The Wake Forest School of Medicine Department of Molecular Genetics and Genomics offers the Ph.D. degree through the Graduate School of Wake Forest University. As part of the Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB) track, our training program is designed to provide students with a well-rounded first-year curriculum, followed by a focused, genomics-based curriculum.
Our research focuses on genetic and genomic approaches to identify genes that are involved in a number of complex diseases, including diabetes, asthma, cancer, obesity, autoimmune, and cardiovascular disease. When possible, we also seek to incorporate the effects of environmental exposures (e.g., physical environment, diet) with our genetic approaches.
These contributors are included in projects that study
- Gene-environment interactions
- Genetic variants in exposed populations
Our faculty and students have access to basic tools for molecular biology and to laboratory and analytical resources for
- High-throughput genotyping
- Gene expression
- DNA methylation
First Year Courses - MCB CurriculumRequired courses are numbered 1-10.
1. MCB 700 Analytical Skills (1)
Molecular and Cellular Biosciences students will begin their graduate education with this 1-credit course focused on data acquisition and analysis methods. Balancing theory and practice, it will refresh their mathematical skills; describe techniques for isolating and characterizing cells and their macromolecular components; explore methods for manipulating genes and performing high-throughput assays; and introduce bioinformatics approaches. A series of take home exercises reinforce problem-based learning. MCB 700 will be offered as 10 x 1.5 h sessions in the two weeks preceding the fall term. Intended for all graduate students enrolled in MCB, or BMSC students with an MCB specialization. Open to students in all tracks.
2. MCB 701 Molecular and Cellular Biosciences A (6)
Molecular and Cellular Biosciences students will take a two-semester core course that will cover fundamental principles of the discipline. The overall goal of the course is to develop the student’s understanding of molecular and cellular biosciences in the context of biomedical research as it relates to human disease. In the first semester students will focus on the basic building blocks of the cell, their synthesis, cellular metabolism and intracellular transport. The semester is broken into five blocks or themes that in order roughly cover; 1) proteins and enzymes; 2) carbohydrates and lipids; 3) DNA and microbial genetics; 4), mammalian genetics and genomics; and 5) intracellular sorting, cytoskeleton, extracellular matrix. The course is in the format of didactic lectures and meets for 6 hrs per week (four 90 minute lectures/week). Students are evaluated on the performance of 5 written exams given at the end of each block. Intended for all graduate students enrolled in MCB, or BMSC students with an MCB specialization. Open to students in all tracks. Other tracks or programs may elect to have students take one or more blocks as 1 credit hour courses.
3. MCB702. Molecular and Cellular Biosciences B (6)
In the second semester students will focus on additional cell biological topics followed by several units devoted to integrative physiology. The semester is broken into five blocks or themes that cover 1) cell signaling, and cell-cell communication; 2) cell cycle, cell death, oncogenesis, developmental and stem cell biology; 3) endocrinology and metabolic control and integration; 4) renal, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and respiratory physiology; and 5) microbiology and innate and acquired immunity. The course is in the format of didactic lectures and meets for 6 hours per week (four 90 minute lectures/week). Students are evaluated on the performance of 5 written exams given at the end of each block. Intended for all graduate students enrolled in MCB, or BMSC students with an MCB specialization. Open to students in all tracks. Other tracks or programs may elect to have students take one or more blocks as 1 credit hour courses. Although not required, it is expected that students are familiar with material covered in MCB 701.
4. MCB 703 (1), 704 (1), 705 (1). Introduction to MCB Research
Offered: Fall and Spring
Molecular and Cellular Bioscience students will gain experience with the planning and execution of research, and the interpretation and presentation of experimental results. To put these principles into practice, they will carry out mentored research projects in the laboratories of three different Molecular and Cellular Biosciences faculty members with an optional fourth rotation during the summer term. Intended for all graduate students enrolled in MCB.
5. GRAD 713 (1). Foundations of Scientific Integrity and Professionalism
A short-course designed to offer foundational ethics and integrity training to incoming Bowman Gray graduate students. Key concepts will include introduction to key professional norms in science, including, but not limited to, responsible conduct of research, new professional expectations, as well as student life. An introduction to topics, that will be further explored using case-studies in GRAD 714, will include: plagiarism, animal & human subject research, record keeping, data management, grant writing, the student and advisor relationship, laboratory dynamics, and managing conflicts of interest. Typically offered immediately following fall orientation.
GRAD 714 (2). Scientific Integrity and Professionalism
A small-group, problem-based learning formatted course designed to teach discipline-specific and broad, professional norms and obligations for the ethical practice of science, primarily for first-year graduate students on the Bowman Gray campus. The content will present ethical dilemmas and promote professional behavior on, but not limited to, the responsible conduct of research and the current regulatory climate with emphasis on the underlying principles that shape these concepts. Topics will include plagiarism, animal & human subject research, record keeping, data management, grant writing, the student and advisor relationship, laboratory dynamics, and managing conflicts of interest. Typically offered weekly at 2-hour discussion sections during the spring term. This course satisfies graduation requirements for ethics training for Bowman Gray students.
