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Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, Ph.D.

Minimum Totals for Graduation: 60 hours

The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology (BCMB) at Central Michigan University is an interdepartmental program that provides advanced scientific training in biochemistry and cellular and molecular biology. The program will provide students with an opportunity to develop the ability and skills necessary to conduct independent, primary research of professional quality.

Admission Requirements, Retention & Termination Standards

Students do not do rotations among multiple labs in the BCMB program; rather, students need to confirm a match with a faculty mentor prior to final acceptance in the program. You are encouraged to email BCMB faculty members to learn if they are taking new students and/or to ask more about their research programs. Faculty often ask students to meet for an interview to determine if the student will be a good match for the lab. Students are encouraged to independently try to match with a faculty mentor before they submit their application, but a second option is to submit your application with a list of 3 faculty whose research interests you. If a faculty member is interested, they will contact you.

Preference will be given to applications received by January 10 in order to be considered for admission into the program the following fall semester. In some cases, applications may be considered after the January 10 deadline provided that: (1) the prospective student has identified a potential mentor, and (2) the mentor has requested an exception to the standard admissions timeline.

Application materials must be submitted to Graduate Admissions and must include:

  • CMU Graduate Studies application
  • Official college transcripts
  • A statement of purpose explaining (1) how graduate study will aid in your plans for your future occupation or profession, (2) any substantial research experience (independent or class-based), focusing on one specific project, (3) any opportunities or challenges you have encountered in your pursuit of an education, especially if they may have affected your academic performance or strength of your application.
  • CV/Resume
  • Three letters of recommendation  that address your research ability, academic ability, communication skills, and ability to work with other people.

Candidates are expected to hold a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) or Master of Science (M.S.) degree in biology, biochemistry, chemistry or a related area of science, with a GPA of 3.0. Research experience is strongly preferred. International students must meet the requirements for regular admission to the Office of Graduate Studies.

For English proficiency requirements see the CMU English Proficiency in the current Graduate Bulletin.

Students admitted for a doctoral degree in BCMB must have a faculty mentor approved, and the faculty member must provide a plan for financial support, which may include a teaching or research assistantship. In some cases a separate application may apply. Students should check with their faculty mentors.

Although no specific undergraduate major is required, students enrolled in the program should have an adequate background in basic sciences including biology, chemistry, and mathematics. Normally, coursework should include the following topics:

  • General Chemistry (1 year)
  • Biochemistry (1 semester)
  • Pre-calculus (1 semester)
  • Cell or Molecular Biology (1 semester)
  • Organic Chemistry (1-2 semesters)
  • Genetics (1 semester)
  • Statistics (1 semester)

Under special circumstances, students who have not completed all these prerequisites may be admitted provided that any deficiencies are corrected at the beginning of their graduate studies.

A formal evaluation of each student's training will be carried out during the first semester of enrollment by the student's mentor. This evaluation will assess the strengths and limitations of each student's academic background and be used to determine the plan of study including coursework and professional activities. Students must form a dissertation committee within the first year of graduate work; this committee will include the faculty mentor plus two or more additional faculty members, at least one of whom is affiliated with the BCMB program. Student progress will be assessed using the BCMB student rubric at mandatory annual meetings between each student and the dissertation committee. A qualifying exam must be passed at the end of the second year. The exam will consist of a written proposal of the student's Ph.D. dissertation project, which will be defended orally in front of the student's committee. Students will have two opportunities to pass the qualifying exam; those who fail a second time will be terminated from the program. Each student will defend the final dissertation in a public presentation summarizing research results followed by an oral defense with the committee. The public presentation and defense of the dissertation will be judged according to the BCMB rubric and voted on by the committee and must be approved by the Office of Graduate Studies. All BCMB students will be encouraged to publish their results in scientific journals and to present their work at professional conferences. We anticipate that full-time students entering with a Bachelor's degree will complete the program in 5-6 years; those entering with a Master's degree may complete the program in less time.

Program Requirements

The BCMB Ph.D. is designed to be a research degree in which students are trained primarily by conducting research under the guidance of a faculty mentor. The program includes a set of core courses that will be augmented by elective courses in the student’s area of interest.

Successful completion of the Ph.D. requires a minimum of 60 hours of graduate work beyond the bachelor's degree. Up to 30 hours of relevant graduate work may be transferred for students entering with a master's degree in a related field. Each student's program of study will be developed in consultation with the faculty mentor and approved by the dissertation committee. Typically, students entering with a bachelor's degree will take 9-30 hours of disciplinary elective courses and 9-30 hours of special topics and directed research (and students entering with a relevant master's degree will take 3-8 hours of disciplinary electives and 3-8 hours of special topics and directed research, or more depending on transfer credits), in addition to the required core courses and the dissertation.

Required Courses (10-11 hours)

SCI 710Biomolecular Structure and Function-Proteins and Nucleic Acids


SCI 720Advances in Cell/Molecular Biology and Genetics


SCI 731Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology Colloquium


SCI 740Research Ethics and Responsible Conduct of Research


Electives I (7-30 hours)

Select from the following in consultation with the student's advisor and committee:

SCI 770Careers in Biomedical Sciences


Biology: 500-700 level BIO courses

Chemistry: 500-600 level CHM courses

Mathematics and Statistics: 500-700 level MTH and STA courses

Other graduate-level courses recommended by the advisor and approved by the committee.

Electives II (3-30 hours)

SCI 750Directed Research in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology


SCI 791Special Topics in Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology


Dissertation (12 hours)

SCI 899Doctoral Dissertation


Total: 60 semester hours