Cell and Molecular Biology: Gene Therapy and Vaccines, 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

Gene Therapy and Vaccines

The Gene Therapy and Vaccines Program focuses on the use of gene transfer in animal models and humans, either for therapeutic purposes or for vaccination. The mission of the graduate program is to produce exceptional investigators who will become outstanding researchers in the field. Students in the program acquire a broad background in molecular biology, cell biology, physiology, immunology and virology. Research in the program includes basic cell biology, molecular biology, developmental biology, molecular physiology, virology and immunology. Although the goals of the research are disease-based with an ultimate objective directed to prophylactic and therapeutic applications, the research training focuses on basic investigations directed to understanding the pathobiology of relevant diseases and to achieving efficient and effective gene transfer in humans. Among the diseases of interest to program members are cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, lysosomal storage disease, inherited blindness, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and immunologic and infectious diseases. Research on vaccines for prophylactic as well as therapeutic indications are emphasized. Specific focus is provided through a survey course in gene therapy and vaccines and through advanced seminars in specific areas of gene therapy and/or vaccine research. In addition, the program runs a month seminar series featuring faculty members from Penn and other universities, as well as a bi-weekly trainee seminar where graduate students and post-doctoral fellows present their research.

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 605CAMB First Year Seminar
CAMB 610Molecular Basis of Gene Therapy and Genome Editing
CAMB 510Immunology for CAMB
or IMUN 506 Immune Mechanisms
Select one program elective
Select three 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
Molecular Basis of Gene Therapy and Genome Editing
Lab Rotation
Regulation of the Genome
Statistics in Experimental Design and Analysis
Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Experimental Design
Immunology for CAMB
Immune Mechanisms
Lab Rotation
Lab Rotation
Pre-dissertation Research
Year 2
Pre-dissertation Research
Program elective
Additional elective
Scientific Writing
Pre-dissertation Research
Year 3 and Beyond