6. GRAD 715 (1). Career Planning in the Biomedical Sciences.
A weekly seminar course, primarily for first-year graduate students on the Bowman Gray campus, in which invited alumni panelists share details on career options in the biomedical sciences, typically grouped by industry, highlighting a wide range of career paths. Speakers will share details from their own experiences in preparing for their chosen career paths, and may include: undergraduate college teaching, pharmaceutical research, law careers, medical writing, science policy, and grants management, among other careers. In addition to the panel discussions, students will have the opportunity to complete self-assessment exercises to help narrow their career focus, will begin to discuss best practices in resume, curriculum vitae, cover letter writing, and interviewing skills. Recommended for all students on the Bowman Gray campus. Typically offered in fall terms.
7. GRAD 716 (1). Seminars in Professional Development.
A weekly seminar course, primarily for first-year graduate students on the Bowman Gray campus, in which invited speakers give presentations organized around offering students best practices in professional behaviors on topics, including: animal & human subjects research, record keeping, authorship, grant writing, preparing talks and posters, and managing conflicts of interest. Required for PhD students on the Bowman Gray campus; recommended for MS students on the Bowman Gray campus. Typically offered in spring terms.
8. MCB752. Foundations of Translational Science (2).
Offered: Spring (mid-Jan - early Mar)
Builds on the student’s basic biochemistry and cell biology knowledge with an intensive examination of the molecular basis of human disease and its’ treatment. The course mixes lectures with a case-based approach to take students through the diagnosis, physiology, pathophysiology, and the molecular mechanisms of several diseases. Learning issues are developed by the group, centered upon treatment options, their mechanisms of action, the appropriate design of clinical trials to test new therapies, and the research base for further advances in prevention and treatment. MD and PhD facilitators assist with student-led discussions. Relevant, current literature is examined. Typically offered in the spring term. Intended for all graduate students in molecular medicine and translational science (MMTS); open to students in other tracks or programs.
9-10. MCB Electives (2), (2).
Offered: Fall and Spring
MCB students will select two additional program-specific electives from an array of 14 courses. The MMTS program offers two courses in the spring semester, the Foundations of Translational Science (course 8 above) is required for MMTS students and must be taken either during the MCB year or the following year. The other elective in MMTS is listed here.
MCB 753. Advanced Topics in Regenerative Medicine (2).
Offered: Spring (mid-Mar - early May)
The remarkable advances in biomaterials, stem cell biology, and genetic manipulation over the last several years have now made it possible to begin devising means of treating diseases that were previously incurable, and developing corrective therapies for crippling injuries. These advances have led to the emergence of the field of research/clinical investigation that is known as Regenerative Medicine, and this field promises to revolutionize the way we treat/manage both disease and injury. In this course, students will learn about the major organ/tissue systems of the body, the key enabling technologies that make regenerative medicine possible, and how these technologies can be applied to each organ/tissue to mediate regeneration/repair to treat disease/repair injury. Students will then embark on projects that will require them to apply the knowledge gained from the lectures to develop realistic and clinically translational solutions to generate specific organs for transplantation. Students will present their projects to the class at the end of the semester. Typically offered in the spring term. Intended for all graduate students in molecular medicine and translational science (MMTS); open to students in other tracks or programs.
Second Year Courses - MMTS Curriculum, Statistics and ElectivesRequired courses are numbered 11-15.
11. MMTS 711, 712. Translational Science Seminar Series. (1, 1)
Offered: Fall and Spring
Faculty and students jointly describe their research in a human disease, first in clinical terms, and then follow the development of the understanding of that disease to the molecular level with an emphasis on translational applications. Presentations introduce students to potential preceptors and experimental strategies used to study human disease. Students present their own research to gain experience and professional skills for seminars and national meeting presentations.
12. STATISTICS. MMTS students must take a course in statistics. The requirement can be satisfied by taking one of the following three courses:
CPTS 730. Introduction to Statistics. (4)
The course is an introduction to statistical concepts and basic methodologies that are prevalent in biomedical literature. It includes discussion topics such as descriptive statistics, probability, sampling distributions, hypothesis testing, simple linear regression, correlation, one-way analysis of variance, categorical data analysis, survival analysis, sample size and power analysis, and nonparametric methods. Access to SAS Enterprise Guide required.
HES 721. Data Analysis and Interpretation. (3)
The application of basic statistical techniques in the analysis and interpretation of data in scientific research. Topics include descriptive statistics, simple linear and multiple correlation/regression analysis, t-tests, analysis of variance and covariance, and non-parametric statistics.
IPP/NEUR 741. Quantitative Methods in Bioscience. (2)
An introduction to essential concepts and methods for the quantitative analysis of biological data, with a focus on descriptive and inferential statistics. General topics include basic concepts in statistics such as probability theory and chance models, samples and populations, analyses of the relationships between variables, analysis of normal data, analysis of non-normal data and non-parametric analyses, an introduction to Bayesian frameworks, clustering analysis, and multivariate analyses. Didactic lectures cover core frameworks, analytic approach, and the mechanics and intuitive logic behind the methods. Laboratory sessions provide experience using a software platform (R) for data analysis and visualization using practical problems.
