Cell and Molecular Biology: Cell Biology, Physiology, and Metabolism, PhD

Cell and Molecular Biology

The curriculum in the Cell and Molecular Biology Graduate Group (CAMB) is designed to provide superior graduate-level education in modern cell and molecular biology and thereby to prepare students for leadership careers in biomedical research. Students are asked to select a CAMB program to pursue specialized study in one of the six research areas: Cell Biology, Physiology, and Metabolism; Cancer BiologyDevelopmental, Stem Cell and Regenerative BiologyGenetics and EpigeneticsGene Therapy and Vaccines; or Microbiology, Virology and Parasitology. Students can switch programs during or at the end of the first year. First-year graduate students participate in a common core curriculum of courses and seminars designed to provide a strong foundation of knowledge in the fields of molecular biology, cell biology, and biochemistry. A list of all CAMB Courses can be found here. In addition, students initiate a series of laboratory rotations designed to provide experience in modern laboratory research methods. Program advisors help students select lab rotation mentors and appropriate courses. Each program offers lecture and seminar courses to provide in depth knowledge in selected areas of research, providing students with the opportunity to master concepts and methodology, and critically evaluate research findings. There is sufficient flexibility to allow coursework to be tailored to the specific background and research interests of each candidate.

The Ph.D. degree requires:

  1. 18 course units derived from lecture courses, seminars, lab rotations and independent study;
  2. passing the preliminary examination; and
  3. dissertation research and the successful defense of the thesis.

The 18 course units must be completed in the first two years. During the first two years a student typically takes 4 course units each fall and spring semester and 2 course units in the summer sessions. In May of the second year the student must take the preliminary examination. Upon successfully passing the preliminary examination, the student begins dissertation research.

Exemptions and modifications

In rare circumstances a student may have sufficient background to be exempt from the core courses, for example, a student who has received a Master's Degree in an appropriate area of life sciences. Requests for exemption will be considered by the Program Chair and the Executive Committee and will require documentation from the student: transcripts plus descriptions and syllabi of courses taken. If approved, credits will be transferred. There will be no exemptions from the three laboratory rotations.

For more information: http://www.med.upenn.edu/camb/course_descript.shtml

Cell Biology, Physiology, and Metabolism

Modern cell biology is a dynamic discipline that integrates the interests of a variety of scientific fields including molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics, microbiology, physiology, developmental biology, cytology and genetics—fields that were once almost completely independent of each other. Cell biologists are at the core of scientific research, investigating the basic structural and functional units of life: cells that compose all living organisms. Once reliant primarily on microscopic methods, experimental approaches in cell biology now take advantage of ultrastructure as well as biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology, and utilize a diverse range of model organisms. Cell Biology research at Penn has contributed to numerous medical advances in recent years, including those related to diabetes, blindness, muscular dystrophy and cancer.

The program in Cell Biology, Physiology, and Metabolism is dedicated to training graduate students in the diversity of medical science that defines modern cell biology, as well as providing ample time and resources for specializations. Laboratories in this program conduct research in a wide variety of areas that encompass, but are not limited to, five overlapping areas of research: cellular metabolism; cell motility, the cytoskeleton, and muscle physiology; intracellular trafficking and organelle function; membrane transport (through channels and transporters); and signal transduction and cell cycle regulation.

The CPM graduate group is supported by Penn Cell Biology, an umbrella organization that sponsors and coordinates seminars and other events for our many investigators, students and fellows.  

View the University’s Academic Requirements for PhD Degrees.

Required Courses

BIOM 555Regulation of the Genome
BIOM 600Cell Biology
BIOM 611Statistics in Experimental Design and Analysis
or BIOM 612 Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Experimental Design
CAMB 532Human Physiology
CAMB 605CAMB First Year Seminar
CAMB 691Advanced Topics in Cell Biology & Physiology
CAMB 692Advanced Topics in Cell Biology and Physiology II: Cell Signaling and Metabolism
Select two electives
CAMB 699Lab Rotation
CAMB 899Pre-dissertation Research
CAMB 995Dissertation

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2018 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.

Sample Plan of Study

Year 1
Cell Biology
CAMB First Year Seminar
Lab Rotation
Regulation of the Genome
Statistics in Experimental Design and Analysis
Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Experimental Design
Advanced Topics in Cell Biology and Physiology II: Cell Signaling and Metabolism
Lab Rotation
Lab Rotation
Pre-dissertation Research
Year 2
Human Physiology
Pre-dissertation Research
Advanced Topics in Cell Biology & Physiology
Pre-dissertation Research
Year 3 and Beyond