Combined Degree Curriculum

Before graduate coursework begins, Combined Degree students complete an independent study in spring of their first year in medical school. This is followed by their first lab rotation which takes place in the summer that same year. In their third year, students do full time coursework and two more lab rotations. The GCB program requires students take six courses:

  • GCB 5330: Statistics for Genomics and Biomedical Informatics
  • GCB 5340: Experimental Genome Science
  • GCB 5360: Fundamentals of Computational Biology
  • CIS 5190 or 5200: Machine Learning
  • One course from the list of Approach electives
  • One course from the list of Biological Specialty electives

Lab Rotations (GCB 6990)

Because it is essential that candidates have a firm training in biology and experimental techniques, a crucial component of the GCB curriculum is research rotations in the laboratories of GCB-affiliated faculty. Students in this program are required to do three lab rotations as part of their training. The definition of a lab rotation is flexible and includes the possibility of rotations in a computer science lab (for example, the application of data mining techniques to biological information sources) or a course of directed reading and research in mathematics/statistics, but students should expect to spend at least 25 hours per week in their rotation lab. At least one rotation must be a wet-lab project, and one must be computational.

Combined Degree students do an 11 week rotation before their 2nd year in medical school. Rotations two and three will take place during the third year fall term, lasting 9 weeks each.

The dissertation laboratory is usually chosen from one (or more) of these rotation labs, although this is not required. To ensure breadth of the training experience, all laboratory assignments must be approved in advance by the GCB Chair.

Pre-dissertation Research (GCB 8990)

Once the student has identified a thesis lab, generally after their third rotation, they begin graded lab work in their chosen dissertation laboratory in the Spring. Students will advance to full time dissertation research work after passing their Candidacy Exam.

Typical schedule for Combined Degree students

  Fall Spring Summer
Year 1 GCB 5330
GCB 5340
GCB 5360
2nd Lab Rotation
3rd Lab Rotation
CIS 5200
Approach Elective
Pre-Dissertation Research
Candidacy Exam
Year 2+ Dissertation Dissertation

For a complete overview of curriculums for our Combined Degree programs, please visit the MD-PhD website or VMD-PhD website.

Qualifying Approach and Biological Specialty Courses

Approach Courses
  • BMIN 5200: Fundamentals of Artificial Intelligence (Spring)
  • BSTA 7870: Statistical Methods and Data Analysis (Fall)
  • CIS 5450: Big Data Analytics (Fall)
  • CIS 5500: Database and Information Systems (Fall)
  • STAT 5110: Statistical Inference (Fall/Spring)
  • STAT 9270: Bayesian Statistics (Spring, even years)
Biological Specialty Courses
  • BIOL 4220: Human Genetics and Genomics (Spring, odd years)
  • CAMB 4830: Epigenetics (Fall)
  • CAMB 4850: The RNA World: A Functional and Computational Analysis (Spring, even years)
  • GCB 4930: Epigenetics of Human Health and Disease (not offered every year)
  • GCB 5670: Mathematical Computation Methods for Modeling Biological Systems (Fall or Spring depending on year)
  • GCB 5770: Advanced Epigenetics Technology (Spring)
  • GCB 5850: Wistar Institute Cancer Biology Course: Signaling Pathways in Cancer (Fall)
  • GCB 7520: Seminar in Genomics (Spring)

This list is not exhaustive, and additional qualifying courses may be approved by the Advising Committee and GCB Chair. Students can visit the University Catalog to view available courses.

For descriptions of GCB courses, visit the PhD Curriculum page.