"The faculty really cares about me growing and having everything I need as a student in order to succeed in my future career. This is true for technical skills, knowledge, and the soft skills that are in such high demand in any science field. They ask, "What do you want out of your education," and then respond with initiatives that provide what we need. I have no doubt that I will go into my career with everything that I need to succeed."
Year One Courses: The Baylor Difference
Our three-tiered curriculum is designed to ensure that all students have the strong foundational knowledge and quantitative skills essential for all biomedical scientists while providing the opportunity to dive deep into their chosen field of research.
The first tier of our Ph.D. program is our foundational curriculum. During the first two terms of the year, students in most programs participate in a rigorous pair of Foundations courses that provide a breadth of knowledge across the biological sciences, including cellular biology, genetics, macromolecules, proteostasis, tissues, development and biostatistics. Additionally, all students participate in a four-course series in the Responsible Conduct of Research throughout their first four years in the program. These courses are a combination of the required National Institutes of Health training in areas of authorship, research ethics regarding humans and animals, rigor, reproducibility and collaboration, as well as additional workshops on important professional and personal development topics.
Beyond the Foundations, each of our Ph.D. programs has a core of required courses to provide students with an in-depth understanding of their field, including theory, practical aspects and methodologies, as well as exposing students to vital skills in critical thinking, evaluating contemporary research literature, presentation skills, grant writing and collaboration. Additionally, students regularly attend lecture series by Baylor faculty and researchers, visiting experts and their fellow students.
The third tier of our cross-cutting curriculum allows students to select elective coursework that supports their interests in their specific area of research. Students may select from dozens of elective options offered by our graduate programs, as well as interdisciplinary courses offered by the Graduate School in our central curriculum.
Responsible Conduct of Research
All students participate in a four-course series in the Responsible Conduct of Research throughout their first four years in the program. The required training complies with the current recommendations of the National Institutes of Health for instruction in the responsible conduct of research including in areas of authorship, research ethics regarding humans and animals, rigor, reproducibility and collaboration, as well as additional workshops on important professional and personal development topics. Upon completion of the requirements, a certificate of attendance will be issued.
Graduate Student Bulletin
The Graduate Student Bulletin is published on July 1 preceding each academic year. It provides students with a comprehensive document showing the academic calendar, the schedule of classes for the year, catalog descriptions of courses, key academic policies and important contact information. The Graduate Student Bulletin is updated during the year with any changes to the schedule of classes, so users are encouraged to access the current document online, rather than downloading it.
During the first year, students also complete laboratory rotations. One of the great things about pursuing a Ph.D. is that you choose to explore an area of research that really interests you. Rotations offer students the opportunity to explore multiple areas of research and get to know the faculty members who ultimately will guide and support them as mentors. Students complete a minimum of three required rotations, with most students spending time in four or five laboratories before selecting their mentor.
Students have the option to complete rotations with any graduate school faculty member. If upon completion of rotations, a student selects a thesis advisor who is not a faculty member within their program, the student may request approval from their program leadership for this person to be their mentor.
"I work in a small lab. Among our small group, there people from all over. My PI is a Korean woman. My labmates are Chinese, Indonesian and Mexican American and I'm from the Philippines. Everyone's opinions are valued. It doesn't matter where you come from or where you are now, all that matters is what you can bring to the table. Even though I'm just a second-year graduate student from the Philippines, even the most famous researchers at Baylor value and respect my opinion."
In year two students continue with coursework focused on building the knowledge and skills required for their area of focus. Studens will work with their program leadership and thesis mentor to identify which courses are needed to round out their didactic education. Students will complete the Qualifying Exam, which requires them to prepare and defend their research proposal. Working with their mentors, students develop their thesis project, assemble a Thesis Advisory Committee and begin conducting dissertation research.
Individual Development Plans
After successful completion of the Qualifying Exam, students begin their Individual Development Plan (IDP). The IDP enables students to identify professional goals that match their interests and values for the purpose of identifying and developing the appropriate career-specific skills. The creation and regular review of the IDP encourages discussions between students and mentors about career goals early in the training process and implements a course of action to achieve these goals. The three interactive steps and the proposed timeline for completion of the IDP are described in “The Baylor College of Medicine IDP Process.”
Year Three to Graduation
The average time to degree for Baylor graduate students is six years. In years three through graduation and beyond, students will conduct dissertation research while meeting regularly with their mentor and Thesis Advisory Committee for guidance and assistance in monitoring progress. Students also attend seminars and conferences at the College as well as at other institutions of the Texas Medical Center and national and international meetings.
The final goal is a dissertation describing the results of original research. Most students have multiple publications that constitute the core of their dissertation. These papers frequently are published in high-quality, peer-reviewed journals. The dissertation defense involves a public seminar and oral defense to the Thesis Advisory Committee.
Career Development Center
The Baylor College of Medicine Career Development Center provides the training, resources and connections you need to achieve your professional goals.