Most students complete all required courses in their first year. Broken down over five terms, students begin with core courses to build a strong foundation of knowledge in terms one, two and three. During terms three, four and five, students delve deeper into their areas of interests with courses run by their program.
Students also complete laboratory rotations. One of the great things about pursuing a Ph.D. is that you get to choose to explore and an area of research that really interests you. Rotations offer you the opportunity to explore multiple areas of research and get to know the faculty members who will ultimately guide and support you as your mentor. The number of required rotations varies by program, with most students spending time in three to five laboratories before selecting their mentor.
With most or all coursework complete, students complete their Qualifying Exam in year two. Each program designs the exams for their students, but they all require students to describe and defend their research proposal. Students work with their mentor to develop their thesis project, assemble their Thesis Advisory Committee and begin conducting their dissertation research.
Individual Development Plan
After successful completion of the Qualifying Exam in year two, students begin their Individual Development Plan (IDP). The IDP enables each student to identify professional goals that match their interests and values for the purpose of identifying and developing the appropriate career-specific skills. The creation and regular review of the IDP encourages discussions between students and mentors about career goals early in the training process and implements a course of action to achieve these goals. The three interactive steps and the proposed timeline for completion of the IDP are described in “The Baylor College of Medicine IDP Process.”
Year Three to Graduation
The average time to degree for BCM graduate students is six year. In years three through graduation students conduct their dissertation research while meeting regularly with their mentor and Thesis Advisory Committee for guidance and assistance in monitoring their progress. Students also attend seminars and conferences at BCM as well as at other institutions of the Texas Medical Center and national and international meetings.
Each student completes a dissertation describing the results of their original research. Most students have multiple publications that constitute the core of their dissertation. These papers are frequently published in high-quality, per-reviewed journals. The dissertation defense involves a public seminar and oral defense to the Thesis Advisory Committee.
Responsible Conduct of Research
Training in the Responsible Conduct of Research is required of all graduate students. The required training complies with the current recommendations of the NIH for instruction in the responsible conduct of research. Upon completion of the requirements, a certificate of attendance will be issued.