Requirements for Ph.D. in Cell Biology
All BIMS students must complete a minimum of 72 hours of graduate credit. A minimum of 24 out of the 72 credit hours must be graded coursework, and no more than 48 of the 72 credit hours can be comprised of Non-Topical Research.
Requirements for graduation include the following courses:
Students are required to earn a minimum of 4 credits from any affiliated science. Electives can be selected to enhance dissertation research or meet requirements set by specific NIH Training Grant programs.
Students are required to enroll in Journal Club each term that they are enrolled in the PhD program, excluding their first semester in the BIMS program.
All BIMS students will complete three laboratory research rotations, beginning in the Summer preceding the first academic year. Students are guided through the rotation selection process by a transition advisor and are encouraged to consider options across the spectrum of BIMS research opportunities. Students can complete dissertation research in a lab outside of the Department of Cell Biology and matriculate in the Cell Biology PhD program.
taken summer, fall and spring of first year
First Author Publication
Students are required to publish a minimum of one article as the first-author in a peer reviewed professional journal prior to the dissertation defense.
Students are required to present at a minimum of one national or international meeting/conference as advised by their dissertation mentor or committee.
Students should begin defining aims for dissertation research during the spring semester of the first year of doctoral study. By the spring semester of the second year, the student is required to prepare a dissertation research proposal that will provide both background to the chosen problem area and a description of the research to be performed. Optimally, an outline of the proposal (i.e., specific aims) is prepared by the student in consultation with the mentor and discussed with committee members individually. The proposal outline is then revised and refined based on input received from the advisor and committee. The narrative document is completed independently by the student. The proposal should be completed during the spring semester, with the goal of defending it no later than June 15th. Information regarding formatting of the proposal will be provided to students electronically.
Prior to the start of the defense meeting, the committee will hold a brief session without the student present. While the student is out of the room, the committee will review and discuss the student’s progress in the graduate program including their performance in courses and during rotations, and present and discuss opinions on the written dissertation proposal. The mentor is required to leave the room prior to the start of the student presentation/defense. The oral examination (i.e., defense) will then begin with a 20-minute illustrated presentation of the proposal by the student. The student is encouraged to include original preliminary data if available, and/or a report of progress (i.e., successes and failures) thus far. The committee members are free to interrupt the presentation at any point to ask questions regarding the proposal. At the conclusion of the oral defense, the student is asked to leave the room and the faculty will evaluate the student’s performance and determine whether they have satisfactorily completed all portions of the dissertation proposal defense.
Note: The proposal defense may be rescheduled once (only in extreme circumstances) and must be completed successfully within 2 months of the first scheduled date. The Cell Biology DGS and at least two members of the Cell Biology Executive Academic Committee must approve this option.
Once students have joined a lab and selected Cell Biology as their degree program, they should begin the selection of their dissertation committee in consultation with their mentor. Committees must be comprised of four BIMS-approved mentors; the committee chair must hold a primary appointment in the Department of Cell Biology and will be appointed by the program DGS; one member must hold a primary appointment outside of the Department of Cell Biology (as defined in the Academic Regulations section for Biomedical Sciences in the School of Medicine Graduate Record).
Students whose faculty mentor does not have a primary appointment with the Department of Cell Biology Department will have a co-mentor assigned by the CDB Program DGS/s. The co-mentor will typically be a faculty member with a primary appointment in the Department of Cell Biology, hold the rank of associate or full professor, and have considerable successful record of mentoring CDB students.
Students are strongly encouraged to hold committee membership to four members, including any appointments required by NIH Training Grants (e.g., CMB, BTP) Students are required to meet with their committee as a group at least annually, but may be instructed to do so semiannually or more frequently (at the discretion of their committee) to track progress.
Milestone: PHDFANPGS (annually- starting year 2)
Each student must complete a piece of original and significant research as part of the requirements of the Cell Biology doctoral degree. Original and significant research is defined as being suitable for publication in a high-quality peer-reviewed journal. It is expected that data from the dissertation will have been published (i.e., in print or “in press”) in a minimum of one first-author publication.* The mentor, in collaboration with the dissertation committee, will determine when the student is ready to proceed writing the dissertation. The dissertation committee has the option of assigning one of the members the role of first reader.
During the writing process, the student should work with their mentor and/or first reader to assess and revise the dissertation document. The final revised version of the dissertation is used as the basis for the dissertation defense and must be distributed to each member of the committee no less than two weeks prior to the scheduled defense meeting.
The Cell Biology program appoints an add-on committee member who will chair the dissertation defense meeting. The defense must be scheduled to accommodate the schedules of all members of the dissertation committee, including the add-on member. For the defense, the student gives an illustrated presentation with slides outlining the significant results from the dissertation research, and answers questions from the committee throughout and after the presentation is concluded.
If the student passes the dissertation defense without significant qualifications, the student is allowed to submit the document to the UVa Library and schedule (in consultation with the Program Administrator) a public seminar. Alternatively, the student may be required to make written revisions to the dissertation document (the extent of these revisions is decided at the time of the defense). These edits must be completed prior to scheduling the public seminar or submitting the document to the UVa Library. The public seminar should be scheduled no less than one week after the private defense.
*First author being defined as the primary driver of the project, specifically contributing the majority of benchwork, data analysis, and writing.
Summation of Thesis to UVA Library
Doctoral students must upload the final, approved version of the dissertation to the University Library’s digital repository, also known as LIBRA, by the same due dates as for the Final Exam form.
Information regarding the repository, the submission process and copyright law is available through the LIBRA web site. Please note the following:
- The title page of the dissertation should be formatted according to the approved template. Signatures of the dissertation committee members should appear only on the final examination form. These signatures should not appear on the title page of the document that is uploaded to LIBRA.
- Students are responsible for ensuring that they upload the final, approved version of their thesis. Documents submitted to LIBRA cannot be deleted or corrected.
- The thesis title submitted to the department in step three above will appear in the LIBRA upload interface. If the title listed in LIBRA does not match the final title of the thesis, the student must stop the upload process and inform his or her departmental graduate administrator of the correct title. The thesis title listed in SIS, LIBRA and the student’s transcript should be identical.
LIBRA will accept the thesis as a single PDF document up to 100MB. Students also have the option to upload supplemental files.
There are no formatting requirements or restrictions; however, students should adhere to traditional physical standards if they wish to purchase bound copies from UVA Printing and Copying Services.
Survey of Earned Doctorates
All students are required to complete the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Earned Doctorates
Requirements for Dual Degree Program
The Cell Biology Program accepts students in the Medical Science Training Program (dual degree MD and PhD students). Students in the MSTP are in an accelerated curriculum and generally complete their Graduate Requirements within 4 years.
Students enrolled in the MSTP will often use the coursework completed during the MD preclinical curriculum to receive transfer credit for course requirements. For example, MSTP students can petition the Director of Graduate Studies for the PhD degree-granting program with which the student affiliates to receive transfer credit for BIMS 6000 (Core Course in Integrative Biology). Decisions on these petitions will be made by the DGS in consultation with the MSTP Director and the student’s research advisor.
Beginning with the cohort of MSTPs matriculating into the MD program in summer of 2021, and based on the School of Medicine’s Policy on course credit equivalencies, students who are awarded transfer credits for the core course requirement will be awarded 10 topical credits, the equivalent graded credit hours of the Core Course in Integrative Biology.
For those MSTPs who take the core course, the pre-clerkship curriculum will be evaluated by the Director of Graduate Studies of their selected degree-granting program for other appropriate coursework equivalencies for which they may receive transfer credit (up to 10 credits in total).