Graduate Studies in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Dr. Paul Sorgen (chair), Dr. Kaustubh Datta (co-chair - admissions),
Dr. Kate Hyde, Dr. Michel Ouellette, and Dr. Amar Singh.
The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (BMB) oversees and manages the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology doctoral program of IGPBS. This Ph.D. program is designed to provide a comprehensive knowledge base along with the research and training experience necessary for the development of independent investigators in various areas of biochemistry and molecular biology. This broad area includes gene regulation, cellular signal transduction, cell-cell communications, structural biology, receptor endocytosis & protein trafficking, redox biology, carbohydrate biology, autophagy, apoptosis & other cell death pathways, biology of microRNAs, cell cycle regulation, enzymology, immunology, stem cell biology, neuronal differentiation and neurodevelopmental disorders, endocrinology, metabolism (protein, lipid, and carbohydrate) and biofilms and microbial communities.
Overview of the BMB Graduate Program
The Graduate Program of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is one of the largest and most successful on the UNMC campus. There are approximately 45 students enrolled in the program, with 4-8 students graduating each year with a PhD degree. We provide training for both research-based and education-oriented careers, with the average time to degree being five and a half years. Our primary goal is training future scientists and educators to apply critical reasoning skills to solve problems in modern experimental biology and in the classroom. In this program, students will learn how to perform novel and fundamental research in biochemistry and molecular biology in a laboratory under the mentorship of an advisor, which is a major requirement of this Ph.D. program. The student is expected to be trained, during the course of the Ph.D. training, to think critically, communicate effectively and perform research in an independent manner. This training is crucial for the success of students in their future professional work-places, including academia and industry. Graduates from our program are highly successful in acquiring post-doctoral employment, with several excelling in jobs in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries. Some go directly into faculty positions at area colleges, but most do post-doctoral work at highly-regarded institutions around the country, including Harvard Medical School, National Institutes of Health, University of California, Stanford University, Stowers Institute for Medical Research, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Entering graduate students enroll in general biochemistry and cell biology under the IGPBS basic curriculum and the BMB advanced curriculum. Students will take courses common to most IGPBS students in the fall semester followed by courses specific for the BMB doctoral program in subsequent semesters. Advanced BMB courses in the areas of metabolism, proteins and nucleic acids, and specialized electives are offered in the 1st year Spring and 2nd year Fall semesters. The detailed course curriculum of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program can be viewed by clicking http://www.unmc.edu/igpbs/research/bmb/bmb-curriculum.html.
At the start of their first year of the Ph.D. program, students usually choose 3 laboratories among the faculty members enrolled in BMB to rotate for 6 weeks in each lab for the purpose of selecting an advisor and a general area for their dissertation research. The Program of Study is planned in a manner to accommodate each student’s individual interests and research needs. Students need to rotate in at least three laboratories before finally committing to a specific lab and mentor. The selection of a laboratory is a process of mutual acceptance by both the student and the mentor. Once the commitment is finalized, each student is expected to form a Ph.D. supervisory committee, which oversees the progress of the student through his/her Ph.D. training. The committee can be composed of 3-4 members of the UNMC graduate faculty, as well as external faculty with specific expertise as designated by the student and agreed to by the BMB Graduate Committee. The student’s advisor will serve as the chair of the supervisory committee. Students will update their research progress by holding meetings of the committee on a regular 6-month interval.
As part of the Ph.D. curriculum, students will start their comprehensive exam during the 2nd year Spring semester and finish the exam by the end of the 3rd year Fall semester. Successful completion of the comprehensive examination is a prerequisite for and enters the student into candidacy for Ph.D. degree. Details about the comprehensive exam can be obtained by clicking the link: http://www.unmc.edu/biochemistry/education/graduate/comp-exam.html.
In addition to carrying out research and didactic course work, graduate students participate in seminars organized by the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. The BMB seminar series takes place every Monday during the Fall and Spring semesters from 12 -1 PM. Experts in different fields of research present their recent work in this forum. Fourth-year graduate students are also required to present their dissertation work to the full department in this seminar series. In addition, students attend journal club every Wednesday during the Fall and Spring semesters, and each week a different student presents a paper from the current literature on a specific research topic. Further, there are informal seminars and discussion groups with postdoctoral fellows, research associates, and the faculty that students can plan to attend/participate.
The Dissertation: Students usually defend their dissertation within five and half years from the date of initial registration as a Ph.D.- student. However, it should be emphasized that neither course completion nor time spent in the program qualify for granting of the degree. The degree is awarded primarily for high attainment in the field of scholarship and for demonstrated power of independent research in some area(s) of biochemistry and molecular biology. The criteria for determining whether a research project is ready for defense is established by a student’s advisor and the supervisory committee.
Major Research Areas in the BMB Graduate Program
Molecular Biology of Cancers (prostate, pancreas, breast, lung, liver, colon, pediatric and hematological malignancies)
Endocytosis and Trafficking
Cellular Communications / Gap- and Tight-Junctions
Biomarkers for detection and prognosis
About the University of Nebraska Medical Center
The University of Nebraska was founded in 1869, and the Graduate College was established in 1896. The University of Nebraska Medical Center, one of four campuses of the University, houses the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, which instituted its doctoral program in 1958.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center campus is composed of nine administrative units, each responsible for a different segment of the UNMC mission. These are the College of Medicine, College of Dentistry, College of Nursing, College of Pharmacy, the Office of Graduate Studies and Research, College of Allied Health Professions, University Hospital, University Outpatient Services and University Psychiatric Services, C. Louis Meyer Rehabilitation Institute, and the Eugene C. Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer and Allied Diseases.
The UNMC campus spans 50 acres with 31 buildings and more than two million square feet of internal space.
The goal of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology faculty, postdocs, graduate students and staff is to complete research that can impact cancer, genetic diseases, human health or basic knowledge of biochemical and biophysical function.