Molecular Biology, Microbiology and Biochemistry

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Graduate programs are offered that lead to the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and Master of Science (M.S.) in Molecular Biology, Microbiology and Biochemistry. The M.S. degree has thesis and non-thesis options. The non-thesis option M.S. degree has an area of specialization in Public Health Laboratory Sciences. These interdisciplinary programs draw their faculty primarily from the Microbiology program (School of Biological Sciences) and the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (School of Medicine) on the Carbondale campus, and the Department of Medical Microbiology, Immunology, and Cell Biology (School of Medicine) on the Springfield campus. Adjunct faculty from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Division of Laboratories provide training to students in the public health laboratory setting. The programs are designed to offer advanced training (via lecture, discussion and laboratory) in biochemistry, biophysics, bacteriology, genetics, immunology, microbial physiology, cancer biology, mycology, molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology, structural biology and public health laboratory science. The Ph.D. and thesis option M.S. programs require laboratory research. The non-thesis option M.S. degree program is designed to prepare students for a career in public health laboratory science and requires substantial training in a public health laboratory setting that is directly relevant to career preparation in that area.

Admission

Prospective graduate students should have an undergraduate degree in any of the biological, chemical or physical sciences. The applicants are recommended to have completed courses in biology, organic chemistry, physics and mathematics. Strong candidates with deficiencies in any area may be admitted, but such deficiencies may restrict the research areas available to the student and may lead to requirements for additional courses during graduate study. An advisory system in the program (see below) will help students in planning their course of study. Prospective students for the thesis option M.S. and Ph.D. degrees are encouraged to contact program faculty in areas of their research interest. Prospective students seeking admission to the non-thesis option M.S. degree program with an area of concentration in public health laboratory science are encouraged to contact the Chair of the Public Health Science Program committee.

Students may be admitted to the doctoral program with a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Students in the thesis option M.S. program can be admitted to the doctoral program via accelerated entry or the master’s equivalency option by the recommendation of the faculty and approval of the Graduate School.

All application materials should be submitted to the Program Director. This program requires a nonrefundable $65 application fee that must be submitted with the application for Admissions to Graduate Study in Molecular Biology, Microbiology and Biochemistry. Applicants must pay this fee by credit card. Applications for admission to the thesis option M.S. and Ph.D. programs are evaluated by the M.S./Ph.D.Program Admissions Committee and applications for the non-thesis option M.S. degree program with an area of concentration in public health laboratory science are evaluated by the Public Health Science Program Committee. Upon recommendation of the appropriate committee, the application is transmitted to the Graduate School for approval.

The MBMB program requires a grade point average (GPA) of 2.7 (A = 4.0) for admission into the M.S. programs and a GPA of 3.00 in graduate level work for admission into the doctoral program. An excellent record in undergraduate coursework and a strong recommendation of the thesis option M.S./Ph.D. Program Admissions Committee is required for direct admission to the doctoral program after a bachelor’s degree.

Applicants are required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) general test scores. Submission of test scores of the GRE advanced (biochemistry, cell and molecular biology or biology or chemistry) examinations is also encouraged.

International students whose native language is not English will be required to obtain at least 550 (paper score), 60 (revised paper-delivered test) or IBT of 80 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or 6.5 on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Financial Assistance

Fellowships and assistantships are available through the program and the participating departments for qualified applicants.

Advisement and General Requirements

For thesis option M.S. and Ph.D. students, the Program Director or the Departmental Graduate Advisors as designated will assist each incoming student with the initial planning of a program of study and will advise the student until a Research Director is chosen. For non-thesis option M.S. degree program students, the Public Health Science Program Graduate Advisor or its Director will assist students in the planning of a program of study.

Research Director and Graduate Committee Selection

Each student in the Ph.D. or thesis option M.S. program should select a Research Director as soon as possible during the first year. The graduate committee for thesis option M.S. students shall consist of the Research Director (chair), and two additional graduate faculty members. The graduate committee for Ph.D. students shall consist of at least five graduate faculty members to include the Research Director (committee chair), three members derived from participating departments and one member from outside the Program. The Program Director, if not otherwise appointed, is an ex-officio (non-voting) member of every graduate committee. Students in the non-thesis option M.S. degree program with an area of concentration in public health laboratory science program need not choose a Research Director or a Graduate Committee and the Public Health Science Program Committee will plan and monitor student progress through the non-thesis option M.S. program.

Graduate Committee Functions

For thesis option M.S. and Ph.D. students only, the graduate committee will:

  1. plan and approve the student’s program of study.
  2. review the student’s progress in courses and suggest and approve changes in the program of study.
  3. evaluate the student’s progress in research and make appropriate recommendations.
  4. meet and determine, on a yearly basis, whether a student is making satisfactory progress and may continue toward a degree. If continuation is denied, the committee must notify the Program Director, in writing, of the reasons for this denial.
  5. administer written and oral preliminary examinations to the doctoral student.
  6. read and evaluate the student’s thesis or dissertation.
  7. conduct the required oral examinations.

