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Molecular Biology Program Guidelines & Policies

Molecular Biology Program Mission Statement

The Molecular Biology Program is a collaborative program between seven basic science departments. The Program serves the students and faculty of the University of Utah by providing excellence in graduate education. The Program coordinates relevant activities and provides interdisciplinary training during the first year of graduate school that is designed to equip students with a strong foundation for a career in the biomolecular sciences. The Program coordinates activities such as student recruiting and admissions, academic advising, career development, curriculum, and social events.

Following the first year, students leave the Program and formally enter one of the seven basic science departments to continue thesis research in one of the laboratories of the Program faculty. The Program continues to monitor student performance after the first year and encourages uniform standards and procedures between the participating departments.

Program Administration & Committees

The Molecular Biology Program is governed by a director and steering committee.

There are seven participating departments: Biochemistry, Human Genetics, Neurobiology, Oncological Sciences, the School of Biological Sciences, the Division of Microbiology and Immunology in the Department of Pathology, and Nutrition and Integrative Physiology.

The Steering Committee is the principal governing body of the Program. Its members are:

  • The director
  • One department representative from each of the participating departments
  • Chairs of the curriculum, advising, admissions, and the recruitment committees
  • Two students

Department representatives to the steering committee are elected by each of the participating departments.

Chairs of the admissions, curriculum, advising, and recruitment committees are chosen by the Program director for a tenure of three years to coincide with the director’s tenure. The director also selects the chair of the academic standards committee, although that person does not serve on the steering committee.

The committee members are chosen by the committee chair. The selection of committee members will be based on their suitability to the task at hand, as well as with regard to keeping a balance of workload between Program members and an equal representation of participating departments. Committees should include experienced members who can provide historical perspective, new members who can provide fresh insight, and members who are well qualified to serve as a future committee chair.

The following three recommendations are intended to enhance stability for the Program:

  1. The steering committee composition should have overlap each year such that there will always be some experienced members on the committee.
  2. The future Program director should be identified a year in advance and attend steering committee meetings for at least six months.
  3. The future director should chose committee chairs about six months before taking office, and these chairs should sit in on their respective committees to gain experience.

The director chairs steering committee meetings and makes executive decisions as required.

The director serves a three-year term.

The new Program director is chosen by the current Program director with the following stipulations:

  1. The new director cannot be from the same department as the current director.

  2. The director chosen must meet with the approval of the steering committee by a 2/3 vote. If the nominee is not approved, the director must submit the name of another candidate until approval from the steering committee is achieved.

  3. The director must be a full professor in one of the participating departments.

Director: L. Charles Murtaugh

The Steering Committee meets periodically during the academic year.

Steering Committee Meeting Minutes

Minutes are compiled by the Program office, approved by the director, and sent out via e-mail to all Program faculty members.

Department Representatives
  • Biochemistry Department Representative: Julia Brasch

  • Biological Sciences Department Representative: Heejin Yoo

  • Human Genetics Department Representative: Clement Chow

  • Microbiology and Immunology Division: Tracey Lamb

  • Neurobiology Department Representative: Sungjin Park

  • Nutrition and Integrative Physiology Department Representative: Sihem Boudina

  • Oncological Sciences Department Representative: Ben Spike

  • Student Representatives: Hozy Abewe & Daniel Greiner

The Admissions Committee meets from the application deadline to the end of March. This committee reviews applications and selects the students who will be invited for interviews and accepted to the Program.

Admissions Committee Chair: Katsu Funai

Committee members meet throughout the year with first year students to assist them with their rotations, policies on behavior, and any problems that may occur.

Advising Committee Chair: Jessica Brown

First year advisors are Program faculty who volunteer to counsel students during the student’s first year. The Advisor's role is to help students with academic decisions during their first year in the Program. Each advisor will work with approximately six students.

Advisors are required to:

  1. Meet with each student at least two times during each semester
  2. Sign their rotation verification forms
  3. Advise on elective choices
  4. Help with any issues regarding core courses
  5. Attend an orientation meeting in August
  6. Provide resources for other situations
  7. Alert program director and committee chair to student problems in choosing rotation

The committee chair monitors student performance in core courses and alerts individual academic advisors when a student appears to be performing poorly. In these cases the advisor will meet with the student to discuss ways to improve performance and to remind the student that a 3.0 GPA must be maintained and at least a B- earned for each course.

At the beginning of each year, advisors will receive a packet of information from the Program office with pertinent information about their advisees and 1st year requirements.

The Curriculum Committee meets throughout the year and coordinates the graduate student curriculum, working with course directors of the core courses, to evaluate the first year curriculum and plan electives, literature review and grant preparation, and core courses for the next academic year. This committee is run jointly with the Biological Chemistry Program, with co-chairs from each of the two Programs.

