Curriculum

Upon arriving at Cornell in August, students become immersed in various kinds of laboratory experiences, first in a formal course called Advanced Biochemical Methods (BIOMG 8310). The first half of BIOMG 8310 is a formal 7-week laboratory course. This initial laboratory experience is followed immediately by the first of three laboratory rotations with individual faculty. The 7-week portion of BIOMG 8310 is designated for, and limited to, the entering class of BMCB graduate students. This lab course, which meets three days a week for most of the day, not only exposes students to some of the most cutting edge research approaches, but also provides an excellent opportunity for the graduate class to interact and build a camaraderie that often persists through their graduate career and beyond. We view this course as one of the important distinguishing features of our program.

Students in the first year obtain a breadth of knowledge by taking at least one lecture course in each of three subject areas: physical biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology. The physical biochemistry course, Protein Structure and Function (BIOMG 6310) covers topics related to 3-dimensional structure determination from X-ray crystallographic and NMR data and analysis of protein structure and function via data base analyses. Two molecular biology courses are offered. Biosynthesis of Macromolecules (BIOMG 6330) covers topics ranging from DNA replication, RNA transcription, and protein translation. The Nucleus (BIOMG 6390) focuses on the structure and function of the nucleus including chromatin structure, RNA splicing, nuclear architecture and nucleocytoplasmic transport, and regulation of gene expression. All students take the course Functional Organization of Eukaryotic Cells (BIOMG 6360), which focuses on various aspects of eucaryotic cell biology including the cytoskeleton, membrane trafficking in the secretory and endocytic pathways, signal transduction, and cell division.

In addition to these formal lecture courses, students also take Problems in Biochem, Molecular and Cell Biology (BIOMG 8370). The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the reading and critical analysis of primary scientific literature. Students also participate in a half semester grant proposal writing course (BIOMG 7940), where they put together a fellowship application in the format of an NSF (National Science Foundation) predoctoral fellowship, and critique each other’s application in a series of mock review panels. In the Spring semester, students take Quantitative Biology (BIOMG 8340). This course exposes students to the critical needs of quantitative skills in modern biology.

In both semesters of the first year (and all semesters in the second through fifth years) students enroll in BIOMG 8300 (which carries 0 credits), the weekly Field of BMCB seminar given by distinguished outside speakers.

Aside from these requirements, first year students sometimes take additional courses of interest. Typical choices include courses that will be counted for the requirement of the minor, or that round out their undergraduate curriculum in some way.

Finally, at the end of the spring semester of the first year, students pick a laboratory in which they will pursue their thesis research.

During the second year, students begin thesis research, finish any course requirements for the minor, and take BIOMG 8380, which is designed to train our 2nd year BMCB students in the "skills of a scientist". These skills include writing of scientific papers and grant proposals, oral presentation, experimental design, job hunting, and managing a laboratory.