Cell and Molecular Biology: Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology, 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

Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology

Infectious diseases resulting from viruses, parasites, prions, and bacteria are a major cause of human morbidity and mortality. Some important infectious diseases, including HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis are becoming more rather than less prevalent. The threat of emerging infectious diseases and bioterrorism also calls for increased research in the area of microbiology, and in fact the NIH is greatly increasing research funding for work on infectious diseases. The recent outbreak of Zika virus and the continued spread of West Nile virus in North America are but two recent examples of emerging infectious diseases. By studying human pathogens, as well as their interplay with host resident microbial populations, it is also frequently possible to learn much about normal cell biology, molecular biology, and immunology - infectious agents have long been used as model systems to study important processes.

The University of Pennsylvania has a very collaborative and integrated research program in microbiology involving approximately 60 faculty throughout the campus. The Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology program provides the best graduate training available in the molecular and cellular biology of viral and bacterial pathogenesis and parasitology. The current research interests of the faculty in microbiology and virology encompass a broad range of disciplines including: Bacteriology, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Immune Response, Microbial Genomics and Evolution, Parasitology, Tumor Virology, Virology, and Host Microbiome.

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 706MVP Core
CAMB 510Immunology for CAMB
or IMUN 506 Immune Mechanisms
Select two program electives
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
MVP Core
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
Program elective
Additional elective
Year 3 and Beyond