UCLA BMSB Graduate Program

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Program Overview – Doctoral Degree

PhD Course Requirements

Program Overview – Doctoral Degree


Initial academic advising is handled by the appropriate faculty area adviser. Students continue to consult with this adviser each quarter until completion of their course requirements. During this period, students also choose a research director to supervise the dissertation research. The Graduate Study Committee, consisting of the faculty and staff graduate advisers and faculty area advisers, reviews each student’s progress quarterly. Notification in writing is given to students who are performing at a very high level and to those who are not making adequate progress. The faculty graduate adviser, faculty area advisers, and Director of Graduate Student Services are available for personal consultation.

Minimum Progress. At the end of the first and second year, the overall progress of each student is evaluated by the Graduate Study Committee or Biochemistry Faculty Committee, taking into account performance in courses, written examinations, teaching, and research. The committee may recommend that students (1) proceed to the oral examination, (2) be redirected to the M.S. program, or (3) be terminated.

Areas of Study

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Teaching Experience

One year of teaching experience is generally required. Students who serve as teaching assistants must enroll in and receive a grade of S for Chemistry and Biochemistry 375 for each quarter they teach in order to continue teaching.

Written and Oral Qualifying Examinations

Academic Senate regulations require all doctoral students to complete and pass University written and oral qualifying examinations prior to doctoral advancement to candidacy. Also, under Senate regulations the University oral qualifying examination is open only to the student and appointed members of the doctoral committee. In addition to University requirements, some graduate programs have other pre-candidacy examination requirements. What follows in this section is how students are required to fulfill all of these requirements for this doctoral program.

The written examination requirement is coupled to the graduate student seminar (Chemistry and Biochemistry 258). Chemistry and Biochemistry 258 requires a presentation of the student’s proposed dissertation research. After completing this oral presentation, the student prepares a written dissertation research proposal. The proposal includes information about the background and significance of the area of research, the specific aims to be addressed and experiments proposed. The written qualifying component of the Ph.D. program is fulfilled after the student satisfactorily completes this proposal. A written proposal that is deemed unsatisfactory may be revised once.

The University Oral Qualifying Examination consists of an original research proposal in an area distinct from the student’s dissertation research and done without assistance from the research adviser. The proposal is presented orally to the committee, and the committee questions the candidate on the proposal, general knowledge of the area, and dissertation research progress. The proposal represents independent work and offers the doctoral committee the opportunity to judge the student’s ability to think creatively and to formulate significant ideas for research.

All students are required to take the University Oral Qualifying Examination by June 30 of their second year. The committee’s decision to advance a student to candidacy, to allow the student to repeat all or part of the oral, or to disqualify the student, is based on the student’s overall record at UCLA as reflected in coursework and examinations, and the student’s research ability and productivity.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students are advanced to candidacy upon successful completion of the written and oral qualifying examinations. The Candidate in Philosophy (C.Phil.) degree is awarded for the quarter in which students are advanced to candidacy.

Doctoral Dissertation

Every doctoral degree program requires the completion of an approved dissertation that demonstrates the student’s ability to perform original, independent research and constitutes a distinct contribution to knowledge in the principal field of study.

Final Oral Examination (Defense of the Dissertation)

Required for all students in the program. 


The following are normal times to complete the requirements of the program:

From admission to completion of written qualifying examinations (see above for definition/description of these for each major): three to five academic quarters (one to one and two-thirds calendar years).

From admission to advancement to candidacy: six academic quarters (two calendar years).

From admission to award of degree: 12 to 18 academic quarters (four to six calendar years).

Termination of Graduate Study and Appeal of Termination

University Policy and Special Departmental or Program Policy

A student who fails to meet the above requirements may be recommended for termination of graduate study. A graduate student may be disqualified from continuing in the graduate program for a variety of reasons. The most common is failure to maintain the minimum cumulative grade point average (3.00) required by the Academic Senate to remain in good standing (some programs require a higher grade point average). Other examples include failure of examinations, lack of timely progress toward the degree and poor performance in core courses. Probationary students (those with cumulative grade point averages below 3.00) are subject to immediate dismissal upon the recommendation of their department. University guidelines governing termination of graduate students, including the appeal procedure, are outlined in Standards and Procedures for Graduate Study at UCLA. A student may be recommended for termination by the Graduate Study Committee or the Biochemistry Faculty Committee. A student may appeal a recommendation for termination to the departmental chair. A student may be recommended for termination by the Graduate Study Committee or the Biochemistry Faculty Committee. A student may appeal a recommendation for termination to the departmental chair.

PhD Course Requirements

Candidates should normally complete as a minimum the coursework indicated below. Some of these requirements can be met on the basis of courses taken prior to entry into the graduate program with consent of the faculty graduate adviser. Required coursework must be completed prior to advancement to candidacy.

(1) Required background material: one year organic chemistry, one course in physical chemistry or biophysical chemistry, one year of biochemistry, some coursework in the life sciences, and some biochemistry laboratory experience.

(2) Chemistry and Biochemistry 269A-269B-269C-269D should be taken in the first quarter of the first year.

(3) Sixteen units of additional upper division or graduate-level lecture courses, including four to six units of discussion courses or the equivalent, chosen in consultation with the graduate adviser. These courses are to be chosen with the following goals in mind: (a) in addition to the in-depth training in the student’s areas of specialization, the selected courses should provide broad training in the multiple areas of biochemistry and molecular biology; and (b) in addition to a didactic lecture component, there should be a significant discussion component. Two seminar courses should be included in the selected courses to ensure that the student gains training in the critical evaluation of scientific literature.

(4) Chemistry and Biochemistry 258 during the first quarter of the second year.

(5) Chemistry and Biochemistry 268 during the first three quarters.

(6) Three laboratory rotations (Chemistry and Biochemistry 596) during the first year.