Graduate Education in the Life Sciences at Cornell

lab and buildingGraduate education at Cornell is organized by Fields.  Almost all Fields have an administrative home in a department.  In some cases the faculty comprising the Field are virtually the same as those comprising the department.  In other cases not all the departmental faculty are members of a Field with a home in that department, and many outside-departmental faculty are members.  Generally each Field acts independently in graduate student admissions, e.g. recruiting, selecting, financing, and interviewing prospective students who visit Cornell, although in some cases Fields recruit together. In the case of the BMCB Field, the Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics serves as the administrative home department.

The Field of BMCB

Viewed broadly, the research focus of the Field of BMCB is to uncover the fundamental chemical, biochemical, molecular biological, and cell biological principles that govern all forms of life.  While the techniques and principles of "biochemistry", "molecular biology", and "cell biology" underlie much of the basic and applied research in modern biology and in medicine, research in BMCB labs goes beyond the methodologies implied by these terms.  BMCB research typically is devoted to understanding the processes common to all cells, such as transcription, translation, DNA replication and repair, protein-nucleic acid interactions, biological pathways including signal transduction and metabolism, cell-cell communication, organelle function, macromolecular machines, protein structure and dynamics, membrane and cytoskeleton structure and function, and enzyme mechanisms.  The research in the Field of BMCB focuses on quantitative and mechanistic types of analysis.

The Field of BMCB enrolls about 12 - 18 PhD students per year. There are about 60 faculty in BMCB, somewhat over one half of whom are in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics (MBG) (College of Arts and Sciences and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences), with the rest from the following departments or units: Chemistry and Chemical Biology (College of Arts and Sciences); Applied and Engineering Physics (College of Engineering); Physics (College of Arts and Sciences); Division of Nutritional Sciences (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Human Ecology); Microbiology (College of Agriculture and Life Sciences); Boyce Thompson Institute; Molecular Medicine (College of Veterinary Medicine), Microbiology and Immunology (College of Veterinary Medicine), Biomedical Science (College of Veterinary Medicine), and Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology. New BMCB faculty members will continue to be added in the coming years.

One hallmark of the Graduate Field of Biochemistry, Molecular and Cell Biology is its breadth. The research areas in BMCB extend from the genetics and cell biology of fundamental processes like mitosis and membrane trafficking, to transcriptional regulation and DNA replication, to structural biology. A second hallmark of BMCB is the many productive interactions and collaborations across the entire spectrum represented by the Field, which is located intellectually at the center of biological research at Cornell. Thus, research groups in the Field benefit from interactions with scientists in the applied as well as the basic sciences, both of which flourish at Cornell.  Examples of cutting-edge technologies brought to bear on biological problems by collaborations include nanobiotechnology, genomic array studies, computational approaches, structural and imaging techniques, deep sequencing, and mass-spectrometry. A third hallmark of the BMCB program is its size and recognition.  It is one of the largest graduate programs in the biological sciences at Cornell University, and it has enjoyed continuous support from the National Institutes of Health for over 30 years in the form of a pre-doctoral student Training Grant in Cellular and Molecular Biology. Finally, a fourth hallmark of the program is its nurturing environment for grad students.