Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Program
Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD) : Philosophy
The PhD in integrated biomedical sciences is designed to educate science professionals for leadership in research and academic positions, as well as to provide career path education relevant to their specialized fields. In the past, Rush offered doctoral degrees in anatomy, biochemistry, immunology, neurological science, physiology and pharmacology. Since collaborative interdisciplinary teams of scientists perform current and future biomedical research, we no longer offer, individual basic science degrees. Instead our new doctoral program emphasizes an integrated interdisciplinary approach to biomedical research. Graduates of this program will perform high-quality, impactful biomedical research at colleges and universities, government agencies, hospitals and nonprofit agencies and in industry. Students in the program will work with faculty and scientists to generate new knowledge in the fields of biomedicine using sophisticated research methods. As a part of the program, students are required to demonstrate their knowledge of core and concentration-specific course work pass a comprehensive preliminary examination and a qualifying exam based on their research proposal. They will design and conduct research that culminates in a dissertation, and they will disseminate their scientific findings through scholarly publications and presentations.
Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Admission Requirements
Applicants must enter the program in the fall semester in order to begin the required course work in the core curriculum. The deadline for submission of applications is generally March 1. The Integrated Biomedical Sciences Program has the following requirements for admission to the program:
- A baccalaureate degree from an accredited college.
- Course work in biology, cellular biology, molecular biology, physics, chemistry, organic chemistry, physical chemistry and mathematics, including calculus, is highly recommended.
- Official academic transcripts from all baccalaureate and post-baccalaureate educational experiences are required. These should provide a minimal grade point average of 3.0 overall (A = 4.0). Higher grades are expected in science courses, and evidence of research experience is preferred.
- GRE or MCAT scores are required. All applicants whose native language is not English are required to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Applicants from foreign countries must have their transcripts evaluated by the independent agency, ECE.
- A statement of the applicant’s interests, previous research experience, and goals needs to be included as an essay in the application. The personal statement must include a ranking of the student’s interest in the five research tracks. If the student’s research track interest is not clear, then the student should list “undecided.”
- Three letters of recommendation, two from academic resources, are required. We prefer these to be from science faculty who can evaluate the character of the applicant, the applicant’s academic and research performance, and the applicant’s ability to think and work independently.
The admissions committee will evaluate applications. All prior academic experience and the letters of recommendation will be evaluated for an indication of the applicant’s potential for success as a graduate student and future independent investigator. With rare exceptions, PhD applicants will be required to interview with faculty members before admission to the program.
Acceptance into the doctoral program is limited by the availability of stipends. Accepted doctoral students receive a competitive University supported stipend and tuition scholarship, are supported by a funded faculty member or have stipends from external sources. In most cases University funded stipends are awarded to US residents. The stipend and tuition scholarship is renewed each year providing the student is making satisfactory progress towards the degree.
Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Curriculum
Cognates and Electives
For graduation, students will need 16 credits of cognate hours and 9 credits of elective hours in courses that they select. They can take these at any time throughout their tenure as a PhD student.
2 credit hours of GCC 699 is defined as full-time
In years three through five, the emphasis is on research. A student works with their dissertation advisor, research advisory committee and track director, to determine the most appropriate mix of cognates, electives and research hours each semester. For graduation, students will need 16 credit hours of cognates and 9 credit hours of electives. Electives and cognates may be taken at any time throughout a student’s tenure as a PhD student.
• GCC 694-698 Advanced Topics Seminar courses count as cognates and are taken for one semester hour of credit each fall and spring term starting in the Spring of the first year for a maximum of eight credits. This course is not required during the semester when a student intends to graduate. The Advanced Topics Seminar course should align with the student’s research track.
• GCC 598 Pre - Dissertation Research: Pre-Dissertation Research and Laboratory Rotations are part of the core curriculum.
• GCC 699 Dissertation Research: Students are expected to register for a low number of research credits each semester since only 18 credits of dissertation research are required for graduation. Two credit hours are considered to be a full time commitment to research.
- Other Cognates and Electives
While registrations appear similar in years three through five, the nature and character of the research changes, and the student passes through a number of steps towards completion of the PhD.
