  • Comprehensive career preparation, including skills in research independence, grant writing, laboratory management and transferable skills for many career paths.

For full information on PhD requirements, policies and course descriptions, please consult our general catalog.

Schedule and Requirements

Year Requirements

Year 1

Three six-week laboratory rotations
Clinical assignments

Beginning of Year 2

Dissertation laboratory selected
Doctoral Advisory Committee selected

Year 2

Dissertation research initiated
Grant application submitted
Preparation for Candidacy Qualifying Examination

End of Year 2

Candidacy Qualifying Examination

Years 3-5

Dissertation research
Two manuscripts accepted/published

Year 4-5

Preparation of dissertation
Oral defense of dissertation

The core coursework and laboratory rotations are completed in the first year, and additional discipline-specific training will be provided during the second year as required. The focused program will allow the majority of students to graduate within five years. Throughout the training experience, students are required to engage in continual learning through participation in journal clubs, seminars and laboratory meetings.

The Graduate School follows an academic calendar that includes several annual breaks and holidays. See our general catalog for a detailed calendar and our leave policies.

Female faculty member at podium, speaking to class


Required lectures and training programs are highly interactive and designed to facilitate stimulating discussions of the latest research findings, theory, research methods and ethical issues.

Required coursework includes:

  • Fundamental Topics in Biology, with courses on Genes to Proteins, Cell Biology and Developmental Biology.
  • Biological Insights into Disease and Therapy, with courses on Cancer, Immunology, Infectious Diseases, Pharmacology and Chemical Biology.
  • Topics in Clinical and Translational Research, which includes human subjects' protection training and six courses including experimental and conceptual components.
  • Biostatistics and Computational Biology, with sections on Biostatistical Methods and Introduction to Research and Clinical Genomics.
  • Core Facilities, which includes structured visits to the core research facilities at St. Jude to expose students to available technologies and capabilities.

See our general catalog for full course descriptions.

Dissertation Research

Students conduct laboratory research and participate in relevant clinical experiences from the beginning of year two through degree completion. Each student selects a Doctoral Advisory Committee of up to five committee members to provide guidance and support through the dissertation process.

To complete the dissertation, students will conduct original research, analyze and compile the data, report the results and significance of the work and orally defend the dissertation. They will also be required to author or co-author two accepted/published manuscripts and to apply for independent funding to support their research.

See Our Science to explore the diverse research expertise and facilities at St. Jude.