13. MMTS 715/716. Clinical Experience (1, 1)
Offered: Fall and Spring
Students who choose to enter the MMTS program must take this course in the fall (MMTS 715) and spring (MMTS 716) term. This course serves as an introduction to clinical medicine for the PhD students. Each student observes and participates in 10 hours of clinical immersion with his/her clinical mentor. Experiences are custom-designed by the clinical mentor for each student. At the end of the semester, students enrolled in the course meet and each student presents a case study, based on his/her personal clinical experience.
14. MMTS 724. Scientific Development and the Business of Science.
(1-3) *credit hours are based on student enrollment
This course reviews techniques for effective communication of scientific proposals and presentations, both oral and written. For oral presentations, emphasis is on content organization and connecting with the audience. Assignments include the presentation and critical discussion of student research. For written presentations, the emphasis is on grant proposal development, as well as familiarization with the peer-review process. The course consists of lectures on all aspects of grant development (including budgets and protocols and compliance regulations for human and animal research), and student preparation of a grant proposal. An oral exercise includes the discussion of an NIH RO1 proposal in a mock study section format.
15. MMTS 791, 792. Research. (1-9)
Offered: Fall, Spring and Summer
This course involves closely supervised research in various topics in molecular medicine, with a special emphasis on models of human disease, including research in preparation for the doctoral dissertation.
RESEARCH. MMTS students must sign up for the MMTS research course each semester, beginning with the summer of the first year. The number of hours for research varies, depending on the hours taken in other courses, but must be at least 1. The total number of hours (including coursework and research) must equal at least 6 in the summer term and at least 9 each semester.
ELECTIVES. MMTS students are encouraged to consult with their advisors and choose elective coursework that complements their area of research during the second year. No specific numbers of hours or courses are required. Students may choose any graduate level courses in the sciences, including the following MMTS course and electives in the MCB track (see Bulletin). To deepen knowledge in the physiological sciences, selection of blocks in the Integrative Physiology and Pharmacology track course "IPP 702: Systems Physiology and Pharmacology" is especially encouraged.
MMTS 719, 720. Special Topics in Stem Cell Biology. (2)
Offered: Fall, Spring
This course utilizes directed readings and student presentations of primary literature to introduce students to the field of stem cell biology. Content focuses primarily on human stem cell properties, including pluripotency and its maintenance, the role of chromatin remodeling in fate determination and lineage restriction, selfrenewal and differentiation, and the genetic conversion of somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells. The field is expanding rapidly and course content will be modified as needed to incorporate new findings and applications in stem cell biology and translational medicine. A background in the form of undergraduate or graduate courses in developmental biology is strongly recommended. This course is cross-listed as MOGN 719, 720.
IPP 702. Systems Physiology and Pharmacology. (1-6)
The second required course for physiology and pharmacology students is composed of blocks focusing on neuroscience, endocrine, renal/ gastrointestinal, cardiovascular/pulmonary, and regenerative physiology. The course may be taken by blocks.
MMTS 713. Advanced Readings in MMTS (1)
This course will allow students to read and discuss literature pertaining to their dissertation research or a specific area of interest in molecular medicine with their advisor. The advisor will choose papers (10/course credit hour) for the student to read and they will meet weekly to discuss the papers. At the end of the course, the student will write a "Current Opinion"-style paper that summarizes the key points of the papers and new insights gained from the literature review. Ideally, this course would be taken in the summers after the first and second years, but will not be limited to this time frame. Prerequisite - Completion of 1st year.
Students are encouraged to participate in a journal club that matches their research interests.
Third year (and beyond) - MMTS courses and preliminary examination
COURSES. MMTS students take MMTS 711 and 712 (Translational Science Seminar) and MMTS 791 and 792 (Research) each semester until they file their intent to graduate. Total hours must be 9 in the fall and spring semesters and 6 in the summer term.
PRELIMINARY EXAMINATION. MMTS students should take their preliminary examination by September 1st at the beginning of their third year (end of second year).
Based on the advanced degree, a M.D., D.V.M., or D.O. enters as a MMTS second year PhD student and take the preliminary examination by September 1st at the beginning of their third year (end of second year).
Second Year PhD student
By end of May
- Students enter program from MCB track after consultation with Track Director and MMTS program directors
- Completed MCB coursework
- Chosen clinical mentor
- Thesis research is begun
By end of May the next year
- Completed second year MMTS coursework
- Complete Clinical Lab Experience
- Thesis Committee is selected by student and advisor and approved by Program Directors
- Thesis topic is discussed with the Thesis Committee
Third Year PhD Student
By first of July
- Submitted outline of preliminary research proposal to Thesis Committee
- 2 weeks before the oral defense the students will provide a written copy of the research proposal to the thesis committee
Deadline: Sept. 1 (beginning of 3rd yr.)
- The Thesis Committee will give an oral examination on the research proposal and coursework
Fourth/Fifth Year PhD Student
Once each semester
- The student will meet with the Thesis Committee to present progress on the thesis research
Completion of Research
- Complete thesis and submit written research thesis to the Thesis Committee
- The Thesis Committee will give an oral examination on the student's research results presented in the thesis