Years 3-4: Fall and Spring
GCC - 693 Advanced Integrated Biological Topics (AIBT)
This is a course where third and fourth year students in the IBS PhD program give seminars based on their own research. Students also attend the Basic Science Interdisciplinary Seminars and My IDP presentations. Credit Hours: 1
Years 3-5: Fall and Spring
GCC 694 - 698
This course is not required the semester the student expects to graduate.
Other Cognates and Electives
In years two through five, the emphasis is on research. A student will work with their dissertation advisor, research advisory committee and track director, to determine the most appropriate mix of cognates, electives and research hours each semester.
GCC 694-698 Advanced Topics Seminar courses count as cognates and are taken for one semester hour of credit each fall and spring term starting in the Spring of the first year for a maximum of eight credits. This course is not required during the semester when a student intends to graduate. The Advanced Topics Seminar course should align with the student’s research track.
GCC 598 Pre-Dissertation Research (Pre-Dissertation Research and laboratory rotation hours are part of the core curriculum.)
GCC 699 Dissertation Research: Students are expected to register for a low number of research credits each semester since only 18 credits of dissertation research are required for graduation. Two credit hours are a full time commitment to research.
Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Dissertation Program Progression
Year 1 Classes and Comprehensive Exam:
The goal of the course work in the first year is to expose the student to the biomedical sciences to enable them to design and approach a research problem from molecular, biochemical, cellular and organ system perspectives. This broad based approach to disease is the core of the Integrated Biomedical Sciences program. The Topics in Biomedical Integration course (GCC 531) is offered in the spring semester of the first year. In this course, a specific disease will be studied from the molecular perspective to organ system failure under Faculty direction. The students will then be assigned a group project in which they use the approaches they have learned to study another disease. This project will strengthen student skills in preparation for the comprehensive exam. In the summer, GCC 532 Topics in Biomedical Integration II is the comprehensive exam in which students will be given an individualized disease topic related to their planned research. They will be required to write a literature review approaching the topic from each biomedical prospective.
Year 1 Research Experience:
During the first year, every student will have three laboratory rotations: GCC 530, Laboratory Rotation 1 (variable), GCC 533, Laboratory Rotation 2 (variable), and GCC 534, Laboratory Rotation 3 (variable). Each rotation must be in a different laboratory. A student registering for the 3 required Laboratory Rotations should consecutively use GCC 530, 533 or 534. These laboratory rotations will expose the students to a range of research environments. Students are expected have a small project with a hypothesis and aims, to learn techniques and attend all lab meetings. Based on these rotations and other discussions with potential advisors, at the end of these rotations the student will submit the names of three potential Research Advisors with a priority ranking to the IBS Education Committee. The IBS Education Committee in consultation with the potential advisors will decide which student will be matched with which advisor (see Track Selection below). Students committed to a particular laboratory (funded by the Research Advisor’s grants) are also required to do 3 laboratory rotations. Exposure to other laboratories and research will give the student a greater breadth of knowledge. Students are expected to select a Research Advisor and a Research Track by the end of their first summer term. IBS MS to PhD students will follow their track of courses and may either do a rotation (GCC 534) or if they did not change laboratories, they may immediately begin Pre Dissertation research with their research advisor. All advisors must meet the criterion established by the program (see below).
Year 2 Track Selection, Research experience, Qualifying Exam
The selection of Research Advisor will significantly influence the student’s selection of a research track. Subsequent classes will be dictated by the track cognates and electives and by relevant electives offered in other tracks. The selection of electives should complement research activity and the interests of the students and should help prepare him/her for the career path identified through the use of the Individual Development Plan (IDP) website (http://myidp.sciencecarreers.org) and additional resources provided by the Graduate College. The goals of the second year are to learn the relevant laboratory techniques and to develop a research proposal in conjunction with their Research Advisor. The research project will advance knowledge in a specific discipline and yield “first author” scientific publications for the student. The student’s research proposal should include Specific Aims and be written up as an F31 grant (See “Dissertation Proposal and Presentation” on the next page). The student must select a Dissertation Committee and present the proposal to the committee by the end of the second year. The proposal presentation to the Committee is considered the Qualifying Exam. Acceptance of the proposal by the Dissertation Committee means the student is a candidate for the PhD.