Public Health Laboratory Science Program Committee

The Public Health Laboratory Science Program Committee is composed of a Program Director and a single member chosen from the MMICB Department for non-thesis M.S. students only. The Public Health Laboratory Science Program Committee will:

  1. Provide programmatic oversight of the structure, curricular design, content and personnel involved in the non-thesis option M.S. program.
  2. Review applications from students for admission to the non-thesis option M.S. program and make admissions recommendations to the MBMB Program Director.
  3. Advise non-thesis option M.S. students in planning a course of study.
  4. Monitor student progress toward the non-thesis option M.S. degree.

Formal Course Requirements

All course requirements of the MBMB degree programs and Graduate School are minimum requirements. Additional courses may be required by the student’s graduate committee (thesis option M.S. and Ph.D. students) or the Public Health Laboratory Science Program Committee (non-thesis option M.S. students) to meet any deficiencies or to provide proficiency in a specialized area. Certain courses are required of all students, while others meet the requirements of an individual student’s area of specialization, as determined by the student’s graduate committee (thesis option M.S. and Ph.D. students). The Program Director, with the advice of the student’s graduate committee or the Public Health Laboratory Science Program Committee may designate other courses within or outside of the Program to fulfill formal course requirements. Any course (or its equivalent) that meets the requirements of the Molecular Biology, Microbiology and Biochemistry graduate program whether taken at SIU or at any other institution before admission to the Program need not be repeated. Course equivalency will be determined by the Program Director in consultation with the appropriate committee or member of the faculty.

The formal core course requirements for both the thesis option M.S. and Ph.D. degree can be met by taking either MBMB 451A, MBMB 451B, and MBMB 460; or their equivalent. All M.S. and Ph.D. students must take either MBMB 502, Introduction to Research, or MBMB 504, Research Methods, and must also take during each semester in residence one hour of MBMB 597, Seminar and Professional Training.

Thesis option M.S. students must take two courses and the doctoral students must take three courses from a list of approved courses for specialization. Only one 400-level course from this list can be used to meet this requirement. Currently this list consists of: MBMB 403, MBMB 405, MBMB 421, MBMB 423, MBMB 425, MBMB 441, MBMB 453, MBMB 455, MBMB 456, MBMB 470, MBMB 477, MBMB 520, MBMB 530, MBMB 531, MBMB 532, MBMB 533, MBMB 543, MBMB 551, MBMB 552, MBMB 553, MBMB 560, and MBMB 562. These courses are selected with the approval of the student’s graduate committee, Research Director or the Departmental Graduate Advisor. In addition, M.S. students are also required to earn at least eight hours in research and thesis credit (MBMB 515, MBMB 598 and MBMB 599; a minimum of three and maximum of six hours for MBMB 599), prepare a thesis on the research project and pass a final oral examination, which serves as the comprehensive examination.

The formal course requirements for non-thesis option M.S. students with an area of specialization in public health laboratory sciences can be met by taking: MBMB 403 or MBMB 405, MBMB 453 or MBMB 455, MBMB 451A, MBMB 451B, CHEM 431, MBMB 460, MBMB 510, MBMB 540, MBMB 541A and MBMB 541B. Non-thesis option M.S. students must also take one hour of MBMB 597 (Seminar and Professional Training) during each semester in residence. The Public Health Laboratory Science Program Committee will make recommendations to the Program Director whether courses taken at SIU or other universities are equivalent to the program requirements.

Preliminary Examination and Dissertation for the Ph.D. Degree

Each student in the doctoral program must pass a preliminary examination and meet the Graduate School residency requirement before being advanced to candidacy. The students can take the preliminary examination after completing the formal course requirements.

The student’s graduate committee will prepare and administer a written preliminary examination covering various areas of molecular biology, microbiology and biochemistry, with particular emphasis in the area of concentration declared. This declaration will be done by means of a prospectus of a dissertation composed of: (1) a proposal for the dissertation research, (2) biographical information on the candidate, and (3) a list of the courses taken during the candidate’s graduate program. The proposal should address the proposed graduate research project, and be written in the NIH (National Institutes of Health) or NSF (National Science Foundation) approved format. The prospectus shall be available to the committee members at least 14 days prior to the date of the examination.

A written examination score of at least 80 percent is required before a student can proceed to the oral portion of the preliminary examination. Upon satisfactory completion of the written examination, the candidate will meet with the committee as a whole and discuss the prospectus in detail. The committee will then conduct an oral preliminary examination. At this time, the committee may ask in-depth questions about the research project and other areas of molecular biology, microbiology and biochemistry. At least four of the five committee members must judge the oral performance acceptable for a student to pass the preliminary examination overall. In the event that either the written or oral preliminary examination is failed, a student may request only one re-examination.

Successful completion of both written and oral examinations is required before a student can be advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. After admission to candidacy, the student must earn at least 24 dissertation credit hours (MBMB 600), prepare and defend a dissertation, and present a public seminar based on the student’s
research.