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Current Students


As a student in the Molecular Biology and Biological Chemistry programs you are responsible to complete the standard first year coursework and three laboratory rotations before joining a thesis lab/department to complete your PhD.

Detailed information about Fall 2020 and our current class can be found here: First-Year Information

Aside from your coursework and rotations, the Program office sponsors many fun social events:


Requirements for First-Year Students

Students begin in Fall semester, although you may arrive earlier if you want to perform a summer lab rotation.

  • Students are assigned a faculty advisor for guidance on curriculum and lab rotations
  • Students receive financial support: Annual fellowship / Stipend ($29,130 for the 2020-2021 academic year, $29,714 for the 2021-2022 academic year), full tuition waiver, and health insurance
  • See First-Year Information page for administrative details


Classes are organized into the core curriculum and electives.

Core curriculum

    • Designed to provide a solid background in key areas
      • Molecular Biology: Genetics, Genomes, and Gene Expression, Protein/Nucleic Acid Biochemistry, Cell Biology
      • Biological Chemistry: Protein/Nucleic Acid Biochemistry, Genetic Engineering, Biophysical Chemistry, Protein Chemistry
    • Designed to teach independent, critical thinking skills, and grant writing
      • Critical Thinking in Research
      • Guided Proposal Preparation and Capstone Exam
    • Designed to fulfill the NIH-mandated requirement for training in scientific ethics
      • Case Studies in Research Ethics


  • Gives students a wide variety of options in tailoring their coursework to their specific interests
  • These vary by year. See our Curriculum page for recent examples


First-year lab work is organized in the form of lab rotations.

  • Students complete 3 lab rotations, the purpose of which is to select a thesis mentor and lab.  They may choose from over 180 participating faculty in 11 different departments.
  • Rotations provides students with exposure to new areas of research they might not otherwise experience, teaches new experimental approaches, and helps develop contacts that may prove helpful in subsequent thesis research.
  • Selection of rotation labs is aided by Faculty Research Seminars Fall Semester, in which faculty present short research talks, as well as advice from the first-year faculty advisor.
  • Students choose a thesis advisor and lab at the end of spring semester. A very low student to faculty ratio promotes a high level of student choice and an outstanding mentoring environment.


Graduate Study in the Second Year and Beyond

 After the first year, each student's education will be conducted under the policies of the participating department of the Thesis Advisor.  Requirements include:

  • Admission to PhD degree candidacy after successfully completing the 1st year curriculum, capstone exam, and passing the departmental preliminary examination/advancement to candidacy
  • Admits the student to the PhD Program of Study
    • MB: Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Human Genetics, Microbiology and Immunology Division, Neurobiology, Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, or Oncological Sciences
    • BC: Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Medicinal Chemistry, Oncological Sciences, Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry, or Pharmacology and Toxicology
  • Advanced classes, often discussion courses centered around primary literature and focused on topics relevant to the thesis
  • Participation in departmental seminars and research-in-progress presentations
  • One semester of required teaching experience at the graduate or undergraduate level
  • Thesis Research Project and Dissertation Defense

In addition to other department activities in which they may participate, students will have leadership opportunities on program committees and organizing community events.


We have had much success with the 1259 students that have entered the programs. We look forward to helping you succeed as you pursue your graduate education here at the University of Utah! 

Last Updated: 5/5/21