The student’s assessment at this time relates to the following Student Learning Outcomes:
The graduate will be able to acquire research skills, collect and analyze data, and interpret results in order to address an original research question.
In addition, this step begins the continuing assessment of the following outcomes: A graduating student will be capable of independent critical thinking and writing as well as proposing, performing and effectively presenting his/her research.
The graduate will be able to work collaboratively with other scientists, physicians and health care professionals to give and obtain feedback concerning the approach to research problems, data analysis and implications of research.
The work environment in basic and clinical science is evolving. Students need to be aware of the many different types of opportunities available in the workplace and need to prepare themselves for the opportunities and challenges that they will encounter when they graduate. In addition to the research and the coursework that the student will be involved in the student will create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to define their areas of interest including teaching, administration, research in industry, or academic research. At the end of the first year the Program and Track Directors will review each student’s IDP plan and progress in the program. Upon graduation, the graduate will have used the IDP, mentorship and training opportunities to refine their career path.
Student progress is assessed at the end of years two through five. For year two the assessment of student progress to meet expected outcomes will be evaluated by the student’s Research Advisor and Track Director. See section on Dissertation Proposal and Presentation.
Year 3-5 Research Progress/Publications/Dissertation
For evaluations in years three through five, the student will submit a written report documenting their progress. The research advisor and Track Director will also submit their assessment of student progress for each year. A meeting with the student, Research Advisor, and Track Director will take place at the end of each year to discuss the student’s progress.
The Research Advisor monitors the day-to-day progress of the student. The Dissertation committee will meet at least once per year to monitor progress and to approve any changes to the proposed research project. They may meet more frequently, especially after the approval of the student’s research proposal. The student is expected to attend national meetings, make presentations, posters etc. and become a part of the scientific community. Likewise, the student should be submitting research articles. The Integrated Biomedical Science PhD program requires that the research project yield at least one first authored research article accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The publication requirement is necessary for graduation but not sufficient. The Dissertation Committee will continue to assess student progress on the aims and determines when the student has completed his/her dissertation. (See Dissertation Proposal and Presentation, below).
The student’s assessment continues on the outcomes listed above with emphasis on the growth of research and communication skills. Likewise, it is expected that the communication outcomes will also become more centered on written communication in the form of abstracts, peer-reviewed journal articles and the dissertation as the student begins to complete the following outcome:
- The graduate is able to contribute to the scientific literature in an area of expertise via published abstracts, a dissertation and by the publication of a first-authored research article in a refereed journal.
Thesis Document, Presentation and Approval
The student is expected to write a thesis document (approved by the director of the Library of Rush University Medical Center) and present the work in a public lecture attended by the thesis committee, and University faculty and students. The thesis committee will then meet with the student in a closed session to address any additional questions and to deliberate on approval of the thesis. Typically the meeting immediately follows the public lecture. The student may be asked to make revisions before final thesis approval by the committee. The registrar’s office must be notified of impending completion of the degree by submission of an Intent to Graduate Form at the beginning of the final semester. As the thesis is reaching final form, the student should consult with the University librarian to assure that the document is formatted correctly. Once the thesis is approved, the student will complete the final checklist to assure that all necessary approvals have been obtained. Each student will be required to have an exit interview and provide feedback concerning his or her experience at Rush University.
Minimal Credit Hours Required for the Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD) Degree
The PhD in integrated biomedical sciences should be completed in five years and requires completion of 80 semester hours of credit distributed as follows: core courses (37), concentration specific cognates (16), electives (9), and dissertation research (18). Students must also pass the Cumulative Exam and the Qualifying Exam and publish a 1st authored scientific paper on their research project. The core curriculum, which is common to all students, builds knowledge and skills in research theories and methodology, data analysis and statistics, laboratory applications and skills, and the molecular and cellular sciences basic to health and disease. These courses provide systematic exposure to the contemporary process of scientific discovery and will serve as the basis for the remainder of the curriculum. Advanced students entering with a Master of Science (MS) degree in a biomedical science or a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree may have satisfied the requirement for some of the core classes based on their prior records. Therefore some core course requirements may be waived, then the requirement of core course hours can be compensated by taking extra hours of laboratory rotations or pre-dissertation research. These students may be able to complete the degree in a shorter time period providing that they progress through the other program requirements. IBS MS students who enter the IBS PhD program will be on a separate track which requires fewer Cognate and elective hours based on the number of hours of cognate and electives required for the IBS MS program.
