Steps to the Ph.D.

First Year Students


Specific courses are required for each track within the BBS.  In addition, each track requires a course on the Responsible Conduct of Research. 

         Description of core curriculum for common tracks of MCDB students:

Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Structural BiologyMacromolecular Structure and Biophysical Analysis, Biophysics, Methods and Logic in Molecular Biology, and Advanced Eukaryotic Molecular Biology.

Molecular Cell Biology, Genetics and DevelopmentMolecular Cell Biology, Basic Concepts of Genetics Analysis, and Biochemical and Biophysical Approaches in Molecular and Cellular Biology.

MicrobiologySeminal Papers on the Foundation of Modern Microbiology and Evasion of Host Defenses by Viruses, Bacteria and Eukaryotic Parasites, Molecular Biology of Animal Viruses, and Mechanisms of Microbial Pathogenesis.

NeurosciencePrinciples of Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Structural and Functional Organization of the Human Nervous System, and Bioethics in Neuroscience.


Each student is required to do three research rotations during the first year in residence. At the end of each semester, the student meets with a committee to evaluate research performance and course work.


Several departments including MCDB hold retreats in the fall in which all 1st year graduate students can attend.

Second Year Students


Fall:         MCDB 902 Advanced Graduate Seminar
                 MCDB 950 Second Year Research

Spring:   MCDB 903 Advanced Graduate Seminar
                 MCDB 951 Second Year Research
                 QUAL 999 Prepare for Qualifying Exam

Teaching Appointments

An important aspect of graduate training in the MCDB Department is the acquisition of teaching skills through participation in courses appropriate for the student’s scientific interests. The requirement is two semesters as a teaching assistant (TA) at the “TF2” level in any of numerous lecture, laboratory, and seminar courses offered at the undergraduate, graduate, and medical school levels.

Students may not teach during the first year of study; students are strongly encouraged to complete their teaching requirement by the end of the third year.

Thesis Committee/Qualifying Exam

An informational meeting for Second Year Students and takes place in December each year with the Director of Graduate Studies. At the meeting students are able to discuss the exam process including committee formation and selection of topics. Students will receive a copy of the Departmental Guidelines on Qualifying Exams.

In the beginning of the second year, the student, in consultation with the Thesis Advisor, must identify faculty to serve on his/her Thesis Advisory Committee. The Committee must consist of at least four faculty members (including the Thesis Advisor), any Faculty at Yale can be considered.  If the student and advisor wish to include a Faculty outside Yale, they should contact the Graduate Registrar.  The chair of the Thesis Advisory Committee can be any Yale Faculty member except the Thesis Advisor.

The Qualifying Exam may be held any time during the 3rd semester of study. The Pre-Prospectus meeting should be scheduled six to eight weeks in advance of the oral exam to allow time for reading and writing. Both pre-prospectus and exam should be scheduled 3-4 months in advance.

Third Year and Beyond Students


Students must sign up for the following coursework:

  • Fall: MCDB 902 Advanced Graduate Seminar
  • DISR 999 Dissertation Research
  • Spring: MCDB 903 Advanced Graduate Seminar
  • DISR 999 Dissertation Research

Annual Thesis Committee Meetings

Annual Committee meetings must be held before the following dates or the student will be placed on probation:

  • March 1 - for students in year 3 and years 6 +
  • April 1 - for students in years 4 and 5

Once a meeting is scheduled, a student must advise the Registrar of the date.  Prior to each Committee meeting, the student must send a progress report to the Thesis Committee and the Registrar at least a week prior to the meeting. 

At the conclusion of the committee meeting, a Committee Meeting Report must be completed by the Chair of the Committee and returned to the student who is responsible for submitting to the Graduate Registrar.

Final Year

Many of the forms that graduate students will need to fill out during their studies, including petitions for degrees, are downloadable at the Graduate School.  Click this link to access the forms.