Curriculum Committee Co-Chairs: Gillian Stanfield & Eric Schmidt

The Recruiting Committee meets throughout the year and reviews past recruiting projects, i.e., brochures, web pages and new recruiting ideas. This committee is run jointly with the Biological Chemistry Program, usually with the chair participating in both Programs.

Recruiting Co-Committee Chairs: Maria Bettini & Jaclyn Winter

Student Host Lead Co-Chairs: Kyle Dunlap, Jackie Nguyen, Bo Price

The Academic Standards Committee meets as required to review cases of alleged misconduct. Unlike other committees, the chair of the academic standards committee does not serve on the steering committee. This committee operates jointly with the Biological Chemistry Program. It is therefore essential that committee members fairly represent both programs. Unlike other joint committees (curriculum and recruiting), the academic standards committee has a sole ad hoc chair.

In case of academic misconduct please see Academic Standards Policy.

Students of the Molecular Biology Program select representatives with full voting rights on each of the committees.

How a policy is enacted:

  1. A policy change is suggested
  2. It is discussed at a steering committee meeting
  3. It is reviewed by the participating departments via the department representatives
    who are expected to bring issues to their department for discussion. (an e-mail summary is also copied to the department chairs)
  4. Final approval is by the Steering Committee
  5. It is posted on the webpage




Academic Freedom

Statement from the Molecular Biology Program Regarding Academic Freedom and Conflict of Interest and How it Pertains to Graduate Student Education

The free and open exchange of ideas and results is an important feature of research in the Molecular Biology Program at the University of Utah. In this spirit, no graduate student should be assigned to a thesis research project where the results obtained will be unreasonably restricted from full public disclosure.

Restrictions including intellectual property reviews and collaborator/corporate reviews of manuscripts are allowable under the auspices, where appropriate, of the Technology Transfer Office. Full public disclosure includes thesis committee meetings, presentations in formal and informal local seminars (research-in-progress meetings), local, national and international meetings, and appropriate publications. For further information please visit the Conflict of Interest web page for the University of Utah.

Academic Standards

The Molecular Biology and Biological Chemistry Programs maintain the highest academic standards.

Details about the Policy Statement on Academic Standards can be found here.

Student Requirements

Molecular Biology Graduate Student Guidelines & Requirements are detailed here

Additional Resources can be found in Current Students



Faculty Guidelines

This Program is developed and managed by participating faculty. Each member is expected to participate in Program functions, including mentoring graduate students, teaching courses, serving on committees, interviewing prospective students, and attending Program events.

Details about these guidelines can be found on our Faculty Resources page

Additional policies specific to the Molecular Biology Program are:

  1. It is generally expected that all tenure-track faculty members from the seven participating departments will be accepted into the Program (Biochemistry, Biological Sciences, Human Genetics, Microbiology and Immunology Division, Neurobiology, Nutrition and Integrative Physiology, and Oncological Sciences)

  2. Faculty members of departments outside the seven MB departments are required to have primary or adjunct status in one of the 11 participating departments for the Bioscience PhD Programs.  

  3. All faculty members of the Molecular Biology Program belong to one or more Interest Group(s). 

    1. Faculty are periodically requested to indicate their preference for a specific interest group(s).

  4. Any group of faculty in the Program can petition the steering committee to be recognized as an interest group.

  5. All Program faculty members strive to arrange space in their labs so that they can accommodate at least one thesis student from each Molecular Biology Program class.

  6. Faculty are encouraged to only have one or two rotation students at one time. Faculty should email the Program Director if they intend to have more than 2 rotation students at a time.

  7. Faculty are strongly encouraged to take no more than two students each year (from MB & BC combined). Faculty wishing to take more than two students must get prior approval from their Department Chair and the Program Director(s).

  8. There is a strong Program expectation that all PIs taking students will serve as a capstone examiner the following year.

  9. It is expected that the student will usually receive their degree in the participating department.

  10. In order to allow fair access to thesis labs, students and faculty should not make firm commitments regarding choice of a thesis lab until the Monday after the end of the last rotation (early March).

  11. The Molecular Biology Program is responsible for students only during their first year. Financial support beyond the first academic year is a departmental responsibility.

  12. The Program recommends each participating department maintain the current stipend amount but departments may vary on other support, i.e., insurance benefits. Please consult the individual department and potential thesis advisor about support and coursework requirements.


Faculty Application to the Molecular Biology Program

Faculty who want to join the Molecular Biology Program should follow the guidelines and email the requested CV and letters of support to the Bioscience PhD Office and the Program Director. 


Last Updated: 4/25/23