Students will be required, in conjunction with their advisors, to select from concentration-focused cognates in one of five tracks: translational cancer research; cardiovascular and respiratory biology; immunity, inflammation and infection; disorders of the musculoskeletal system; and disorders of the nervous system. All students will be required to participate in track-specific advanced topic seminars and to complete a minimum of 18 semester hours of dissertation research following admission into candidacy for the PhD. Dissertation hours in the Graduate College encompass laboratory research required for completion of the dissertation, including analyzing published data; developing a research proposal; learning and applying advanced methodologies and statistical data analyses; developing skills to write and submit a pre-doctoral training grant application; practicing presentation skills to disseminate one’s own research findings in national conferences; writing a research publication; and developing and defending a dissertation project.
Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Academic Policies
Academic Advisor/Principal Advisor
The Program Director functions as the academic advisor to the student during the first year. During this time, the Program Director determines the course schedule with the student and monitors the student’s progress. In the second year the Track Director works with the Research Advisor and assists the student in selecting the proper cognates and electives.
Research Advisor Selection:
During the first year, the student, in consultation with the program director and track directors in areas related to the student’s interests, will select three laboratories for research rotations. Based on these rotations, the student will identify the track he or she is interested in and submit the names of three potential advisors with a priority ranking to the IBS education committee. The IBS education committee, in consultation with the potential advisors, will match students with advisors. Students who are already committed to a particular laboratory (funded by the research advisor’s grants) are still required to take three laboratory rotations. The student’s research project should advance knowledge in a specific discipline and yield first-author scientific publications for the student.
Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Track/ Research Opportunities
The research tracks for the Integrated Biomedical Sciences PhD Program are translational cancer research; cardiovascular and respiratory biology; immunity, inflammation and infection; functions and disorders of the musculoskeletal system; and functions and disorders of the nervous system. The tracks include qualified faculty from Rush University Medical Center who have an interest in research in these tracks. They come from academic departments as well as clinical departments, which enables students to select a variety of individuals with basic and clinical expertise to serve on their advisory committees and guide them through their projects.
- Comprehensive exam - In the summer quarter following the first year of classes, all students will take GCC 532; Topics in Biomedical Integration II. This course is their comprehensive exam where each student will be given an individualized disease topic related to their planned research. They will be required to write a literature review approaching the topic. This comprehensive exam assures that the student can approach a research or clinical problem from a variety of perspectives, accounting for the published literature that illuminates the molecular, cellular and organ systems manifestations of the disease process.
- Qualifying Exam (Dissertation Proposal and Presentation) - The student must select a Dissertation Committee and present the proposal to the committee by the end of the 2nd year. The student’s research proposal should include at least three Specific Aims and be written up as a NIH F31 grant. Acceptance of the proposal by the Dissertation Committee means the student is a candidate for the PhD.
After passing the comprehensive exam, the student selects a Research Advisor and begins to collect preliminary data. By the end of spring of the second year the student and advisor select a dissertation committee in consultation with the Track Director. This committee advises the student and serves as the Qualifying exam committee and the Dissertation Defense Committee. The Graduate College requires that the committee is comprised of five members. One member will be the student’s Research Advisor. A majority of the Committee (at least three members) must be faculty at Rush University who are members of The Graduate College. The chair of this committee, who cannot be the student’s Research Advisor, will be chosen at the first committee meeting and will preside at all subsequent meetings and arrange for a timely completion of the dissertation work. The dissertation committee strives for consensus in all its actions. A majority vote of the committee’s membership, however, is sufficient for all activities except the final approval of the dissertation.
