Each academic year, approximately 45 students are admitted to the University of Virginia as a class, or cohort, of Biomedical Sciences (BIMS) doctoral students. First year students typically take an immersive 12-week core course and complete three 6-week laboratory rotations. They then select advanced courses in their area of interest from a menu of over 40 6-week advanced modules, which they take during the remaining part of their 1st and 2nd year. During the spring semester of the 1st year, students select a thesis adviser and a department or academic program from which they will take the Ph.D. qualifying examination (in year two) and eventually be awarded a Ph.D. degree. Thesis advisers act as academic and research advisors from year two to graduation and can be any approved full-time or affiliated University of Virginia faculty member.

Description of Training

The goal of our graduate training programs is to provide students the necessary knowledge, intellectual capabilities, and technical skills to conduct outstanding state-of-the-art research in a wide range of exciting biological and biomedical areas.

Ph.D. training begins with an immersive 12-week core course, supplemented by specialized 6-week electives in research areas of interest (i.e., Cancer Biology, Genetics). Laboratory rotations add to this foundation of core knowledge and experience. Students also attend weekly journal clubs, research-in-progress talks, and seminars given by preeminent guest researchers from around the world. An extensive array of research projects are available, from studies of single molecules to studies in human patients. A distinctive feature of BIMS is that all students gain a keen appreciation of how their research findings may advance the understanding of human diseases and possibly be translated into improved clinical care.

In the spring of the first year, students select a laboratory for dissertation research and elect to receive their Ph.D. degree from any department or interdisciplinary degree program within BIMS. Training becomes more specialized through specific directed coursework, based on degree selection and research interests, and may include participation in one of many NIH sponsored disease-oriented training programs such as Biodefense, Biotechnology, Cancer, Cardiovascular Research, Cell and Molecular Biology, Immunology, Infectious Diseases, Molecular Pharmacology, and Neuroscience. Second year students begin work on their thesis projects and prepare for the proposal defense. All students must pass a Ph.D. candidacy exam given by their degree program at the end of their second year, prior to beginning full time dissertation work.

Training for the third year through degree completion is largely done under the guidance of the Ph.D. thesis adviser and thesis committee, although given the multidisciplinary nature of biomedical research, an increasing frequency of students elect to do research with a primary mentor as well as a co-mentor(s).  Each mentor plays an integral role in fostering the student’s professional development and success.

Regardless of degree selection, BIMS Ph.D. training is individually tailored and typically requires 4-5 years to complete.