Program Description

Graduate Program Overview

The graduate program in Genome Sciences trains students at the interface of several disciplines to prepare them for the challenges of modern biology and medicine. Our goal is to address leading edge questions by developing and applying genetic, genomic and computational approaches that take advantage of genomic information now available for humans, model organisms and a host of other species. The program emphasizes extensive research experience within an interdisciplinary and state-of-the-art research environment.

First Year of Graduate School:

Welcome to the Department

New students are welcomed to the department during an annual retreat.This is a time for everyone in the department to interact in a peaceful setting, and allows new students the opportunity to hear about the research in the different faculty laboratories.

Course Work

Genome Sciences graduate students take a common set of core courses. Topics in the core courses include: Gene Regulation, Genomics, Genetic Analysis, Genomic Informatics, Protein Technologies, and Developmental Genetics. During the fall quarter, all new students also participate in a literature review/discussion class designed to develop their abilities for evaluation of the research literature, from pioneering works to the latest research reports. In addition to these courses, students with a strong Biological Sciences background, but little statistical or programming experience, will receive an introduction to these topics. Most graduate level Genome Sciences classes are small and discussion-oriented, consisting of first year Genome Sciences students and a small number of students from other departments.

In addition to these classes, other courses are selected based on the student's interests. These courses may include classes from within Genome Sciences or outside areas like Biochemistry, Immunology, Microbiology, Biology, Pharmacology, or Neurobiology. Finally, requirements in basic biochemistry may be fulfilled in the first year if not already taken during undergraduate study.

Students may continue to take courses during their second year of study. These usually concern disciplines relevant to the student's dissertation research. In addition, beginning in the second year graduate students present oral reports on their research annually and continue making journal club presentations.  

Research Rotation

During each quarter of the first year of graduate study, the student completes a research project in the laboratory of participating faculty. Rotations are chosen by the student based on their research interests. At the end of the final rotation, the student chooses a faculty sponsor for dissertation research.

The open rotation / transfer policy gives you the flexibility to do your third rotation with a faculty member from any participating department (Biochemistry, Immunology, Microbiology, Pathology). This program also gives you the option of transferring to one of these programs if you find it to be a better match for your interests. For more information, check the School of Medicine website.  

Journal Club, Research Reports, and Seminar

All members of the Department of Genome Sciences gather together weekly for Journal Club, Research Reports, and the Departmental Seminar. All graduate students and some post doctoral fellows present annual reports on their research. Journal Clubs are presented by both students and faculty. During spring quarter, first year students prepare their first Journal Club presentation with the guidance of a faculty advisor.

Journal Clubs and Research Reports give students many opportunities to develop their presentation skills. The Department takes seriously the training of its graduate students, and a big part of that is learning to communicate in a professional manner. In addition to such departmental events, students often present their work at national or international scientific meetings. Research Reports also serves to keep each member of the department current with the diversity of research in the department, and facilitates the free exchange of ideas.

Second Year and Beyond:

Research

Shortly after picking a thesis advisor, the student begins work on the research for the dissertation. At this time, the student assembles a supervisory committee. The committee guides the student's training program with regard to further course work, research, and the Ph.D. dissertation, and conducts the General Examination, which is taken at the end of the second year.

Teaching

All graduate students in Genome Sciences participate in undergraduate instruction by serving as teaching assistants for a total of two quarters, generally once during Year Three and a second time during Year Four. Assignments are within the Department of Genome Sciences, and student preferences are respected whenever possible. This experience prepares students for teaching responsibilities after receipt of the Ph.D.

Evaluation of Progress and The General Examination

The Department's means of monitoring each student's scientific development have been modified to provide more effective feedback from the faculty and to encourage timely progress toward the completion of thesis research. As a first stage, a faculty committee will meet to evaluate written reports prepared by all faculty members who have interacted with the student in classwork or in research throughout the initial year of study. A timely discussion with the student will then provide the opportunity for the student to work toward making improvements where needed and to develop specific strengths that the intended research may demand.

During the second year, students will begin preparation for the Oral General Examination by writing a research proposal in the format of an NIH grant proposal to be submitted for evaluation by their advisory committee. This proposal will include an addendum outlining how the same issues might be approached in another system. The committee will promptly provide feedback to the student, who will then revise the proposal. The revised proposal will serve as the basis for the oral general examination to be conducted by the committee at the end of the second academic year. Critical evaluation of the research project in this manner is intended to ensure that preparation is thorough and well-conceived, thus providing the student with a solid basis for timely publication of the research as it is completed.

Graduation

The graduate program in Genome Sciences is designed to take approximately 5 years. On average, our students graduate in 5.5 years, although we are increasingly seeing students graduate within 4 - 5 years. Prior to obtaining the Ph.D. degree, the student must defend the dissertation in a presentation to the department in a seminar format. Approval of both the written thesis and the oral defense by the supervisory committee qualifies the student to receive the Ph.D. degree.

Financial Support

Full funding is provided for the duration of studies, including a stipend for living expenses (currently $30,408 per year), tuition waiver, and health insurance.

Environment

The Department is relatively small, with about 60 graduate students in residence at any given time. This not only provides a nurturing environment, but also encourages close associations and scientific interactions. Students in the department will be assigned space in the laboratories of the faculty members with whom they do their rotations or dissertation research. State-of-the-art research facilities are available in the department for cellular, protein, and DNA analysis. Extensive computer resources are also available to students. In addition, the Seattle area houses many prestigious scientists in other departments at the University of Washington, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and at several large biotechnology companies. Many labs are members of the yeast, fly, worm, or mouse clubs, which hold meetings regularly, and which include labs from each of these institutions.

Applying to the Graduate Program

The complete application process is outlined in the application section.

For additional information on applying to the Genome Sciences Ph.D. program, please contact Brian Giebel at bgiebel [ a t ] u.washington.edu or (206) 616-7297.