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Program and Courses

Ph.D. Program

The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is a member of the Graduate Programs in Biomedical Sciences at St. Louis University School of Medicine. Each year, ten to fifteen highly qualified candidates with bachelors’ degrees are accepted into this multidisciplinary Ph.D. program. To assist students in deciding which of the diverse areas of biomedical research is right for them, this program provides students with the opportunity to explore research in as many as five different disciplines during the first year of graduate training.

Students interested in training in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology may indicate interest in being considered for the Abdul Waheed Scholarship in Biochemistry at the time of application to the core graduate program. The scholarship provides support for one Ph.D. student per year, and covers three years of stipend, insurance, and tuition.

First Year Focus

  • Interdisciplinary lecture courses
  • Small group discussions
  • Colloquium series of contemporary developments in the biomedical sciences 

Timetable for Admission

The first academic year generally begins in the third week of August.

Screening of applicants begins in the December preceding the academic year of enrollment

During the months of February, March, and April, highly qualified candidates are invited, at our expense, to come to St. Louis for interviews, and to acquaint themselves with the area, the university, and the Graduate Programs in Biomedical Sciences. 
Offers of admission into the program are generally made shortly after the interviews are complete. 
April 15
Acceptance of the offer of admission into the program by the applicant is expected no later than April 15. Late applications are considered on a space available basis.

Application Requirements

  • Apply to the Graduate Programs in the Biomedical Sciences at St. Louis University School of Medicine. 
  • Three letters of recommendation from undergraduate instructors or other persons who are familiar with the applicant’s academic performance in science courses and/or in a research setting.
  • Recent scores obtained on the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE). An advanced subject examination test taken in chemistry, biology, biochemistry, or in cell and molecular biology is encouraged.
  • An official copy of the applicant’s undergraduate transcripts.
    International applicants must also submit a completed Declaration of Financial Support packet and TOEFL or IELTS scores.

Online Application

M.D./Ph.D. Program

An M.D./Ph.D. training program has been established to recruit applicants to the Saint Louis University School of Medicine who have exceptional scholastic records and prior training in research. Application is competitive and a limited number of positions are available. The program offers financial support in the form of full tuition remission for both Medical School and Graduate School tuition. Trainees typically complete the first two years of medical school before undertaking the Ph.D. portion of their training. After completion of the Ph.D. dissertation, trainees return to complete the final years of medical school.

Apply Directly

A second point of entry to the M.D./Ph.D. program follows the second year of the traditional medical school curriculum. A small number of medical students, who have solid scholastic records, an interest in research, and research experience, are accepted directly as Ph.D. candidates by the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 

Students entering the program after their second year of medical school are qualified to apply for a Katzman Fellowship award. The Philip and Lillian Katzman Scholarship Fund was established by the family of Dr. Philip Katzman, a former faculty member in the department, to encourage research training of medical students. The fellowship provides tuition remission for medical students during their graduate training and during their final years of medical school.

Course of Study and Completion of the Ph.D.

Students accepted for the combined program entering at either level are subject to the regulations and residency requirements of the Graduate School and Medical School. Students are also required to meet the course requirements in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department. 

However, courses taken in the School of Medicine can be accepted toward fulfillment of course requirements for the graduate degree, subject to approval by the program. The combined M.D./Ph.D. degree program is expected to take seven years, on the average, from the time of admission to Medical School.

View Required Electives and Courses

Scholarship and Support 

M.D./Ph.D. students interested in training in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology for their Ph.D. degree may apply for the Abdul Waheed Scholarship in Biochemistry during their graduate training provided their mentor is a faculty in biochemistry. The scholarship provides support for one M.D./Ph.D. student per year, and covers one year of stipend, insurance, and tuition.

Graduate Student Matriculation

During the first year after entry into the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology program, students begin to organize their research proposals with the help of their permanent advisors. At the end of this year, each student prepares a written proposal outlining their dissertation research plans. The preliminary examination for the Ph.D. degree includes approval of the written dissertation proposal by the student’s faculty advisory committee, followed by an oral defense of the proposal before the advisory committee.

The second, third, and fourth years are devoted mostly to research related to the student’s dissertation problem. The student is usually advanced to candidacy in the third year. In the final year, the dissertation is written and defended in a departmental seminar. This constitutes the final oral examination for the Ph.D. degree. The completion of the program usually requires five years, including the first year in the Graduate Programs in the Biomedical Sciences. The minimum residence requirement is three years.

Required Courses

Macromolecules: Structure, Function and Interactions (BCHM 623)
Students participate in self-directed problem-solving exercises designed to provide familiarity with concepts and methodology in the analysis of enzyme catalysis, protein-nucleic acid interactions, and protein function and regulation. Emphasis is on independent investigation of information resources, development of a research plan, design of experimental approaches and evaluation of data. Offered every fall semester. (Required)
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Journal Club (BCHM 691)
Students attend a weekly journal club on current topics in the literature. Students are required to select a scientific research paper in the area of enzymology, macromolecular interaction, cellular regulation, molecular biology or genetics and give an oral presentation of the scientific background and critical evaluation of the data and conclusions. Each student presents once during each semester. Students work with faculty advisers to master the ability to critically evaluate scientific publications. (Two semesters required)
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Colloquium (BCHM 692)
Students attend a weekly seminar on topics in the literature of biochemistry and molecular biology. Students are required to select a scientific research paper outside the area of their dissertation topic, critically evaluate the data and conclusions, and present the information to faculty and students. Each student presents once during the semester. Students work with faculty advisers to master public presentation of scientific research and to develop the ability to critically evaluate scientific publications. (One semester required)
Preparation and Evaluation of Scientific Research Proposals (BCHM 625)
The ability to write a fundable grant proposal is one of the most important skills biomedical research scientists will need after graduation. A systematic strategy to address this skill is taught, practiced and evaluated in this one-semester course. Lectures include the basic organization of an NIH-style grant proposal, the purpose and importance of each aspect of the proposal, and an overview of the grant review process. These are followed by presentations of published papers selected by students in areas outside of their fields of dissertation research. The students then develop and prepare their own research proposals on this topic through weekly meetings. Near the end of the term, faculty and students critique the proposals in an NIH-style grant study section. The students then revise their proposals in light of the written critiques, and resubmit them for final evaluation and grading. Offered every spring semester. (Required)
Advanced Topics: Molecular Basis of Human Disease (BCHM 624)
This course is designed to study biochemical principles and concepts relevant to understanding the molecular bases of specific human diseases. This lecture-based course is offered every fall semester and meets three days per week. Assigned reading material supplement the lectures and include original papers, as well as reviews. This fall, the topics will deal primarily with defects in signal transduction (e.g. in cancer, diabetes and vision), protein folding and turnover (e.g. in lysosomal storage or aging-related diseases) and metabolic regulation (e.g. in diseases of amino acid metabolism, bleeding disorders and of the cardiovascular system). (Required)

Additional Elective Options

Students may choose to take additional courses outside the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department. Each of the five graduate programs in the School of Medicine offers a wide variety of graduate courses in, for example, virology, signal transduction, pharmacology and a hands-on course in microsopy. Additionally, through a local university exchange program, students may also enroll in courses offered at nearby Washington University School of Medicine and the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Thus advanced courses are accessible to students in virtually any specialty area in the biomedical sciences that might interest them.