Group photo of BMCB PhD grads 2022


The Graduate School does not set course requirements; these are set by the Field of BMCB and your Special Committee (see Course Enrollment).  You should talk to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and/or your Special Committee about the courses that you should take.  Dates for course enrollment are set by the University Registrar (  Make sure that you register in accordance with the published dates.  NOTE:  The Graduate School will only consider Course Enrollment Petitions in extremely extenuating circumstances.

Federal regulations require that all students enroll in at least 12 credit hours/semester.  You should not feel obligated to enroll in 12 credit hours of actual coursework unless your DGS/Special Committee consider(s) it necessary.  Enroll only in the courses that you need/want to take.  In the fall and spring semesters, the Graduate School will enroll students in their Graduate Dissertation Research course in order to ensure that your record reflects 12 credit hours.  

Summer Enrollment:  All graduate students are required to enroll in the Graduate Dissertation Research (via Student Center) for the summer; the deadline for this is the end of May.  This is necessary if you are receiving a stipend or plan to use university facilities such as libraries, computer centers, and the Gannett Health Center.  (Please note:  If you register after the published deadline, FICA taxes will be withdrawn from your paycheck.)  Summer tuition is not included in your funding.

Time Away From the University:  The graduate student schedule/calendar does NOT follow the undergraduate schedule.  Graduate students are paid on a 12-month stipend and are expected to be present and actively working on their academics and research project unless the university itself is officially closed.  If you plan on being gone for a significant period of time, you must have the approval of your advisor and notify the Graduate Field Assistant of your intentions.

Coursework: The curriculum for BMCB students includes lecture and discussion-based coursework focused on gaining depth and breadth of knowledge in the areas of biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, training in ethical research conduct, and training in oral and written communication. In addition to coursework, students complete 3 laboratory research rotations prior to joining their thesis lab, and participate in professional development activities, including career-focused activities and a teaching experience.

Coursework requirements for BMCB students include:

Core Courses (all required)

  • BIOMG 8310: Advanced Biochemical Methods I – Lab Rotations (Fall)
  • BIOMG 8320: Advanced Biochemical Methods II – Lab Rotations (Spring)
  • BIOMG 8370: Foundations & Frontiers in Cell & Molecular Biology (Spring)
  • BIOMG 7940: Current Topics in Biochemistry, Cell, and Molecular Biology (Fall)
  • BIOMG 7510: Ethical Issues & Professional Responsibilities (Spring)
  • BIOMG 6980: Graduate Student Teaching Assistant Experience in MBG (Fall or Spring)

Two Focused Topics Courses (choose two)

  • BIOMG 6310: Protein Structure and Function (Fall)
  • BIOMG 6330: Biosynthesis of Macromolecules (Fall)
  • BIOMG 6390: The Nucleus (Spring)
  • BIOMG 6360: Functional Organization of Eukaryotic Cells (Spring)
  • BIOMG 6870: Tricks of the trade: How to Use Genetics to Dissect Cells, Molecules and Developmental Pathways (alternate years, Spring)

One Quantitative Methods Course (required)

Popular options include BTRY 6010: Statistical Methods I (Fall) or BTRY 6020: Statistical Methods II (Spring). Other 6000+ level courses with a focus on quantitative methods may also be used to fulfil this requirement, with permission.

The majority of coursework is completed in year 1, where students focus on building a scientific foundation in biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology and quantitative reasoning. After finishing the first-year rotations, and joining a research group, second year students complete a course in research ethics (BIOMG 7510), written communication (BIOMG 7940), and professional development associated with a teaching experience (BIOMG 6980).

TA Experience:  In the second year of matriculation, all BMCB students participate in a required one-semester Teaching Experience. Students gain experience as a Teaching Assistant in an MBG (BIOMG) undergraduate course. Concurrently, students learn pedagogical skills in active learning, how to assess student learning, and best practices for leading discussions, grading, and teaching in BIOMG 6980.

Careers Workshop:  The Field of BMCB, in conjunction with other Fields on campus (Genetics, Genomics & Development and the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program) host a Careers in Biosciences workshop that features professionals who followed various career path after receiving their degree in Bioscience fields. BMCB students must attend one workshop prior to graduation but are encouraged to attend more, as each year’s workshop is unique. Students have access also to additional career exploration events through the Cornell Careers Beyond Academia program in the Graduate School, which provides a range of career-focused opportunities for Cornell graduate students.

Student Seminars are required of students in their second year and beyond. All students present their research progress to the community yearly, starting in year 2. Students most often coordinate their annual Special Committee meeting with their presentation, to gain feedback both on research progress and their communication skills. Students are expected also to broaden their scientific knowledge by attendance at the MBG Department research seminars series, which brings in outside speakers at the forefront of the biological science fields.

Course/Grade Expectations: For courses with a letter grade, students are expected to receive a “B” (3.0) or better to remain in good standing in the program. If a student receives a C+ or lower grade in any core BMCB course, no credit is given for that course, implying that the course must be retaken. Students can enroll in undergraduate courses to expand areas of knowledge for personal/professional growth. However, undergraduate level courses (e.g. 3000 level) cannot be used to fulfill program requirements.