Cell and Molecular Biology: Genetics and Epigenetics, 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

Genetics and Epigenetics

Genetics and Epigenetics (G&E) offers courses, research opportunities, seminars and other training activities in the areas of model organism genetics, human genetics, transcriptional and post-transcriptional gene regulation, epigenetics, genomics and bioinformatics. G&E also benefits from the support of an NIH-funded Predoctoral Training Grant. Over 80 faculty are affiliated with G&E, including members of the Genetics Department, Epigenetics Program, and of many other basic science and clinical departments at UPenn, Children's Hospital, and the Wistar Institute. G&E also shares many faculty with the Genomics and Computational Biology graduate group, which places greater emphasis on computation and modeling, and students can select coursework and dual mentors from both programs.

G&E students typically complete their degree in 5-6 years. Students complete coursework and a thesis proposal-based Preliminary Exam in Year 2. Years 3 and beyond are spent primarily on thesis research, supplemented by a variety of seminars and other activities that promote scientific interactions and continued development of communication and other career-relevant skills. 

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 550Genetic Principles
CAMB 605CAMB First Year Seminar
GCB 535Introduction to Bioinformatics
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
Lab Rotation
Regulation of the Genome
Statistics in Experimental Design and Analysis
Biostatistics, Bioinformatics, and Experimental Design
Genetic Principles
Lab Rotation
Lab Rotation
Pre-dissertation Research
Year 2
Pre-dissertation Research
Scientific Writing
Pre-dissertation Research
Introduction to Bioinformatics
Year 3 and Beyond