In addition to the five committee members, a member of the IBS Education Committee will serve as an ex officio member of the committee. Ex officio members can participate in the meetings but cannot vote. IBS Education Committee members are eligible to be selected to the five-person committee as full members; if they are selected, they cannot serve as the required ex officio member. The purpose of having an ex officio member is to monitor the quality of the exam experience. The ex officio member will ensure that the Graduate College rules are followed; they will report back to the Education Committee.
The goals of the second year are to learn the relevant laboratory techniques and to develop a research proposal in conjunction with the student’s Research Advisor. The research project will advance knowledge in a specific discipline and yield “first author” scientific publications for the student. For the Qualifying Exam, the student’s research proposal should include a hypothesis and specific aims and be written up as an F31 grant. The student must select a Dissertation Committee and present the proposal to the committee by the end of the second year. All members of the Advisory Committee or appropriate substitutes must be present at the Qualifying Exam and the Dissertation Defense either in person, on the phone or using electronic media.
If the student does not complete the Qualifying exam by the end of the Summer of their second year they will be on probation during the Fall of their third year. If they have not taken the exam by the end of that semester on probation the student will be dismissed. Since the advisor also has a responsibility to make sure that their students complete milestones in the program on schedule, advisors of students who do not take the Qualifying exam by the end of Fall semester their third year will not be allowed to take a new student into their laboratory for the next two years. If possible, students will submit their proposal as an Individual National Research Service Award (F31) [see: grants.nih.gov/training/nrsa.htm#fellowships for more information]. Once a student has passed the Qualifying exam they are a candidate for the PhD and will register for GCC 699, Dissertation Research. Once the Qualifying Exam has been passed, the student will present an annual update to their committee in an identical format as the original proposal meeting with exception of the anticipated year for graduation. They will also present their work in an open seminar in GCC 693 during their third and fourth years (unless the student is graduating in their fourth year). The annual Advisory Committee update will consist of an oral presentation research progress by the doctoral student to their committee. This oral presentation will be followed by a discussion of progress in the last year; their career development will also be reviewed. A detailed written account of each of these areas will be distributed to the committee prior to this meeting. It is recommended that the myIDP website (http://myIDP.sciencecareers.org) be used whenever possible to track and report all professional development activities.
Data Defense and Dissertation
In the candidate’s final year, a Dissertation Data Defense will be presented to their dissertation committee demonstrating that satisfactory progress has been made on the project to justify development of a plan to complete all experiments and to start writing their dissertation. Upon completion of the data defense and writing of the dissertation, the student will provide the dissertation to their committee for approval at least two weeks prior to their public defense. The public defense will be comprised of a public one-hour lecture attended by the dissertation committee and faculty and students of the University. The dissertation committee then meets in closed session to examine the candidate and approve the dissertation. Typically the meeting immediately follows the public lecture. In line with the rules and procedures of The Graduate College, the committee strives for a consensus, but the dissertation can be approved over the objections of a single committee member. However, if two committee members disapprove the dissertation, then it is not approved. The awarding of the PhD degree requires the demonstration of a capability for independent research and a contribution to scientific knowledge. As for the Qualifying Exam, all members of the committee or appropriate substitutes must be present at the Dissertation Defense either in person, on the phone or using electronic media.
It is assumed that one or more research articles are included in the dissertation. Since a peer reviewed first authored research article is required for the degree, the dissertation is not considered complete until its publication. If publication is pending, the committee may sign off on the dissertation but the Program Director will not sign off on the graduation form until the paper is accepted or published as verified by appearing on Pub Med.
Integrated Biomedical Sciences (PhD): Tuition Scholarship and Stipend
Acceptance into the doctoral program is limited by the availability of stipends. Accepted doctoral students receive a competitive University supported stipend and tuition scholarship, are supported by a funded faculty member or have stipends from external sources. University funded stipends are awarded to US residents. The stipend and tuition scholarship is renewed each year providing the student is making satisfactory progress towards the degree. Outside employment is forbidden without prior graduate college approval as it interferes with the time and effort necessary to complete the program. This excludes activities that would be in line with Individual Development Plan goals like tutoring, teaching and proctoring.